It began on a Sunday in 2015, when Dana read an article in the Arizona Republic. The story was a travelogue of sorts about something called America’s Great Loop. Around 100 boats of various shapes and sizes complete a counterclockwise loop cruise of roughly 6000 miles each year, with points along the way including the east coast, the Hudson River, New York or Canadian canals, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida peninsula.
We had never heard of such a thing, but were smitten.
With Shannon still in high school, we knew implementing the cruising idea would have to wait a bit, but that gave us time to research and analyze. Work or don’t work? Keep the house or sell the house? What about holidays, and friends, and Benny and Oscar (the dogs), and storing our stuff, and traveling to see Mallory in DC and Shannon in St. Petersburg, and about a zillion other things. Basically we decided what the hell, let’s just do it and figure things out as we go.
The first step for us as newbies was to join the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association. Of course there is an America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, because why not? As it turns out, the only thing Loopers absolutely must have is some sort of vessel. In theory that could be a jet ski or a canoe but the nights and bad weather might take a toll. The only real restrictions are bridge clearance and draft, although we also concluded that if we are going to live aboard for a year or more, we need a few amenities. Like room for the girls and friends. And room for the dogs. And an engine. And beds. And a shower. And a galley. And an anchor. And air conditioning. And a TV. And a washer and dryer. Actually the list is pretty long, because we aren’t really the types to enjoy being miserable.
One might think finding a boat would be pretty easy. Just look on Boat Trader or its equivalent, right? One would be wrong. At least for us, it took quite a while and a lot of looking. Ultimately it took professional help, which we probably need in more ways than one. We saw boats in Washington, Maine, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee. We went to in-water boat shows. New boats are awesome but way too expensive, so we narrowed the search to well-built trawlers around 10-20 years old. Full displacement trawlers are fat and slow, but fuel efficient and comfortable. I’m fat and slow and we wanted something comfortable, so that seemed like a good fit.
We also attended seminars on a variety of topics ranging from the Intracoastal Waterway to Dinghy Etiquette. Mostly we learned just how much of this subculture is foreign to us. This is an animal completely different than the ski boats and houseboats with which we feel comfortable.
Today we signed a contract to become the fourth owners of Misty Pearl.
Misty Pearl is a 2002 Selene 43 trawler. Apparently people who rename boats are almost guaranteed to experience nothing but catastrophe, so Misty Pearl she will remain. Plus, friends from the early Phoenix days fondly will recall adventures on Freshwater Pearl (another boat whose name we inherited) so there is a touch of symmetry. Dana also had a grandmother Pearl.
We will christen the dinghy Mini Pearl–which we think is quite clever–although the name seems to generate blank stares from anyone born after about 1970.
The plan currently is to have some upgrades done at Zimmerman Marine’s shipyard on Mobjack Bay in Virginia, while Misty Pearl is stored for the winter. When the icebergs in the Chesapeake thaw next spring, we hope to move aboard and use the DC area as a base for pestering Mallory. Anyone want to buy a house in Scottsdale next April? From there we will head north after the softball season ends. We will determine our summer course based on what the girls are doing. We should hit the river system sometime in the fall, with a side trip to Knoxville to watch the once-mighty Volunteers. Then on to Florida so Shannon can have her turn enduring us during the winter. Of course, we also may change this up completely.
The next step will be the survey and sea trial in mid-October. Updates on those will follow.