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|Cruising the Great Loop in a Sailboat - click NEXT
1.) Length - between 32 to 38 feet is good for couples. This is big enough for comfort, but not too
big to be unsafe or excessively expensive. Singles or "back packer" types can do it in smaller boats,
and those that have bigger budgets can do this in bigger boats. Anything over 50 foot (as long as it
meets the above restrictions) can do it, but this size is rarely seen actually doing the Loop.
2.) Height (above the water line) - you vessel's super-structure (with mast, Bimini, antennas
down) must be able to clear a 19' 1" fixed RR bridge in order to avoid turning the Great Loop
into a Great U-turn. If you can clear 17 feet you can cruise right through downtown Chicago. If you
can clear 15' 6" you will have totally unrestricted cruising on the Great Loop, both in the USA and
Canada's Champlain Route and Heritage Canals. The lowest fixed bridge on the Great Loop is 15'
6". It is located on the west end of the Erie Canal in Tonawanda, NY.
3.) Depth (below the water line) - The Cruising Guides will tell you - that you can do the Loop with
a 6' draft. You can! However, I (personally) wouldn't do it. Less draft is better - much better. I've
run aground twice on the AICW with a 4' 6" draft (this is why I always cruise on a rising tide).
Your draft must be less than 5 feet on the Champlain Route and to cruise the Canada's Heritage
Canals. Other than that, the less draft you have, the more worry free and relaxed you will be!
4.) Beam - For pleasure boats in the USA, this is never a problem. Your have a maximum beam of
23 feet on the Canadian Heritage Canals.
5.) Fresh Water capacity - As much as you can get is recommended. Most Loopers need to stop
more often for water than fuel. If your plans include boating the Lower Mississippi, you'll have to
stretch your water to last 6 to 10 days (maybe more depending on weather).
6) Holding Tank capacity - guys need 9 gallons, girls need 900 gallons. (lol) Both fresh water
capacity and holding tank capacity will depend much on your lifestyle, type of boat, and individuals
aboard. Your holding tank should be at least 30 gallons. This is not a 'show stopper' but it can be a
7.) Electrical Power - depends on your amenities aboard. We recommend two - 30 amp versus
one 50 amp. In addition, you will need a 30 amp female to 15 amp male reducer). A Bank or two of
(best you can buy) 12v marine batteries are highly recommended, along with solar panels.
8.) Top-side and Deck - We highly suggest vessels with unobstructed walk-a-rounds with flat,
clear, easy access from Bow to Stern. For working docks & Locks, the flatter and wider the
walkways, the better. You will pass through over 100 Locks on your journey around the Great Loop.
9.) Anchors - an oversized heavy anchor (and spare) and strong anchor system with both a
Danforth and Plow /Bruce anchors are ideal. Your anchor rode should have very heavy chain the
length of your boat. Proper anchoring is critical in tidal waters!
10.) Fresh water filter - Except for making coffee, we don't drink the water from our fresh water
tank as we have bottled water. If you do, we recommend a good water filter system. It will just make
your coffee & water taste better.
11.) TV - If TV is important, a digital unidirectional air TV antenna works great and is free. Some
pay for satellite TV, but it is certainly a matter of preference.
12.) Bimini top - you will need one. The stronger & bigger the more shade it provides, the better
and more comfortable you will be. We recommend both screen & canvas enclosures.
13.) Your boat's engine(s) - Remember. . . It will NOT matter how fast your boat is capable of
going. On America's Great Loop, your speed is very limited over most of your entire voyage. If you
truly need or want to make this voyage on a frugal budget it will be imperative to select a boat or an
engine based on a minimum hourly fuel burn rate, and it will be vitally important you know what it is.
|How large should your boat be?
It should be absolutely no larger than one person can safely handle alone. Now, if your first
thought was either "the bigger the better" - shame on you! Frugal or not, this is an important safety
feature when it comes to cruising. Accidents happen. We all get sick. Some of us have been known
to bruise, bust or break a toe or finger, arm or leg. When it comes to onboard accidents most
anything can happen. Certainly if someone falls over-board, it will not be the first time. It is an
important safety concern that you & your first mate can handle the boat alone.
Boat size: In our experience with both power and sail is that a vessel under 42' for couples, and
under 36' for singles is about as good as it gets for safety and economics. After 40' a vessel can get
much more expensive and much more difficult to handle. Smaller is not only more economical, it is
safer and easier to handle. Every 'experienced' boater has at one time or another wished he had a
bigger boat. Every 'experienced' boater has at one time or another also wished he had a smaller
boat. So the best of all is to get one in the middle!
Trawlers: Are very popular vessels for cruising the Great Loop. The main reason for this is they
provide the most living aboard space and comfort of any boat of comparable size. If you are cruising
on a budget, a small (full displacement hull) Trawler with a small single engine offers the very best in
comfort and amenities, as well as economy.
Cruisers: Live aboard size powerboats such as Cruisers and semi-displacement hull Trawlers (and
any other vessels capable of planning) will be your very most expensive type vessel to take around
the Great Loop. These vessels simply were not designed for fuel economy, nor were they designed
for slow speed.
Sailboats: For the voyager on a very frugal budget, a sailboat (even if you never sail and only
power your way around the Loop) is for sure the cheapest way to go. No other affordable vessel for
such a frugal budget, will give you the economy of a sailboat under power. Of course, being able to
sail it as much as possible is an even greater advantage. Powering the entire way around the Great
Loop in a live aboard size sailboat is possible with a fuel burn rate below 1 gallon per hour. Last
year, I averaged 0.75 gph in my 36 footer.
The "KISS" boating philosophy is "Keep It Simple Sailor" and "go small, go now, and stay out
longer". With this in mind, the kind of boat you have or choose for making this voyage, must be no
smaller than you can live comfortable on for an extended period of time. It should also be no larger
than one can safely handle alone.
Additionally, you need to pay as much attention to the cockpit & helm station area on your boat
being as comfortable (if not more so) then your cabin. If you voyage the Great Loop by each area's
boating season, you will be cruising through 95% good to great weather. As a result, 83% of your
daytime awake will be spent in the cockpit - not in the cabin!
|Like shoes, there simply is not a "one size fits all" when it comes to cruising America's Great
Loop, this voyage is mostly about comfort, lifestyle, philosophy & pocketbook.
For this reason, we are not about to recommend "a boat" nor even a particular "type" of boat.
If you have money to burn - go for it. Buy whatever suits your fancy.
If you're on a budget - as most of us are, you need to be very careful in your boat selection.
Boat price and any loan payments set aside, the moment you choose your boat, you have
predetermined your long term cruising & boat ownership expenses.
Here are a few of items however, you need to consider:
|Bigger is NOT always better. . . But just how big is "BIG"?
Bet you didn't know = Of all the more then 13 million pleasure boats registered in the
United States, fewer then 1% are 40 feet or longer. That's big! Of those over 40 feet,
fewer then 1 in 10,000 is larger then 48 feet - That's really BIG!
We get the e-mails all the time: Mostly from first time boat buyers asking boat size.
While we have all heard the phrase "Bigger is Better" when it comes to living a-board &
cruising long distance - "big" has both safe & economical limits.
Just always keep in mind. . . The moment you select your boat, you select your
long-term, long distance cruising and boat ownership expenses.
|America's Great Loop - Boat Size Restrictions
|Your comfort both inside and outside is critical
|Don't over look the cockpit.
It is easy to get caught up with the fantasy when looking on the "inside" of a boat. good headroom, nice galley, great salon and berths etc.
It is important however to remember - if you cruise the Great Loop (or around the world, as far as that goes) and you boat each area
during it's preferred weather or boating season - you will be spending 90% of your "awake" time in the cockpit.
It therefore, needs to be comfortable. Good comfortable seating, a large bimini for shade, and room for a few amenities such as food &
beverage trays or table, etc. will make your day at the helm a much more enjoyable and comfortable one.
Go or No Go" Your Great Loop boat size restrictions:
1.) Your boat must be able to clear a 19' 1" fixed bridge. This means, after taking off or
taking down any removable objects on your boat such as; Bimini top, Masts, Antennas, etc., -
your boat's super-structure must be able to pass under a fixed bridge just south of Chicago
with a height above the water of 19' 1". There is no alternative waterway route around
2.) Your boat "should" have a draft of no more than 5 feet. In other words, all that part
of your boat that extends below the water, "should" not be deeper than 5 feet. In fact I can not
stress enough, the shallower your draft - the better. If your plans include cruising the
(optional) Canadian Heritage Canals, your fully loaded draft must be 5 feet or less. Vessels
with 6 feet drafts have made this voyage, but their route choices are limited. Also, running
aground in some locations becomes a serious threat.
3.) Fuel - your boat must have a minimum fuel range of at least 250 miles. This is the
farthest distance between fuel stops if you take the Tennessee-Tombigbee route. So,
unless you plan on carrying additional fuel in jerry cans, your boat's fuel tank(s) capacity must
allow you a cruising range of at least 250 statute miles.
NOTE: (optional route) If you plan to cruise the Lower Mississippi River route from Cairo
to New Orleans, your "diesel powered" boat will need a cruising range of 376 miles.
Your "gasoline powered" vessel must have a cruising range of at least 449 miles.
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