How do you feel about travelling for a whole year in your cabin cruiser?
The short answer: wonderful. Beats workin’. At first I was apprehensive about certain little things, like where will we put our boat every night, but after 3800 miles, I realize that doing the Great Loop will probably be one of the nicest things I will ever do in my life.
How do you occupy your time?
Contrary to popular belief, boat maintenance is not all time-consuming. There is a lot of free time. But is that such a bad thing? My wife and I can usually find something to do. There are so many books on board Ginger Lee that we had to position them correctly in order to balance the boat. The XO inhales them. I like mechanics, and fixing stuff. I have a garage full of tools and parts. She swims and kayaks. I walk and tinker about. She likes good rum and ginger beer. I like good cigars and brandy. We both like cooking and eating out, and when we eat out, we prefer sitting at the bar. We like dinghy adventures and exploring. Basically, it’s doing the same stuff we do at home, but now we do it in new places.
Exploring Shell Island at the entrance to Crystal River.
In Tarpon Springs Florida, this is what the Greeks consider a light lunch for two.
What’s it like to be with somebody in such a confined space?
This question is usually asked in different ways like: You haven’t killed each other yet? Aren’t you sick of each other? You get the idea, but the answer is: I feel closer to my wife than ever before. I enjoy her company, but we often do separate things.
The XO is off on another kayaking adventure.
What do you eat? How do you cook.
We eat normal food. Meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables. Cooked on a stove or on our barbecue grill. I love the electric crock pot that we can use while cruising long distances. It runs easily off our 1000 watt inverter. The XO fills it with meat and things and a couple of hours into a long trip the whole boat smells wonderful!
Pressure cooker, electric skillet, toaster oven, we brought ’em all and we use ’em.
Food shopping has not been a problem. We have a fridge/freezer combo and another separate freezer that we like to keep filled with the things we enjoy. Pretty much everything one would find in any non-vegetarians refrigerator. We also like fresh fruits and vegetables such as apples, cukes, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, squash, ya know, normal stuff. We don’t eat a lot of canned goods. It’s the same stuff we usually eat at home in Massachusetts. For some reason lettuce doesn’t keep on a boat, spoils after a day. Bananas don’t do well either. We freeze the bread because it stays fresh longer.
You don’t live on the boat all the time do you?
Yes we do. It’s our home away from home. The boat is set up that way. In port we hook up a special drinking water hose to the town water supply and plug in a 30 amp power cable so we have hot and cold running water and plenty of juice for our electrics like coffee-maker, microwave, heater, TV, etc.
When we anchor out, 12 volt deep-cycle batteries connected to 120 volt inverters keep everything going. The batteries are continually recharged by 5 solar panels. We hold 70 gallons of fresh water, enough to last a week, two if we conserve. It’s just very comfortable and livable, and the view is always beautiful.
How do you know where to go?
The Great Loop is a well-known and well published route that we follow. And we have paper charts which are like road maps for the waterways. We simply travel from place to place in small jumps. Usually 20 to 50 miles. Always in daylight, and mostly in good weather if we can help it. Sometimes we get caught in the rain but that’s not so much a problem. Wave height is the worst problem. With radar, fog is not so much a problem either as long as the waves are small. We also use cruising guides–books that tell you about all the places you could go–and the internet has Active Captain, a free service that tells you pretty much everything about anywhere in the world. It’s an invaluable tool for all boaters.
How do you get mail?
We use a mail service that specializes in helping cruising boaters. We forward all our mail to them, they get rid of the junk, and process all the other stuff into email if we want, or they can send it to us at any port.
Do you tow that dinghy?
We get a lot questions about Salty, our 12 foot aluminum friend. A hard dinghy is a rarity. We never see them outside of New England. All loopers have inflatables and nobody ever tows them. They’re lifted onto the boat or hung on davits. People are surprised to see us tow. My answer is always the same: This is the equipment we’ve had for years. We didn’t buy a boat or a dinghy to do the Great Loop. We’re just using the stuff we already have.
Towing Salty through the Intracoastal Waterway.
Heavy-duty shackle and thimble with 5/8 floating tow line.
The other end of the tow line slips through a bridle line connected on port and starboard cleats.
Are you scared?
Well no, not really. I don’t feel our lives are in danger or anything, but there were some exciting moments and I’m sure there will more to come. Running over the dinghy tow line and sinking poor Salty was fairly exciting. Hitting a tree floating in the Connecticut river was breathtaking as well. The wicked current on the Mississippi river would wake anybody up, and the tornado on Lake Cayuga was also concerning. Life is not perfectly safe no matter where you are.
Most of the time being underway is boring. In fact, we have a saying: if you’re cruising and you’re bored, it’s a good thing.
Why are you doing this?
We were hanging around the dock one day with some other loopers. That question was put out there and people answered in turn. I don’t recall exactly who said what except for one young man who was doing the loop solo. He said: “I hope someday to find the answer to that very question”. It just stuck with me. Everyone has their reasons, mine are not so profound.
I love boating. I love the challenge of it all. The excitement of seeing new places, meeting new people, and doing new things in a boat. And I want an answer to the three questions that I’ve asked myself about this voyage.
Am I physically able?
Am I a good enough mechanic to keep all the systems working?
Can I figure out all the things that need to be figured out?
That last question is the key. I know I can navigate anywhere. I know I can make this boat do what I want it to do, go where I want it to go, but if I can find the answer to that last question, maybe, just maybe, I can do the same in my life. SOCOBO 2/2/18