Nearing the End

Three bears were tied to a dock. The owner of the first bear said, “Panda Bear and I are doing the Loop.” The owner of the second bear said, “Elizabear and I are doing the Loop.” The owner of the third bear stood up and grinned. “I am proud to say Sea Bear are I are within five days of finishing the loop.”

If this sounds like a bad joke, it actually happened. The three “bear” boats were in side-by-side slips in a marina in Columbus, Miss., all doing America’s Great Loop, and the owners had all consumed a few adult beverages at an impromptu dock party.

Bad joke aside, it almost seems surreal to be finally ending our journey. Eight months have gone by since we waved to people standing on a dock in Alabama and began the 5,200 mile trip that took us along the Gulf Coast, through the heart of Florida, and up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. From there we slipped into the Chesapeake, were soundly beaten up in Delaware Bay, ran aground in New Jersey, and had a peaceful trip to New York via the Atlantic Ocean.

After cruising the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, we glided across Lake Ontario and up through Canada’s Trent-Severn Waterway into Lake Huron. I thought we’d never get off Lake Michigan and into Chicago, but we did, finally entering the rivers of Middle America that are taking us back to Mobile.

A challenge? For me it was overcoming my fears—real or imagined—and finding the courage to stick it out, even when I desperately wanted to go home. I have to admit twice I considered packing my bag, leaving Mark a note, and getting myself to an airport.

But I didn’t.

Meals weren’t always exciting. Scenery sometimes took on a Groundhog Day quality. Marinas were interesting…from plush new resorts to barges full of old tires. Anchorages were peaceful, but generally buggy. And a huge regret was not staying long enough in most places to see the sights.

Will we do this again? Maybe. But it will not be in a boat. It will be in a car.

The good news is after being together 24/7 in a small space, after walking miles and miles looking for a West Marine, and after thrashing ourselves and our poor boat in all kinds of weather, we’re still married!

And that’s why Sea Bear’s owner grinned.

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