Postscript and Prolog


After three weeks at home, it seems time to put a postscript on our Great Loop trip.  The last 21 days have generated a lot of conflicting emotions in Peg and me, much more than we expected.


Togetherness – Seeing family and friends has been a joyous reunion.  Visitors to Endeavor in the Bahamas and Charleston staved off the emptiness, but missing loved ones is a real thing.  Social media and Skype help but are not a true substitute.  The blog was a labor of love, but as our friend Shelly noted, it was mainly a one-way conversation outward.  We missed a lot of the day to day happenings in people’s lives.  Being back to hugs and handshakes was wonderful.

Longing – At the same time, we miss the dear new friends we made along the way.  Some have completed their Loop and some continue.  Either way, we are plotting ways to get together with them again.

Cuddly Comfort – Being in our bed at home, watching a huge flock of turkeys wander outside the back door, walking through our pastoral woods, all of these are creature comforts we’ve dreamed of for the last year.  Oh, and long hot showers!

Exhaustion – Who knew that unpacking a house could be so tiring?  We had stuffed our household into two densely packed rooms, along with critical-mass crowding in the workshop and pole barn.  Trying to remember where we put stuff a year ago was futile.  We ended up living on the few pieces of kitchenware from Endeavor until recently.  As we unpack we are eliminating anything we don’t really need.  Seriously.  I mean, why do I still need 18 pairs of dress pants… I’m retired!  On the other hand, each day brings an exciting new discovery of some important item, kind of like Christmas every day.

Sleeplessness – Although exhausted, we have both found sleep elusive.  After a year of sleeping in a gently rocking boat, a motionless bed is strange.

Crabbiness – Somewhere around the end of the first week The Crabbies set in.  Just the little nit-picking digs that a couple does when something is off-kilter.  A couple of major arguments ensued, then we sat down and talked it out.  We came to the conclusion that we were both feeling overwhelmed and aimless.

Overwhelmed – A looper told us “When at home, you have a million things to do every day, almost none mean a thing.  When cruising, you usually have only a couple of things to accomplish each day (laundry, food, fuel, etc.) but those things are important.”  Coming back to the million little things is an overwhelming experience.

Aimlessness – We are both goal-driven people.  We were both unprepared for the feeling of suddenly being done with such a large project that has spanned years.  We both get antsy without something to work toward, so we decided to up our schedule and start working on the next items on our bucket list immediately (see Prolog).  Voila!  Crabbies Gone!

Wanderlust – Lastly, we discovered that we suffer from wanderlust.  Home is comfortable and familiar, but has been done.  We want to continually balance home stays with new explorations.  Whether by boat or travel trailer, show us that horizon!

Thankfulness – Lastly, we are thankful for the hard work, help from friends, planning, good luck, timing and freedom that allowed us to spend a year afloat.  Every stop, and the travels between, showed us adventure.  It was an amazing trip and one we highly recommend.  Seeing this map and the number of places we touched still amazes me.



And so the next chapter begins.  Within days of arriving home, Peg found an example of our proposed next adventure boat advertised locally.  We had planned to wait until late Fall or Spring to start the hunt, but this boat turned out to be such a good deal that we bit early and now have a Winter project outfitting her.  The previous owner was a maintenance nut and she is completely ready to float.  We need only add our gear and make a few customizations.  Shelly also sagely noted that Options is our first boat in decades that does not require extensive work before use.

Yup, we are crazy for buying another boat before even finding our silverware.

On her we plan to explore farther by trailering to a launch point.  Some of the waterways on our list are shown here. Not sure she has the legs, fuel-wise, for the Bahamas, but New England, the Pacific Northwest and Nova Scotia are definite possibles.  The inland waterways will be a piece of cake.


The new (used) boat will be renamed “Options”. It is our first motorboat in 25 years. More pictures here

Home (3 of 7).jpg

We took her on the St. Croix River last Sunday for a maiden voyage to see the new interstate bridge at Stillwater.

