The American Great Loop provides an inland cruising route encircling the eastern third of the country, following the Atlantic ICW and Hudson River north; west on American and Canadian canals and the Great Lakes; south on the inland waterways (Chicago River to the Tenn-Tom Canal and Gulf of Mexico); then east to Florida's West Coast and the Okeechobee Waterway or the Keys and Bahamas to Florida's East Coast, completing the circuit.
Boaters begin at any point and cruise the 5,000- to 7,000-mile trip through more than 100 locks, basically according to the seasons: summer in New England and Canada, fall in the Great Lakes and inland rivers, winter in Florida and the Bahamas, and spring coming up the East Coast.
"The Great Loop provides enough adventure without putting boaters in danger," says Janice Kromer, co-owner of the family-run American Great Loop Cruisers' Association. Most of the 2,000 member couples own 36- to 45-foot powerboats. As in any cruising circuit, camaraderie runs high among the participants.
The organization, founded in 1999, does more than foster friendships. It shares vital information among members who have cruised the Loop, those en route and those who are dreaming about it or planning to do it. "AGLCA brings people together through its website, www.greatloop.org, e-mails between members, and talking with other Loopers," says Louis Wade. "Our AGLCA burgee is a door opener to instant friendships. The more experienced Loopers share information, help with problems and include us [newcomers] in gatherings. We, in turn, pass on what we can to those following."
Ron and Eva Stob founded the cruisers association in 1999 after they cruised the Great Loop and wanted to introduce its delights to others. In 2007, Janice and Steve Kromer, avid boaters active in the association for years and owners of a family telecommunications database operation, began running the organization with their two daughters.
The group's website spreads the word about "Looping," with tutorials, video presentations, tips, maps, FAQs on cruising specifics, Loopers' photos, a ship's store, events, rendezvous, reunions, a speakers bureau, sponsors and links to member blogs, books and websites.
For an annual $49 a couple, the association offers members bimonthly newsletters covering locks, weather, equipment, education, charts, guidebooks, etc.; a white association burgee (gold for those who complete the Loop); free newsletter ads; searchable online newsletter archives; searchable online member lists; discounts on association merchandise, Enterprise rental cars and other items; e-mail groups; and several annual rendezvous with seminars, information and camaraderie. The new "Looper Locator" gives the current location of members' boats, sponsor locations and members' homes through a program combining Google Earth with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Army Corps of Engineers vector charts.
"AGLCA and its members have been invaluable help to us in planning, coordinating and conducting our cruise," Wade says. "Though we have completed the Loop, we plan to continue offering any help we can."
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This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue.