The Great Loop

There is a group of people who like to travel by boat around the eastern United States in what is called “the Great Loop.” They travel down the Mississippi and the Tom Bigbee Waterway  from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.  At that point, they enter the Gulf of Mexico. They carefully navigate the gulf down the west coast of Florida to Ft. Myers and cross Florida on the Cross-Florida Canal system, even traversing across Lake Okeechobee, to make their way to the Atlantic Ocean. At that point they go up the Intracoastal Waterway all the way along the eastern IMG_0531seaboard to New York City. Then it’s on up the Hudson River and across the Erie Canal and into the Great Lakes system. Crossing the Great Lakes brings them back to where they started.

It’s about 5,500 miles altogether and the “loopers” take about 6 months to make the trip. Traveling slowly around the Great Loop they make new friends and see a side of America very few of us ever will. Probably the best site to learn more about living on the Great Loop edited by John C. Wright, or OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAas he is better known, Captain John.  He runs a web-site chock full of the most interesting information. With everything from boating costs, to what the best boat size would be to make the cruise, it never fails to provide you with something new to learn.  Visit it at  www.CaptainJohn.Org

Another great site is America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association at

Recently I discovered a great blog written by a couple of real adventurers. They have a beautiful trawler called  the Beach house.  their blog is stuffed full of real-life experience and the wisdom that comes from living and traveling the waterways and oceans of the Great Loop. visit the site at Trawler Beach House,

If it’s real ocean living you desire, then maybe living on a sailboat is the way to go.  Many folks live full-time and even part-time on sailboats from Alaska to the islands of the Caribbean. Many find it is not really that expensive. All you need is food, a little gas, and of course, insurance. If you study a map carefully you’ll  see that you can sail from Florida to South America and never be much farther than 40 or 50 miles from shore. A good site to learn about living on a sailboat in St. Croix is Bill has put together a fascinating blog of his personal experiences living offshore.


Medina, NY

If you’re interested in building your own boat there are dozens of sites offering plans and personal blogs of the building adventure. One of my favorite is Dave Zeiger has just about come up with one of the craziest boat designs I’ve ever seen… And just about the easiest to build! Together with his partner Anke Wagner they have proven that it’s still possible to escape the rat race and enjoy the open seas.

He has started with the simplicity of a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood and, using that basic form,  designed a old-mill-300x225perfectly simple  boat. I’ll bet even Philip Bolger would have enjoyed this design.  His site has even got personal blogs with pictures of the building process. It’s a fun site to visit. And it shows what’s possible with a little (ok maybe a lot) of hard work.  As I studied the square ship I realized that, if it’s good enough to tackle the Alaskan off-shore waters, then it would be a perfectly good platform for a “protected waters”riverboat. It might be just the thing for a great loop adventure.


The Great Loop — 4 Comments

    • Hi Roger,
      the great loop path of travel has to go “outside” in spots. One notable one is the trip from Mobile down to Ft. Myers, FL. While you can hug the coast in places, you still are out in the Gulf of Mexico. Its not for “lake boats.” The ocean can turn ugly in a very short while. For more info check out Its a great site for Great Loopers

  1. My wife and I have lived aboard and cruised, first our sailboat and now our trawler, for almost 22 years. We are currently cruising the Bahamas and the east coast of the U.S. and will continue on the Great Loop next year. Thanks for the article. Chuck Baier and Susan Landry, Trawler Beach House

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