It's not impossible that someone could read a bunch of books and successfully sail around the world – and since I haven't done it, what do I know? Still, I mentioned that he might consider getting on-the-water experience under his belt before embarking on a worldwide adventure. Which got me talking about the boating community as "Loopers."
Loopers are members of the 600+ sail and power boats that make the 5,600+ mile voyage around the Great Loop each year, from the Gulf of Mexico up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), over the Great Lakes and back down the inland rivers. The benefits of being a Looper are many: the epic adventure (first and foremost), living aboard, the community of fellow Loopers on the same route with endless experience, stories, and advice to share, and the ability to explore America's coast without necessarily going completely out to sea. Looping is safer than an ocean voyage, cheaper than driving cross-country in an RV, and keeps you in touch with America's coastal towns and nature, instead of concrete and chaos of a highway and cities.
In 1999, boaters who frequently complete the Great Loop created an organization (as boaters and sailors often do) to more efficiently share knowledge, stories, and secure discounts, and meet throughout the year for rallies and seminars: the America's Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA). And so I found myself recommending to this young sailor – in addition to boat maintenance courses and delivery programs – that he check out the Great Loop and the AGLCA, and consider finding a boat on which to explore some or all of it.
If you're a Looper, or looking to get started, many Dockwa marinas are proud supporters of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA), providing See who's who below and keep them on your itinerary.
Since it's now mid-June, Loopers as well as non-Looping liveaboards have cleared out of the Bahamas. Now making their way up the East Coast, they'll continue to find dozens of Dockwa marinas. Once past Florida, the next AGLCA Dockwa marinas are Windmill Harbour Marina in Hilton Head, South Carolina, followed by Port Royal Landing in Port Royal (mile marker 539 on the ICW). Port Royal Landing Marina is accessible through both Port Royal Sound or St. Helena Sound, providing easy access to the Atlantic, and is able to accommodate boats up to 140 feet.
On your way up the coast of North Carolina, plan a stop at New Bern Grand Marina. It's clear this marina goes above and beyond for its guests, takes pride in its service, and loves to share New Bern with new visitors. Stay here to pump out, refuel, and go on a short walkabout down the docks to historic downtown.
Once you've reached Virginia, you'll want to check out Dozier's Regatta Point Marina and Deltaville Marina, both in Deltaville, which is about a third of the way up the Chesapeake, right at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Both marinas offer pump out, wifi, ice and much more! Fuel up at Deltaville and you'll be on your way.
If your Great Loop route brings you up the Potomac, plan a stop at National Harbor in Alexandria, VA. With all the basics and more – fuel, pump out, ice, laundry, groceries – National Harbor is also close to Georgetown, Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria, so you can get up close and personal with our nation's history.
Hoffman's Marina in Brielle, New Jersey offers easy access to the ICW and Atlantic ocean, as it sits just 1/4 mile from the Manasquan Inlet. Able to accommodate vessels up to 130 feet, they're equipped with high speed fuel pumps, pump out services, fresh high-quality bait, and plenty of ice. Once you're North of Jersey, if you're looking to go up the Hudson, check out Half Moon Bay 25 miles up from New York City in Croton-On-Hudson, NY. You'll be able to pump out, fill up on ice, and stretch your legs on the nearby sandy beaches.
If you skip the Hudson and hug the East Coast, hit up Saybrook Point Marina in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, which will give you convenient access to Long Island Sound. Able to accommodate vessels up to 200 feet, here you can get the basics – pump out, fuel up, replenish ice – and splurge on a spa treatment at the hotel.
While there are many Dockwa marinas between Connecticut and the Great Lakes, the next AGLCA marina you'll find is Reefpoint Marina in Racine, Wisconsin. Here you can get ice, fuel up, and stock up on groceries.
Halfway between Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico, stop by Green Turtle Bay Resort Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, a "Must Stop!" designation by the AGLCA Great Loopers. With more than 450 slips for boats up to 100ft, here you can refuel, pump out, and recycle your oil.
As it turns out, both Dockwa and AGLCA are a pretty big deal in Florida! Once you hit the Gulf of Mexico and make your way back down through Florida, you have dozens of Dockwa and AGLCA-affiliated marinas to choose from, including Treasure Island Marina in Panama City Beach, Legacy Harbor Marina in Fort Myers, Everglades Isle Marina, and Stock Island Marina Village in Key West.
Have you done the Great Loop and want to weigh in? What Dockwa Loop marinas have you stayed at and loved? We'd love to hear about it – Get in touch and we'll do our best to update the post to include you.