You're sitting at a bar beside the Mississippi River, on the shores of the Great Lakes or somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard.
The sun is shining, the waves are lapping and you're sipping on a tropical libation.
You start chatting with a couple sitting next to you who are sporting golden tans and also seem to be several cocktails ahead of you.
They head to the bar for another round of drinks while you whisper under your breath "those two are a little loopy".
Hearing what you said, they turn around with big smiles on their faces and say: "no, we're actually loop-ers".
The "Great Loop" is an approximately 6,000-mile long network of navigable waterways that encircles the entire eastern half of the United States.
Becoming a "looper"-the nickname for those who float the route-is bucket list material for many as this adventure offers stunning natural scenery, plenty of serenity and romantic riverside towns in addition to gobs of good times.
The most popular Great Loop route takes into account the seasons and subsequently starts out in the spring on the East Coast. Here, loopers follow the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway north from Florida all the way up to New York's Hudson River.
There, they take the Hudson over to the Erie Canal and across to the Great Lakes and Chicago-thus avoiding the region's infamous winters.
In the autumn, loopers sail south via the Illinois River to meet up with the Mississippi River near St. Louis. After a brief stint on the Mississippi, loopers then latch onto the Ohio River to connect with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway via the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.
Just as temperatures are starting to get chilly up North (and hurricane season has ended), the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway sends loopers south to the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico near Mobile. Here, they follow along with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway around Florida before cutting across the Sunshine State on the Lake Okeechobee Waterway to complete the journey.
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Highlights Along the Way
While you are bound to be blown away at nearly every bend of the Great Loop; There are a few sights that stand out more than others:
-Chesapeake Bay - Arguably the nation's most famous beautiful bay, this estuary is full of wildlife, dock bars and the historic cities of Annapolis and Baltimore.
-The Thousand Islands - This collection of nearly 2,000 islands on the border of the USA and Canada are a boater's-and salad eater's-dream.
-Sandusky, Ohio - The home to Cedar Point, one of the nation's finest amusement parks and known as the "rollercoaster capital of the world".
-Mackinac Island, Michigan - Seemingly stuck in time, the only traffic you will find on this charming island is the horse-and-buggy variety.
-Grafton, Illinois - Near the confluence of the Mississippi & Illinois River, this town is home to antique shops, a winery in the hills and a great boating bar called The Loading Dock.
-Paducah, Kentucky - An artsy riverside town recognized as a UNESCO Creative City.
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How Much Time and Money is This Great Loop Going to Cost Me?
A trip will cost you as much or as little as your traveling style requires. The Great Loop typically takes around a year, but you could stretch it out over a couple if you build in enough diversions and side-trips.
While you can do the Great Loop in a budget-friendly sailboat, most folks seem to opt for a mid-size trawler. Used boats with a few miles on them can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, while newer versions require six figures.
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