them—but this stretch of the Loop is a test of seamanship. Offshore cruising is required, which means boaters should feel comfortabl­e at the helm. ¶ “You certainly don’t have to be a lifelong boater, but this shouldn’t be something you do on your first 40-footer,” Russo says. “Everybody needs to be comfortabl­e and competent in handling their boat in all kinds of water.” ¶ That skill will be rewarded upon arrival at Florida, where the bustling, culture-filled city of St. Petersburg is among the possible landing zones. There

Sanibel is a barrier island with a causeway that connects it to the Florida mainland. THE BAILEY- MATTHEWS NATIONAL SHELL MUSEUM is America’s only museum devoted to shells and mollusks. Programmin­g includes touch pools and more. TWO PUBLIC GOLF COURSES are the Sanibel Island Golf Club and the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, and each is an 18-hole championsh­ip course. PARADISE PATHWAYS are paved bicycle paths that cover more than 20 miles, leading to beaches, shops and restaurant­s. THE J.N. DING DARLING NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE is a bird-watcher’s paradise on low-tide days when wading birds feed in plain view. also are Captiva and Sanibel islands, farther south on Florida’s coast, offering not just a pretty place to stay but also great fishing for snapper and grouper. ¶ There’s fun to be had for the whole family, which is what a Great Loop cruise nowadays is ultimately about. ¶ “Ten or 15 years ago, while there was no right or wrong, most people were couples on a trawler, taking a year to do it,” Russo says. “Now, the types of boats have changed to anything as long as it’s seaworthy enough for the big bodies of water. There are families doing it.”

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