An adventurous man has completed The Great Loop in a pontoon boat.
Scott Meyers, a dermatologist from Tulsa, Oklahoma with a keen sense of adventure, just crossed his wake on Lake Kentucky, marking his completion of one of boating's biggest adventures.
For those unaware, the Great Loop is a 6000 mile trip around the eastern half of North America. You can start at any point along the route, and head in either direction, but it entails following a circular route through the Great Lakes, the Illinois River, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and the Eastern Seaboard. The stories from Great Loop adventures are some of the most exciting you'll ever read.
Most 'Loopers' undertake the journey in a yacht or large cruiser, and it typically takes 10-14 months depending on your timing and the pace you want to keep.
Not so for Meyers, who completed the Loop over the course of 4 years in 4 segments, but in just 34 days of travel time.
Not only is that astounding on its own, he completed it in a pontoon boat.
Meyers raced his way around The Loop in what appears to be a 24-foot Bennington QX Sport tritoon, which is not exactly made for ocean travel.
In an interview with TulsaWorld, Meyers said his unusual choice of vessel attracted plenty of attention. “It was a lot of fun to see people’s reactions as we went town to town,” he said.
Meyers was joined by friends and family for segments of the trip, which in terrestrial terms also includes 15 states and provinces. Meyers completed his final 3200 mile segment with his daughter Lauren onboard for company. The final stage began in Southport, North Carolina and took them up the Atlantic Coast and into the Great Lakes waterway. From there they headed west to the mighty Mississippi River, into the Ohio River, and finally into Kentucky Lake, where Meyers had begun the journey four years earlier.
About 150 boaters start the Great Loop each year, but less than 10% ever complete it. The route is challenging even for seasoned boaters as it encompasses nearly every possible scenario and skillset- freshwater, saltwater, lakes, rivers, oceans, lock systems, international borders, different climates, and different weather patterns. Fewer than five people have ever completed it in a pontoon, which puts Meyers in elite company. The inspiration for the journey came from one of the few other pontoon Loopers.
“He was a retired Marine, and I heard about it and it kind of motivated me. Also the speed (of a pontoon) was appealing — I was able to do 150 to 200 miles a day. Which was important because my goal was to get this done and still keep my job,” he laughed.
“When I started out, I was thinking of it almost like a sabbatical, like some people will take from work, and also about proving something to myself,” Meyers said. “It was that. But by the end it was more about the relationships we’d formed, and a renewed love and appreciation for my family.”
“You just get a boat and choose a spot to start,” he added. “If you travel the entire route back to where you began — ‘crossing your wake,’ as we say it — we call that ‘completing the Loop.’ And that’s something special.”
The trip wasn't without its struggles, as the Loop tests the capabilities of every boat and captain who attempt it. After having some mechanical issues, Meyers brought his boat into a marina where the owner was shocked to discover what he was doing.
“When we told him we were doing the Loop on it, he said ‘You guys are effing nuts!’ We all got a laugh about it, and he fixed us up fast. We’re still friends.”
The tritoon served admirably as Meyers vessel of choice, save for one scary moment in bad weather on Lake Michigan. A wave crashing over the top damaged the bimini. “It was an adrenaline-overload moment,” he said. “Fortunately, nobody got hurt.”
Aside from the hiccup on Lake Michigan, Meyers said he and his guests were able to enjoy the trip and take time to go fishing and enjoy the scenery.
“When you go over the water where it all began, there’s a great sense of accomplishment,” he said.
Meyers can now proudly display his official gold burgee from the AGLCA (the American Great Loop Cruisers Association) for completing the trip, although he'll be one of few to hoist it on a pontoon.
Meyers was the focus of a great short documentary you can watch below: