Attempting The Great Loop

Houseboaters cash in their opinions from the forum

March 2015 Feature Web Exclusive

Have you ever toyed with the possibility of houseboating along the Great Loop? While it's undeniably beautiful, houseboating in the rough, quick-rising weather these waters are notorious for definitely begs a lot of thought before you jump in and commit to the trip. 

Fellow houseboaters have parried around with this exact thought on our forums page and many share insightful experiences that invite you to lend an ear. Kiethj started the discussion as he and his wife debated how to best attempt a cruise anywhere from the Great Loop to Key West. To see what Kiethj ended up deciding, jump on our forum page and maybe cash in a few of your thoughts, too. Here's a sample of what our friends have to say:

keithj: My wife and I, and our three dogs, are considering a long cruise starting in Minneapolis, Minn. We may attempt the whole Great Loop, or we may just end up somewhere in Florida. We've even discussed going all the way out to Key West.

The main challenge is finding a suitable boat in which to make this trip. The dogs play heavily into the decision...we have a nice sailboat (Nor'Sea 27) which would handle the trip just fine, but the dogs simply can't get in and out of the boat well enough to make it a possibility. Even looking at trawlers, a lot of them wouldn't be suitable. But when I start looking at houseboats (we currently live on a 48-foot Lazy-Days) I'm not confident about their ability to handle the conditions in the gulf.

By the way—I have limited experience in open water, and the experience I do have is sailing.

Anyhow, I'm hoping to hear from someone that does have experience with the Gulf and the Keys area with a houseboat. I have a chance to buy a 35-foot Kingscraft at a fair price, and I like a lot of aspects of the design. Can it handle this kind of trip though with a decent margin of safety? Obviously I'll pick my weather window as conservatively as I can, but as I understand it there's still at least 140 miles of unprotected Gulf cruising necessary... and that's a fair amount of time for unexpected weather to come up.

Charles: Houseboats, as a rule, are not designed for the water you would be likely to experience in the Gulf, much less the coastal ocean. While it MIGHT be able to handle the ICW, it would make me nervous. The ship traffic in the ICW can leave huge wakes.

Banana Tom: It can be done, many before you have. Weather window is most important. My 36-foot Gibson handled some 4 footers on a trip to New Orleans from Pensacola.
Duct tape the forward hatch, and we were dry. However, many have stopped in Panama City, and did not have the guts to venture further, after some bay crossings in big weather.

Tony B: I don't have any houseboating experience on the ICW, but I have done it with sailboats and my Mainship 36, which has somewhat of a relatively flat hull, although not quite as flat as a houseboat. I don't really see much of a problem with the northern gulf coast (Redneck Riviera) or the western Gulf coast on the ICW as long as you follow the weather forecasts. Whatever you do, don't follow the forecasts from the National Weather Service on your marine VHF radio. As far as ships are concerned, they should not be a problem either. They will mostly be traveling N/S and you will be going E/W on the ICW. 

I would have my reservations about heading south on the eastern Gulf Coast along Florida. Many have done it, but then again, some have crossed the Atlantic in a row boat and also a bath tub. 

Anyway, that's my two cents worth; again, I have never done it in a houseboat so take it for what it's worth.

Old Houseboater: Note: The 36 KC was a little narrow in the front and tended to plow in heavy seas. The Twin, not so much because of the added weight aft. I suggest you consider a 44 TWICE as much room and better handling. Not that much more money. KC's don't have cuddies and 3 dogs could get claustrophobic.

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