The Great Loop Cruise of the Salty Turtle

Steve & Nancy Schrimsher

     

    
 
We started our Great Loop adventure in October, 2006, and crossed our wake (finished the Loop) on December 1, 2007.  This is a log of our trip.

We left Ft. Myers, Florida on October 11, 2006, and headed East to cross Lake Okeechobee.   We cruised what is referred to as the “Great Loop” which follows the Intracoastal Waterway along the eastern US coast, up the Hudson River and Erie Canal, through parts of Canada and the Great Lakes, South down the Illinois, Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Tom Bigbee Rivers and then back along the Florida Gulf Coast to Ft. Myers.  Advice from previous “Loopers” told us that we should be off the Great Lakes by early September to avoid bad weather and back to Florida no sooner than late November (hurricanes!).  Other than that, we planned week to week with no set itinerary…

We feel very fortunate to have the good health and opportunity to embark on this adventure!  The trip turned out to be many times better than we had anticipated.  We hope that you find this blog to be inspirational for you to follow your dreams and to enjoy life as much as we are.  You are welcome to start at the beginning or to work your way backwards starting below.  We dedicate this trip to Steve's longtime boating friend, Dennis Anderson, who died prematurely 2 years ago from cancer.  His death convinced us that you can't wait to live your dreams -- do it now.

Steve & Nancy Schrimsher

   
     

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Updated to Dec. 1, 2007
 
 
 

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We Closed the Loop!

Cabbage Key, FL

Dec. 1, 2007


Crossing our wake!
  

This looks familiar!
  

Channel into Cabbage Key
  

Nancy, Art & Pat
   

Wiley watching our wake
   

Dave & Marla Russo
    

We did it!  We “crossed our wake” and finished the “Great Loop”!   We could have made shorter hops down the Florida coastline, but opted to make an overnight run from Apalachicola to Cabbage Key (between Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers on the west coast of Florida).  We left Apalachicola at 7 AM on Friday, November 30, and arrived at Cabbage Key just after noon on Saturday.  It was a calm night and ideal for crossing. 

After a quick burger at the restaurant, we both took a much needed nap.  We take turns at the helm (every 2 hours) on these overnight trips, so we do catch a few winks while underway. But with the engines roaring and boat rocking, even on a calm crossing, “real sleep” is limited.  Steve and I enjoyed a quiet dinner at the restaurant and reminisced about our fantastic trip. 

On Sunday and Monday, we had 3 great visits with friends.  Sunday, we moved the boat to Ft. Myers Beach and had dinner at the Beached Whale with Brad and Deb Gleason (good friends from Sanibel Island).  Then Monday at noon, Art Sherrill, a dear family friend, introduced us to his friend Pat and treated us all to lunch at Matanzas. It was extra fun seeing both the Gleasons and Art because they had bid us farewell over a year ago when we left Punta Gorda to embark on this Loop adventure. 

Then Monday evening, we had a delightful dinner with Dave and Marla from the boat “Adesso”.  They, too, just completed the Loop.  One of the best parts of this trip has been the new friends we have made.  We first met Dave and Marla last April at the Charleston Loop rendezvous.  Since then, we have seen them again at various stops along the way (Brewerton, NY, Chicago, IL, Green Turtle Bay Resort in KY). Because their boat is much faster than ours, they were often ahead of us by days or even weeks, but they made great efforts to keep in touch by phone and email.  We valued their input on good fuel stops and interesting places to see.  

One of the reasons we want to hurry on down the Florida coast is to take advantage of the good weather and cross over to the Bahamas before Christmas if possible.  We look forward to spending time on the East coast with our daughter Stephanie and her husband Donny (who is graduating from College on the 17th!) and will then cross the Gulfstream as soon as weather permits.  The “Loop” is done, but our voyages continue…Stay tuned for the next adventures.
    

    

Final Impressions About the Loop 


Storm in Charleston
  

Ooker takes us crabbing
  

Chesapeake Lighthouse
 

NYC was awesome
  

Beautiful Erie Canal
    

With Honga on the Trent Severn
    

Lift Lock on the Trent Severn
    

Georgian Bay Rocks
   

North Channel Picnic
    

Turtle Rock - N Channel
   

Beaver Island, MI
  

Rosemary & Alwyne Bales
  

Chicago Marina
    

The Grays in Chicago
 

St. Louis Arch
  

Lots of tows on the rivers
    

Tennessee River colors
  

Chattanooga Aquarium
    

Fisherman in fog on the river
  

Steve's old boathouse
 

Tennessee River bluffs
  

Welcome back to the Gulf
   

Mike & Patti Stine
  

Cabbage Key Sentinel
 

On September 27, 2006, we purchased and moved aboard our 44’ Defever trawler and named it “SALTY TURTLE”. Our intent was to do the “Great Loop Circle”.  Over a year and 6100 miles later, on December 1, 2007, we “crossed our wake” as we passed Cayo Costa island just north of Ft. Myers, Florida.  When we first started this adventure, we were very enthused, but had no real clue how diverse and exciting it would be. 

Already, friends are asking, “What part did you like best?” Steve and I have discussed this at length and can not pick just one place or event.  In general, we prefer places which are more quaint and undeveloped, so we especially enjoyed Tangier Island (a “remote” fishing village in the Chesapeake Bay) and Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.  We spent several days at each, taking nature photos and conversing with the locals.  Spending a day with Ooker, the crab fisherman, was an experience beyond description. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and Chattanooga were spectacular!  We’re normally not big city folks (lived the previous 12 years in New Meadows, Idaho-population 600), but these cities had so much to offer.  Entering New York Harbor at dawn and anchoring next to the Statue of Liberty was a memory we will never forget.  Gazing up at the skyscrapers from the architectural tour boat was breathtaking in Chicago.  Riding to the top of the St. Louis Arch in that claustrophobic tram car was…well, another memorable experience. The aquarium at Chattanooga was the best aquatic display we’ve seen anywhere (including Baltimore!). 

