For some couples, retirement means spending time with the grand kids or in their garden. Others take their newfound free time and travel by water.
“We’re boaters, we’ve enjoyed boating for a long time. We became aware of the trip and it was something I thought about for three years. We did a lot of research on it,” said Errol Taylor, a St. Joseph resident. Errol and Sherry Taylor completed the Great Loop, along with their cat Dixie Belle. The couple started out April 25, 2015, and ended their Great Loop adventure in October of the same year.
Throughout the course of their six-month boat journey, the couple met other loopers along the way. Both said the best part of the trip was meeting so many different people and sharing each other’s experiences. It’s not uncommon for couples or families to bring along the family pet. The Taylors met a couple that shared their boat with their pet parrot. The trip allowed them to explore, stopping off in Alligator River, a marina located in Columbia, North Carolina, to Cape May, New Jersey; Chesapeake, Maryland; and Port Colburn, Canada.
“It has definitely grown in popularity in the past 10 years or so. Prior to that, I don’t think too many people knew about it,” said Kim Russo, director of America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association. “It’s a trip people do on their own boats on their own schedule. We have about 100 boats a year that report to us that they’ve finished the entire route, and that changes slightly from year to year, but it’s generally right around 100 that complete it.”
Russo said the trip is about 6,000 miles and takes up to a year to complete. But some have been able to complete it in half that time because it’s a circle that can start anywhere, as long as the boat crosses its wake when the whole trip is completed. Participants can start out in Florida, heading north toward New York, covering the Great Lakes, Tennessee, Illinois, Mississippi and ending where they started in Florida.
“It’s actually been around for a really long time. The first great loop trip that I’m aware of actually happened around 1906,” Russo said. “That’s the first one I’m aware of. It’s interesting while the popularity of the great loop, the idea of it, and the people interested in doing it, has gone up. We have a lot more people that are aware of it and adding it to their bucket list.”
There is a certain time of year to take advantage of such an adventure.
“Most people take about a year and that’s partly because it’s somewhat seasonal,” Russo said. “You want to be in the northern parts, in Canada, the Great Lakes during the summer months. You want to be in the far south and Florida during the winter months. So because of that, it’s somewhat seasonal, unless you’re moving fast enough to do it in six months or so, then you can do the whole thing during the warm weather.”
The Great Loop allows participants to enjoy their travels through a different set of eyes.
“The beauty of country as seen from its waterways is exceptional and outstanding, which cannot be appreciated from the interstate highways,” Taylor said. “Navigating the harbors and viewing the sights of Norfolk, New York and other cities along the way was awesome.”