This web site has been established to share our Great Loop Cruise and other boating experiences with old friends, new friends, and family. For visitors who don't know us as well, here's a little background information.
We "did the Loop" between July 2002 and August 2003. We've been married since 1972, so we took the big cruise during our 30th anniversary year. What a great way to celebrate! Our son Jon and his wife Katarzyna live in the Chicago area, so of course, Chicago was on the itinerary!
We were experienced boaters before doing the Great Loop. We had done extensive cruising on the Arkansas River and its locks. We took multiple courses from the United States Power Squadrons (Seamanship, Cruise Planning, Weather, Piloting) and a week-long boat-handling course from the Annapolis Powerboat School (fantastic--and geared to each student's level of experience).
Since completing the Loop, we've cruised another several thousand miles on the Inland Rivers (Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas, Tennessee, Cumberland, Tenn-Tom, St. Croix). Calypso Poet spent three years on the Tennessee River, but in the summer of 2007, we brought her back to Arkansas after a side trip up to Wisconsin and Minnesota on the Upper Mississippi.
Along the way, we upgraded our boats, going from a 1997 24' Bayliner pocket cruiser to a 1999 Carver Santego 38 cockpit cruiser to a 2001 Carver 396 aft-cabin motoryacht (the Great Loop Boat) to our current boat, a 2001 Carver 466 aft-cabin motoryacht.
Even so, we learned so much during our Great Loop cruise, and we found new boating challenges in the many different waters of the Loop. Going through 142 locks that year and docking at more than 150 different marinas and slips really sharpened our close-handling skills. Our observational skills were honed by murky river waters (hiding logs and deadheads), narrow channels, shallow coastal waterways (watch the color!), and of course, crab pots.
In 2005, we studied for the U.S. Coast Guard OUPV (popularly known as the "Six Pack") license. Thanks to terrific instruction from our SeaSchool instructor, Capt. Marti Heath, we passed the tests, and we have subsequently obtained our captain's licenses. Yes, this means two captains on board, but Gary has always considered Coleen "the Admiral."
But to get back to our personal info: Gary is an Arkansas native, a family practice physician (now retired), science fiction buff, online game player extraordinaire (one of the masters at Ultima Online), and intrepid mechanic. If he can't fix something, it's not for lack of trying. Completing the Great Loop Cruise had been his dream for many years. To get ready for the trip, he studied cruising guides from every section of the Loop, consulted with other Loop cruisers online, and made extensive calculations. All of this preparation paid off. You can never know too much.
Coleen grew up all over the middle U.S. (born in Wisconsin, attended schools in Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas, and Jamaica); her parents finally settled in Arkansas when she was in high school. She's a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she teaches an assortment of basic and advanced legal writing courses, maintaining a web site for her courses, Barger on Legal Writing. She also served as webmaster for the trip, and it was often a challenge to find an Internet connection to upload new entries. Since our return home, she's written an article for Great Lakes Boating called "Doing the Loop," which does a pretty good job of summarizing the adventure in under four pages. If you want more than that, keep reading this web site.
Our dog Maggie travelled many miles with us. She was a Cocker/Lab mix who liked to supervise our boat handling, particularly when transiting locks. She was also a great squirrel hunter, and she enjoyed searching for and locating the many varieties of squirrels on our journey. She also became quite adept at rating marinas for "dog-worthiness." She passed away a few years ago, but we've kept her ratings here for those of you who have dogs and are wondering how they adjust to extended cruising.
Cruising the Great Loop is a wonderful experience, but wow, it takes a lot of energy--mental and physical. We got stronger as we went. We also learned so much about working together as a team. We met interesting people every where we went, but best of all, we really got to know each other.