When we retired in December 2011, it quickly became apparent that Ian would need some sort of project to fill the long days while I was busy gardening, cooking, reading, playing tennis, walking, doing zumba, visiting the family and going out for lunch with my friends.
He’s always liked dinghy sailing, and for some years we had a share in a narrowboat, so it was perhaps inevitable that the project would involve a boat.
Inspired by Monica and Terry Darlington, who took their narrowboat, The Phyllis May, and their whippet Jim, to the US and wrote about their experiences in Narrow Dog to Indian River, Ian thought we could go one better and do a trip called the Great Loop. He spent a year doing boat-handling courses, navigation courses, communicating with other “Loopers” on an online forum, and looking at numerous “Boats for Sale” websites.
The Great Loop is usually started in Florida. You go up the Intracoastal Waterway along Florida’s east coast, up through Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and on to New York, then via the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, then coming south via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. Then you cross the Gulf back to Florida. It takes about a year. For several reasons, we decided to do it in bite-sized chunks of two to three months at a time, and store the boat when we weren’t using it.
We arrived in Florida on 7 January 2014, and 3 weeks later mv Carina became our second home.
We covered the first 500 miles, from Clearwater on the Gulf coast, through the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic coast, and up to Jacksonville where we left the boat for the summer.
We returned on September 4th and continued our journey through Georgia, South and North Carolina, to Norfolk,Virginia, where we landed at the beginning of November.
We finished our third trip on Carina in July 2015, and left her at Coeymans Landing Marina, Ravena, a few miles south of Albany in the upper Hudson Valley.
The fourth leg took us through the Erie Canal to Oswego on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, and then the Trent Severn Waterway to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron.
We returned to Canada in May 2017 and passed through the North Channel of Lake Huron, down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, through Chicago and down the Illinois River to Peoria.
Our 6th trip started in Peoria, Illinois. We travelled down down the Illinois River, joined the Mississippi and downstream to the Ohio River. Then up the Ohio River to Paducah, through the beautiful Kentucky Lakes and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Demopolis, Alabama.
We returned to Alabama in March 2019, and are on our way to completing our Loop and crossing our wake in St Petersburg, Florida, hopefully before we fly home on May 28th.
In regard to your reply to our self-introduction earlier this year, there are numerous marinas in southern Georgian Bay capable of servicing and storing you for the winter:
Bay Moorings *
Beacon Bay *
Wye Heritage *
Bay Port *
In Port Severn;
In Victoria Harbour:
The asterisked * locations are owned by the same corporation; if the marina where you are stored cannot manage work you need, it can borrow the right person from a sister marina.
There are other marinas in the immediate area of Honey Harbour that are home to large boats, but I do not know of their hauling and storage facilities. Indoor heated and/or cold storage is available at some of these marinas.
Having these prospects in hand now allows you to research your 2015-2016 over-wintering opportunities free of time pressures while cruising this summer as all have web-sites.
I strongly recommend the purchase of a cruising guide called PORTS: THE CRUISING GUIDES for Trent-Severn and Lake Simcoe. It is a Canadian publication that knocks the socks off all other such boating aids. A digital example is available on the internet. Nothing will better prepare you for the locks , hazards sights, places and nuances than the photos and text of this gem. There are books for the Rideau Canal and Georgian Bay also.
Realize that the Canadian dollar is of low value relative to the US dollar [=1.25Cdn] and British pound [=1.93Cdn]. Gasoline [.95Cdn/l] and diesel [1.25Cdn/l] are also at depressed prices, though they have crept up in recent days by .10Cdn/l. While our dollar is low, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay enjoy higher water levels than in recent years [2 feet plus].
I am optimistically scheduled to cruise from Penetang to Trenton in time for Canada Day July 1: their new marina is now open and I want to compare it to Orillia’s newish harbour. I then turn around and start a leisurely 2- month journey back to Bay Moorings.
For assistance you need only ask. Now, time to crack on!
PROWESS [9m Cooper Yachts Sundeck Flybridge]
Alice and Barry R Jones
really liked your site…
I hope to do the great loop sometime too
Thank you 🙂 We return to the US on 14th April and will be starting the next stage of the Loop about a week later.
We’ve been wondering what you have been up to and are glad to learn you are about to start back on the boat. We’ve been in Lancashire this week, back today. Bon Voyage and I will be in touch. Alison
Nice Blog, Will stay in Touch, Cheers Colin and Dawn on Mov’in On.
Hope to catch up with you at some point 🙂
Have you completed the loop as of yet? can you write about the boat you are traveling in? is s she a Grand Banks?
Hello James, No we have just got as far as Albany NY. We will go back summer 2016 to cross the Great Lakes and then complete the Loop 2017. The boat is a 38′ Marine Trader built in 1979 so is technically an antique vessel 🙂
Hi can you tell me about your boat?
Hi Pete, Carina is a 38′ Marine Trader, 120hp single Lehmann diesel engine. 2 cabins, 2 heads and a spacious galley so very comfortable to travel about in 🙂