But for anyone contemplating doing the loop, it starts with the list below of the things we think are essential to have on your boat:
- A VERY strong relationship
- 2 sets of binoculars
- A powerful, tennis racket-style bug zapper (useful and fun)
- Screens on all windows, portholes and doors (we were swarmed 3 times)
- A Seagull brand water filtration system (eliminates the need for bottled water)
- A washer/dryer (allows you to keep up with shorts, t-shirts, towels...takes the pressure off the laundry thing - you still need big, commercial washers and dryers for big stuff like blankets)
- An oven, a microwave and a toaster oven large enough for a dinner plate
- A separate shower compartment in the head
- Built-in fans (in addition to A/C and heat) - one for each person in each stateroom; one on each side of the helm; and wherever else it makes sense to put one
- 2 VHF radios
- AIS (at least a receiver)
- Boat cards (get them before you start and if you are going to do a blog, put the blog address on your card)
- Extra freezer
- Over-the-air TV antenna with signal amplifier
- Satellite TV
- WIFI antenna
- A "Marker Minder" - it's a toy-like thing you can switch around to remind you when it's NOT red-right-returning (we had one that suction-cupped onto our throttle base)
- A #2 sticker on the left side of your chart plotter and a #1 sticker on the right side of your chart plotter to remind you of which way to go when a tow operator tells you to pass him "on the ones" or "on the twos"
- An Ipad with both cellular and WIFI capability and maximum memory so you can download both Navionics and Garmin charts with Active Captain and use it as a backup chartplotter as well as getting valuable info from Active Captain on marinas, bridges, and local hazards to navigation that can change daily.
- Windshield wipers and washer
Things that surprised us:
- How beautiful the East coast of Lake Michigan was - Caribbean blue water, huge sand dunes and beautiful small towns that look like Edgartown (big old, white houses with wraparound porches) every 20 miles;
- The frequent kindness and generosity of complete strangers - several times, we had people we'd met five minute before, hand us their car keys (amazing); and
- How little stuff and room you need to live very happily and comfortably.
Things we learned:
1) The War of 1812 was a big deal. But since our schools don't cover it in their curricula in any detail, most Americans including us, know little or nothing about it. It played a HUGE role in practically everywhere we went on the loop. We can't tell you the number of War of 1812 Museums, museum exhibits, forts and battle grounds we visited. Anyway, here's the gist (we think):
What prompted the War of 1812 was:
- British attacks on American shipping
- Impressment of American sailors by the British into their navy
- Fomenting of Native American attacks on Americans by the British
- Expansionism by the Americans, beyond the territory they had won in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War, into what the British regarded as their remaining territory (including Canada).
Turns out, the Native Americans were the biggest losers of the War of 1812. That was because: a) they had sided with the losing Brits; and b) the continuing expansionism by the Americans (Manifest Destiny) forced them off their lands and onto reservations. The infamous "Trail of Tears" was a forced march during which thousands of Native Americans died on their way to reservations.
2) Canada is more beautiful than we'd ever imagined and Canadians are very friendly people;
3) We loved doing the loop, but long-term cruising is not for us - too little exercise and too much food (bad lifestyle at least for us);
4) The Great Lakes really are like the ocean; Chesapeake Bay also looks like the ocean in places;
5) About half of Americans seem to subsist on fried food
6) The big rivers can become boring because the levies with trees growing on them on both sides, block your view;
7) The Florida Keys have great weather year-round;
8) Nordic Tugs are wonderful boats;
9) Box wine, especially "Bota Box," is great - Canadian wine...not so much;
10) Alligators like to swim around boats with dogs on them (wonder why?);
11) It's not good to leave your cooler outside in areas where there are beer-thirsty teens; and
10) It's not good to leave your garbage outside in areas where there are raccoons and bears.
1) Some new, life-long friendships;
2) The satisfaction of having finished the loop;
3) Having seen parts of this country and Canada we never would have seen had we not been on a boat; and
4) Having had an incredible adventure and the time of our lives!