The legend of The Great Loop is well-known among North American boaters. It is the longest and most arduous journey a boater can undertake by circumnavigating the eastern half of North America, from the Great Lakes to Florida and back.
Since boaters are adventurers by nature, it's not surprising there is always a steady undercurrent of those looking to experience 'The Loop' in unique or unusual ways. Some have undertaken the trip in sections over multiple years, others in a singular trip over the course of 12-14 months, some in large boats, some in incredibly undersized vessels, but all for the sheer thrill of seeing if it could be done. Some have raced around The Loop in as little as 34 days aboard a pontoon boat.
Now a man from Nebraska is undertaking The Loop aboard an unusual and challenging vessel for such a journey- a PWC.
Mike Straub, a software development engineer from Omaha, is celebrating his 50th birthday by attempting the 7000 mile journey aboard a Sea-Doo. He's hoping to complete the trip in just 4 months.
For those unaware of the realities of completing The Loop, it's a massive jaunt across the Great Lakes, down the Illinois River to the Mississippi River, across the Gulf of Mexico, up Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Seaboard, and back through the locks and riverway system to the Great Lakes once again. You can start at any place along the route, and run it in either direction, but no matter which way you choose, completing it by PWC is a unique challenge even under the best of circumstances.
“You live your passions,” Straub told KETV Omaha. The man lives the motto, as he also holds a license plate bearing “Y WAIT” on his Corvette.
Straub started the journey on the Missouri River in Bellevue, Nebraska in June and is keeping his followers updated via his Facebook page and YouTube channel. He's already made it to Florida, and seems to be traveling with relative ease despite the challenges posed by a PWC.
“The peel and eat shrimp here is fantastic,” he said about the Florida coast.
Straub is no stranger to long distance adventures, having driven across the country in his Corvette with his teenage son several years ago. The decision to undertake such huge adventures comes from a common ethos among boaters- the desire to explore as much as you can, while you can.
According to Straub, “I had sold my sports car, we had kids, was in a rut and had family members die from cancer and I was like, ‘What are you waiting for?’”
Straub took more than a year to plan his Great Loop trip, which is typically done aboard a cruiser of yacht, most often in the 35-50 foot range. For those with 'liveaboard' boats, they can stay on their vessel and enjoy its many conveniences- a bed, kitchen, toilet, television, internet, and the many creature comforts that aren't unlike being at home. But for a PWC, matters of lodging and accommodation aren't so simple. Straub is taking in hotels where possible, and also taking invitations from locals to experience each locale with as much fervor as possible.
“I’ve stayed with five different people so far,” said Straub, who’s followers are tracking his progress via social media. He also has a GPS tracker. He said the kindness of people has been overwhelming.
As for his travel schedule, Straub typically spends about 6-10 hours per day aboard his Sea-Doo. The custom PWC is outfitted with extra storage compartments, spare parts, and anything he may encounter while travelling away from immediate assistance.
“The Naples to Key West route, I was off-shore quite a way,” said Straub. His longest day on the water thus far has been 225 miles (362 km), which means his PWC is being worked hard during some major offshore travel.
But those long days can also make for a peaceful trip, especially when some extra guests decide to follow along.
“When you’re out in the middle of the water, the dolphins become your friends. If I’m going kind of slow, they’ll swim with me,” said Straub.
Other perks include taking some time off along the way, including a week off in Florida to meet up with his wife and two sons to celebrate his 50th birthday and 25th anniversary.
After leaving Florida, the next jaunt will take him into the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he'll also be joined by his brothers for some more R&R.
The plan is to complete the trip and return to Nebraska in September, which should coincide well with the end of the summer season in the central U.S., meaning he'll hopefully be home before the water starts turning to ice.
You can check out Mike's latest vlog from his trip through Florida below: