The Simple Facts
Our Home Away From Home: Aurora, a 1981 22’ Hunter sailboat.
Motor: 8 hp Yacht Twin (Evinrude) outboard. Named Boris – short for Aurora Borealis.
Number of Days, Home Port to Home Port: 400
Miles Traveled: 6,700 miles (officially) along Great Loop route and up and down the Mississippi River– probably more than 7,000 when all the miles traveled into and out of anchorages and detours off the route to get gas and find marinas are included.
Number of Countries: 2 – US and Canada
Number of States: 21 – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Michigan and Indiana. Kind of amazing.
Number of Locks: 194 – 102 locks in Canada alone.
Fastest Speed: 9.4 mph on Mississippi River below St. Louis, Mo. (We clocked 9.8 mph for less than a minute riding the current through Elliots Cut but we won’t count that).
Slowest Speed: Zero mph (according to GPS) bypassing Lock 53 on the Ohio River. It took us 20 palpitation inducing minutes to travel a couple football fields. Close Second: First 3 hours of trip up Hudson River out of 79th St. Boat Basin in New York City – we actually went backwards as we tried to get across the river out of wind. It took us 3 hours to travel 4.8 painfully slow miles.
Most Miles Traveled in One Day: We traveled 93 miles from sun up to midnight during our Gulf crossing from Carrabelle, Florida to Steinhatchee, Florida. We also traveled 83 “can’t-stop-now” miles from sun up to sun down from our anchorage near Cedar Creek, North Carolina to our anchorage at the south end of the Alligator River.
Total Amount Spent: $29,086 (not including “dirt house” expenses, airfare home, or health insurance) or $72.71 per day for food, fuel, marina fees, boat stuff, entertainment, etc.
Amount Spent on Human Fuel (Food): Groceries cost $8,170 (28%) and restaurants (and ice cream) added another $4,630 (16%) for a total of $12,800 or $32 per day for both of us.
Amount Spent on Aurora Fuel: We used a total of 1,040 gallons of gas in 400 days at an average cost of $4.12 per gallon or $4,281. Assuming Aurora traveled 7,000 miles, we averaged 6.73 miles per gallons – I used 7 miles per gallon to calculate our range each day
Homes Away From Home: We stayed at marinas over half the time – 216 days (54%) at paid docks and 22 days (6%) on a mooring ball. We also stayed at lock walls 16 times – mostly in Canada using our Canada Parks Pass. Anchorages and free docks were our homes for 85 and 61 days, respectively. We loved every minute of it.
Number of Pics: 18,023
Places We Stayed
Best Marina: Alton Marina in Alton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. It had almost everything – good internet, nice clean bathrooms (with lots of hot water), a hot tub and pool and some amazing AGLCA harbor hosts – Patty and Robert on Orinoco. ($3 margaritas didn’t have anything to do with the voting).
Worst Marina: Timberlake “Marina” near Grafton, Illinois. We expected the dock we were tied off on to float away in the middle of the night.
Most Social Marina: Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. It sometimes took more than 2 hours to make a trip down the dock to the restrooms and back.
Fanciest Marina: Barber Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama – landscaped grounds, unique sculpture gardens, beautiful concrete floating docks, natural cypress benches, an amazing collection of antique outboards, clean and fully functional courtesy cars and some of the cleanest and nicest bathrooms of the trip.
Most Expensive Marina: Hoffman Marina, Manasquan, NY at $55 (they had a 30’ minimum).
Cheapest Marina: Killarney Mountain Lodge in Ontario, Canada. Boats under 25’ were free. Stayed two nights. Pool and game room included.
Longest Marina Stay: 2 months at Matanza’s Inn and Marina in Fort Myers Beach.
Favorite Anchorage: Blueberry Cove (actually Tie Island) North Channel, Lake Huron – the wild blueberries (and fresh made blueberry muffins) made it unique among dozens of beautiful anchorages. Close Second: Free anchorage in New York City near Statue of Liberty.
Lumpiest Stay: 79th St. Boat Basin in New York City on a mooring ball. Ocean swells, waves from faraway ferry and ship traffic, severe tidal changes and wind driven chop made for a challenging stay (had to hang on to stay in bunk on occasion). Worth it, though, to stay 6 blocks from Central Park in Manhattan for less than $30/day.
Best Free Dock: Bill and Kate’s Resort and Spa in Hudson, Florida. Free dock, dinner, courtesy truck, Dark and Stormy’s, free kayaks, and great company.
Best Shower Facility: Hoffman Marina at Manasquan, New York. The new, tiled shower stall could have held 10 people comfortably and the large ceiling mounted showerhead felt like you were standing under a waterfall.
Best Courtesy Car: Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
Worst Courtesy Car: Demopolis, Alabama – no speedometer, no odometer, windows didn’t work, no AC. (Still thankful for any car – beggars can’t be choosers).
Most Expensive Laundry: St. Anne De Bellevue (in Quebec, of course) $5 per wash and 25¢ per minute to dry. Spent $22 for two loads.
Most Times Trying to Get Anchor to Hold: 5 tries at Salt Pond anchorage in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
Most Frequent Visitor: Our Minnesota (now Florida) friend Cliff Schmidt crossed paths with us six times on our trip – Prescott, Wisconsin, Tampa/Steinhatchee, , Fort Myers Beach x 2, Fort Myers and Tampa. (plus he called us once on the marine radio while driving over the river after seeing us on the Mississippi River).
Visitor Who Travelled the Farthest to Visit: Our daughter Jessica flew in from San Francisco, California to visit us in Fort Myers Beach and New York City.
First Boat Buddies on the Loop: Rob and Ann on Rumpshaker – Keokuk, Iowa to Orange Beach, Alabama.
Boat That Passed Us the Most Times: Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn – we crossed paths at least 10 times.
Longest Time Traveling With A Buddy Boat: Kent and Jane (and Squirt) on Carina. First crossed paths in Carrabelle and traveled together for about 8 adventure filled weeks from the Richelieu Canal in Quebec to Grafton, Illinois at the intersection of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Loopers We Shared Ice Cream With the Most: Eddy and Linda on Spiritus – long walks and talks, happy hour on the fly bridge (every chance we could get), late night Quiddler and Doodle Dice tournaments, breakfast, lunch, dinner and docktails from Carrabelle, Florida to Alton, Missouri and, of course, ice cream, bacon and laughter everywhere in between.
Favorite Overnight Guests: Jess and Sarah stayed with us for a couple nights at Fort Myers Beach – yes, we had 4 people sleeping on our little boat at the same time. Richard, a 30 year old fellow adventurer from England biking diagonally across the US from Washington state to Miami, Florida also stayed overnight with us while we stayed at Green Turtle Bay Marina. We like to say we went to town to buy a T-shirt (in Grand Rivers, Kentucky) and came home with a kid.
Most emotional moment: It’s a tie. Seeing the Statue of Liberty as we motored up the Hudson River from the Atlantic Ocean was amazing. The enthusiastic greeting we got from our Looper friends when we entered the marina in Grafton, Illinois after we crossed our wake on the Great Loop will be something we remember forever.
Canadian Quiddler Champion: Mike on Aurora.
Our Inspiration: Bruce on Tango. Not only was Bruce doing the Loop on a small boat like us (not quite as small as Aurora), but he was doing it alone. We learned the hard way that it was a good idea to follow Bruce’s lead and be conservative about the weather. Many times you could hear us ask each other, “What would Bruce do?”. The smart answer was usually to stay put until a better forecast.
Most Generous Stranger We Never Met: Mo from Dead Lake Marina in Creola, Alabama. We stayed in her slip while waiting for Mobile Bay to settle down after the remnants of Hurricane Sandy passed by.
Best Caramel Rolls: Gateway Bakery and Restaurant in Killarney, Ontario. Bought two fresh-out-of-the-oven rolls each day for three days and one usually didn’t make it back to the boat.
Classiest Breakfast: Kelly’s Restaurant in Dunedin, Florida – the whip cream and white chocolate straws on top of Cindy’s hot chocolate was just the beginning.
