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Old 08-10-2020, 03:53 AM   #1
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Boat considerations for a half-Loop

Hi there, this is my first post on this forum. We are in the early stages of planning a multi-year liveaboard phase with two school-age kids. The idea is to do a "half-Loop," starting in the Great Lakes in the summer and following the conventional Loop down to winter in the Gulf, then turning back upriver and following the Ohio, Missouri, or MS to some reasonable terminus in the summer, then doing it all over again. The two main reasons for this are:
(a) we need to continue working part-time and both our jobs will require frequent access to cities
(b) it seems likely that we can afford a boat with more living space if it doesn't need to be blue-water capable.
Our current target for a boat purchase is a Pluckebaum in the 50-55' range.

My questions are, is either of these a terrible idea (the route or the boat)?

Things I'm already aware of:
  • Big boats are a lot more expensive
  • Going upriver in the spring means a lot of unpredictable delays and slow going
  • Fuel is always a concern (as in, few places to get it)

Everything else I'm blissfully unaware of, so I would really like to know if this idea is unworkable in its current form. Thanks!
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Old 08-10-2020, 06:27 AM   #2
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I've never heard of a Pluckebaum (YW Listing of one HERE for other folks). Houseboat similar to a Carri Craft or Bluewater. I have not done the loop and do not know your waters, so cannot comment on whether these waters are sufficiently protected from chop and large vessel wakes which could really rearrange your interior in about 20-seconds. Another consideration are winds - many locations follow a predictable diurnal pattern of winds in the afternoon, right about the time you will normally be docking. If so, this boat would be a handful for even an experienced helmsman - thrusters (bow and stern) would be very helpful. If you can find it in your heart and wallet to look at more traditional motoryachts, a Bayliner 4788 is a nice tradeoff of interior living space while still having range/capabilities for coastal cruising.

But I can comment on feasibility of working while cruising (meaning, moving around vs living in a marina full-time, which is no different than living in an apartment). It depends on what type of work you do. Getting a reliable internet connection is getting better but still not good enough. If you're a remote worker in a more traditional office-type role with chat, conference calls, etc., you will run out of excuses pretty fast ("gee.....internet is down"). If you're a gig-economy person working piece-meal such as YouTube videos and such. No problem.

As a management consultant, I am closer to an office worker because that's who my clients are. I've kept the office-stuff alive while cruising for a couple weeks, but honestly, constantly planning around an internet connection takes a lot of fun out of it. Few marinas have decent internet, and tethering to my phone is often okay, but not always.

Good luck!

Peter
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Old 08-10-2020, 06:52 AM   #3
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Having done the Loop, you will find significant areas between Chicago and Paducah, KY and then again between the Tennessee river and Mobile, AL without cell service. I had whole days without service.

Ted
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Old 08-10-2020, 07:23 AM   #4
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We had the same experience. Do not believe anyone who says otherwise. Cell service is spotty for hundreds of miles along the waterways OC Driver mentioned.
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Having done the Loop, you will find significant areas between Chicago and Paducah, KY and then again between the Tennessee river and Mobile, AL without cell service. I had whole days without service.

Ted
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Old 08-10-2020, 07:49 AM   #5
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Pluckebaum is one of the best cruising house boats on the market. They have features not usually found on other house boats like keels, direct drive diesel, and a real anchoring system.
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Old 08-10-2020, 08:44 AM   #6
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Thanks everyone, this is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Seems like the main issue being raised right now is lack of good cellular coverage.

I think this is OK for the concept we have in mind, which is that we'd cycle between (a) multi-week stays at marinas (anchored out as practical) in or near major cities, during which time we'd work; (b) more conventional cruising tourism; and (c) moving between a and b, which I understand will be more difficult than normal with a larger boat.

My wife is a physician and plans to do "locum tenens" work (basically high-wage temping), so she would be working "normal" hours during part (a), including renting a car and staying overnight at the hospital. I would do consulting work from the boat via LTE cell connection.

I've been learning about the lack of infrastructure near certain cities, such as St Louis, which is unfortunate. I've been winnowing down the list of cities we would be looking at for possible work arrangements. Here's what I have so far:

Great Lakes
Milwaukee
Detroit
Chicago
Cleveland
Buffalo

Upper MS/IL
Minneapolis
Rochester, MN (Mayo Clinic)
Peoria

Missouri River
Omaha
Kansas City

GICW
New Orleans
Mobile
Pensacola
Houston
Corpus Christi
Tampa
Ft. Myers

Ohio River
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Louisville
Ashland, KY/Huntington, WV

Tennessee River
Decatur/Huntsville, AL
Chattanooga
Knoxville

St. Lawrence/Hudson
Syracuse
Albany
Yonkers

Do any of these jump out as being unsuitable as a working anchorage? No urban marina, no fuel, no cell service, high priced, etc.? Right now I'm just working off Google Maps.

Really appreciate everyone's time here.
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Old 08-10-2020, 02:02 PM   #7
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You may want to winnow-down your list of cities and do a bit more due diligence and ask around a bit more. A 55-foot boat may not be easy to berth in many of these cities. Some may not have suitable logistics. For example, Houston has one of the largest medical complexes in the world. Unfortunately its in the middle of the city, a long way from any marina which is further compounded by epic traffic. In that instance, driving down and getting a long term VRBO/AirBnB would make a lot more sense.

