At the end of their journey, at the crossing of their wake, most loopers note their vital figures:
– number of miles: 6683
– engine hours: 1000
– number of locks
– number of anchorages
Being Aussies, we see things a little differently! Our vital figures are:
– number of frequent flyer points: 100,000+ air miles
– number of winterisations/layups: 7
– number of years sailing the loop: 6
– number of hours watching TV: 0
Highlights are so many and so varied. We sailed the loop in slow time, stopped often and chose to explore areas for days at a time. So many areas we loved, soaking up the history and culture:
Jekyll Island, Isle of Hope, southern plantations, Onancock, Annapolis, Tangier Island, the White House, Erie Canal, Kennedy Space Centre, Rideau Canal, Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay… and the list goes on.
The challenges were few. Overcoming my fear of night sailing across the Gulf of Mexico ended up being one of my most rewarding experiences. To look into the night sky and see the spectacular and glorious array of stars will stay with me forever. As well, to rise to the challenge of helming at night whilst Mark slept, gave me such confidence.
The friends we have met along the way have been what has made this trip. Friends who have hosted us in their homes, their cities, their hearts. We hope to extend equally warm hospitality in Sydney. Some friends we only knew for a short while, yet we had such simpatico. Others, such as Summer Wind, our lives will forever be connected.
The people we met on the loop, some for just minutes, have such a spirit of generosity, wanting to ‘pay it forward’. Every place we visited we met people who went out of their way to help in whatever way they could: loaning a car, taking us shopping, giving us tools or food or resources or expertise. Always giving with never any expectation of receiving. Truly salt of the earth people.
And as for our buddy boats… what fun we had! The laughter, the pranks, the food, the stories, the mate-ship! The replenishment at sea with Exhale – freshly baked bread for freshly baked cookies. The delivery of smoked fish in Snug Harbour, Georgian Bay, by Stay Cool. Or the biscotti run to buddy boats at anchor on the Illinois River. How happy we were to meet up again whenever we could! How comforting it was to know we had friends at our back, or in the case of Bushranger’s slow pace, in front, to be able to call on them at a moment’s notice.
We could not have asked for a better boat in which to complete the Great Loop than Bushranger. An old girl of 40 years, she was lovingly restored and outfitted by her previous Aussie owners, good friends of ours. We knew when we bought her sight unseen she would be wonderful, but Bushranger surpassed our expectations. Beautiful and sturdy, Bushranger provided us a comfortable and reliable home on the water, able to entertain in style and space. We maintained her to the best of our ability: regular checks and service, detailing, varnishing (brightwork) and polishing, and painting decks. When instruments or equipment came to end of life, and sometimes before, we replaced them.
We hand her over to the new owner shiny and well-maintained. She is our pride. It is hard to let her go. Six years she has been our USA ‘home’. We have sailed with family: my brother, our daughter and son-in-law and grandkids. What memories we have! Now, she will go on making memories for others.
Such is Life!