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The great loop for somebody from Europe

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by HTMO9, Apr 27, 2022.

  1. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Excuse me, if this threat already excists but I have some questions as far as the great loop is concerned.

    Provided Your boat would fit into the 5 ft draft and the famous 19 ft airdraft limit of the great loop, what would be the maximum allowable length and beam of that boat, for the St. Lawrence River and the Welland Canal, the alternative route via the Hudson River and the associated canals to the Great Lakes, the Chicago area and the Missouri / Mississippi River or the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway?

    What would be the best time of the year to start this adventure?

    How much time should reasionably be reserved for that adventure?

    What range should this boat have (as far as fuel and provisions are concerned)?

    What type of US "drivers" licences should a skipper of this non commercial boat have?

    Would a European license be valid on that route on a European flagged boat or could it be converted?

    Thanks in advance for any answers!

    HTMO9
  2. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Length and beam are not a factor for the St. Lawrence and Welland as it's a shipping route and for transiting the primary route are only minor factors as the locks are adequate to handle nearly any recreational boat. The only importance is water and air draft which a 100' boat isn't likely to manage (although our 116' AB could) and marinas. We did the loop in a Sunseeker Manhattan 65 which was 69'4" LOA and had no problem. We couldn't dock at every marina but we never had a problem finding a marina where we could dock. I'd put somewhere around 70' as a practical limit. Now, I know others will say 60' but we've done it in 69'4" and I know one captain here did it in larger. Beam isn't a problem as you're typically side tying in transient and catamarans also do the loop.

    Water draft, you quote 5' and I think that's a good idea, but it's not an absolute, just practical. Every waterway you'd have to take is used for shipping and much deeper drafts. Just practical for exploring, for safe traveling, and for access to shore and marinas. However, boats with 6' drafts cruise these areas. 5' is just a good recommendation. 19', now 19'6" though is an absolute. Bridge is fixed. Also, if that didn't limit you, then the Erie would at very little more.

    The key timetable for the loop is to enter the Erie Canal as near when it opens as possible, around May 15. Then to exit Lake Michigan late September to early October, heading south. All the rest of the timing centers around those dates. Some boaters store their boats during the winter on the Great Lakes but most focus on those time frames.

    The entire loop can be done over any time period. Most choose one year to two years. We don't do it all at one time. We can cruise up and down the coast all we want during a different year or season. Same for the Gulf of Mexico. We also left our loop boat on the TN River to return and cruise the TN and Cumberland and Ohio and Missouri and Arkansas rivers plus the TN Tom. Rivers of the area often get overlooked.

    They year we did the Great Lakes section, we left NYC on May 2 and left Chicago on October 12.

    If starting from Florida on the loop, you find yourself cruising up the coast before it's warmed up. That's why we prefer doing the outside separately and we did a quick run to NYC the year we looped. I would recommend at least three years of coastal cruising, river cruising, and loop cruising and you still wouldn't see nearly all.

    Fuel range of anything over 300 nm is adequate. Below that you are dependent on Hoppie's on the Mississippi and when they were closed some used drums. Fuel is again available now, so 250 nm is adequate but I'd like 300. Provisions are available every day on your route.

    No US drivers license required. Some states require so might be good to go online and complete one boaters education course in one state, just in case. You will need a cruising permit for the boat.

    The loop consists, in my thoughts, of two parts, the inland section and the coastal section. The coastal is without size or time restrictions. The inland is restricted by the opening of the Erie and Welland and by the general shutdown of Chicago marinas in October. Then there is the restriction of climate. Above Florida on the East Coast is generally not comfortable until May so I recommend cruising it in another year. You clear Chicago in September/October but too cold to enjoy the inland rivers beyond that time. TN River ok in October and sometimes into November. Gulf Coast nice year round.
  3. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    YF Member Maldwin and I did in the whole loop from mid-May through mid-September on a 56' Huckins. And we went clockwise rather than counter-clockwise.

    If you take more than one year, keep in mind that a Cruising Permit (license) will only be issued for one year, and you need to leave the USA in order to renew.
  4. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Because you and Maldwin are backwards. lol. Actually clockwise works very well from some starting points.

    Typical renewals of cruising permits done by a weekend in the Bahamas or a few days in Canada.
  5. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    I understand that any beam of a boat below 30 ft is no problem both for the Eri Canal and the Chicago area and into the Missouri River. But what would be the absolute maximum boat length on the Eri Canal and the Chicago area (for going around the corners in the canals for example and due to the length of the locks)?

