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Old 24-01-2017, 15:24   #1
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Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

I am contemplating a cruise around the Great Loop as a first step towards bluewater cruising.

Bridge clearance is limiting with the infamous 19'1" bridge in Chicago as well as many other segments with clearance of 45-50'. This is enough to rule out most sailboats designed for long-term cruising.

I'm wondering about the feasibility of unstepping the mast for the really bad bridges, or possibly leaving the mast unstepped for the substantial portions of the journey (weeks). I'd rather be on a sailboat for the Great Lakes and coastal/gulf portions of the loop if I could make it work.
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Old 24-01-2017, 15:53   #2
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

There is a cruiser on this forum that un-stepped their mast and shipped it down to Miami Fl.
Just so they could go all the way down the east coast ICW as they had a 67 foot mast.

The East Coast ICW bridges are mostly 65 feet of clearance.

They re-Stepped the mast in Miami to sail on to the the Bahamas.
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Old 24-01-2017, 21:12   #3
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Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Unstep in Chicago then put back up at Turner Marine in Mobile. You can go to Pensacola and out the pass there and hop along the Gulf Coast to Destin - outside the bridge, then Panama City. From PC you can go direct Clearwater then down the GICW or you can go PC to Pt ST Joe, Appalachlcola, then Carabelle then to Clearwater. You will be good SW Florida around the Keys to Miami and north to New York with mast if less than 65 feet. I'm not sure where you have to unstep between New York and the Erie Canal.

Motoring with the mast down is not as big a deal as I thought it would be and if you set up your cradle correctly it is a non-issue once you get the hang of the extra length. I temporarily mounted my radar to the front of my cradle and used a 10 foot pvc pipe u-bolted to a stanchion for an alternate vhf antenna. We see a lot of boats through Kentucky Lake with masts down and on the boat. I would not go from Chicago to Miami without mine. You could ship to Turner in Mobile, but I don't think it's worth the cost. People do it the way I've described for the most part. My boat neighbor went up the Atlantic coast with his mast up and I think he took it back down somewhere in the Hudson but not sure where. We both have Hunter 356 with 58.4' mast height above water.
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Old 24-01-2017, 23:39   #4
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Yes, a significant percentage of loopers do just that.


Mast comes down at Chicago and then back up either at Kentucky Lake or Mobile (shorter masts can go back up in Kentucky but don't count on a lot of sailing).


Mast also comes down at the start of the Erie Canal and goes back up once on the Great Lakes.


Other than the nuisance of having the mast a bit in the way, it worked well but we were on a small catamaran (Gemini). With a monohull, you have to be more careful of rough water as the mast is a major component in keeping the hull dynamically stable. Without the mast up, many monohulls will wallow horribly in waves. For the most part being on rivers and small lakes, it's not a problem but there were a few days we were running in 4' waves and if you meet an upbound tow on the Mississippi, we've had wakes wash over the bow, so you can't ignore the issue completely (mostly make sure the mast is tied down solidly).
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Old 25-01-2017, 05:37   #5
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Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Max mast height at NORMAL POOLS on the Tenn-Tom from Kentucky Lake to Mobile is 52 feet. There is one lift bridge on the Tennessee that is higher than 52 when lifted. The rest to Pickwick are above 52.

I took a CaboRico 40 down with Mast up in 2007 and it was just below 52 feet. It was close on a couple of bridges - calculated at 2 inches, but no contact.

In 2013/14 when we went to Florida and returned (mast down on our H356) floods on the lower part of the Tenn-Tom raised the pool levels as much as 15 feet. If close to 52 feet you have to watch the water levels very carefully. I have a spreadsheet I will share with you that you can enter your mast information into, then update off internet with pool information and see how close your mast will be. If you go in the late fall say mid to late October, then typically the pool levels are normal and we don't typically see floods, but there is that possibility so you might get stuck for a few days in between locks. There are 13 from Lighthouse Landing to Mobile.

We are at Lighthouse Landing at Tennessee River mile 24, just above Kentucky Dam and they can re-step your mast if you are short enough. You can do some motor sailing and sail for a day on the upper Kentucky Lake, but none below there except motor sailing. If you are low enough and have radar on the mast that is a good reason to put it back up. You need radar some times due to fog unless you want to have limited travel time. There are times when you will be ok early morning and after an hour or so, fog will return and the visibility is almost zero. Once on the Tenn-Tom sailing or motor sailing won't help you because the locks congregate boats so if you get to a lock 20 minutes before the pack, you will have to wait for the slowest boat before they will operate the lock.
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Old 25-01-2017, 09:18   #6
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

I did this loop with an Alden 54, I pulled the mast in Mobile Al and shipped it to Waukegan Il. When I arrived there I had it stepped. Leaving I had it pulled in Tonawanda, put it on deck and took it with me down the Erie to the Hudson River where I stepped it.

Nice trip and easy with or without the mast. Without the mast it was pretty nice, I sat a lawn chair on the foredeck and with the autopilot remote in my hand it was a nice leisurely cruise.

