By PETER SWANSON
Great Harbour President Ken Fickett and I have talked about this topic quite a bit. In fact, I’ve been trying to get him to write this blog, but he insists he’s kinda busy running a boatbuilding factory. The topic is apples and oranges, or more precisely, The Bahamas (and beyond) versus the Great Loop.
Even in normal times (remember those?), we would wonder why so many of trawler folk in general and Great Harbour customers specifically would obsess about The Loop. Nothing against The Loop, but Great Harbour boats such as the N37 or the TT35 are versatile craft, capable of transporting you to more distant horizons. (Heck, one N37 actually made the biggest ocean passage in a typical circumnavigation—the 2,200-mile transit from California to Hawaii.)
Typically, Ken and I would be talking to couples in their 60s, recently retired and in relatively good health. Where are you going, we’d ask? The Great Loop, really? Have you considered coming down the coast and spending some time in the Bahamas? Nope. We want to do the Loop. Are you sure, we’d press them? You’re healthy now. Why not use this blessing to venture beyond the American health care system? Then later when you’re older, maybe a little more dependent on that system, wouldn’t that be the time to earn your Loop pennant? The Loop, we said, will wait for you.
That was then. As far as 2020-2021 is concerned the Loop is essentially out of the picture. Even with delays because of lock repairs on the Erie Canal and Illinois Waterway, the Loop is still theoretically doable, but the resulting time constraints will essentially take the pleasure out of it. And here I’m quoting former N37 owner Joe Pica who has a Loop Hat Trick under his belt.
Even worse, the Coronavirus crisis had injected a whole bunch of uncertainty into the process. Some states are imposing quarantines on out-of-staters, and it’s unclear how this might apply to Loopers. Also, Canada has shut its borders to Americans entirely.
Meanwhile, the Bahamas has opened its doors. Present Customs & Immigration with a certificate showing that you have tested negative for the virus in a CDC-approved test, and you will be admitted. The Bahamas have successfully brought the virus under control, making the island nation a safer option than much of the U.S. Southeast at this writing. Yes, you’ll have to wear a mask and follow the rules, but you’ll be in a good place for this particular moment in history.
Great Harbour’s marketing stresses the off-the-grid nature of its product line. With shoal draft and solar options, GH boats are designed for sunshine and skinny waters. Our boats can find shelter where otherwise only the catamarans can go. Truth be told, even if you own some other brand, you will find the Bahamas and the Bahamian people welcoming.
Now is the time to think outside the Loop.