Great Loop Boat Restrictions
A mission statement
or quote about the
Great Boats for the Great Loop
  We all have fantasies over "Dream Boats". I have
mine and I'm sure you have yours. However, "Dream
Boats" can be real dream busters. . . For many reasons!
  If indeed your 'dream' is the voyage vs the boat; you're
headed in the right direction to live your dream.
      When it comes to cruising America's Great Loop safely & comfortably, the good
news is this can be accomplished on somewhat of a frugal budget. How much of a
'frugal' budget depends on you. We all have our own lifestyle, comfort zones and
pocketbooks. So just how frugal you can be, want to be or need to be; depends on your
current lifestyle.
  Most everyone cruising the Great Loop (referred to as "Loopers"), are cruising in great
used humble vessels somewhere between 32 and 42 feet in length. Yes, there are a few
50 footers cruising the Loop but those are a rare sight indeed.
  While good common sense should limit the size of our boat, fact is, the Great Loop
limits the size of our boat for us.
  1. The height of the boat's superstructure above the water is limited to 19 feet. There is
a 19' 1" FIXED BRIDGE we all must go under. So after you take down your mast, and
or remove all your radar and radio antennas, your boat must clear this bridge.
  2. Your beam (width) of your vessel is limited to 23 feet - that is - if you want total
unrestricted access to Canada's Heritage Canals.
  3. Your vessel's
fully loaded draft (depth) under the water should not be more than 5
feet. With a 5' fully loaded draft you will have unrestricted route access in both the U.S.
& Canada. While boaters in 6' drafts have made this voyage, under current waterway
conditions, we suggest a draft of 5' or less, and less is much better.   
The Trawler - The Trawler makes for a wonderful live
aboard and long distance cruising boat. It looks great
and it is extremely comfortable for its size. Fact is, if
you don't mind the stairs, this vessel offers the most
roomy live aboard space you will find of any
comparable boat the same length.
Most popular type & size of Great Loop Boats:
Trawlers are the most
popular Great Loop boat
followed by Sailboats.

The average length for
couples cruising the Loop
is between 32 and 42 feet.

Most are also purchased
on the used market and
many are sold after this
voyage is complete.
The Trawler
The Sailboat
The Sailboat - The sailboat is beyond doubt the
very most economical vessel on the water. This is
  That's right, even "motored" around the entire
Great Loop, this will be, by far, the cheapest way to
  Obviously, they make good live aboard and long
distance cruising boats. If you learn to sail (which is
very easy to do) this vessel offers you cruising
opportunities that include the full length of the
Caribbean and on around the World.
  The Trawler is the very most popular boat for
cruising the Great Loop, and the reasons are pretty
obvious. For their size, they offer the most comfortable
live aboard space. They also have an inside lower helm
station and a topside upper helm station on the Flybridge.
Caution however should be taken when looking at and
buying a Trawler. You can get one that is extremely
economical or you can end up with one that out to be a
real fuel burning dragon.
The 'True' or 'Slow' Trawler - is really the only 'real'
trawler. These vessels were built specifically for long
distance cruising and economy.
They typically have a small single engine, a full
displacement hull, and larger fuel and fresh water tanks.
They normally have a cruising speed of around 7 knots.
The 'Fake' or 'Fast' Trawler - is really not a 'Trawler'
at all. They look like one, but that's where the
similarities stop. The 'fast' Trawler has a semi
displacement hull and normally two big engines. They
usually have a cruising speed of around 12 knots.
  So what do you get for more speed? You get and
incredibly larger fuel bill. While some will argue that
twin engines don't burn twice the fuel - I've not had that
My experience? When one has more speed available,
one will use it. So add that to the equation of one small
engine running at 7 knots vs two engines running at 10
or 15 knots, and no matter how you look at it, you're
burning at least twice the fuel.
  The single engine 'true' trawler has a full displacement
hull (same as a sailboat). These hulls were designed to
move effortlessly forward through the water. Put a jet
engine on the stern of one of these vessels and it will
sink before it gets up on plane. Yet, very little energy is
required to move them through the water.
  On the other hand, with a 'Fast' trawler, which has a
semi-displacement hull - it will get up on plane. The
design of this hull is so that a portion of the engines'
horse power is actually spent trying to lift this vessel's
heavy bow up and out of the water.
  Therefore, the 'fast' trawlers comfortable cruising
speed is much faster. It also requires more fuel to
maintain its speed. Problem is, after a few hours
cruising at 7 knots, the guy in the twin engine vessel is
going to bump that throttle up and increase his speed to
10, 12 or 15 knots. When he does this, he will feel like
he is flying. What's flying however is his fuel, and it's
burning through his engines in direct portion to the size
of his wake. Most 44' to 54' plus fast Trawlers will
burn 8 or more gallons of fuel an hour at 10 knots.
Bump that up to 15 knots and you are looking at a fuel
consumption of 30 or 40 gallons an hour.
  My experience? My 'true' Slow 34' Trawler averaged
burning just under 2 gallons of fuel per hour at 7 knots
speed. My 32' 'Fast' trawler averaged over 4 gallons an
hour while 'trying my best' to maintain the same 7 knot
speed - which I found impossible to do.
  My recommendation: Twin engines for the extra
juice, simply isn't worth the squeeze! I have a friend
that has a 55' Fast Trawler. He tells me at 17 knots it
burns near 50 gallons an hour. - Ouch!
Remember. . .  The moment you select your boat . . .
You have predetermined your long distance cost of cruising and boat ownership!
- Capt. John
   This is the inside of a 35' Pearson. The
disadvantage is the stairs leading from the cockpit to
the cabin. You can see the Galley with the sink, it
has a stove and burner top and built in refrigerator.
This model also has Forward and Aft "Staterooms".
Well, that's what they call them, but they are actually
rooms just big enough for a bed.
   What's great about a sailboat is it's fuel
economy and fuel range. Obviously, if you know
how to sail and love doing it, if you sail as much
as you can around the Loop, you will cut about
50% off your fuel cost.
The bad news about that is you will have to have
your mast stepped in a minimum of two locations.
That means, having your mast taken down, then put
up, and then taken down and put up again. Unless
you are Superman cruising with Superwoman - most
of us can't do that ourselves so we have to pay to
have it done. This normally costs around $10 a foot -
both ways. So if you are in the 35' Pearson (above) it
will cost you $350 to have your mast taken down
and another $350 to have it put back up. Since you
have to do this twice going around the Loop, you
have to way that $700 fee against the fuel you save.
  On the other hand, some Loopers in sailboats leave
their mast down the entire voyage. Others take their
mast down at the first Canal entrance and leave it
down until they are past that 19' bridge south of
Chicago - but they miss sailing the Great Lakes,
which happens to be the best and safest 'sailing'
portion on this entire voyage. Assuming of course,
one does not want to go out into the open ocean.
WHAT I DO. . .
      Only if the shoe fits, should you wear it.
 At 70 years of age, I simply no longer want to
mess with a mast & sails. So I took mine off, and I
no longer even think about it. I motor around the
entire Loop averaging around 7 knots and burning
about 1.2 gallons of fuel per hour. That gets me
around a 6,300 mile Loop which includes Canada, on
about 1,100 gallons of fuel.
  At an average of $3.05 per gallon (my 2016
voyage) I spent less than $3,300 on fuel.
  Divide that by the days (321) and my fuel cost for
cruising the Loop averaged out to about $10.00 per
day for fuel.
  Add that to spending $3,772 for paying to stay 74
nights in a Marina, plus my Canal fees, and my total
transportation & lodging cost for spending the best
part of a year cruising the Great Loop cost me
$7,072 or $22.00 a day. That's a year long vacation
cost for my transportation and lodging.
   Who ever said this voyage was only for the rich &
famous?  Certainly not me!
   Obviously. . . The above is NOT my total cost of cruising the Loop. What I never mention about "Loop cruising
costs" are my personal expenses for food, eating out, beverage, laundry, rental cars, entertainment, and a boat
load things like soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, toilet paper, clothes or souvenirs I buy along the way. I don't give
financial figures on "non-boat related items" because everyone has their own lifestyle, comfort zone and pocket
book. What I will tell you is that I spend more money on this stuff than I do on boat related stuff.
   That's the way I like it. You have to budget for what you like to do. My philosophy of "more fun than fuel" is
why I'm in the most economical vessel I can afford. That's how I afford more fun ashore.
 I am NOT suggesting that anyone "do as I do". I'm not
even going to say "my way is best". It's only best for me.
Your comfort is a vital key to success and enjoyment on
this voyage. If you're not happy, your 1st Mate won't be
happy and visa versa.
There are also other boat options than a Trawler or
Sailboat - I'm just giving you the best and most popular.  
For those with pontoon, houseboats, cabin cruisers, jet
skis and ski boats, I simply can't advise making this
voyage (or even trying to) in these type vessels. Between
being safe and excessive fuel requirements, I can't
recommend them.
© 2017
America's Great Loop
You don't just cruise it. . . You live it!