What is the Great Loop?

The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that can be traveled and includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Canals, and inland rivers.

There are a variety of routes one can take; however, some are dependent on how tall the boat is or how deep its draft is. The draft must be less than five feet in order to travel the inland waterways. Additionally, few Loopers choose to stay on the Mississippi all the way to the Gulf of Mexico due to heavy barge traffic. Instead, they jump onto the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and exit in Mobile, AL.

Below is a map of all the different routes Loopers take while the other map is the route we will be taking.

Boaters travel in a counter-clockwise direction typically heading north along the Atlantic coast in the late spring/early summer, then summer across the Great Lakes, and head south along the Rivers in the Fall. Loopers typically join the Great Loop Association (AGLCA) and fly the Great Loop burgee.

Loopers fly the white flag off their bow making them easily identifiable to other Loopers.

Once a Looper completes the loop by “crossing their wake” they get a gold flag.

If they complete it a second time, they receive the platinum flag.

We are starting in Cape Coral, FL. Our original plan was to then head to the Keys, but due leaving later than anticipated, we will instead head straight to the Bahamas and hit the Keys at the end of the trip.

After the Bahamas, we will slowly cruise along the Atlantic Coast into Chesapeake Bay. In April, we will leave the boat in Norfolk, VA and take a train to Washington D.C. and then fly home for 2 weeks. When heading back, we will fly into Philadelphia, PA and drive to Hershey Park and then Baltimore MD. After returning to our boat in Norfolk, we will continue the loop and head to New York City.

The earliest Loopers want to enter New York canals is May as they open between the first week and third week of May. Loopers will want to wait one week after they open for debris to flow through. We will then proceed into the Erie Canal, but due to height restrictions, we are unable to cruise all the way into Lake Erie. Instead, we will exit at Oswego, NY.

We will then head north and enter the Saint Lawrence River to see the Thousand Islands before proceeding into the Trent-Severn waterway. The Trent-Severn Waterway is a 240 mile canal route connecting Lake Ontario to the Georgian Bay (Lake Huron). There are 44 locks and includes flight locks, lift locks, and a marine railway.

Once through the Waterway, we will continue along the Great Lakes and head to Chicago. As they are doing work on the locks, we are unable to leave Chicago until September 30. While heading down the inland rivers, we plan on taking a side trip to Nashville. After exiting the river at Mobile, AL, we will go to New Orleans prior to returning to Florida.

In additional to all the boating, we also have a few car trips planned to see a few other locations that we are unable to access by boat. Those places include:

  • Boston and Salem
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Conway, NH
  • Portland, ME
  • Niagara Falls

We hope to complete this trip in 12-13 months. For a more detailed itinerary, please visit the itinerary page here or found on the right side of the page.

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