Copyright © 2015
We did it!
Bridges: too many to count
Would you do it again: Yes
It's wonderful to be home back in Minnesota! It's hard to believe that we are done with the Loop. After three years of talking and planning, we actually now have completed it.
It's kind of funny looking back, when we were in the planning phases, when asked, we'd nonchalantly tell folks, when asked the route, "Well, you go down the Mississippi River to the Ohio River, then you take the Cumberland to the Tennessee, then the Tenn-Tomm to Mobile Bay where you cross and get on the Intra-Coastal Waterway until you have to cross the Gulf, and then yada, yada, yada. We got really good at verbalizing the route, but when you actually get underway on the route, it's a whole different story. Every section of the Loop is so different. Every day of the Loop is different from the day before and no matter how much you plan and think you have it figured out, Mother Nature rules and the "water", whether it's a canal, river, bay, gulf or ocean, is the boss!
We thought we were fairly knowledgeable boaters, but we learned sooo much. For instance, tides. Now that was a learning curve! Timing your travel around high tide and making sure you leave and enter a marina/port on slack tide was definitely something we became familiar with. Tying your vessel up in tidal water was also something we got pretty good at. And of course, once you figured a particular challenge out, it was replaced by a new one!
I'm not gonna lie. We both will be happy not to worry about having enough drinking water on board or if there is enough water in the holding tank to take a shower or how many flushes we have left before the waste holding tank is full or where the next fuel stop and pump out will be. Truly, first world problems, but when you're living on a boat, they are the issues you think about daily, along with where will we be tying up tonight and do we have anything on board to eat!
Some Looper friends of ours have a saying that they have adopted since starting the Loop:
"Live with less, experience more." I love that statement. It pretty much says encapsulates the Loop. You don't need much as you travel the Loop on a boat, but you experience so much. Not just places and cool destinations, but people, regional culture and incredible natural surroundings that change from place to place.
I also have to mention BELLA. She was amazing. She never skipped a beat. For a 13-year-old, weekend, fast boat she was the bomb! She kept us safe traversing thru wind, weather, waves, low water, high water and crazy currents. We both were amazed at her performance and perseverance! She was a wonderful home while on the Loop and we are so thankful for her.
We are also incredibly thankful to everyone at Jimmy's for taking care of business while we were away. We could have NEVER been gone this last year without all of you and we appreciate EVERYTHING that you did while we were on the Loop.
Thanks too, to Sam and Griff for supporting this Loop dream of ours. For taking care of home and business and for coming to visit us along the way. Love ya boys!
Since we started the Loop, people have asked us to name our favorite destination on the Loop. It's hard to say which port or destination was my favorite. Every place we saw or stopped was part of the journey, so to pick one or even three places is too hard. But I can tell you my favorite part of the Loop was doing this epic adventure with my best friend. He was an incredible captain and companion. It was amazing doing the Loop with him. We grew as individuals and as a couple. We didn't always get along (he told me the other day, he only wanted to kill me three times!), or agree on everything, but we'd figure it out. I know I can speak for Tom when I say, we both feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to travel the Loop and return home safe and sound.
It was an epic adventure that we'll have memories of the rest of our lives and who knows, maybe we'll do it again someday!
From Captain Tom
What an unforgettable journey… can’t believe we did it and it’s now over. Driving a boat around the USA at 8-10 mph the majority of the time gives you a LOT of time to think and reflect. GRATITUDE on so many levels is what I’m walking away with from this last 11 months. So many people to thank to receive this gift… My traveling companion, navigator, best friend, wife, made it all possible by doing everything to help us get it done. My son Sam and the awesome team at Jimmy’s doing an INCREDIBLE job! Great boat, electronics, advice from fellow boaters, the AGLCA forum, were all instrumental in helping us complete the route… I thank them all. I also know we had angels with us keeping us safe… what a blessing.
If you’re taking the time to read this and dreaming about doing something “someday” my advice is, someday is here… start planning and make it happen, whatever it is.
Final thought on the trip is summed up by a toast I heard in a bar… no really, I was in a bar!
There are all kinds of ships…
Big ships, small ships, but the BEST ships, are friendships!