    I am thinking of a special designed inland waterway vessel with professional crew and of maximum possible size for comfort and to take family members as additional guests on specific portions of the loop. I own one of those for the European canals and rivers already but I am afraid it could be to long.

    Ken, did You really go the Mississipi / Missouri River part upbound against the current?

    I remember reading here on YF, that during specific times of the year, a lot of debris and flotsam like trees, etc. are floating down the rivers. Is this stuff endangering a steel boat?

    It sounds logically to me to do the loop in several section over more than one season. But the inland waterway part would have to be done within one calendar year, correct? How could You otherwise get the boat out of the country for requesting the new cruising permit?

    I do understand that this 6.000 NM trip will take more than one year, if one would like to see anything of this beautiful country.
  6. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    The longest boat I know of to do the Erie was an old Pacific Mariner 85. The air draft was less than the redesigned boat. Lengths of locks and corners really aren't a huge issue. All Erie locks accept vessels up to 300' x 43.5'. Welland and St. Lawrence are at least 766' x 80'. Understand all these waterways except the Western Erie are used for commercial vessels. Locks on the Mississippi are 600' x 110'. When you think of size, keep in mind every boat Burger has ever built, up to 140', has come out of the Great Lakes. On the St. Lawrence route, we've taken a 130' to Montreal and back. There were areas of no docks for a boat that size but were docks where needed.

    Debris of adequate size and speed will damage any boat, especially the propulsion. The main issue is when snows melt in the spring and this isn't when you'd normally be looping. It does often delay those wanting to go north from Mobile in March or so.

    I would not go over 70'. If I needed more space for crew, I'd take a shadow vessel as well. Over 70' or so, you're going to have trouble getting to the sites you want to see. You also would be able to navigate but far less enjoyable. We've looked at alternatives. For instance, our AB 116 meets all draft requirements. However, all trips to shore would have to be by tender. Just doesn't compare with being able to dock for two or three days. Even finding good places to anchor would be a challenge. I would guess at 85' or so, you'd be able to dock at fewer than 40% of the places we docked. At 60' we could have docked at many more marinas, but it wasn't a major factor, just meant often one choice versus two.

    People go up the Mississippi all the time. Many here have delivered boats that way.

    How to handle a foreign vessel. Well, on any of the northern Great Lakes sections just go to Canada for a while. Then you'd have a year from there. With that year, your best choices would be Cancun, Cuba (with an additional set of issues on reentry), or the Bahamas. I'd spend my year getting to the Bahamas and then reverse course if I wanted to see more. At some point you have to choose. You can't see it all in 1 year or 20. Definitely not as bad as the Schengen limit we dealt with last year. 90 days in 6 months was terribly restrictive.

    Is it your plan to stay with the boat or leave it occasionally with the crew?
  7. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Last year I took a new 108' Pershing up the Welland and she came up the Erie Canal and will be back this year also
    Burger's 151' Sycara IV came down the Welland and went back up the Erie Canal.
    I also have four Pacific Mariners that come to Great Lakes every year that use the Erie Canal.
  8. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    My boat is a copy of an European (inland waterway) river cruise ship. Externally it looks like a cruise ship with fully retractable wheelhouse and lay down railing and large sun deck but internally it is designed as a yacht. Owner suite plus 5 guest suites on the main deck and a crew of ten in single cabins on the lower deck. It fits into the Europe Class of inland waterway ships. 280 ft hull length, 31.3 ft beam, variable draft with water ballast system, that can provide 5 ft minimum draft or 13 ft airdraft but obviously not at the same time. Very maneuverable with diesel-electric propulsion onto 4 x electric Schottel twin propeller azimuth drives and a Schottel pumpjet bow thruster. The boat is EU flagged and registered as a private passenger vessel (not a yacht!) but only cleared for inland waterways and rivers and protected coastal waters. It has a range of app. 2.000 NM and cruises at 12 Kts.

    Below pictures of the type of river cruise ship, the design was taken from:

    propulsion.JPG

    cruise ship 1.jpg
    cruise ship 2.jpg

    retractable wheelhouse.jpg

    The only real external differences with my boat are on the lower deck with less but flush and non openable windows, as the windows on the lower deck are submerged, when going on ballast for lower airdraft and it has of course a teak deck on the sun deck.

    I would leave the boat for example in Canada during winter but only in a shed or on the hard due to ice and snow. And I do not believe, the certification would allow me to go to the Bahamas. I am sure, Rodger could be helpfull with that.

