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Quite simply, “America’s Great Loop” just may be one of the world’s great boat trips. Whether planning the trip of a lifetime encompassing the entire route (up to 6,300 miles!) or just boating a portion of this classic combination of waterways (and side trips), the Great Loop provides a great way to see eastern North America from the water.

Also known as the “Great Circle Route,” the Great Loop is a is a continuous waterway that encompasses the eastern portion of North America--including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland. It is considered one of the safest long distance cruising routes in the world. To travel all or a portion of the Great Loop, and any of its magnificent side trips, is truly an adventure of a lifetime.

The saga for most “loopers” begins in the early-spring in southeastern Florida. The journey north follows the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway along the southeastern seaboard of the United States all the way into the Chesapeake Bay--discovering charming barrier islands along the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas--with most loopers using bicycles to explore state parks and cities.

From the crab-rich Chesapeake, loopers head to Montreal by way of the historic Hudson River, exploring historic towns of immense charm and cruising by sights like the Statue of Liberty. The St. Lawrence River carries them into the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes, although sometimes uncertain and treacherous, are a dreamland of vacation cottages, picturesque waterways, granite islands, farmland, and woods.

Once boaters reach Chicago, it is down south again via the Mississippi River and Tenn-Tom Waterway--and then eventually into Mobile, Alabama and the rich and warm Gulf of Mexico. To close the Great Loop, cruisers go around the southern tip of Florida back to the same point where most of them started. Many choose to spend warm winter months exploring the amazing Okeechobee River and huge Okeechobee Lake, as well as tropical Key West and the Florida Keys. They complete the Loop somewhere on the east coast of the Sunshine State.

Those considering tackling all or part of the Great Loop absolutely need to join America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA). It’s an organization of people who share a sense of adventure and a curiosity about America’s Great Loop. It was started by Ron and Eva Stob (authors of the great book, Honey, Let‘s Get a Boat) back in 1999. It’s now owned and operated by Charleston, South Carolina-based Steve and Janice Kromer.

The association’s primary purpose is to disseminate information and enhance the overall experience for those who are learning about, dreaming of, and exploring America’s Great Loop. AGLCA’s members range from experienced Loop cruisers to boaters in the midst of looping, those planning on one day cruising the Great Loop, or some who are just simply dreaming about it.

For information, visit www.greatloop.org.