Peter
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Old 08-10-2020, 02:05 PM   #8
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OK, thanks. Should I ask in the Marinas forum? I bought some of the Great Loop books, but they stick closely to a specific itinerary and don't always discuss length limitations.
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Old 08-10-2020, 02:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexiskai View Post
OK, thanks. Should I ask in the Marinas forum? I bought some of the Great Loop books, but they stick closely to a specific itinerary and don't always discuss length limitations.
Identify your first couple of likely cities, then I'd search on ActiveCaptain - the marinas usually have a decent description in ActiveCaptain. Once you're down to that level and you've chosen between a couple, then you can post for info about a very specific location, perhaps even a marina or two "Info Please - Pirate's Cove area near Pittsburg" (making this up, but you get the idea). You won't get many responses, but the ones you do get might be super helpful.

Good luck

Peter
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Old 08-10-2020, 03:02 PM   #10
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Will do, thanks much. If anyone else has thoughts on the overall sanity of this plan, please comment. Also if anyone can suggest boats that have a similar design sensibility to the Pluckebaums, but smaller, I'd be interested. I love the Pluckebaum approach but 50' is their smallest size.
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Old 08-10-2020, 10:28 PM   #11
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Both Alton and Grafton have good marinas with covered slips and floating dock. They are both just North of St. Louis on the Mississippi river.

Ted
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Old 08-11-2020, 08:06 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Both Alton and Grafton have good marinas with covered slips and floating dock. They are both just North of St. Louis on the Mississippi river. Ted
Also, several decent marinas in St Charles. Try yacht Club of St Louis or Woodland. The OP could have years of cruising between Minneapolis and Kentucky Lakes. Wintering becomes an issue unless you have a dockside pump out due to ice preventing fuel dock access. The whole idea has great merit, just insure the vessel is well insulated with diesel heat for those ice storm power outages.
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Old 08-11-2020, 08:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
I've never heard of a Pluckebaum (YW Listing of one HERE for other folks). Houseboat similar to a Carri Craft or Bluewater. I have not done the loop and do not know your waters, so cannot comment on whether these waters are sufficiently protected from chop and large vessel wakes which could really rearrange your interior in about 20-seconds. Another consideration are winds - many locations follow a predictable diurnal pattern of winds in the afternoon, right about the time you will normally be docking. If so, this boat would be a handful for even an experienced helmsman - thrusters (bow and stern) would be very helpful. If you can find it in your heart and wallet to look at more traditional motoryachts, a Bayliner 4788 is a nice tradeoff of interior living space while still having range/capabilities for coastal cruising.

But I can comment on feasibility of working while cruising (meaning, moving around vs living in a marina full-time, which is no different than living in an apartment). It depends on what type of work you do. Getting a reliable internet connection is getting better but still not good enough. If you're a remote worker in a more traditional office-type role with chat, conference calls, etc., you will run out of excuses pretty fast ("gee.....internet is down"). If you're a gig-economy person working piece-meal such as YouTube videos and such. No problem.

As a management consultant, I am closer to an office worker because that's who my clients are. I've kept the office-stuff alive while cruising for a couple weeks, but honestly, constantly planning around an internet connection takes a lot of fun out of it. Few marinas have decent internet, and tethering to my phone is often okay, but not always.

Good luck!

Peter
You might want to check out the folks below for internet connection solutions - they make a living out of solving these issues and currently live aboard a Bayliner as well as an RV.....

https://www.technomadia.com/2019/02/...omadic-travel/
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:34 AM   #14
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Regarding suitability of boat, we met a couple and their teen from Texas a year and a half ago in Tampa Bay a week after they had crossed the Gulf and saw them again last fall on the Trent Severn. They finished their Great Loop this past spring. Here is a pic of their boat entering Lake Simcoe on the T/S. If you look carefully at the pic, you can just make out the sharks teeth paint job on their bow . My wife is contacting them thru Facebook to see if they kept any kind of blog or for contact info.
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:37 AM   #15
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Hopefully the pic attached this time.
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:05 AM   #16
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Sounds feasible.

There are a lot of motor yachts in the same size range at similar prices that might be worth looking at, but I'm not an expert in that area.

Looks like a decent boat, but my only concern would be open water like crossing the Gulf. Doable with the right weather window.

There are solutions for internet service including satelite, but expensive. I did it with a cell booster (Weboost) and used my hot spot and almost always had some service. But can get dicey on the run of the Tom Bigbee thru Mississippi/Alabama.

Yes, getting much over 50 ft does have some docking issues and that will take a lot of research.

Sounds like a venture!
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:12 AM   #17
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Just PM'ed you the contact info for the family that did the loop in the above boat.
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:24 PM   #18
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Thanks for the additional info, please keep it coming. Somebody pointed me to Jay Benford's trawler designs – beautiful boats but looks like they're custom-built (and not currently for sale). However I liked the way they fit more interior space into a shorter package.
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