Ever heard of a Looper? We hadn’t either until we had the chance to check out Carole and DeVere Dennings’ blog about their journey through America’s waterways on their boat, “Job Site.”
We caught up with our hometown travelers midway through their trip, and Carole answered some of our questions about their journey.
GCR: Is this the first time you’ve made this trip?
CD: Well, the first time we have made the first half of it anyway. We bought our boat 16 years ago and took delivery of it in Florida. So we motored it up the east coast to Michigan in 2000. We had never been down the river system to Florida.
GCR: For those of us who didn’t know the term, what’s a Looper?
CD: A Looper is a member of Americas Great Loop Cruisers Association. (AGLCA) Members of this great, or Loopers, follow a path that takes them; in our case, from Michigan down the river system, including the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Tombigbee and into the Gulf of Mexico via Mobile, Alabama.
Most Loopers then follow a path down the west coast of Florida, across the State at Lake Okeechobee, and then up the east coast, along the Erie Canal, through the Georgian Bay in Ontario and back to Michigan. Boaters can pick up this path from anywhere and they complete their loop when they “cross their wake.” They then become “Gold Loopers.”
About 100 boaters complete this feat yearly. The entire trip is between 4,000-6,000 miles depending on the route taken. We have already gone 4,500 miles and estimate our entire trip to be around 8,000 miles. We began our trip on Aug. 31, 2015 on the day we retired. We came home for a short time in October and for Christmas. Actually when we reach Daytona Beach, we will have crossed our wake. It just took us 16 years to accomplish it!
GCR: What’s been the most challenging part of the trip?
CD: I think that the 250 miles of the great Mississippi River was pretty challenging. It is a very fast moving river and really full of logs and debris. We had to be very alert at all times.
We also had to time our daily trips all along the river system as there are not a lot of marinas or fuel stops and we came down the river when it was getting dark early. We did have to anchor out quite often. We had to find protected areas as huge tugs that push as many 30 barges at once pass by all night, causing huge wakes. We also had to time our trips for the dozens of locks that we had to pass through. Tugs take priority so sometimes we had to sit and wait for hours for a lock, passing up our opportunity for a dock downstream due to darkness setting in. There always had to be a Plan B.
GCR: What’s been the best part?
CD: The best part of the trip has definitely been meeting the other Loopers. Along the rivers, we were all jammed into the same locks and marinas along the way. Some of the people that we met last fall are still traveling with us here in the Bahamas. Others left us just last week, but will see us in the summer when they pass through Michigan or join us in the south next winter. We have decided to extend our loop into two years. We have made friends that we will treasure for years to come.
GCR: Are you traveling with a group of people, or have you just met them along the way?
CD: We began our loop not knowing anyone. Loopers all fly an AGLCA burgee so when we see another boat flying one, we greet them and we are instant friends. We met several at each port and saw the same Loopers for months after that. Sometimes we alter our plans to travel together; sometimes we just meet up by accident.
GCR: Where are you now, and where are you headed from there?
CD: We are in the Bahamas right now. We will be here for a couple of months just exploring the Exumas and Abacos. We have been here many times on other friends’ boats, so we have favorite places to visit.
We will leave here in mid-May and head up the East coast to Hilton Head. We plan to leave our boat inland a ways beyond a lock to protect it from tidal swings. We will return by car to Michigan for the summer. DeVere wants to hunt this fall, so we will return to the boat after hunting season and take it back to Florida and the Bahamas once again. The wind and water in the Bahamas is calmer in March, April, and May, so we will repeat this winter’s schedule.
GCR: What made you decide to do a Blog about the trip?
CD: I originally decided to do this blog to record our trip in pictures and thoughts for our reference, but also so it could be shared with DeVere’s folks. They do not have a computer, so our daughter, Angela, has created a large book for them and adds pages each week with the photos and print for them.
Once I started blogging, I posted my blog site to my Facebook friends. Since then I have had over 1600 people viewing the blog with 5,300 views so far. It has been far more popular than I ever dreamed.
When we were moving daily, I blogged daily. When we arrived in Florida and stayed in one location for a while, I only blogged occasionally and only when I had some photos that were interesting. Now that we are in the Bahamas, I have great photos, but not very good WiFi, so I’m not sure how much I will be able to blog.
We’ve enjoyed sharing the trip vicariously through The Dennings’ blog, and you may too! To check out pictures and stories from the trip, head to http://denningsjobsite.com/.