Door County couple take a 6,200 mile boat ride on the Great American Loop

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CITY OF GARDNER – Peter Glassen has long dreamed of doing something rarer than successfully climbing Mount Everest. Over the past 12 months, he and his wife have made the dream come true.

Peter and Cheryl recently piloted their 48-foot-long powerboat on a nearly year-long cruise of the Great American Loop, an approximately 6,000-mile adventure that circles the eastern part of the States -United.

In doing so, they earned a BaccaLOOPerate diploma from the Great Loop Cruisers’ American Association, a South Carolina-based organization made up of people interested in looping. The association charts a variety of potential loop routes ranging from a minimum of 5,250 miles to over 6,000 and serves as a resource for those who want to cruise or otherwise get involved.

The organization says around 150 boaters are recognized with a BaccaLOOPerate by completing the loop each year, which it says makes the feat more unique than climbing Mount Everest (an average of 500-600 people reach the summit each year, including guides and locals) or trying to swim across the English Channel (around 300 a year according to the BBC, although only one in five make it all the way).

In the case of the Glassens, their Grande Boucle covered around 6,200 miles and passed through around 125 locks, Peter said. From their home in Little Sturgeon, they took their 48-foot-long motor yacht, the Varlabania, out into Lake Michigan and sailed to Chicago;

Then follow the inland rivers (the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee-Tombigbee) through Nashville and Mobile to the Gulf of Mexico;

Follow the Gulf Coast to the Florida Keys;

Then head north on the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway to New York City, with a side trip to the Bahamas;

Take the Hudson River to the Erie and Oswego Canals and into Lake Ontario;

A map of the Great American Loop.

Sail to Trenton, Ontario, and work across the province on the winding Trent-Severn Waterway in Georgian Bay off Lake Huron;

Then down the St. Mary’s River to the Strait of Mackinac, Lake Michigan and back to Sturgeon Bay.

Those working towards a BaccaLOOPerate have the option of doing so in segments over a period of time or in a continuous cruise that typically lasts around a year, depending on reliability and detours along the way. The Glassens did it in 340 days – from September 2, 2021 to August 7 this year – breaking the journey to get their dock out of the water in October and back into the water in May.

It was the culmination of something Peter had wanted to do for years. He said he had sailed most of his life and owned a trawler for cruising in the 1990s.

“For me, what I knew (about the Big Loop) was that it was Pete’s dream,” Cheryl said. “We bought our boat seven years ago to fulfill his dream.”

Help other loopers

While waiting to ride the Great Loop, he and Cheryl welcomed boaters crossing Door County waters as they attempted the loop.

“We actually arranged dates, met boaters doing the loop,” Peter said. “It was one of my wishes that once I could do that.”

Boaters welcoming other boaters along the loop helped the Glassens complete their adventure. The Surveyors Association has a list of harbor hosts, volunteers who can offer help, advice and information on local services, and things to see and do to surveyors who stop in their way .

The Glassens have been harbor hosts for three years, and they’ve taken visiting loopers shopping, helped them navigate local waters, helped with repairs, guided them to restaurants and activities, helped them find open docks or marina spaces and held Docktail Parties.

“We’re hosts, so we make accommodations when the loopers join us,” Peter said.

The hospitality was reciprocated for the Glassens on their loop, he said.

“(The harbor hosts) were wonderful,” he said. “Some hosted ‘Docktails’ parties, some helped us navigate the Intercoastal Waterway, they helped us get Staten Island slides.”

Cheryl added another case that happened while they were docked to another looper in Melbourne, Florida. This surveyor had a dog with him who was sick, so a harbor host put him in touch with a veterinarian.

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Locked out in North Carolina

Peter and Cheryl said they had no major issues on their loop. “The most memorable incident,” Peter said, happened when they docked with another looper in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

“It was a free dock, and there was a sign that said come to town, visit our establishments,” he said. “So we did. And we got back to the boat at 9 p.m. And the door (to the dock) was locked.”

This led to a 911 call, but the officer who came out, who Peter said was very nice, did not cut the lock. The dock owner was contacted but said he did not know who had the key.

So Peter called the local fire department and said his boat was on fire, and the responders came out and removed the barrier from the fence. Although this solved the main problem, it is not the end of the story.

As firefighters removed the door, an old station wagon approached, crossing the grass toward the dock. Peter said everyone thought it was someone who had the key to the door. Instead, he was a temperamental man who, according to Peter, was “stone-drunk” behind the wheel, causing more squad cars to come out to stop him.

“So we had three police cars and a fire engine there to get us back to our boat,” he said.

Otherwise, they said they hadn’t had any issues that Peter couldn’t fix himself or didn’t need a major layover.

“We were lucky. Everything that happened was pretty minor,” Cheryl said. “I don’t think we ever had to dock a day longer than originally planned.”

See the United States from the water

The most memorable incidents were planned and enjoyable, the couple said. In addition to heading to the Bahamas, they took trips to Nashville, the Florida Keys and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge near Norfolk, Virginia, which despite its name is home to a huge range of species. plants and wildlife.

Cheryl said it’s a great way to experience the sights and history of these parts of the United States and Canada, going at a more leisurely pace than traveling from place to place on the highway at 65 or 75 mph.

“Most often our travel speed was 7-10 knots (8-10.5 mph),” Cheryl said. “It’s a more relaxing experience to be able to see the United States from the water.”

Besides the sights, there are also the people. Along with the Harbor Hosts and other loopers on their travels, they were also able to meet and hang out with family and friends along the way, which Cheryl says made it a memorable experience.

“It’s all the great people you meet along the loop,” she said. “Definitely loopers, people you meet at marinas, we had family and friends joining us.”

And she said that although they learned a lot during their adventure, one lesson stands out.

“The key is to take it one day at a time,” Cheryl said, “and enjoy the people you’re with.”

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

For more information about the Great Loop Cruisers’ Association of America, call 877-GR8-LOOP (478-5667) or visit greatloop.org.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-562-8900 or cclough@doorcountyadvocate.com.

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