Best Breakfast Value: $2.95 for 2 eggs, fried potatoes, bacon and toast at the Lani Kai’s 6th floor rooftop restaurant overlooking the beach and Gulf of Mexico. Close second – El Mambo in Fort Myers – 3 eggs, a pile of bacon, toast and coffee for $3.50.
Best Donuts: Bennet’s in Fort Myers, Florida.
Cheapest Ice Cream: McDonald’s ice cream cones for $1 plus fresh farmers market strawberries.
Best Ice Cream: Hershey Peanut Butter Carmel Cookie Dough at Parson’s General Store in Morehead City. Close second Peanut Butter Cup Gellato at Mariano’s in Chicago, Illinois.
Best Strawberry Margarita: $3 Margaritas at Mel’s Diner in Fort Myers – cheap and good..
Best Boat Dinner: Fresh caught Spanish mackerel blackened on the grill, grilled red potatoes, fancy salads and champagne while anchored a few hundred feet off the white sand, sea shell strewn beach at Three Rook Bar near Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Most Expensive Ice: Anywhere in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: $3.29 for 5 lb bag in Burlington, Vermont (pretty close to Canada).
Cheapest Ice: $2 for 20 pound bags at the Ice Shack at Fort Myers.
Most Locks Traversed In One Day: 9 on the Richelieu Canal System
Tallest Lock: Kentucky Lock at about 70+ feet.
Coolest Lock: The Big Chute Marine Railway on the Trent Severn Canal System. Close Second: The Peterborough and Kirkfield Lift Locks on the Trent Severn Canal System.
Most Bridges Passed Under In One Day: 67 (32 in the first hour) between Chicago and Jolliet, Illinois.
Longest Delay in “Schedule”: Three weeks waiting in Kingston, New York for the Erie Canal to open after major flooding.
Best Delay of the Trip: Three weeks waiting in Kingston, New York. We made lots of new friends, spent quality time with old friends, enjoyed innumerable docktails, brunches and BBQ’s and met some amazing volunteers.
Worst Boaters: Drunk idiots in Paduka, Kentucky racing back and forth right next to dock in cigarette boats. Close Second: Rude and inconsiderate boaters from Quebec on the Richelieu Canal taking advantage of their construction holiday.
Longest Detour: Our detour into Canada to avoid the closed Erie Canal added over 350 amazing miles to our Loop compared to the Erie Canal/Lake Ontario route.
Most Expensive Gasoline: All of Canada. Worst was $2.20/liter or $8.33/gallon at Ojibway Club near Pointe au Baril, Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Most Challenging Passage: Crossing the Gulf of Mexico. (Note to self – don’t do “doable”). You’ve never experienced true darkness until you have been out of sight of land on an overcast and windy night all by yourself – no stars, no moon, no boat lights and no horizon. (Can you see the waves?)
Coolest Museum: The US Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. The ship models – some over 300 years old was especially amazing.
Best Docktails: Kingston, NY daily for three weeks plus one amazing brunch and two memorable potlucks.
Best Happy Hour: 50¢ wings and 50¢ shrimp at the Lani Kai’s 6th floor open air rooftop restaurant in Fort Myers Beach (at sunset overlooking the Gulf of Mexico).
Biggest Aebleskiver Party: Brunch with 20+ fellow Loopers at the Hudson River Maritime Museum (and Marina) in Kingston, New York.
Best Beach for Shelling: Three Rook Bar just south of Tarpon Springs, Florida. The white sandy beaches were carpeted in cool and huge seashells of all kinds.
Best Surprise Docktail Party: 18 people in Killarney, Ontario – we knew 16 from our long stay in Kingston, NY.
Most Scenic Stretch: All of Georgian Bay.
Favorite Big City: Tough to choose – we loved our visits to Portsmouth, Virginia, Annapolis, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, New York City, Ottawa, Ontario and Chicago, Illinois.
Favorite Laser Light Show: Parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario.
