America’s Great Loop: A Potential ‘Bucket List’ Addition

Since we all have “Bucket Lists” of varying length and contents, I thought I would offer a potential addition for your list.  This is definitely for cruisers, but there’s time for you to properly prepare if you don’t feel you have the skills and expertise to take on this trip today.

America's Great Loop
(America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association photo)

I’m talking about the Great Loop cruise.  That’s a circumnavigation of the eastern U.S. and part of Canada.  The route includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the New York State Canals, the Canadian Canals, the Great Lakes the inland rivers and the Gulf of Mexico.  “Loopers” enjoy this adventure aboard their own boat.  The Great Loop is a minimum of 5,250 miles, but route choices can increase that number.  Most report a trip in the 6,000 mile range.

The Great Loop has been done in as little as two months and in as much as 12 years.  Traditionally, Loopers spend about a year on the route since you’ll want to cruise the northern part of the Loop during the summer months, the inland rivers in the fall, winters in Florida and the spring following the warm weather up the eastern portion of the route.

America's Great Loop cruisers

There’s a trend that has emerged where cruisers do the Great Loop in segments, cruising for a few weeks or months and then returning home for a period of time and getting back to their boat for another segment when the time is right.

By the way, you can do the Great Loop in either direction, but it is usually down counter-clockwise so that you are going with the current, not against it, on the inland rivers.

The best boat for the Great Loop is truly a matter of personal choice.  It has been done by everything from a kayak to a 70-foot yacht, and everything in between. There are plenty of online resources to help with air draft (height) and water draft (depth) for a boat doing the Great Loop.  Ditto on length of the boat, maximum beam (width) and fuel range.  

I could go on about America’s Great Loop, but I encourage you to consider it as an addition to your Bucket List.  There are countless resources available to help your introduction to cruising before you buy a boat, such as charters, both with and without captains, cruising schools to advance your skills and brokerages that will help find you the perfect boat for your Great Loop adventure.  But, enough from me.

America's Great Loop cruisers

The America’s Great Looper Association is holding Looper-Palooza in Ft. Myers this coming January 22-24.  If you want to learn more about the Great Loop and even talk to those who have  made the trip, come on down. More information is available at

We’ll be at the event, too.  So stop by and say hello.

Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school.  Contact her at

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