Passage Maker - - Contents - w/Kim Russo

The Great Loop has grown in pop­u­lar­ity over the years be­cause it of­fers a challenging but rel­a­tively pro­tected cruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The Amer­i­can Great Loop Cruis­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (AGLCA) started in 1999 as a sign-up sheet for a sim­ple news­let­ter for mem­bers in­ter­ested in cruis­ing the Great Loop. To­day, the AGLCA is a membership-driven or­ga­ni­za­tion for veteran loop­ers, first-timers, and those who dream of some day em­bark­ing on such an ad­ven­ture.

Kim Russo is the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the AGLCA and of­ten presents on the Great Loop at TrawlerFest events. We asked her some ques­tions about the Great Loop for those who might be pon­der­ing the jour­ney.

Over the past sev­eral years, the Great Loop has started to get more at­ten­tion from boaters. What do you think makes the Great Loop par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive?

The Great Loop has been called “North Amer­ica’s last great ad­ven­ture.” I think it’s at­trac­tive to boaters be­cause it in­volves cruis­ing in new and dif­fer­ent places each day, yet still of­fers the fa­mil­iar­ity of be­ing close to home. Since the route is mostly done on in­land wa­ter­ways, you’re never out there alone and you can stop at any time for a trip home. For many, it’s an achiev­able ad­ven­ture and a chal­lenge, but not a risk.

What is the most fre­quently asked ques­tion from first­timer Loop­ers?

By far, the most fre­quently asked ques­tion is, “What’s the best boat for the Great Loop?” Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no spe­cific an­swer be­cause the ideal boat for the Great Loop is a very per­sonal choice. The route has been done on ev­ery­thing from a dinghy to a 70-foot yacht and just about ev­ery­thing in be­tween that floats. Tra­di­tion­ally, many have opted to do the Great Loop on the small­est boat they can be com­fort­able aboard so they can ex­plore all the nooks and cran­nies on the wa­ter­ways and han­dle the boat more eas­ily in un­fa­mil­iar wa­ters. But I’ve seen a re­cent trend to­ward big­ger boats on the Loop. I think peo­ple are opt­ing for a higher level of com­fort while “Loop­ing” than they did in the past. While each per­son’s ideal boat is dif­fer­ent, there are some re­stric­tions on the boat you choose. You have to have an air draft lower than 19’ to clear the bridges along the Great Loop route. It’s also best to have a draft of 5’ or less so that you can nav­i­gate some of the shal­lower wa­ters along the Loop. And, your boat will need to have a range of at least 200 miles.

What is the best piece of ad­vice you have for peo­ple plan­ning to em­bark on the Great Loop?

There is no right or wrong way to do the Great Loop, so my ad­vice is to make it your own ad­ven­ture. Don’t let some­one tell you that you must do it aboard a trawler, in one year, and with a sig­nif­i­cant other. We’re see­ing more fam­i­lies do­ing the Loop, more peo­ple sin­gle-hand­ing, more twenty-some­things. We’re see­ing peo­ple do this in as quickly as a few months and as slowly as sev­eral years. There are more vari­a­tions of boats on the Loop, in­clud­ing more mo­to­ry­achts, more trail­er­a­ble boats, and even some kayaks and pad­dle­boards. It can be done on a tight bud­get with a fuel-ef­fi­cient boat and lots of an­chor­ing out. Or it can be done stay­ing at high-end mari­nas most nights aboard your dream boat. We en­cour­age ev­ery­one to do the Great Loop in a way that they find com­fort­able and en­joy­able.

There are many ways to com­plete the Loop. Which is most pop­u­lar? What are the dif­fer­ences be­tween the op­tions?

There are a few ar­eas where you have a choice of routes. The big­gest choice you’ll have to make along the way is how you’ll en­ter the Great Lakes. The de­ci­sion point is at Water­ford, New York, at the start of the Erie Canal. You can take the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal into Lake On­tario and con­tinue to­ward Canada that way, of­ten ar­riv­ing at Kingston, On­tario. How­ever, if you can clear 15’ (air draft), you can al­ter­na­tively take the Erie Canal all the way to Lake Erie. This route is pop­u­lar if you’re stay­ing in the U.S. From Lake Erie, you can con­tinue past Detroit and cruise Lake Huron and Lake Michi­gan. Fi­nally, if you can clear 17’, a third op­tion is to con­tinue on the Hudson River, cruise through Lake Cham­plain, and en­ter Canada via the Riche­lieu Canal, which con­nects to the St. Lawrence River. From there you can head to Lake On­tario to con­tinue the trip. This route takes you through some of Canada’s his­toric ci­ties like

Mon­treal, and, de­pend­ing on the route you choose to get back to Lake On­tario, Ot­tawa is a pos­si­bil­ity.

I know that those who com­plete the Great Loop can get a burgee to mark their ac­com­plish­ment, with the Plat­inum Burgee re­served for those who have com­pleted mul­ti­ple loops. How many “Multi-Loop­ers” does the Great Loop Cruis­ers As­so­ci­a­tion have? Who has com­pleted the most num­ber of loops?

All Loop­ers can fly a white burgee. Those who have crossed their wake (com­pleted the route) have earned the Gold Burgee and are known as Gold Loop­ers. And yes, those who have com­pleted the route more than once earn the Plat­inum Burgee. We’ve had 58 boats re­port com­plet­ing mul­ti­ple Loops. One Looper cou­ple is near­ing 30 com­pleted Loops!

Do you have any record-set­ters for num­ber of Loop trips com­pleted?

Yes! Ted and Sarah Pon­gracz are work­ing on com­plet­ing their 28th Great Loop aboard their 36’ Kadey-Kro­gen, Mana­tee. They are from Michi­gan but spend win­ters in Florida, so each trip back and forth com­pletes an­other Great Loop pas­sage.


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