Saturday, August 25, 2012

LOOP Trip Summary

                                    Reflections of the Captain and Crew of MissTeRae

Our journey was incredible!  It's a once in a lifetime experience, seeing places and gaining a greater appreciation of the founding fathers of our country - seeing all the sights, navigating 5,705 miles, meeting wonderful people and sharing this time together.  We are so thankful for our safety and good health while on this journey!  We will try to recap our 10 & 1/2 month adventure.  We learned much about the history of our country (most of our early history orginated on the shores of rivers and bodies of water), overcame any apprehensions we had about navigating large bodies of water, passed through about 100 locks and lift bridges, and it became routine to come into a new marina for fuel and a slip.  We anchored out on average about once a week.  We also learned that we could live in a small space together (yes, we are still on speaking terms and share the same bed).  Grocery shopping and meal planning for a very small galley was a challenge, but eating out and sampling the local cuisine, seafood and culinary treats was a great experience.  We explored many small towns USA (north, south, midwest and east) and reaffirmed our belief that most people are nice.

Interesting Cities visited:

  New York City - an interesting culture with all kinds of countries and all kinds of people represented.  We were in awe of the Twin Towers Memorial - so many people gave their lives in this horrible act of agression!   Then there was Ellis Island , the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Wall Street, the parks and the Subway system.  The water traffic was very congested - constantly looking out for ferries, ocean liners, pleasure boats and tour boats!
We were amazed by all the busyness in the city.  Everybody seemed to be rushing somewhere.

Washington DC - The capital of our country!  Again many people, tourists, school children on field trips, many countries represented, lots of tour buses, traffic, vendors, etc.  There was a two  hour wait to enter the Capitol Visitors Center on the day we were there, so we passed on that.  We visited the Washingtom Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, White House Visitors Center, Capitol Grounds, National Mall and the Smithsonian Museum (specifically the Air and Space Museum).  The Capitol Yacht Club, where we stayed, was right near all the action.  The unique location - next to the local Fish Market, made for an interesting cultural and culinary flavor for us while there.

Chicago, IL - This was the first major city we visited and enjoyed it a lot - we were moored at Dusable Marina, right downtown, which was nice for sightseeing.  We could walk or bike to all the major attractions - Navy Pier, Soldier Field, Millenium Park, John Hancock Building, Buckingham Fountain and the museum area.  It was a rather rainy, rough water time for the Lake Michigan area so we stayed there an extra day or two.  But how amazing to cruise the Chicago River down through all the skyscrapers - we were looking every which way at outstanding views.  One negative - we couldn't get tickets to the Chicago - Green Bay game.

Charleston, SC - A beautiful city filled with a lot of interesting architecture, history, food, nautical and travel options.  It was great to experience the mansions, plantation, water excursions, carriage ride and the variety of very good eating establishments with our Brian & Jana VH.  Being one of our favorite spots, we also enjoyed two concerts in very old, historic churches (with amazing architecture)!  This city is also known for it's ornamental fences around the yards and gardens, historic homes and being the location where 50% of the slaves entered America in the early 1800's.

Savannah, GA - Don particularly liked this city.  It has many parks, old cobblestone streets on the waterfront and The Cotton Exchange Building right on the wharf.  We spent our time there moored right on the city waterfront and could see container ships, ferry boats, pleasure boats and tour boats passing by constantly.  Again many old churches, homes, buildings and architecture everywhere.

Mobile, AL - We made it to the Bay!  This was our initial goal.  We wanted to make it at least to Mobile Bay and then decide if we were having fun and continue.  Well, as you all know we just kept on going.   It was amazing to see all the big ocean going vessels and where they load/unload their cargo.  There is much to see and do in this city, but since we had visited here before, we kept mostly to the marina at Fairhope (enjoyed Thanksgiving at the home of our Harbor Host there with several other LOOPers) and the surrounding area. 

Norfolk, VA - This was a very busy port!  Many ships, boats and much nautical activity including the huge Wisconsin Battleship as a museum.  This city is home to 5 major US military training centers and operations.  There were many LOOPers here as there had just been an AGLCA (Americas Great LOOP Cruiser's Association) Rendezvous here earlier. 

Annapolis, MD - Home of the US Naval Academy - so many good-looking, polite, well-dressed guys!  (Written by Theresa).  Touring the academy was very interesting and the city had a unique waterfront, state capital and again many boats of all kinds! 