Biggest Storm: Thunderstorm with 50+ mph winds while anchored in cove near St. Catherine Lock on the St. Lawrence River. Bent the Windex wind indicators on Aurora and Carina (masts were stored horizontal on deck). Aurora weathered an even bigger storm all alone – winds 60 mph + tied to a mooring ball in Titusville while we were driving back to the boat from Tampa, Florida.
Wildest Storm: Quick moving squall with high winds and big waves while trapped up against the lock wall at St. Anne De Bellevue, Quebec. The closest we probably came to having real damage to Aurora (and Carina).
Most Rain: Torrential rains over two days while staying in New York City – more than 5 inches of rain fell over a large part of NY state. Same storm caused the flooding and damage to the Erie Canal System.
Number of Days Wearing Rain Gear While Traveling: 7 – pretty darn lucky when you consider we were gone for 400 days.
Hottest Day: 97˚F in July on the Chambly River near the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: 95˚ F on two days in Chicago, Illinois.
Coldest Night: 30˚ F with frost on the deck overnight twice somewhere on the Tom Bigbee River in late October.
Biggest Waves: 5-7’ waves on the Gulf of Mexico during our Gulf Crossing.
Rainiest Travel Day: Dodged numerous thunderstorms and downpours traveling from Kaskaskia Lock to anchorage near Cape Giardeau, Missouri.
Biggest Boosh (Cindy’s Word) Over Bow: Hudson River traveling upriver with the current against a stiff headwind in choppy seas. First time we had a wave break over the bow and send water across the deck (lucky the main hatch was closed). This surprisingly (and thankfully) only happened once the entire trip.
Longest Wait for Good Weather Window: 7+days waiting (with our friends Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn) in Portsmouth, Virginia waiting to start up Chesapeake Bay.
Wild Things Plus
Most Elusive Animal: Alligators – we didn’t see alligators for the first time until Richard and Sally on Boomerang drove us to a park in the Everglades. We first saw alligators from the boat while traveling the rim route near Lake Okeechobee.
Biggest Fish Caught (Using Fishing Pole): 4 pound Spanish mackerel caught near Hudson, Florida in Gulf of Mexico (thanks to Bill in Hudson, Florida).
Biggest Fish “Caught”: 12+ pound Asian carp (one of three) that flew into cockpit while on Illinois River.
The “Est” of It
Deepest Water: 416 foot deep on Lake Champlain in New York. Believe it or not but the Gulf of Mexico was usually less than 50’ deep and often less than 20’ deep.
Largest Neighboring Vessel: The 170’ yacht Battered Bull while docked along the wall at Hudson Maritime Museum Marina in Kingston, NY.
Shortest Passage: 5 minutes from anchorage outside Dunedin, Florida into Municipal Marina.
Highest Sales Tax: 15% in Quebec, Canada. Close Second: 11.3% in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Cheapest Marina Gas: RE Mayo Co $3.89/gallon at shrimp dock in North Carolina.
Scariest 15 Minutes of Trip: Surfing up to Lock 5 on the Mississippi River after running out of gas about 500 feet from lock with 2-3’ rollers and wind driving us toward the concrete wall.
Best Pure Sailing: Fort Myers Beach to Sanibel Island with Jess and Sarah.
Coolest Event: Attending the spring homecoming show for the Blue Angeles in Pensacola, Florida.
Best Additions to Aurora During Trip: Solar panel added in Baltimore, Maryland and steadying sail made from old jib added in Georgian Bay with help from Kent on Carina.
Worst Injuries: Stubbed (probably broken) toe after tripping over a cleat in Charleston, South Carolina (Mike) and miscellaneous minor bonks and dings.
Best Beach: Fort Myers Beach (especially at sunset).
Biggest Repairs to Boris (Our Trusty Outboard): Changed sparkplugs 3 times, installed new thermostat half way through trip and cleaned the carburetor once. Mounting bracket also had to be repaired at Morehead City after a Towboat US boat hit us (while we were docked in a slip) and twisted the bracket.
Craziest Things We Saw: A 10+ foot alligator eating a 4+ foot alligator in 2 bites.
Thanks to everyone – family, friends and fellow Loopers – for making this the most amazing experience we could ever hope for. Fair winds and following seas. Mike and Cindy.