It is worth the time to do this trip, beautiful country and friendly people.

M
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Old 25-01-2017, 09:37   #7
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

What's an approximate cost to ship a mast from Chicago to AL?
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Old 25-01-2017, 09:38   #8
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Hi:

How feasible would it be to do this trip mostly under sail in a Tanzer 22? Is it somehow fundamentally a different experience than all the 5 mile long lakes I have sailed over the years in small craft?

Boulter
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Old 25-01-2017, 09:46   #9
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

So you motored UP the Mississippi River? Wasn't that backwards the way most people do it?
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Old 25-01-2017, 09:48   #10
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

I am getting ready to do the Great Loop in my sailboat also. Although I won't come through Chicago until the end of September (boat is at Harbor North in Marblehead, OH on Lake Erie for the winter), I had many of the same considerations. I originally planned to go last year in November and planned to ship my boat overland from the Sandusky area to Cincinnati and drop it in the Ohio river to avoid the winter weather of the Great Lakes. Cost was $1200 plus $150 to have it splashed in Cincinnati. Now that I am on the Lakes already, I await Spring thaw and the entire Spring and Summer sailing the Great Lakes and touring Canada (it might be of interest to you also that Canada, in celebration of their 150th, has opened their locks and canal systems plus their state parks to free use (the two major lock stems alone normally cost $170 ea.). Also, having your mast unstepped in Chicago before you reach the bridge cost about $200 or less and restepping it about the same. You have the choice of carrying it on the deck or in a cradle (I strongly suggest a center boat cradle that allows you sufficient working room below it) Also consider having your extra length because of mast height ( I think it is 49 for a 36'er or thereabouts). It should be between 6 and 7 feet fore and aft of overhang - definitely doable in the locks. Your second option is to pull it in Chicago and have it shipped to Mobile. Since I had planned to stay the winter at Turner Marine in Mobile, I checked with Christie Turner about mast storage and shipping. She had a gentleman contact me to ship (there are certainly others out there) with a quote of $1400 from Sandusky to Mobile - less from Chicago. The storage cost at Turner was $ 50/mo. They also have both a great haul out facility and restepping abilities.
As I said previously, I am not by any means to be considered an expert, but I have done the leg work. Also suggest you get in contact with AGLCA (America's Great Loop Cruisers Association - we are members) as there is a plethora of info provided by those that "have been there, done that" and those who are underway. It is also a nice way for people to meet others doing the Loop. Hope this helps. If you have any other questions you can contact me here or on the AGLCA site. Blessings, Bruce
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Old 25-01-2017, 11:08   #11
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Quote:
Originally Posted by carlheintz View Post
So you motored UP the Mississippi River? Wasn't that backwards the way most people do it?
Only from Cairo (took the Tombigbee) to Grafton (up the illinois river), about 200 miles worth. Bit of current in places but not bad. Not as nice as the Tombigbee but I had not been on it before so it was interesting to see.

Really nice trip
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Old 25-01-2017, 12:35   #12
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Very good post all around but as Bruce said look at AGLCA, or better yet join, and you'll pick up more than enough tips and pointers to make it well worthwhile while you're doing the Loop. There are a number of sailboats like yours, and even smaller ones, who complete the Great Loop yearly. If you do join, be sure to credit Bruce as the reason you did and he'll get some credit for something or other.

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Old 25-01-2017, 14:17   #13
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I am contemplating a cruise around the Great Loop as a first step towards bluewater cruising.

Bridge clearance is limiting with the infamous 19'1" bridge in Chicago as well as many other segments with clearance of 45-50'. This is enough to rule out most sailboats designed for long-term cruising.

I'm wondering about the feasibility of unstepping the mast for the really bad bridges, or possibly leaving the mast unstepped for the substantial portions of the journey (weeks). I'd rather be on a sailboat for the Great Lakes and coastal/gulf portions of the loop if I could make it work.
Did the Erie Canal From Ontario to the Hudson and unstepped in Oswego making a trestle from scraps in the Yard. Stepped on the Hudson and left trestles there before going on to the Caribbean.
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Old 25-01-2017, 14:26   #14
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Thank you all for the insightful and informative replies.

This voyage is still years off for me but I'm trying to guide my boat-buying decisions now based on what is possible later. Thanks again.
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Old 25-01-2017, 21:08   #15
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Re: Cruising the Great Loop with mast unstepped

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I am contemplating a cruise around the Great Loop as a first step towards bluewater cruising.

Bridge clearance is limiting with the infamous 19'1" bridge in Chicago as well as many other segments with clearance of 45-50'. This is enough to rule out most sailboats designed for long-term cruising.

I'm wondering about the feasibility of unstepping the mast for the really bad bridges, or possibly leaving the mast unstepped for the substantial portions of the journey (weeks). I'd rather be on a sailboat for the Great Lakes and coastal/gulf portions of the loop if I could make it work.
Check out Captain John. From once around is not enough. He is the expert imo
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