Detroit, MI - Another very large city, which we enjoyed from the waterway, especially because we had our son, Brian, on board to give us an in-depth tour of the metropolis and the area all the way up the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and on to Lake Huron.

Interesting Waterways:

ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) -Along the panhandle of Florida, around parts of Florida and up the East coast of the US - ususually calm waters, like a canal.  Lots of wildlife, birds, etc.

Dismal Swamp - Interesting canal that George Washington originally designed in the early 1800's, located in NC & VA.  Calm waters and lots of trees, only one dock to stop midway, so several boats raft up for a spot to moor for overnight. 

Chesapeake Bay - Huge body of water - felt like we were in the ocean, at times.  Needed to be sure of the weather and water conditions while navigating in this area.  Branched off the bay to the ...

Potomac River - We travelled this river to go to DC.  It was a much less travelled portion and really "backward, primitive" area until we got to Mount Vernon (George Washington's home and museum) and Washington DC. 

Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee - This shortcut across lower Florida is a swampy area.  Saw several alligators, tropical birds, sugar cane fields, etc.

Mississippi River and other inland rivers - We were familiar with much of this part of the LOOP as we have cruised here before.  We were still amazed by the many huge barges and beautiful vistas along the cliffs and formations lining the banks.

Hudson River and the Erie Canal - Of course, the lower Hudson is New York Harbor - awesome!  This took us up through New York State and to the Erie Canal.  It was a quiet, slow ride through the canal, lots of locks, unique small towns and interesting people.

The Straits of Mackinac and passing under the huge bridge connecting upper and lower Michigan.  We had been to Mackinac Island before so didn't stop this time.

The Great Lakes - Erie, Huron, Michigan - Each lake has it's own personality, depth, attractions and people.  Refer back to previous blogs for the "scoop" on each one.

Interesting Beaches and seashores:

Myrtle Beach, SC - one of the best! Miles and miles of white, fine sand (The Grand Strand)!  We rented beach chairs there and spent a day just sitting by the water, watching kids and parents having fun.

Clearwater, Sannibel Island, Ft. Pierce, Vero Beach and Fernadina Beach (all in Florida) -
each had their own characteristics and special attractions.

Cumberland Island National Seashore and St. Simons Island, GA - It was Spring Break at a lot of these places when we were there, adding to the interest and excitement.  The wild horses were a treat at Cumberland Island.

Cape May, NJ - Nice beach, but they charge a fee for the its use, something we had not encountered anywhere else.  I guess New Jersey has so many people that this is a way of rationing public use.  We were there just briefly, hiked part way to the lighthouse and called it a day.

Michigan Beaches - Basically the beaches on the eastern shore of the state (Lake Huron) are not as pretty as the ones on the western shore.  Around AuSable, Harbor Beach, Rogers City and Cheboygan they are more rocky (have a lot of pebbles), whereas Manistee, Muskeegon, Holland and South Haven have nice fine sandy beaches.  And the sand dunes in this area are a natural wonder.

Final Comments:

Several folks have asked, "Would you do the trip again?"  The answer to that is "no".It was a wonderful experience and we would recommend it to anyone who enjoys boating and a challenge, but once is enough for us.   We may do another trip some day through the Northern Passage and into Canada or explore the west coast of Lake Michigan (Wisconsin).  But for right now we are enjoying our home here in South Haven, MI and the beach and just watching other boats coming in and out of the harbor.

Another common question is "What was your greatest experience?"  That is a tough one to answer as there were so many.  But two things that standout are (1) coming up the Potomac River into Washington DC and seeing the Washington and the Lincoln Memorial and (2) passing through the Narrows into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

It's difficult to put in words all the sights, the experiences, the emotions other than to say "WOW" we did it and it was great!! 

Here we are coming into our home port... No, all those people didn't come to see us.  It's just the usual summer tourist crowd in our little town.

"Miss TeRae"  Don & Theresa


  1. Praising God for blessing you with this adventure and so many great memories. The book is a good idea!!

  2. Congratulations mom & dad! We are so proud of your courage, spirit of adventure, and resourcefulness in completing the loop. I'm glad I got to ride along to see a small part of it. Chris begs to differ with your assesment of west Michigan beaches being better than east Michigan beaches though. Donovan also likes having an unlimited amount of rocks to throw in the water and fewer swimmers to worry about hitting.