Two Rivers Marina, Rockport, IL 7/30/2019
Quincy Boat Club, Quincy, IL 7/31/2019
Bluff Harbor Marina, Burlington, IL 8/1/2019
Isle of Capri Marina, Bettendorf, IA 8/2/2019
Port of Dubuque Marina, Dubuque, IA 8/3/2019
Marquette Marina, Marquette, IA 8/4/2019
Pettibone Marina, La Crosse, WI 8/5/2019
Fun, relaxing weekend enjoying Grafton and getting ready to head up the Mississippi. We had a celebratory lunch on Saturday amongst all the Illinois boaters. We spoke with marina staff and they said it was really the first weekend that folks were out since the flood. Grafton, as we found out, got hammered by water over and over again. It is at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, so with both rivers flooding, it got a double whammy every time either flooded.
We headed out Tuesday morning up the Mississippi toward home after a day of rain on Monday. We have 542 miles and 22 locks back to Wabasha. We’ve gotten lucky with the locks the past two days. We haven’t had to wait and once inside we have locked alone and floated. Because of the flooding, we have only been raised six inches to one foot in the locks. Barely anything. The lockmaster in Lock 24 (Clarksville - the last train place;) told us he and the rest of the staff at the lock have had to boat 3 miles to even get to the lock the flooding has been so bad.
Our first stop was Two Rivers Marina, Rockport, IL, right across the river from Louisanna, Missouri. We stopped here on our way down. Great little marina, but it too, has suffered from the flood. Chris, the dockhand was great. We put on some fuel and pumped out. He helped me find a chiropractor in town and set us up with the courtesy van. My back has been out now for over a week, so it was time to do something about it. After my appointment, we did dinner in town. Not much has changed since we went thru last fall other than the new bridge is just about ready to be crossed 😉 We left early Wednesday morning for Quincy, Illinois and as we were leaving the Asian carp were a fly'in!!! I thought for sure we would have a few in the dinghy, but not one 😉
We’ve gotten lucky with the locks the past two days (Tues/Wed). We haven’t had to wait.
Thursday was Burlington and two locks. We both wanted to stop at Bluff Harbor Marina in Burlington again. Boaters, if you are traveling down the Mississippi make this one of your stops. The marina is full service and protected. The staff is wonderful and will help with whatever need you have. Brenda ordered up the fuel truck for us and it was waiting when we got there. John the general manager helped us in and the dock worker that pumped us out and helped us turn around was awesome. My back was still not feeling the best and he took over tying the boat up. God bless him!
Bluff Harbor, like so many marinas on the Mississippi was under water not too very long ago. The pool of water that Burlington is in, runs higher because of Lock and Dam 19. The staff has worked hard to bring the marina back.
After a few chores we rented electric bikes and tooled around town. Loved the bikes. Went to Valley Monster. One of the coolest bars we been in. The décor was Big Foot meets American Pickers. Great place.
Friday we were up early and headed north. Our destination: Bettendorf. Four locks. Very long day of barges, dredges and industrial area on the river. It’s interesting with the barges. Since they travel thru the night, but it a much slower speed, we have passed the same four northbound barges everyday this week. The barges are running hard now that the river is open. Some locks we’ve been able to get right into or they squeeze us in quick between tows so the wait hasn’t been too bad, but the weeks not over yet! We are still being raised a minimum amount because of the flooding. The most we’ve been raised since Lock 19.
We had decided Saturday to stop in Clinton, just one lock and 33 miles, but after getting to Clinton, we changed our minds and pushed on to Dubuque. We both agree, from Clinton on it feels a lot like Wabasha on the Mississippi. We ran into tons of pleasure craft on the water from Clinton to Dubuque. It was good to finally see people and boats out on the water.
We needed to fuel at Dubuque. We had to get in line. 2 hours later we were finally in our slip. Their gas dock was pumping fuel like it was molasses! Once we got to the gas dock we were bombarded with local boaters. Super friendly folks. All transients that had decorated their boats for the lighted boat parade. It was awesome talking with them on the dock after they helped us in. The marina had a little celebration with a band and food trucks. We met a couple that completed the Loop in 2017 and it was fun comparing notes. The lighted boat parade had 20 entries! It was quite a show!
It’s Sunday and we are headed to Marquette, IA for the night. We’ll travel to LaCrosse Monday and stay a couple nights and then we hope to pull back into our slip in Wabasha by Wednesday if the weather holds and the locks cooperate! We are looking forward to seeing everyone!
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.