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America's great Loop

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by pamibach, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. pamibach

    pamibach New Member

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    Are there any "loopers" here? My husband heard about it today and is all agog about boating it. This man gives me everything, goes anywhere I want; I figure I could do something for him. He'll probably buy a boat for the trip.

    Admin Edit: Atrocious spelling corrected.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2017
  2. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    We have a very experienced member who has just completed this trip with great aplomb. Sadly he only speaks English, so not sure he could help.
  3. MM3

    MM3 New Member

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    Hah! :)
  4. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I would suggest starting at http://www.captainjohn.org/

    While I don't agree necessarily with him on choice of boats and a few other things, he gives an excellent overall idea of what you'll cover when doing the loop.
  5. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I've done the entire loop once and half of it two other times.
  6. RB480

    RB480 Senior Member

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    I have done a little more than half of it both ways 11 times now.
  7. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    One observation. Have you each done it all or half of it all or half of half or all of half. Now, I'll try to explain what I'm getting at. Most loopers do the shortest route they can, 5600 miles plus. However, the loop leads to as much as 29000 miles of waterways. I think taking the shortest route is a great experience and it's all slower boats often feel they can do in a season, but we've observed how much those doing so really don't see. A few specifics.

    Just to start with the simplest. Go up the East Coast the direct route and you miss St. John's River, the Chesapeake, the Delaware, but that's just getting up the coast. The first major choice becomes as you reach New York. The shortest route for boats that can clear air draft wise is just to take the Erie Canal to Buffalo. That misses Lake Ontario completely. So a second route is to take the Erie to the Oswego and take it to Lake Ontario. From there though you have choices. Do you take the shortest route on Lake Ontario and just go a short distance to the Welland or do you explore the entire lake, circling it, or do you cross and take the Trent Severn to Georgian Bay? With any of those routes though you've cut off New England so you could have just gone on up the East Coast and to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and down the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal and to Lake Ontario. This is one of many other loops that can be taken in the Eastern US and Canada. Another loop is the NE loop which uses the Erie and Champlain Canal. Still I see the major miss here of those taking the shortest route to be missing Lake Ontario and all it's beauty. Others might argue it's missing the Trent Severn.

    Now, if you take the Trent Severn option, then you miss Lake Erie completely as you empty into the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Even on Lake Erie most just follow the southern shoreline and miss the Canadian side. Now, after Lake Erie you cut through to Lake Huron. The shortest route on Lake Huron misses the Canadian side and most seriously misses one of the most beautiful areas of the area, the Georgian Bay. Another beautiful area missed is the North Channel.

    Once completing the trip through Lake Huron, most cut through to Lake Michigan, hugging the shore. That skips entirely Lake Superior. There are several routes up to Sault Ste. Marie from which you cut through to Lake Superior.

    Returning to Lake Huron and then to Lake Michigan, the majority of loopers just come down the eastern shore. That omits the entirety of Wisconsin. Once one reaches Chicago and heads down the Illinois to the Mississippi, then you'd think there are few options. Well, the Illinois River comes into the Mississippi at mile 1172 of the Mississippi, far from the start of the Mississippi. Minneapolis is at mile 1807 so there's a good 635 miles north of that point.

    Only 23 miles after entering the Mississippi from the Illinois is the mouth of the Missouri River. Now the loop route just takes one on down the Mississippi but there's 753 miles of the Missouri River that could be explored.

    On down the Mississippi at mile 954, loopers take the Ohio River through to the TN River or the Cumberland River. The lower Mississippi isn't a great river for most pleasure boats, but it's definitely our goal to take it sometime.

    There are other rivers off the lower Mississippi. The Arkansas River has 18 locks and is navigable for 444 miles.

    So, one takes the Ohio at mile 954 of the Mississippi. From there you're either 46 miles from the mouth of the Tennessee or you're 58 miles from the mouth of the Cumberland. The goal of most is to get to the Tennessee although sometimes that is best done by a short trip through the Cumberland and then cutting through at the Land Between the Lakes from Lake Barkley to Kentucky Lake. So most loopers never pursue the Ohio River which runs 981 miles to Pittsburgh. Then at Pittsburgh you have the choices of the Allegheny and the Monongahela. There are locks and dams #2 through #9 on the Allegheny, but #6 through #9 are in Caretaker status and closed except for commercial lockage arrangements. Still that leaves a nice side trip exploring 30 miles of the 60 mile river. The Monongahela also has 9 locks and dams over a distance of 115 miles.

    Now, as to the Cumberland, which most loopers see little or none of. 190 miles up the Cumberland is Nashville. The river is navigable for a distance of 380 miles although most only go up 250 miles or so.

    That gets us back to the Tennessee River. Most loopers take it from Kentucky Lake to Pickwick Lake and then head down the Tenn Tom Waterway and then the Tombigbee to Mobile.

    Then the next major option one faces is to take the Okeechobee across Florida or go the outside to Key West. Most loopers take the Okeechobee and miss a large section of Florida.

    All this is without even getting into the Black Warrior, the Alabama, the Apalachicola, the Chattahoochee, and Flint Rivers. And this is just the eastern part of the country.

    One could spend years and years just with coastal boating and rivers in this area and still not see it all. We looped to Lake Pickwick last year and have stopped in that area to spend time this year on the Tennessee River and Cumberland River. Next year we intend to boat on the Ohio River and the summer after perhaps the Missouri and then comes a trip at some point down the Mississippi, catching the Arkansas. So much boating to do. So, don't just think of the loop as the shortest way around. There's much more potentially to be experienced.
  8. bliss

    bliss Member

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    Wow! OB you and your ilk are why I check in almost evert day. Thanks.
  9. 30West

    30West Member

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    OB, you started that post mentioning slower boats. How much of the loop can a boater take advantage of having a faster boat?
  10. captholli

    captholli Senior Member

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    Not much as there are speed restrictions on the Erie canal and the others as well to keep wakes from eroding the river banks and moving purposely placed revetment. Your vessel is timed between locks and if you arrive earlier than the 10 knot max speed than the lock keeper will hold your vessel @ the lock and penalize you. Continuous speeding after being warned will draw fines. This speed system is in effect on the larger bodies of water contained in the canal system like lake Oneida where you have room to go faster without worrying about erosion but the 10 knot rule is in effect there as many boaters have learned the hard way. If you desire making up some time than try to catch the Mississippi in the spring thaw when its above its flood stages and down stream current is at its peak. You'll be doing 15 knots just to maintain steerage...
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  11. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Actually you can do faster speeds on most of the loop. We cruised around 26 to 28 knots much of the time. All the coastal waters are amenable to running outside at speed. The Erie Canal is obviously slow but all the Great Lakes have large areas you can open up and cover some distances. The Illinois and Mississippi are in between moderate speeds. As most head south in the fall, not going to catch the spring flood. Then on the various rivers such as the TN and Cumberland you have opportunities for greater speed most of the time. The Tenn Tom is mostly slower.

    When running coastal areas on the outside we averaged about 22-24 knots. That included going inside to marinas and areas we wanted to see. On the Hudson and Erie, we averaged 6.8 knots, but the Erie is a very small part of the loop. Lake Ontario 20.9 knots. Lake Erie 23.4 knots. Lake Huron 15.6 knots. Lake Superior 19.6 knots. Lake Michigan 18.1 knots. Illinois River and Mississippi 11.5 knots. TN River 15.5 knots.

    We were able to cover nearly 3 times as much area as a 6-7 knot boat could have covered everywhere except the Erie. This meant exploring areas most loopers don't have time to. It also meant where other loopers might have 10 hour runs during a day, we'd run 3 hours to get to the destination and where they'd take three days between areas we'd do it in one day.

    Now, running up the East Coast, we just did a delivery run to relocate the boat to NYC in time to start the loop because we have many other occasions to explore the East Coast. We wanted to start on the Hudson on May 2 last year and did. So we did Fort Lauderdale to NYC in 7 days averaging 22.2 knots. I didn't count that in the averages above.

    We didn't want to leave the boat in a cold area, go through winterization and all. So that meant entering the Hudson on May 2 and leaving Chicago on October 12 and that was pretty much the maximum time available. Now, October 12 sounds late in Chicago but we arrived there on September 30 and the last 12 days were just in Chicago. So for practical purposes the season is May 1 to Sept 30, 5 months. At 6-8 knots you could have seen less than half what we saw in that time. We could have done a little more but we did take a 3 week break and flew home from Sandusky, Ohio (well, flew out of Cleveland).
  12. captholli

    captholli Senior Member

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    Valid point OB,
    Its funny how boaters think of "the great loop" ( or maybe just me) when the majority of boaters go north and south for the season anyway say ft. Lauderdale to Long island and stay in the N.E. from June till October and then run south to Fl. or to the Caribbean for the season there from Nov. to April or so. I've always considered the "loop" as traversing the different interconnecting bodies of water in between through the different canal systems that allow connections to the interior of the U.S that most don't see like cruising down the Illinois river & joining the headwaters of the Mississippi . I never really thought nor included the open stretches of coastal waterways traversing north -south along the U.S. eastern seaboard as part of the loop but they obviously are. I was responding from a point of view that once you reach Albany your going 10 knots max till you reach Lake Ontario and if you go the northern route of Champlain you'll have the same .
  13. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    But that's a very small part of the Great Loop. The largest inland part of the loop is the Great Lakes. The entire loop though is what it takes to be the Great Loop. You must cross your own wake, which we haven't done yet as we stopped to enjoy the inland rivers.

    Yes, on the Erie you have 5 mph and 10 mph speed zones, so 4.3 and 8.7 knots. Very difficult to go 4.3 knots with 2400 hp.
  14. pamibach

    pamibach New Member

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    thank y'all so much, I pulled this topic up on his computer, and he stayed in his office long enough for me to go to Dallas for some shopping!
  15. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Yup, I ran a 58' searay through there and it would only do 7.4 knots on one engine. But, Manhattan to Oswego is one of my favorite parts of the loop.
  16. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    We would put it in gear a little while then take it out and coast to a stop, then repeat.
  17. Just Cruisin

    Just Cruisin New Member

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    OB, it has been some years since I ran the Erie Canal from Waterford to Oswego. Planning on doing it either later this year or early next year. Question on speed limits. Thought from E6-E12 - 45 mph. E12-E16 - 30mph. Lake Oneida - no speed limit. Other areas approx 5 - 8 knots.
    Did you run the higher speed limit areas slow on purpose?
    And you are correct about the North Channel, loopers should include it on their trip. Absolutely Beautiful!
  18. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    When you exit E6, you're still in a narrow canal, then up and around a bit. Then a low bridge. Once you clear it you have a brief stretch to open up for a mile or so and we ran it faster. After 7 you have a small stretch but then another low bridge and Lock 8. Between 8 and 9 you have a bridge and not enough area to get to any real speed, over perhaps 12 knots or so. Locks 10-12 you don't have enough distance to get up speed for more than a few seconds. Between 12 and 13 a very low bridge. Between 13 and 14 some shoaling. Between 14 and 15 a decent enough run to get up to 25 knots. A very nice stretch after 15 but we stopped for the night in St. Johnsville. After 16, you're back to 10 mph and then 5 mph until you reach Lake Oneida. We got up to speed on it and played around even faster in our RIB. Shortly beyond it you head up Oswego which is 10, 5, 10, 5 mph.

    So, there are very few areas you can run faster even if you want to, especially with a boat that has 19' air draft and you have 20-21' bridge clearances. Plus you run fast but then quickly to a lock so the period of time you actually run above 10-12 knots is minimal. I think other than Lake Oneida, the longest we ran at cruising speed at any one time was probably 2 minutes, maybe 3. We did that really just for the engines, just to open them up a little.

    But most of it you run slow between speed limits, locks, low bridges, and narrow and curvy.
  19. Just Cruisin

    Just Cruisin New Member

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    thanks for the information! Question, how long did it take you to run from Waterford to St. Johnsville? And overall, how long did it take you to run up to Oswego. Comment on your places you stopped as well if possible.
    Not sure if I am going through Trent Severn and Georgia Bay / North Channel or just through Lake Erie. Lake Erie is much different than North Channel.
  20. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    We ran Croton on Hudson, Connelly, Waterford, Rexford, St. Johnsville, Utica, Sylvan Beach, Brewerton, Oswego. 13 Days.

    Waterford to Rexford, 15 nm, 5 locks, 4 hours.
    Rexford to St. Johnsville, 47 nm, 9 locks, 8 hours.

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