Nine years ago when Mark and I did our first boating trip from Florida to the Chesapeake, we had never before owned a powerboat. That’s not to say we weren’t experienced boaters. We’d been sailing for years and knew about weather, tides, rules of the road, and where to get the best margaritas.
We knew all the Jimmy Buffet songs and had partied with experts after offshore races…especially the Newport to Ensenada Race.
Owning a slow-moving, comfortable trawler on the East Coast was new. We had to tie it off to poles, not docks. We had to back it into slips. We had to stay in a marked channel or risk running aground. It didn’t slip cleanly through the water. It bounced and rolled in a chop.
We added to our knowledge and the trip was a success.
Fast forward to 2015.
We joined the migration called “America’s Great Loop,” a 5,200 mile journey in oceans, canals, rivers, and lakes.
Most Loopers are experienced and retired; a few still work. We met an elected official from Louisiana who flies home twice a month to attend his meetings. Another did webinars, counting on wifi in marinas to be strong enough.
Loopers also have varying levels of experience. One couple had never anchored before; another couple knew how, but didn’t like it, so they’d travel long distances just to tie to something.
Some have excellent radio skills. Others…well…let’s say at least they didn’t chat on the emergency channel.
Boat sizes also vary. The smallest boat is a 22-foot Sea Dory. The couple on board are literally camping and have done the loop three times. At the other end of the spectrum was a large boat with an office and a bathtub. (Sigh)
Boats looping can’t be too big. They have to get under fixed bridges. Sailboats carry their masts on deck until they get to Canada’s Georgian Bay.
I remember picking up a book nine years ago about a couple with NO experience who bought a boat, did the Loop, and encouraged others to do it. Knowing what we’ve encountered, I hope there weren’t too many takers.
Some states require boaters to be licensed. This gives them rudimentary knowledge and hopefully, enough skills to be safe. They’ll need it.
We’ve gone about 4,600 miles. We’ve survived close encounters with shoals, lightning, heavy seas, and barges in narrow channels.
And we still know all the words to the Jimmy Buffet songs.
We just don’t sing them as often.