For spectacular scenery, Canada’s Georgian Bay and North Channel were hard to beat. The mammoth pink granite rocks and snow-like quartz in the mountains were beautiful. For peaceful anchorages and fun dinghy exploration, the North Channel in Canada and later, Kentucky Lake, were our favorites. 

We are not newcomers to boating and have owned a variety of boats for the past 30 years with most of it done in the ocean.   In spite of our nautical experience, we were amazed at the new things we learned on the inland waterways.  Challenges for Steve, as captain, included dodging crab floats in the Chesapeake and Gulf of Mexico, dodging rocks in Canada (we twanged a prop in the middle of the channel on the Trent-Severn Canal), passing huge “tows” on the rivers, and maneuvering through fog on the Tennessee.  Starting on the Okeechobee Waterway and ending on the Tenn-Tom, we traversed over 100 locks and figure we should be rated “experts” on those techniques! In the end, it has been gratifying to know that we can handle all these different situations on the water.  We really didn’t have any scary experiences along the way, but we have learned to pick our weather.  The boat performed flawlessly for the entire trip with only minor repairs needed such as a new water pump for the generator (we had a spare one with us), fuel filter changes, and oil changes. 

We’ve met lots of new friends on this trip.  Some were locals who graciously welcomed us to their communities.  And then there were the many fellow “Loopers” that we met, who were doing the same trip in all shapes and sizes of boats.  Steve and I preferred not to travel with a group, but had a great time reuniting with different boaters off and on along the way.  Most all had internet access, so we helped each other with information about fuel prices, hazards, and interesting attractions. 

In the beginning, I was overwhelmed by the daily task of planning where to go next? Where to spend the night (anchorage or marina?) Eat out or eat in? What to see?  We soon figured out to take one week at a time (you do need to plan ahead a little bit, for marina reservations, etc.…).  Between multiple guide books and valuable information from other boaters who were up ahead, we did fine. We found it most enjoyable to travel for a few days, but then stay in one spot for a day or more so we could explore by land, too.  Our bikes were used a lot and we rented cars in several instances to widen our scope even further. 

“So what about the costs? How can you afford to go with the fuel prices these days?” many ask.  Our attitude is how can you afford NOT to go.  Life is short, fuel prices are not likely to go down in the foreseeable future, and there are so many places to see.   We’re not getting any younger and feel fortunate to have the good health to go these places now.  Our “Loop” is done, but our travels on the SALTY TURTLE have only begun.  We are spending the winter in the Abacos, Bahamas and have just purchased the travel guides for Mexico and Central America.  We are thoroughly enjoying our life aboard the “SALTY TURTLE” and welcome those who dare to join us (by boat, as a guest, or by internet www.saltyturtle.com ).  We welcome your emails at nancy@schrimsher.com  

PS- Wiley, our tabby cat who just had his 13th birthday, is alive and well.  He has survived four swims in the past 15 months, and seems quite content to stay on board at the moment.  He only delayed our trip for one day in Canada, when he decided to take his own day trip ashore at Henry’s Fish Camp – where there were bountiful chipmunks near the dock.  He is a great boat cat and never gets seasick – although he does express his disapproval when the seas get rough.
    

    

Posted December 10

Thanksgiving with the Stines

Mobile Bay and Pensacola 


House on the Tombigbee
    

Mobile Downtown
   

Ship in Mobile
    

Oil Rig underway
  

On the way to Pensacola
  

Dolphins greeted us
    

Deep frying the turkey
    

Patti & her pies
  

A group effort
    

Nancy & Patti Decorating
   

Naval Air Museum
  

Dozens of planes on display
   

After miles of slow, narrow, winding waterways, entering Mobile’s bustling harbor was an adrenaline rush.  We passed several huge cargo ships and two oil rigs (one being towed by 6 tug boats!).  As we crossed Mobile Bay we were thrilled to see three porpoises playing in our wake (the first we had seen since the East Coast last spring). 

The highlight of our two weeks in Mobile and Pensacola was the time spent with our long time friends Patti and Mike Stine.  We were all in our twenties and living in Ft. Lauderdale when we first met.  Back in the 1980’s, Mike built a beautiful 45 foot fiberglass sailboat and they named it “Valkyrie”.   He and Patti then went on an incredible four year voyage which included Costa Rica, American Samoa, and Australia.  Many years later, Steve designed and built a vacation home for the Stines and Mike’s parents in Idaho, and we have managed to keep in touch for all these years. 

Patti and Mike generously invited us to Thanksgiving dinner at their condo in Pensacola.  We deep fried the turkey (actually two, so they could share leftovers with us!).  The fried turkey was a first for us and really yummy.  Crisp skin and moist meat!  I made the stuffing, Steve made the gravy, and Patti did the rest including 2 delicious homemade pies (one apple and one pumpkin)!   

Then on Saturday, Patti and I had fun decorating their Christmas tree (a “girl thing”), while Mike and Steve escaped to the National Naval Aviation Museum (a “boy thing”).  That, and a couple more fun meals together completed a fantastic holiday.  Thank you Patti and Mike!!!!

 

    
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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain