April 22, 2013

A Summary of our Great Loop
This is the final chapter of our blog covering the Great Loop.  When we left Yorktown, VA on May 12, 2012, waving farewell to many friends, we had no idea of the impact this incredible journey would have on us.  You can read other blogs and books, and watch videos, (and you should!) but until you experience it yourself, it isn’t real yet.
Everyone asks what our favorite place was, and that is not easily answered. We loved so many places for different reasons! The Chesapeake Bay is always a favorite since we live so close to it and because of its diversity. The emotion and awe we felt when we passed the Statue of Liberty will remain in our hearts and minds forever.  How proud we are to be Americans.  We had a memorable visit to New York City from our tour of the World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero to the hustle and glitz of Times Square.  We loved the Hudson River and its steep tree lined banks. We loved the beauty of Lake Champlain and the towns we visited on the New York and Vermont sides of it, especially Burlington. 

Being in Canada was new to us and we are so glad we entered it on the Richelieu River.  Going up the narrow Chambly Canal with people walking and bicycling next to it and waving to us, was very special.  Montreal was thriving and the beautiful Notre Dame de Montreal Basilica should not be missed.  Sharing Canada Day in the lovely town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue was so much fun. We loved this little town and being part of the celebrations for their holiday!  Being in Ottawa and watching the ceremonies of the Changing of the Guard and then touring Parliament was very impressive.  Traveling on the quaint Rideau Canal through many locks and through many small towns was not to be missed either.  The Trent Severn again offers much to experience along the way with its towns and locks.  The Georgian Bay is beautiful and challenging with many rocks and seemingly a house on every little private island!  Anchoring in Baie Fine was breathtaking!  The North Channel offers so much for boaters and we wished we could have remained there longer.
We enjoyed our journey down the east coast of Lake Michigan and stopping at so many of the towns with their protective harbors, which we needed!  We crossed Lake Michigan to go to Racine, WI and enjoyed that port and seeing old friends.  Chicago is, of course, spectacular and we were so impressed by the architecture, the parks, the food, and the energy of that city!

The Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers were industrial, and full of tows and barges, but we found this very interesting!  We appreciated having AIS so we knew where they were in advance. The low water levels here provided some challenges and kept us from going to some marinas.  We enjoyed rafting to a barge in Beardstown, IL  for a night !  A tow boat captain even gave of us a tour of his towboat.
When we arrived at Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barclay, it was like an oasis, having just been on the rivers for so long!  We were spoiled by the resort atmosphere and the lovely small town of Grand Rivers, KY. Our trip down the Tennessee, and the Tenn-Tom  Rivers was also interesting. We rafted to others in narrow cuts and coves and were amazed at the scenery. We finally reached salt water when we entered the Gulf at Mobile!  We were now seeing palm trees and big water! 

Our Gulf Crossing from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, FL with two other Looper boats will always be in our memory! We had a good, calm crossing that lasted over 24 hours and ended on Christmas Eve morning. We enjoyed the West Coast of Florida very much and spent extra time in many ports such as St. Petersburg, Venice, and Fort Myers, as we headed south.  We also had some terrific anchoring along the west coast. We crossed Lake Okeechobee by taking its rim route and found this so peaceful and full of wildlife.  We spotted our first alligators here! The East Coast of Florida was also wonderful and we enjoyed many of its towns along the ICW such as Vero Beach, Cocoa Village, St. Augustine, and Fernandina Beach.
We loved the marshlands of Georgia also!  They have their own beauty and we did not tire of the scenery here.  Two of our favorite stops in Georgia were Cumberland Island and Jekyll Island.  South Carolina is full of beautiful ports such as Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Charleston – such history here!  We also enjoyed our stay at Barefoot Marina in North Myrtle Beach!  South Carolina’s Waccamaw River is stunning with its cypress trees lining the banks and will always be a favorite! 

North Carolina is lovely and offers small rivers and larges sounds which need to be transited.  We enjoyed our stay at Southport, and River Dunes, near Oriental and then the smaller docks at Dowry Creek, Alligator River, and Elizabeth City.  We chose to take the Dismal Swamp Route and absolutely loved the serenity of it.  We felt like we were traveling in another age! 
So those are the “places” we have been – from quaint villages to large cities; from small canals, to large rivers and lakes and the Atlantic Ocean and we have enjoyed them all!

We also loved the wildlife!  We saw a humpback whale off the coast of Manasquan, NJ. This made our rough offshore ride that day tolerable! We treasured all the dolphins that we saw as they played near the boat then quickly dashed off!  The manatees were new to us and it was wonderful to see these gentle giants. Of course there were a myriad of shorebirds and eagles that we never tired of!  And we can still hear the haunting cry of the loons in Canada – they were amazing. We saw mink and otter and muskrats and deer – but alas – not a single bear!
None of these can compare with the people we met along the way – from the local townspeople to the Loopers we traveled with, to family and friends who joined us on our journey.  The friendships we made were priceless. Being able to share this experience with family and friends meant a great deal to us.

For those of you who are like statistics, here are a few that we have acquired on the trip:
Distance traveled: 5863.4 statute miles
Days Traveled:  172
Days in Port: 172
Miles averaged per day: 33.8
Hours averaged per day: 4.9
Miles averaged per hour: 6.9
States: 18 
Countries: 2 
Provinces: 2
Docking: Marinas 70%; anchorages 17%, lock walls 6%, town walls, 6%, mooring balls 2%, “other” 2%
Locks transited: 145
Fuel consumption: 3258.46 gallons
Fuel rate:  Averaged 1.8 miles per gallon
Friendships:  Countless

It is only appropriate to quote from Dr. Seuss from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” since he has provided so much wit and humor along the way.
“And will you succeed?  Yes! You will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”
and also from Dr. Seuss,
“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

What is next for us? We will remain here in port in Poquoson, VA for about a month and have work done on the boat, take care of Doctor appointments,attend a wedding, visit friends etc.
We will take the Down East Loop this summer with other boating friends we met last summer.  We will keep a blog when we leave here in late May, so please check back with us. Until then, thank you for sharing this incredible journey with us!