Great Lakes Boating

October 2018

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One captain's tips on taking the Loop "U ntil you step into the unknown, you don't know what you're made of," said Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart. Al Barkus found that he was made of sturdy stuff when he stepped onto Miss Marianne and pushed away from the dock last October. This launched his first journey around the Great Loop. Barkus completed the task in about eight months, when most people take an entire year. He did it in a vintage 1960 Chris-Craft, no less, a task that many wouldn't bother to attempt. "I'm not nervous at all," Barkus said before the trip. "I have every bit of confidence in this boat. Today we just had a whole survey done on it. Everything checked out just fine. No rotten wood or anything like that, so she's as sound as she's ever been. I've been captaining this boat for three years. I know all of her quirks." The Countless Days Of Preparation When wondering where to begin preparing for his journey around the Great Loop, there was no question of where he should start: Crowley's. Crowley's has been storing boats since 1978, and is one of the only places an owner would even consider storing the vintage Chris- Craft through Chicago winters. "We did a lot of maintenance," Barkus stated, including preparations unique to Loopers like prepping the engine to handle salt water and the rigors of true long-distance travel. "Then once spring started we segued into other avenues of planning by studying the trip, routes, and learning from other Loopers. Basically the dos and don'ts." Barkus, a seasoned handyman, knew he could fix just about any mechanical failures that came his way, but having the right parts or knowing where to stop to find them is where thorough planning became vital. The Journey Of A Lifetime The Great Loop is traveled by few and traveled multiple times by even fewer, leaving plenty of room for unexpected and unique experiences. Loopers recounting their stories remind us how varied the United States truly is in her geography. In one trip, Loopers can be gliding under Chicago's many bridges, tasting the south's best barbecue, riding alongside dolphins and taking pictures of their vessel with palm trees in the background. The one thing that surprised Barkus the most was the people. During his adventures he was able to connect with other Loopers and hear their stories, as well as show off Miss Marianne. "Any harbor we pulled into, unless it was really late at night, people would spot us from the yacht club window and they were already walking down the dock wanting to check out what this was coming in," Barkus remembered. "You always hear the story, 'Oh, my grandfather had one.' Or you get the old-timers saying, 'I used to have one of these back in the day,' or whatever, but yeah, it's a conversation piece. It strikes up conversations everywhere we go." Typically marinas along the Mississippi River offer courtesy cards, where once you're settled in a transient slip, you can go eat out at their recommended spots on them or at a discount. "Even though they might be in cahoots with some of these places, a lot of them were really good recommendations," Barkus said, pleasantly surprised. "I just love ribs and stuff and there was lots of other good food along the way." 22 GLB | O c t o b e r 2 0 18

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