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    The Great Loop Adventure Brings Happy Days

    The Great Loop Adventure Brings Happy Days

    Photo By Kelcy Hanson | Rock Island District Commander, Col. Jesse Curry and Operations Division Chief, Tom...... read more read more



    Story by Kelcy Hanson 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District

    One of the most sought after boating adventures in the U.S. is something called the American Great Loop. It is a 6,000-mile water route which circles the eastern part of the United States. Typically, boaters will start along the loop route at the appropriate time. Due to the climate changes, boaters will start the loop in the northern area in the summer, western rivers during the fall, Gulf of Mexico and Florida in the winter and travel the Atlantic Ocean upward during the spring. Loopers ‘cross their wake’, meaning finish the Loop, when they return to the place where they started, wherever that is.

    According to American Oceans, it is estimated that 200 people complete the Great Loop each year. Most of the people who accept this challenge are retired but due to recent events over the last two years, it is gaining popularity with a younger crowd. Families are finding value in the real-life education of navigating and learning the waterways while traveling with younger children and are keeping their kids in school from their motor vessels.

    The American Great Loop generally takes around a year to complete, although many loopers will extend the trip by visiting small towns and staying longer in certain areas to get the most out of the adventure. There are a few different routes and side trips boaters can take to complete this trip, but all include traveling through navigational locks. Depending on the route, some may travel through as many as 150 lock and dam sites. As loopers make their way down the Illinois Waterway, they encounter six locks operated by the Rock Island District.

    Earlier this year, during a visit to Dresden Island Lock and Dam near Grafton, Illinois, Rock Island District Commander, Col. Jesse Curry met Richard and Susan Day as they were waiting to pass through the lock on their American Great Loop adventure. The Days were excited for the opportunity to visit with the commander and took time to share details of their travels.

    Mr. Day grew up boating in New Jersey and learned about the Great Loop at the Atlanta Boat Show in the early 2000s. It was there that a seed was planted for his retirement dream. Prior to the show, Day purchased a motor vessel which he named “Oh Happy Days,” in 2015. After meeting Susan during a ’10-hour first date’ plane ride from Italy, they learned they only lived 12 miles apart and the Great Loop quickly became a dream of Mrs. Day’s too!

    During the winter of 2019, the Days prepared their boat for the Great Loop in Cocoa Village, Florida, and they began their ‘pre-loop’ excursion in May 2020. They went as far as Day’s hometown of Spring Lake, New Jersey, before returning to Florida for the winter. Along the way, they learned valuable lessons about beneficial investments needed for the vessel and Mrs. Day learned quickly about navigation and line-handling.

    Their official Great Loop adventure began May 7, 2021, and as of Sept. 29 they reported they had traveled around 4,000 miles, negotiated dozens of locks and lift bridges and witnessed a myriad of fish, birds and other wildlife in their native habitats. Along the way, the Days said they have gained new understanding about the Midwest and eastern part of the country and how the water has shaped history and livelihoods. The two hope to ‘cross their wake’ sometime next spring.

    According to the Days, most people they’ve spoken with have little or no knowledge of the American Great Loop or that a trip such as this is even possible. They acknowledged the trip wouldn’t be possible if not for the visionaries and pioneers who created a fully-navigable inland waterway system, connecting rivers, lakes and oceans.

    “We are so thankful the system is maintained, improved upon and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The locks are dependable, functional and (after a little experience) easily managed by pleasure boaters,” said the Days. “The lock masters have always been available to guide us and answer questions.”

    The Days say they understand pleasure craft are not first priority at the locks, but they’ve never been made to feel that way and the lockmasters and their crew have always been very professional. They also said they had an especially interesting lock-through at Dresden Island Lock when they were approached and greeted by District Commander Col. Curry, along with Chief of Operations, Thomas Heinold, and Lockmaster, Jerry Snyder.

    “I was pleasantly surprised to meet these gentlemen and took advantage of the opportunity to do a quick video interview for my personal newsletter. It was so kind of the Colonel to oblige.”

    Some people might view the Great Loop as a daunting or unattainable adventure, but the Days are living proof that setting a goal and sticking to it, can bring the dream to reality. Having suitably maintained and operated waterways also served as a key factor in the success of the Day’s trip and will help those in the future who seek to complete the American Great Loop.



    Date Taken: 12.27.2021
    Date Posted: 12.27.2021 15:16
    Story ID: 411940

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