    Do not mistake this boat as a river megayacht. The black steel part is not expensive, as this boat is like a river cargo vessel, a square steel box (including the superstructure). Due to the pretty rough boating in the locks, the boat is not faired and the hull is painted to commercial standards. The expensive part is only the interior. And it has internal spaces for two onroad tenders (2 VW Busses), which can be launched by an long reaching and powerfull onboard hydraulic deck crane. It has pretty long telescopic passerelles on both sides to embarg and disembarg the boat even when moored on sloping river banks. That takes care of most mooring sitations her in Europe.

    Lessons taken by me from this thread is, the only real problem is the cruising permit, if getting caught being longer than a year in the US and may be, the canals from Chicago to the Missouri River. The Welland and Eri Canal and the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway should not be aproblem. And the big rivers could be done uphill and downhill.

    The rest seems to be proper planning and timing, plus hiring a pilot or a qualified commercial skipper for the trip.

    Is their some relevant literature and maps available, my skipper could order in advance from Europe for that adventure.

    And please tell me, if I am assuming to much and my boat is not really suitable for the great loop.

    HTMO9
  9. Slimshady

    Slimshady Senior Member

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    I would highly recommend having some forum members on the trip! That's to much boat for a few people.
    In all seriousness great vessel and idea. Keep us informed of your decision and trip.
  10. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    I sure will, if this boat is suitable for the great loop. I have some personal friends among the YF and JF members. They live in the US and Canada will for sure be invited for portions of that trip or at least for a nice party on board. Honestly, I am only a little bit afraid of the part from Chicago to the Missouri River or visa versa.

    Up to now, I have done the Rhine River, the Elbe River of course, the Danube down to Vienna and some Dutch canals. Some years ago we wanted to do the River Po in northern Italy from its mouth south of Venice to south of Pavia but the river had not enough water even for 5 ft of draft. But the good thing is, due to the flat bottom of the hull and the hull being very strong, the boat can dry out, one diesel generator can be switched from keel cooling to radiator cooling and believe it or not, the boat can even dry out only on the bow and the stern without bending or breaking. My biggest problem with the boat is, that it is always occupied by one of my 4 kids with their families and their friends. I have even to fight for a slot.

    The skipper and the engineer were transfered from one of my river cargo vessels to this boat. They love their job and both of them have their wifes also working on the boat as stews. Very happy crew with their large single cabins with ensuite bath and skipper and engineer with double cabins. On the cruise ship, the lower deck also accomodates passengers. Which means, the crew has a lot of space and amenities.

    Also I am still holding an unlimited commercial captains license for the seven seas, I am not allowed to drive the boat on the European inland waterways and rivers. God bless our bureaucrats.

    Wheelhouse.jpg
    The retractable wheelhouse of the river cruise ship, not my boat of course :). The same controls but better screens and no stupid toys on the dashboard, of course. When the wheelhouse is fully retracted, the skipper stands behind the controls and sticks his head through a hatch in the wheelhouse roof.
    November likes this.
  11. Slimshady

    Slimshady Senior Member

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    These types of vessels remind me of panamax container vessels. Maximizing their usefulness in the limited dimensions allowed.
    Traveled the Danube few years ago aboard one, loved the design and functionality. Assuming you run genny 24/7 so 50 hz vs 60 hz won't be an issue. Getting it across the pond on deck of transporter?
  12. maldwin

    maldwin Senior Member

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    One thing to keep in mind, particularly if you are coming from Europe is that there is not much to eat other than in the big cities. Even compared to the East coast, the restaurants are not terribly good, and compared to many European rivers, downright terrible! When Ken and I did it, we were lucky that his first wife was a good chef, and we stocked up with food in New Orleans, St Louis, and Chicago.
  13. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    As all of my boats, this pocket river cruiser can accept shore power from 120 Volt to 690 Volt AC and from 40 Hertz to 70 Hertz, even dirty sin and also high-frequency three-phase current and DC current at almost any voltage and Amps as the boat might need. My Philosophy is, when shorepower is available in sufficient quantity, there should be no diesel generator running. This also counts for my ocean going cargo vessels. The only thing we will have to do, is buying the neccessary adaptors for the US and Canadian grids.

    The boat has an autonomy as far as provisions are concerned of about 14 days with full crew and 12 passengers plus some smaller kids (my grand children on pulman beds in the guest cabins). As we could send off the onroad tender or even the two RIB tenders for collecting fresh food, supply should be no problem. Even along the big rivers, every small village must have a grocery store. In Europe, the crew orders the supply online, which will then be delivered to the jetty on time. This should be possible in the US at least in some places.

    And be assured, on my ships, the chefs are always wizards :). Nobody could pay me to eat low quality or badly cooked food.
    The only thing I'm still jealous of, are the professional BBQ techniques on Your side of the pond. My cooks have taken courses in gourmet BBQ techniques but I am still not fully happy with it. Taking up to 6 hours to grill some spare ribs is not really common her in Europe.

    The boat has facilities to be lifted out of the water and onto a cargo vessel or on the dry within minutes. There are no slings needed to lift her by crane and no cradle needed to store her on deck. Screw in heavy duty lifting eyes and prefabricated heavy duty lifting gear is always stowed on board. My inland waterway shipping company and my yacht management office are very experienced with that kind of transport of heavy deck loads.

    Part of my ocean going shipping activities are some heavy cargo vessels, that can carry the river boat on deck. And there is no external help required, as those ships have several 350 metric tonn cranes on board.

    The boat has to bow ankers and one center stern anker and has the ability of dynamic positioning even in pretty strong current until running out of fuel. With the azimuth drives and the pump jet bow thruster, it will hold not only the position exactly but also the direction of the hulls longitudinal axis. We could even hold the position in the middle of a lock without handing over the lines to shore.

    The only real thing, I am still worried about is the part fom the Lake Michigan at Chicago via the Chicago canals, the Des Plaines River and the Illinois River into the Mississippi. A lot of bridges and no visible locks and a lot of traffic with push boat convoys in the Chicago area and on the big rivers. And as far as I have red, they seem to have always priority in the locks.

    As we operate those push boat convoys on Rhine River ourselfes, I am very familiar with their limited visibility forward and their limited maneuverability. With their deep draft, when fully loaded, they always want (and need most of the time) the middle of the fairway.

    Does anybody have experience with that area? Is there some kind of traffic control or advisory and warning of oncoming traffic with large beam?

    What would be the speed over ground in late spring, early summer on the Mississippi, when going uphill with 12 Kts speed through the water?

    Has the River and Canal system to be booked in advance and are there channel fees to be paid?

    Is the cell phone system high speed and nationwide even in the country side along the big rivers?

    But if we are starving or bored to death, the aft part of the sun deck is strengthened for a 9.000 lbs helicopter landing at 9 G for our rescue.

    The biggest problem during the design of that boat was to get that square steel box heavy enough in order to sit level on its designed water line. The hull plating is almost as thick as on a battleship. As a cargo vessel, these Europe class vessels are 1.500 metric ton ships. With a draft of 5 ft, this vessel passenger vessel weights 850 metric ton fully refueled and provisioned. To get her to her minimum airdraft of 13 ft, we needed more than 750 tons of ballast water. We had to integrate these 750 cbm of tank volume into the hull without loosing to much internal volume. For the ballast tanks, the boat has a double bottom and side wall up to the lower edge of the crew cabin windows. And we needed a high capacity pump system in order to adopt the draft during vojage pretty quickly. Plus we wanted to prevent mud and dirt and any species to enter the ballast tanks. That rquired a pretty advanced filter system.

    But the yard, that build that ship, was very experienced in building river cruise ships. And the companies doing the interior were the same, that are working for the well known German and European Yards. And the best thing is, nobody knows, that this is a "yacht" and not a river cruise ship.

    Any further advice is really appreciated!

    HTMO9
  14. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    You wouldn't have any issues with making the loop on a vessel of that size. And yes, we did run against the current; Huckins are fairly nimble and fast, so stemming current wasn't a problem. Debris was more concerning, and we maintained a diligent watch. No damage at all.
  15. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Any Pleasure Craft 35 M or more will require Pilots from the St Lawrence River to Montreal and all Seaway Locks and if you are foreign flagged you will require Lake Pilots to Port Huron.
    The cost for one way trip into the Great Lakes is around $ 50,000 for a foreign Pleasure Craft.
    When you have a pilot on board your are limited on your stops.
    I have not kept up to date on Pilot Fees it's probably closer to $ 60,000
  16. Riknpat

    Riknpat Senior Member

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    Your post reminded me of a lovely day stop at Warnemunde during a Baltic cruise. Most of the passengers were enticed into a lunatic day trip to Berlin - 3 hr. train ride, 4 hours roaring around Berlin on a bus with a boxed lunch and 3 hours on the train back. Utter madness.
    We opted to take a walk along the charming waterfront in Warnemunde for coffee then took the ferry up river to Rostock for lunch. On the way to Rostock on the right was the largest (the ferry captain said) yard specializing in river cruise ships. They had about 6 on the go when we passed and the ferry captain came close and slowed so we got a good look. Wonderful day and great memories.
  17. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Riknpat, that cruise ship yard You saw in East Germany is a subsidiary of the Meyerwerft at Papenburg.

    Hiring a pilot or a professional captain for some or even most of the route would be no problem, as the boat has two spare pilot cabins. And the channel or lock fees are no problem. You would not believe, what kind of fees we have to pay regulary for the Suez, Panama and even the Kiel Canal. Those channel authorities are real pirats!

    I have some personal experience with Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River from my younger days. First with ferrying aircrafts from Whichita, Kansas via Stephenville or Gander, NFL and Greenland to Europe and later driving larger commercial vessels as a captain on my fathers ships on the St. Lawrence River. First general cargo vessels up to Québec and later one of our 1.000 ft bulkers, hauling coal from Sept-Îles, Québec to Germany. Name me any dirty job my father did not forced me to do, I would tell You. And with dirty, I mean it litterally. This dust from the coal in Your cago bays crawls into every pore of your body. Did I hate that job?, Yes I did!!!!

    From my memory and my present point of view and with my limited knowledge about the area south of the Great Lakes, I am let to believe, that the part along the Hudson River upbound from New York and the Eri Canal might be more interesting from the sight seeing point of view for me and my family members.

    I would really appriciate some more answers for my questions above. The gained knowledge shall be the basis for our decision, wheather to start the project and to task my employees with the planning of that adventure, starting in 2023, provided Mr. P of R. will not start WW III in the meantime.

    Who, if not the members of this great forum, could be a better source of knowledge for that subject.

    HTMO9
  18. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    It's a shorter trip, and lovely. But I wouldn't discount the beauty of the St. Lawrence Seaway, especially the 1000 Islands area of NY/Ontario. That being said, I think you'll avoid a load of pilot fees if you go up the Hudson River (I recall 150' and less don't require a pilot into NYC) and through the Erie Barge Canal. And you can even avoid the Welland Canal if you can get yourself low enough to make it all the way to Buffalo. I believe that limiting height is about 16', but please don't quote me on that.
  19. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    If the question is can you do the loop in such a boat, the answer is yes.

    If the question is does it make sense to do the loop in such a boat, I say a strong "no" for the following reasons.

    -Costs of shipping to US plus great lakes plus pilots.
    -Challenge of renewing cruising permits and entry for both US and Canada.
    -Difficulty of seeing and experiencing the Great Loop. You can see as you pass by but you'll have to shuttle to and from shore to enjoy sites. There are not the long docks of the European canals with side ties and jump out and run ashore. You will not be able to dock in many areas at all. It will be like all the cities and countries I "visited" while working when in reality I saw nothing other than airports and the routes to offices or meeting facilities. There is beauty from the water but the real beauty is experiencing "Americana" and I include the US and Canada in that. Even finding anchorages for a vessel that size will be a challenge.
    -You would encounter extensive delays along the way. You will not be priority for locks as commercial boats are and even a few smaller boats ahead of you might mean you wait, then one commercial boat shows up and you wait again. There are also many areas you'd be unable to pass other boats and delayed.
    -You talk about ordering groceries online and this is possible in many areas. However, there will not be the jetty you speak of in Europe. The best in many cases will be delivery to a marina and then you'll have to shuttle it from there to your boat. Generally there will not be jetties against which you can dock.
    -Much of the beauty too is off the beaten path. That will have to be by tender.
    -Understand too that land transportation will be a challenge for a group your size. Many smaller areas don't have Uber, don't have Taxis and auto rentals might hold up to 6 passengers. I can share what we did in Europe for some areas. We hired buses, actually often tour companies, which then shadowed us and drove us on land as we had 10 to 14 passengers. Our current cruise up the East Coast, we are shadowing our boat with a 12 passenger Mercedes Sprinter.
    -I don't know when you intend this but the varying nationalities of crew and guests can be a bit of a challenge and delay with visa and entry requirements.

    You're trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I'd go smaller even if it meant a caravan of boats to meet your needs. There were times we wished we could have accommodated more people. We hated not being able to take all our crew for the entire loop. However, it's never enough. Wasn't in Europe. Wasn't on a 130' in Montreal when everyone flew in so had 8 or so in a hotel. All the reasons we've decided not to use a 116' boat that meets all the draft requirements and is US flagged, are just magnified many fold for your boat you're considering. We've been through this mental exercise and tried to convince ourselves but ultimately we surrendered to the reality.