Home (4 of 7).jpg

Home (6 of 7).jpg

Home (7 of 7).jpg

She putters at 7 mph just above idle, planes with a sweet spot at 28 mph, and hit 37 before I chickened out and chopped the throttle.  No idea on MPG yet, but I have a measuring tool in the works.  Peg is learning CPR for when I see the results.

Home (5 of 7).jpg

And thus we hang our heads in shame as we become gas guzzlers.  Riding the wind is just too fun to ignore, so there will be some sort of sailing craft in the fleet soon as well.

We’ll be starting with a few short shakedown trips this Fall then head for the horizon next Spring.


Enquiring Minds

Thank you for all the kind words about our blog and our trip.  We were truly amazed that people came to Washburn to greet us and meet the couple from a blog they had been following.

Along with those kind words have been a number of questions.  Peg and I did our best to respond honestly:

Would you have sailed another year, gone further, do it again?

Before leaving we agreed there was a small possibility we would just keep going and do the Loop twice. We had a unique window of opportunity: freshly retired, no grandkids yet, reliable house-sitters, good health and no eldercare issues. So off we went with options to extend the trip.

Then our grown children began buying homes and thinking of becoming parents, and we missed everyone back home, and our house sitters could only commit for a year, and, and…

So the thought of changing the original one-year plan drifted away.  Instead, we began building a list of future trips.  Doing two or three 1-2 month trips per year, it will take many years to exhaust the list.

Would we do the Loop again?  Maybe.  What we will do is go back to our favorite areas on the Loop, with a trailerable boat, and explore further.

In the end, Peg and I agree that the route we took and the one-year duration was very satisfying.

Did you ever think of abandoning the adventure part way?

Not for a moment.

What was the easiest part, and the hardest?

We would put the Trent-Severn Waterway as the easiest.  Tying up at lock walls for the night, accessible towns, friendly lock masters, fair immunity from weather, and great scenery combined to make a delightful experience.

As for the “hardest”, we would say portions of the Atlantic Intercoastal and the Chesapeake/Delaware Bay section.  The marshy areas through Georgia and the Carolinas were pretty, but also pretty boring when weather halted us.  Staring out at marsh grass, with no ability to go ashore, tested our ability to stay amused on board.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Bays both tested our affection for large, shallow bodies of water.  Both turned into butt-kicking brutes that forced us to wait for better conditions.

That said, nothing on the Loop struck us as particularly hard.  Maybe we’re just jaded after several seasons on Lake Superior.


How did you two get along being stuck in a boat together for a year?

Amazingly well.  We found out years ago that we are best together when sailing or land cruising.  I think the constant wonder of seeing new things focuses us outward on the mutual experience rather than inward on petty disagreements.  Whatever, the cause, we were exceptionally close and affectionate during the loop.


Why didn’t you put on a bigger motor and go faster?

There is a discussion going on in the Loopers forum where some Loopers advocate having a fast boat, say one capable of 35 mph, and zooming each day to a destination, then having more time to explore the destination.  To each his own.  My opinion is that you might as well skip the boat, get an RV, and go 55-65 mph between attractions.

We’ve done both.  Driving gets you there quickly, but the driver, and most likely the passengers, miss most of the interesting sights along the way.  Endeavor putts along at 6.5 mph.  We saw things at that speed, both natural and manmade, that we would have never caught on a fast boat.  Setting up photo shoots at that speed is easier.  Chatting with other passing boaters is possible.  Animals stay close.  Navigational mistakes are more easily detected and corrected.


Also, things that go bump come at you more slowly.  Now home, I am slowly getting accustomed again to the insane speeds and minimal separation that people consider normal in highway traffic these days.

What would you do differently? 

We would have left even more stuff home.  We could have easily shed another 500-750 lbs of gear without missing it.

I went on a maniacal pre-loop mission to collect audiobooks, movies and TV series on hard drives.  We ended up reading about 75 books each instead.  We started with about 70 physical books on board and gave them away once finished, switching to eBooks.  Other items that sounded like a good idea but ended up little used: acoustic guitar, traction kite, stunt kite, shortwave radio, extra wetsuits, and so on.

We would have bought less paper goods before going to the Bahamas.  Other cruisers had told of the high cost of TP and other paper goods, so we stocked up before crossing.  We finished the trip months later with 24 rolls remaining!

We would have not bothered registering for the DHS Small Vessel Reporting System.  It was supposed to speed check-in back into the U.S. from Canada.  Nope, the personnel up here were not trained on how to access the system so we ended up reciting all the same information everyone else did.

We would have spent more money and used Sunbrella for the dinghy chaps.  As it was, they lasted long enough to protect the dink in the Caribbean sun, but died young.

What pieces of gear were the most benefit on Endeavor?

Airhead Composting Head – A fantastic solution for human waste.  Allowed us to be off the grid  and not dependent on pump-outs.  When we were stuck at lock 16 on the Erie, we were the only boat that didn’t have to backtrack to get pumped out.

Dual XGPS Bluetooth Receiver – This little unit provided GPS data to up to 6 units on board.  We could have Navionics, Garmin Bluechart and other apps running on multiple iPads and iPhones far from humanity.

Navionics on iPad – The $4000 Raymarine system provides AIS, Radar, etc. but 90% of our navigation was managed with a $49 iPad app.

Garmin BlueChart – Used mainly for the free ActiveCaptain service (like Yelp! for boaters).  Helped find good anchorages, marinas, bridge heights, lock phone numbers, and a ton of other useful information.

Portable Fuel Tanks –  Actually a bit more hassle than internal tanks, but allowed us to get fuel in some places where we had to take the tanks to the station.

Portable Solar Panels – A pair of moveable Coleman 70 watt panels supplemented the fixed 260 watt panel.  At anchor we could keep them pointed at the sun and extend our energy collection later in the day.

Bosch On-Demand Water Heater – 5 Minutes or less of Honda generator time equals 3 gallons of hot shower water!

ACR AIS Transceiver – I’m a nerd, but this unit made traveling safer and more interesting.  Seeing just how much metal is bearing down on us is fascinating.

Lewmar 1000 Windlass – Indispensable for raising 90 feet of anchor chain and a 35 lb. anchor from the depths.

Sun Shade/rain Collector –  Helped prevent skin cancer and filled our tanks during each rain.

Textilene Sun Shades – Same benefit minus the water collection.

LP/12v/110v Fridge – A stand-up fridge is just way more convenient than an in-counter icebox.  Have had both, prefer the fridge.

LED Deck Lights – For that rainy night when you have to reset the anchor at 2 am.

Stanley LED Spotlight – $40 spotlight was great for shining buoys and locating alligator eyes at night.

Honda Outboard Motor – Reliable, fuel efficient and quiet.  Electric tilt especially handy for cleaning off crab pot lines and weeds.

Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with 9.9hp Outboard – Having a dinghy that could plane with both of us aboard was indispensable.

Why didn’t you put power winches and other helpful devices on Endeavor?

The short answer is one that Lynn on Adamante 1 told me, “everything is broken on your boat, you just don’t know it yet”.  Boats, except those that never leave the dock, are always in motion and motion eventually breaks everything.  Then you have to fix whatever it is, or stop your journey.  My philosophy is that our boat should be simple enough that we can fix everything on her, and small enough that either one of us can sail her solo back to safety.

The current trend is for couples to sail larger and larger craft, assisted by hydraulics and electronics.  Great, right up to the point something fails.  Then the boat can truly be at risk if the couple cannot manually lower sails, etc.

Besides, my favorite toy as a child was an erector set.  With all the pulleys, ropes and hardware we carry, Peg and I have one huge toy!

Why didn’t you just leave the mast at home and motor the whole way?

Leaving the mast home would have been more convenient, but having it up was by far the better choice.  Every time we had favorable wind we’d roll out the foresail and boost our boat speed.  Between Home and Mobile, Alabama we had a dozen or so days of awesome full-blown sailing down the inland rivers. Whole days of silently slipping along powered by the wind. Racing, and beating, a tow down the Mississippi while under spinnaker is cool.


The Bahamas is much more affordable by sail: we did 984 miles around the islands and only bought a few gallons of gas.  Coming up the east coast the extra pull from the Genoa overcame adverse tides and sped us on our way.  Lastly, because of how we did the Loop, we skipped the need to drop the mast at Chicago.  We only had to drop (unstep) at the start of the Erie Canal and step again at the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

What did you like and dislike?

This was a tough question to answer.  First, the dislikes:

  • Inconsiderate power boaters who rock everyone with large wakes
  • Marinas with crappy WiFi
  • Marinas with crappy bathrooms
  • No-See-Ums
  • Bridge tenders and lock masters who won’t respond to radio calls
  • The effect salt water has on equipment

A lot of the items that probably should go on the dislike list, like rental houseboats, got taken off.  Why?  Because they made for a great memory and a great story.  Things don’t have to always go right for an adventure to be memorable… our gripe list is short.

The Likes?  How long a list am I allowed?

  • Meeting new people along the way, both Loopers and locals
  • Making lasting friends along the way
  • Have family and friends come visit to share the experience
  • Extraordinary sunsets
  • The crystalline waters of the Bahamas
  • Finding wonderment in new, small things everyday
  • Docktails!
  • Dolphins!
  • Docktails!
  • Dolphins!

Sharing all of the above with my mate.

The reality is, as the saying goes, “the worst day on the loop is still better than a good day at work!”



Data Points

Prospective loopers usually have two big questions tied to planning: what will it cost and how much stuff can we take along.  Answers to those questions vary with every boat and boater’s style, but we can offer our data points for consideration.

Our Sunday was a harried rush of packing, finding more boxes, and packing more.  By the time we settled down to a dinner of Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo about 8 pm we were exhausted.

Haul Out (2 of 8)

Monday morning we were up first for haul out on Washburn’s 150 ton travel lift.  Endeavor, about 8,000 lbs empty, barely registered on the lift’s gauges.  This monster lift hauls out the Madeline Island ferries, so our boat looked like a dinky toy hanging from the straps.

Haul Out (3 of 8)

As soon as Endeavor was settled on land, we borrowed the marina manager’s car and went to rent a U-Haul truck in nearby Ashland.

Haul Out (7 of 8)

We originally considered renting a 10 foot box truck, but didn’t want to cram the dinghy in, so we settled on reserving a 15 footer.  When we went to get the truck they could not get a 15 footer so they upgraded us to a 20 footer.

Haul Out (8 of 8)

This brute has plenty of space but drives like a, well, like a truck.

Haul Out (4 of 8)

The loading ramp formed a sturdy bridge when we set the far end on some boat blocking.  From then on we made endless trips across, moving our gear out of Endeavor.

Haul Out (5 of 8)

In the end, it was fortunate they upgraded us.  Even stacked 2 and 3 boxes deep we managed to fill the floor space.

Haul Out (6 of 8)

Catamarans, with their narrow hulls, tend to be sensitive to loading.  Put too much aboard that they sail sluggishly.  When we stepped back and looked at the load in the truck we knew we had to find out how much weight we had carried this year.

This morning, as we unloaded the truck at home, we stepped on a scale and recorded the weight of every armload.  We included the dinghy and 9.9hp, since they normally hang from the davits.  We did not include the main engine: we brought it home in the truck for routine servicing.  I should add that we had eaten down the provisions to a bare minimum and the 70+ books we started with are read and gone.

The total?  Almost 1.5 TONS… 2,824.5 pounds of gear we hauled about 7,000 miles on an 8,000 pound boat.  And we took a full rental car full of stuff home last Fall!

Yes, we are both surprised at that number.

The second data point, cost of the trip, is very dependent on the boat and the boater’s traveling style.  With Endeavor as efficient as she is, our entire budget is less than most trawlers fuel budget alone.

I tend to be frugal and Peg borders on stingy, but we don’t feel we shorted ourselves on anything during the trip.  When I look back through this blog I think we got every bit of adventure we could handle.

The total below ignores non-trip stuff like medical insurance, home insurance, etc.  Overall, our living expenses were lower than when we live on the dirt.

Haul Out (1 of 1).jpg

We are pleasantly surprised with that number.

Haul Out (1 of 8)