Monday, November 8, 2010

GREAT LOOP: Couple completes 6,889-mile cruise

Tom and Diann Lanum stand on the swim platform with the American Great Loop Cruising Association burgee at Grafton Marina in Illinois. They had just “crossed their wake,” which is how they describe completing the 6,889-mile Great Loop down the inland waterways, around the Gulf Coast, up the East Coast and back.

After cruising more than 6,889 miles and spending 360 days on their boat since Sept. 12, 2009, Tom and Diann Lanum are back on home turf.
The couple from Hampton, Ill., were honored by their friends and family at a reception after their return at the end of September at the Hampton Heritage Center.
They had spent years planning for the trip they now describe as "one of the most fantastic experiences of a lifetime."
They say it is difficult to put into a few words the enjoyment they shared together on an incredible voyage.
To travel the Great Loop, they went down rivers through the middle of the country to Mobile Bay, over to Florida and down to Marathon, Fla., where they spent six weeks.
Then they went around the Keys and up the East Coast to New York, farther north to Montreal, across the Trent Severn Waterway to Lake Huron, then down Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. They officially crossed their wake in Grafton, Ill., where the Illinois flows into the Mississippi.
Tom's meticulous records show they consumed 2,842 gallons of diesel fuel at an average price of $2.93 a gallon. He notes the very high fuel prices in Canada bumped up the average.
They put 888.6 hours on the engines; spent 162 days underway; traveled an average of 42.7 miles on those days at 7.75 mph for a daily traveling time of 5.49 hours.
They spent 50 nights at anchor or at a free dock and 310 nights in a paid slip in a marina at an average price of $1.05 a foot.
They visited 21 states and transited 130 locks. To do all this, they needed paper charts that make a stack about 24 inches high. They also added about $400 of new electronic charts.
While picking out favorite this and that is difficult for them, they did single out some highlights.
One was meeting fellow travelers along the way. "Our travels introduced us to so many interesting, fun, good quality people whose friendships we will cherish forever," Tom says.
For Diann, the times dolphins traveled and frolicked alongside their boat was a thrill. They say their best sunsets were probably in Marathon and their favorite anchorage was in the North Channel on Lake Huron.
If they had to pick places they found memorable, they would mention Kentucky Lake; Port St. Joe, Fla.; St. Augustine; the Dismal Swamp in Virginia; the Thousand Islands along the St. Lawrence River; Montreal; Georgian Bay and the coast along the state of Michigan.
They had very few boat problems. Their refrigerator gave out in Florida, and Tom had to replace some parts and wiring in the upper deck crane in North Carolina.
Underwater mishaps included hitting a rock on the Mississippi after their first night at anchor, then bending a shaft in North Carolina in very shallow water.
But those situations are common events for Loopers, and Tom says that overall, they had the perfect boat for them - a 39-foot, 1991 Ocean Alexander Sundeck dubbed Noah Genda ("no agenda," get it?) - and it performed beautifully.
The one thing they did miss was an unending supply of hot water and a shower with some elbow room. Other than that, they didn't want for anything, found none of the routine boat maintenance tasks burdensome and had no cravings they couldn't satisfy. In fact, one of Tom's joys was sampling a great number of ice cream parlors.
From a daily task standpoint, they quickly learned watching the weather was job one. Where that became most intense and anxiety-producing was while they waited five days for a good weather window to make what turned out to be a rough, 21-hour crossing of the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs, Fla.
For now, the boat has been winterized and put ashore for the winter while the Lanums catch up on some land-related tasks and visit with friends and family. But they learned they love the cruising lifestyle, so are starting to look ahead to a long river cruise north next summer and a possible future return to Florida for the winter on the boat.
They figure they can do all that because when they totaled all their expenses, their first year-long cruising adventure actually came in under budget.

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