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Old 10-03-2008, 15:36   #1
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America's Great Loop

I am interested in finding out if anyone has done America's Great Loop on a catamaran, and if so, what was their experiences and where did they have their mast unstepped / stepped?
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Old 10-03-2008, 16:06   #2
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I haven't done the loop, but have brought my Catamaran down from the Great Lakes to Boston via the Oswego Canal, Erie Canal and then Hudson river. It was a fun trip.

We unstepped the mast in Oswego NY at the Oswego Marina. They have a gin pole there, but it would not handle the mast on our Catana 48 so they brought in a crane for the job.

We stepped the mast again at Hop-O-Nose marina. They have an impressive gin pole/crane that looks like it was built during the civil war. We did have to stop part way through to wait for the tide to go further out to get the mast back in, but they did a nice job. They have obviously done this many many times.

Mark.
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Old 10-03-2008, 21:18   #3
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I have done different parts of the loop on separate occasions on a 40 foot trimaran. The wide beam was not a problem. We unstepped our mast on the Hudson River at Castleton where there was a nice manually operated gin pole. This is a do it yourself affair. Had the mast restepped near the exit from the Erie Canal in East Tonawanda (Buffalo) at small boatyard/marina called Wardells. You have a few options here as Mark mentioned going to Oswego. By going to Buffalo you bypass Lake Ontario and the Welland canal.
In Chicago there are many marinas but not all of them have the the ability to deal with your mast. I don't recall the name of the one I used but it was a few miles north of downtown. A friend with a 53 ft monohull used Hammond Marina south of Chicago. This would be a good choice if you choose to use the Cal-Sag entrance to the Illinois River. This entrance is not as busy as the northern entrance (Chicago River) through downtown. The only place things get a little tight is about 25 miles in, just after the two routes join up. For a few miles there is a barge marshaling area with barges on both sides and others going back and forth. Otherwise the Illinois presents little trouble. The locks are no problem though the barges have priority so at times you may wait an hour or so.
I would use the Tenn-Tom Waterway to go to or from the Gulf. In the lower Mississippi the current picks up(no more locks), gets very wide and not that scenic, and fewer facilities for pleasure craft.
Another friend did the loop on a 23 ft trailer sailor over a 10 month period and he really enjoyed the trip.
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Old 10-03-2008, 21:46   #4
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Originally Posted by Steve Rust View Post
"Don't trust your dog to guard your lunch." Patrick, age 9
Pardon the interruption, but I just wanted to tell Steve how Patrick's thoughtful observation brings a smile to my face every time I come across it. Wisdom, indeed, often comes from the mouths of babes.

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Old 11-03-2008, 10:35   #5
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http://www.greatloop.com This might be a good resource for a lot of the details.
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Old 02-05-2008, 23:08   #6
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I just bought a 24 ft. pontoon boat near Lake Michigan. Top speed is about 35 mph. What problems could I expect if I decide to cross Lake Michigan to Chicago, then go south to the Mississippi and on to Memphis, Vicksburg, and maybe New Orleans if things go well.

I'm wont' be able to "cruise." I'll be on a tight schedule to get home to Texas but I just seems like a chance to do some sight seeing.

randy harvison
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Old 03-05-2008, 04:20   #7
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What problems could I expect if I decide to cross Lake Michigan to Chicago, then go south to the Mississippi and on to Memphis, Vicksburg, and maybe New Orleans if things go well.
Unless you expect everything I don't see this trip as all that enjoyable. Crossing the Great Lakes on anything less than a perfect day is probably not well advised. The Mississippi below the Ohio River isn't very exciting and in fact out right boring with large amounts of barge traffic.

Most of the problems with a small pontoon boat will owe to engine issues, repairs,and access to fuel. The long engine hours could be expected to present you the most problems. You might do the simple math to compute fuel costs though going downstream has it's appeal.

THE TENNESSEE-TOMBIGBEE WATERWAY would be a better route and might be more enjoyable for a pontoon boat. There is still a lot of water to cover but the smaller nature of the rivers might prove better for doing short legs at a time. The fact that you could do the trip is not to say it would be much fun. I think you would do better to set up a one week trip first, then examine the logistics of an open boat for such a long trip.
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Old 03-05-2008, 06:27   #8
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Randy,

You can cross Lake Michigan on that boat, but I'd be hella careful. There are 300 foot boats on the bottom of this lake...
It's really an inland sea.

That said, if you can motor at, say, 20 knots (I wouldn't go much faster than that on this lake), you can cross from Michigan City to Chicago in a couple hours, if you have a perfect weather window.

Don't cross higher than Michigan City. Any crossing more than 75 miles wide is just too far to be safe in a boat like that, in my opinion.

When I delivered my PDQ 36 I got caught in a storm outside Michigan City with 13 foot breaking waves, breaking all the way above the coachroof. This lake will really mess you up if you're not careful.

Brendan
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Old 04-05-2008, 12:37   #9
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What is the engine set up on this pontoon? Twin outboards? If not you should have a reliable backup. Stuck in the middle of the lake due to an engine breakdown would not be fun. As others have said this is big water not to be taken lightly. You will also need a VHF radio if the boat is not equipped with one already for safety, weather, and to contact lock masters and towboat captains. I would agree with Plbais about the lower Mississippi. You will have to haul this boat on a trailer at some point. Another option would be to haul it home from the Grafton area(last lock on the Mississippi). The Illinois River is interesting and should provide little trouble.
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Old 04-05-2008, 13:51   #10
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Without setting out to, I have done most of the Great Loop buying new boats. ha ha

I did the Wisconsin to NYC thing - same stops as Steve. Wardell's is a great yard with real people running it. Caselton is even better because you just pay a small fee to use the manual crane.

Coming up the ICW, you can leave your mast on, but... there is a lot of advantage to having it off for the initial 800 miles from the Keys up to say... NC. Lots of bridges and not much open space to sail.

If you like motoring, this is the trip for you. I don't like motoring, so it's not the trip for me.
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Old 04-05-2008, 14:47   #11
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Wardell's is a great yard with real people running it.
Sean
Did they have the funky truck/crane combo when you went through? I was through in 1997.
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Old 04-05-2008, 14:48   #12
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Loop

Thank you all. I did not realize that Lake Michigan would be this Challenging. I was thinking about hugging the shoreline because starting west of Lansing it wouldn't add that much distance. Going through Chicago would be cool.

Now, I think trailering the boat to the Pickwick lock and going south through the Tenn-Tom would be much closer to the trip I'm thinking about. I had never even heard of the Tenn-Tom before. Now I understand why everyone veers a little east and avoids the Mississippi.

I have a Yamaha 115 4 stroke so the back up would be a trolling motor or radio. It seems like fun, I could bail out at any time, I could get someone to pick me up almost anywhere.

How does the intercoastal cross the Mississippi delta. Does it go all the way around the south end? I can't seem to it on their web site. If I made it all the way to mobile I could head west for a while too.

Thank you
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Old 04-05-2008, 15:06   #13
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Sean
Did they have the funky truck/crane combo when you went through? I was through in 1997.
Same guy, same truck/crane combo, same docks, same building, same collection of antique outboards... I don't think much changes at all at Wardell's, and that's why I like it!
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Old 21-03-2012, 19:36   #14
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Re: America's Great Loop

Only a few years late to a quick reply to Steve's post.
I am just inquiring if any of you that did the loop will reply to my post.
My parents left South Africa 7500 miles ago and are a few weeks out to me in Fort Lauderdale.
We own a 35ft Sailing catamaran and I have a few questions on the loop journey.
I just bought Ron and Eva's book(Honey, Let's Get a Boat... A Cruising Adventure of America's Great Loop) on amazon for more info.
I would like to know a guestimate on how many miles would be covered under motor power, we would like to sail more than motor is this possible?
Are any of you still out there cruising too?
I am looking for route recommendations that will keep us moving around the USA for 1-2 years?

Regards
Shaun
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Old 21-03-2012, 20:01   #15
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Re: America's Great Loop

Shaun

I'd head north the middle of April or so, along the ICW on Florida's east coast and either do the Great Loop or just meander. Either way you'll see a lot of America and get out of the hurricane zone when you need to not be there.
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