Since making the decision to travel the Great Loop we’ve had more to think about than, say, an ocean passage. Crossing an ocean requires pre-work on the boat to ensure it’s seaworthiness and taking time to understand the weather that will take you to your destination in the safest possible season. Quite straightforward really!
The Great Loop – from New York City, through the Erie Canal, into the Great Lakes (Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan), to Detroit and round to Chicago, then south through a series of rivers including the Mississippi, finally to end up in Mobile Alabama – requires much more planning than a simple ocean passage!
Firstly the weather. Land weather is harder to predict than ocean weather, particularly up above 40degrees north. Even with good forecasting, weather can be fickle so we have to be on our toes and expect all kinds of conditions. The Great Lakes, which hold over 20% of the earth’s fresh water supply, can throw up nasty sailing conditions and will require the same level of preparedness as a normal passage. I expect there’ll also be hazards in the water like floating logs and rubbish, not to mention rise and fall in water depths. We will be fresh water sailing so the buoyancy will be less than salt water. It’s summer in North America, it will still be much colder than we’re used to.
Secondly, the logistics of this trip require a lot of planning. Blue Heeler’s mast will be lowered and raised twice on the trip. Some of the bridges we will pass under are merely 15.5feet high. Also there are many canal locks to lift us and lower us through the canal system – 35 locks just to get to Buffalo in Lake Eerie where we’ll put the mast back up to sail around to Chicago.
Thirdly, there is much more to see on this trip. Crossing the ocean we see lots of water and maybe a few ships, but little else. For the next 2000nm we will be passing through some of the most scenic parts of America and Canada, stopping at small towns along the way. I’ve even bought a second hand bike that I can use on land (I left my old bike in Thailand, but Wayne still has his).
Timeframe? We need to move with the seasons and have six months to do this trip. For insurance reasons we must stay north of 35degrees before 30 November (end of hurricane season), but we also need to be out of Chicago by September before it gets uncomfortably cold and water begins to freeze. Our plan is to pop out into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the year and continue our ocean travel.
This trip will be an experience that few people do. You’re probably thinking it sounds like a lot of trouble to see the USA. I suppose it is, but if we wanted to travel the world easily we would’ve just flown everywhere. But where’s the fun in that! Remember, it’s not the destination but the journey…
So we spent our final days in New York City walking around areas such as Midtown and the Seaport area, also grabbing a pizza in Little Italy or a pretzel on the East River. Some people don’t like cities, while others do. I do like cities and NYC has something for everyone – arts, history, parks, shops, you name it. But it’s time to go now. While we envisage we will return to NYC next year before heading east across the Atlantic, we have a lot of miles to do to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
Let’s begin the Great Loop…