AMERICAN BOATER SHARING A LOVE FOR THE WATER BY MICHAEL VATALARO
INSPIRED TO TRAVEL: THE LOOPER LIFESTYLE
America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association helps boaters tackle a quest,
and along the way, transforms their lives
AMERICA’S GREAT LOOP IS, FIRST AND FOREMOST, AN IDEA. The idea that you can navigate, thanks to locks and canals intended to aid commerce, all the way around the eastern half of the U.S. in your boat. Forget for the moment the logistical challenges of this 6,000-mile adventure. Forget that many of
us never regularly spend more than a weekend aboard, let alone the months
required to complete the journey. Forget, too, the mental hurdle of leaving
behind your life on land, even if only temporarily.
Instead, imagine joining the select group of boaters who’ve completed the Loop, voyaging
through at least 14 states and a Canadian province or two. It may not match the physical
challenge of summiting Everest, say, but this idea grabs hold of some boaters and drives
them in much the same manner. And in their quest, they become positively infectious with
enthusiasm toward their goal.
Bob White and Cathryn Rice display a white burgee, signifying that heir Great Loop jour- ney is “in progress.” A gold burgee awaits those who complete the Loop.
BECAUSE IT’S THERE
Founded in 1999, the America’s Great Loop
Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) is a tightknit community of around 4,000 members
who gather at spring and fall rendezvous,
and online, to exchange information (and
inspiration) about the Loop. The group’s
founders, Ron and Eva Stob, completed the
Loop in 1994. Five years later, they published a book about it, called Honey, Let’s
Get a Boat, and discovered a small but energetic demand for information on how to go
about the journey.
“We inadvertently kicked off a movement of sorts,” says Ron. “Migration” might
be a better term. Each spring, a small cadre
of mostly powerboaters (fixed bridges along
the route mean sailors must unstep their
masts to complete the loop) set forth along
the East Coast, with the goal of reaching
the Chesapeake Bay in May. Not coincidentally, the AGLCA Spring Rendezvous is held
in Norfolk, Virginia, at the mouth of the
Chesapeake in early May each year. From
there, “Loopers” continue north on their
journey, circumnavigating the eastern U.S.
in a counterclockwise fashion, which allows
them to time the seasons to be in the higher
latitudes in summer, and not exit the protection of the western rivers until after hurricane
season. This pattern also allows Loopers to
go with the flow of the Mississippi and other
river legs. Of course, like in all groups, there
are those who go against the grain.
To be fair, Galen and Becky Dunmire didn’t
set off to do the Great Loop when they purchased a Silverton 392 motoryacht on Lake
St. Clair. “We just thought we’d drive the
boat home,” says Galen, home being on the
Chesapeake Bay, where they do their boat-