A New Kind of Cruising–the Great Loop

We have decided to buy a boat and cruise all or part of America’s Great Loop.  This is a 6000+ mile route consisting mostly of  rivers, lakes and protected intercoastal waterways.  You DO need your own boat, however, so we are in the process of looking for a 36 foot trawler to begin our cruise.

America's Great Loop
America’s Great Loop

Cruising America’s Great Loop

A few months ago B. found out about the Great Loop.  This is a route that has you travel in mostly protected waters on the Gulf and East Coast via the Intercoastal Waterway, over to the Great Lakes via canals, and back down to the Gulf Coast via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  I was mildly interested until B. had me read the classic Honey Let’s Get a Boat.  The authors quit their jobs, bought a 40 foot trawler, and took a year to cruise the Great Loop.  I knew that I didn’t want to do the Loop in one continuous trip (what with grand kids, elderly parents, and other travel interests) but I was very interested in trying it out.

Option 1–A Trailerable Trawler

At first we settled on the idea of buying a trailerable trawler.  You can trailer the boat if you keep the length under 28 feet.  We thought this would be ideal.  We could buy one immediately and haul it to our back yard in between trips.  We had ideas of hauling it out to Lake Powell Utah and to the Pacific Northwest to cruise around the San Juan Islands.  The only negative about this scenario is that we would have to buy a 3/4 ton pickup to haul it around.   We thought that this type of boat would give us the ultimate flexibility in boating.  We took our first boat-hunting trip down to the Tampa Bay area and looked at our first candidate–a 25 foot Ranger Tug.

Ranger Tug 25 foot
Ranger Tug 25 foot

It’s cute isn’t it?  Just like a toy fishing boat.  The only problem is that when you step inside the cabin you really do get the feeling that you are in a toy boat.  The owners had motored from their home to the Yacht Club for lunch, and I could see that this was a great boat for that, or for playing around in the Bay.  You possibly could use it for some overnights on the water, but it just is not suitable for a long distance trip for more than one person.  The only sleeping quarters were in the V-berth in the bow–any guests would have to convert the dining room table into a single bed.  I knew that this boat wouldn’t work for us as soon as I walked into the cabin.  We looked at another Ranger Tug because we already had the appointment, but my heart was no longer in it.  An insidious depression crept in as we realized that our plans of carefree travel in a trailerable boat were not going to work.  That night we made arrangements to see a much larger boat–a Monk 36 foot trawler.

Option 2–A Possible Live Aboard “Yacht”

At first glance the Monk seemed like a ridiculously large boat–how could we even be thinking about buying such extravagance?  As soon as I entered the main cabin I KNEW that this was the type of boat for us.

Monk 36 Trawler
Monk 36 Trawler

This boat had a flying bridge up top that you can really consider to be an extra room.  The main salon had a dining table and a nice kitchen where you could cook real meals.  There were two sleeping cabins, each with their own heads.  The photo below is of the main cabin–not much smaller than many cruise ship cabins that I’ve stayed in!  The extra cabin meant that we could have guests aboard with everyone maintaining some sense of privacy.  I thought, “Hey, I could actually live here full time!”

Monk 36 Aft Stateroom
Monk 36 Aft Stateroom

The 36 footer won’t be as economical to run and maintain as the 25 footer, and we will lose flexibility with the larger boat.  It would have to be moved only along waterways.  We would have to have it hauled out or rent long-term marina space if we were away from the boat for extended periods of time. This will be a small trade-off for being in a boat that has comfortable living space.  We both loved the boat but knew that we would be fools to buy the first boat we saw, so we are continuing our search.

We are now looking at any and all Monks, Grand Banks, and Albin 36 foot trawlers in our price range and that are located on the Gulf.  If we can get one in the next few months, we will drive it up the Tombigbee or Tennessee River for the winter while we outfit the boat and figure out what we are doing.


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