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Old 18-12-2014, 08:21   #1
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Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

I would love to hear from anyone who has done, or is doing, the America's Great Loop on a sailboat.

What kind of sailboat, draft, etc.
Did your draft cause any problems? (Up to 5' would be of particular interest, as we draw 4'10") In what areas?
And how did you handle mast for the Erie Canal, area south of Chicago?
Did you motor the whole loop? Leave your mast at home? Carry it on your deck? Have it shipped ahead?

Anyone done it more than once on a sailboat(?) or "once was enough, thank you very much, never again....?"

Thanks!!
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Old 18-12-2014, 08:36   #2
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

I don't have a sailboat and I've never cruised the loop but I have read several interesting books by people who have. Some were on sailboats.

I'm away from home right now so I can't list titles but a search on amazon.com should get you several. Pretty much every question you might want to ask will be covered in one or more of the books.

There is also this group: America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association You have to pay to join but it's supposed to be a great resource for the trip you are thinking about.
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Old 18-12-2014, 09:14   #3
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
I don't have a sailboat and I've never cruised the loop but I have read several interesting books by people who have. Some were on sailboats.

I'm away from home right now so I can't list titles but a search on amazon.com should get you several. Pretty much every question you might want to ask will be covered in one or more of the books.

There is also this group: America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association You have to pay to join but it's supposed to be a great resource for the trip you are thinking about.
Gotcha....

I am aware of the websites, Both Capt. John's and the Association's and have spent more than my share of time on both. I have also ordered a couple of books. Was just looking for a diversity of opinions, methods, and experiences. The books and sites tell you the ways it CAN be done. I would like to hear from people who have chosen one method over another and how they feel it worked out for them, whether they would do it that same way again and why or why not. That sort of thing.
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Old 18-12-2014, 09:41   #4
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

I would recommend you check out this blog: Katie & Jessie on a boat.

Good luck,

Jesse
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Old 18-12-2014, 09:51   #5
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

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Originally Posted by oldragbaggers View Post
I would love to hear from anyone who has done, or is doing, the America's Great Loop on a sailboat.

What kind of sailboat, draft, etc.
Did your draft cause any problems? (Up to 5' would be of particular interest, as we draw 4'10") In what areas?
And how did you handle mast for the Erie Canal, area south of Chicago?
Did you motor the whole loop? Leave your mast at home? Carry it on your deck? Have it shipped ahead?

Anyone done it more than once on a sailboat(?) or "once was enough, thank you very much, never again....?"

Thanks!!
There are 3 routes around Niagara Falls and NY, 2 of them require taking the mast down, one doesn't.

Route 1: The long way around is to leave Lake Erie via the Welland Canal and sail down Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to the ocean. Very long, and interesting.

Route 2: Take the mast down in Buffalo, NY and enter the Erie Canal in Tonawanda NY. Continue down the Erie Canal to Albany, NY and put the mast back up. There are a couple of places in Albany to do this.

Route 3: Leave Lake Erie via the Welland Canal. Sail to Oswego NY and take the mast down and enter the Oswego Canal and then the Erie Canal. Once in Albany put the mast back up and sail down the Hudson.

The routes can be reversed of course as it is probably easier to sail down he Mississippi than up it.

My choice would be Route 3. The Albany to Buffalo trip is easily a week or more on the canal and while the canal is interesting, after a couple of days it gets pretty monotonous. Once on Lake Ontario there are some interesting side trips, to the 1000 Islands, Kingston Ontario, Toronto, Niagara on the Lake and numerous bays on the southern shores.

The NY State Canal system sells a guide book for about $20 on their website. Some of the information about services is dated, but the course of the canal, the locks, and bridges haven't moved in about 100 years.
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Old 19-12-2014, 10:33   #6
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

I too am planning to do the loop in a sailboat, a 47' catamaran. Any experiences forum members could give would be appreciated by more than a few of us. I've learned that my beam (24') is no problem unless I take the Canadian side trip, but it worries me that I have to take the mast down in Albany, re-step it in Buffalo, take it down again in Chicago and re-step it again in Mobile. That's hard on the roller furling and on the wallet. Any first hand experiences are sought, and any recommendations for stepping and unstepping yards are also welcome. Thanks,
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:06   #7
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

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Originally Posted by vivabob View Post
I too am planning to do the loop in a sailboat, a 47' catamaran. Any experiences forum members could give would be appreciated by more than a few of us. I've learned that my beam (24') is no problem unless I take the Canadian side trip, but it worries me that I have to take the mast down in Albany, re-step it in Buffalo, take it down again in Chicago and re-step it again in Mobile. That's hard on the roller furling and on the wallet. Any first hand experiences are sought, and any recommendations for stepping and unstepping yards are also welcome. Thanks,
Castelton Boat Club near Albany NY (entrance to Erie Canal) will step your mast for a reasonable fee and offers transient dockage. The Oswego Marina in Oswego, NY can step your mast, not sure of the cost. One issue will be the length and weight of the mast. You may want to call ahead. I think that you will find expenses on the Great Lakes to generally be lower than on the coasts, except in the large metro areas.

24' Beam will not be an issue going through the Erie and Oswego Canals, however, it could become an issue with docking on Lake Ontario as there are very few marinas set up to handle a cat. You'll be looking for space on the end of a dock or use 2 slips. No doubt that a marina will want to charge you for both slips.
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:06   #8
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

This might be another very good candidate for using a Google search engine, simply because you would most likely get more hits, since there may be many sailboats who have cruised the Loop but are not members of CF, or maybe have done it, are CF members but no longer active here.

I'd be willing to bet there are tons more sailboats who have done the Erie Canal than have done the second half of the Loop (i.e., down from Chicago).

There are innumerable blogs about a sailboat doing the Erie Canal - here's one of our C34 skipper's story: Home Page

Becky, they went from Chicago to the Bahamas and back.
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:26   #9
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

google "kate & jessie on a boat" they look like they're having fun!
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:31   #10
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

I have done many Google searches and have read a lot of the blogs and posts. The reason I posted the question here is because most of the Looper sites you find are by powerboaters which does not address the issues specific to sailors. Capt. John has one of the best sites and he has a sailboat but he unstepped his mast and left it behind, motored the whole route. We would not want to do that and miss out on being able to sail in all the areas where we can. I posted the question here because this is a primarily sailboat oriented forum so I hoped that I would get a number of sailboaters to share their experiences and opinions. The forum on the Loopers Assn would be an option but you have to pay to join first to use it.

I have seen references made to a number of ways to handle the mast situation from taking the St. Lawrence River route so you don't have to take it down until Chicago, unstepping it and carrying it, unstepping it and having it shipped, at various places and to various places. So this is where having a "conversation" with people who have done it by various methods can be handy. Having someone say, yes I did it this way and it was great, or I did it that way but would never do it again.

Besides, a lot of times Google searches just lead you right to this and other forums to threads on the subject you are looking for. So if we never have the threads to start with, where would Google send you??
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:48   #11
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

Mid-Aug we went down the river portion of the Great Loop. We have a 6ft 3in draft. On the trip, we touched so many times, I lost count. But, we were always able to back up and free ourselves clear. We had Crowley's Yacht Yard in Chicago take our mast down; so, we motored down the rivers. Crowley's did a good job. We had an elevated cradle made that enabled walking under the mast; if you do this, have the cradle made with cross beam supporting structures and use only 2x4's (i.e. no plywood). And, set up 2" winchable straps crossing each other over the mast to the toerail so the mast doesn't jump (i.e. looking down, you should see an "X"). From Lake Michigan, we went down the Calumet, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Tombigbee, and Black Warrior Rivers. We anchored (have a stern anchor ready) and used marinas. You will need both a hardcopy of the Corps of Engrs navigation charts and a copy of Skipper Bob's Chicago to Mobile booklet. A chartplotter is good, too, but I wouldn't substitute it for the paper. I recommend you go to waterwayguide.com and sign up (contact Mike Ahart) for their updates (e.g. for unscheduled lock maintenance). I highly recommend getting an AIS system so you know the names of the tows on the river so you can communicate with them effectively (most tows have AIS now).
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Old 19-12-2014, 11:59   #12
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

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Originally Posted by oldragbaggers View Post
I have seen references made to a number of ways to handle the mast situation from taking the St. Lawrence River route so you don't have to take it down until Chicago, unstepping it and carrying it, unstepping it and having it shipped, at various places and to various places. So this is where having a "conversation" with people who have done it by various methods can be handy. Having someone say, yes I did it this way and it was great, or I did it that way but would never do it again.
For the Albany to Lake Ontario section of the trip, it does not pay to ship the mast on a 33 ft boat. At Castelton and Oswego there are stacks of lumber and mast cradles free for the taking. It is only a 4 or 5 day trip and having the mast down in a cradle is not all that inconvenient. For the longer trip down the Mississippi, it may be worth it to ship the mast down or at least build a custom mast cradle.

The custom for the mast cradles on the Albany-Oswego section is to take what you need and leave it at the other end. Last summer I moved my boat from Buffalo to Oswego down the canal. I stopped in Oswego and went "shopping" for a cradle, found one that had been built for a similarly sized boat that would work. Loaded it the back of my truck and took it to Buffalo. Left it at the Oswego Marina when we got there. Later that summer I saw that the cradle had left Oswego again, probably headed back to Albany.

For the most part the Erie canal is well protected and calm. Crossing Oneida Lake can be a bit dicey depending on the weather. A mast cradle needs to be strong enough and stable enough to hold the mast, but there is no need for overkill. You can tell from the lumber piles at the marinas.
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Old 19-12-2014, 16:51   #13
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

Thank you so much, Dave, for all that great detailed information.
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Old 19-12-2014, 18:03   #14
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

Hi: If you are looking for some good information about doing the Loop check out my blog. I started at Lake Winnipeg and had my 26 ft Paceship moved to Minneapolis in October of 2012. I covered 7000 miles. Minneapolis to Mobile to Marathon in Florida Keys to New York City.
The blog should help you for information and maybe show you some of the mistakes I made that you can avoid.

hollowdog213.blogspot.com
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Old 20-12-2014, 06:36   #15
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Re: Cruising the Loop on a Sailboat

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldragbaggers View Post
I would love to hear from anyone who has done, or is doing, the America's Great Loop on a sailboat.

What kind of sailboat, draft, etc.
Did your draft cause any problems? (Up to 5' would be of particular interest, as we draw 4'10") In what areas?
And how did you handle mast for the Erie Canal, area south of Chicago?
Did you motor the whole loop? Leave your mast at home? Carry it on your deck? Have it shipped ahead?

Anyone done it more than once on a sailboat(?) or "once was enough, thank you very much, never again....?"

Thanks!!
Hi ! I took Sundance, Ericson 34' & 5' draft, from Manistee, Michigan to Northern Chesapeake last July with my son. We had the mast lowered by Wardell** at the entrance of the Erie canal just before the first low bridge heading East (Tonawanda). Make your own "A" shaped cradles (2 or 3) for your mast for Wardell's friend is no good, but Wardell knows his job & do it well. Cheers It's the second time I did it; first time was in 1980 on a Chance 33 purchased in Chicago & sailed to St-Barth FWI
**Wardell Boatyard 1 Sweeney Street N. Tonawanda, NY 12887
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