Sailing the US Heartland sounds a little uncommon and in fact bridges and Powerlines make it impossible to use the wind to head down for the first part of it. And I am still wondering how many german boats might have ever taken this route after crossing the ocean at all. I know of three (one of them a powerboat that started it‘s trip where I did). So I know I am not the first but at least the attention the flag at Paulinchen‘s stern draws, provides a little insight to the fact that boats from overseas are not too common here.
The mast is stepped and Paulinchen has been converted to a powerboat in Chicago to begin traveling the rivers. The Trip startet right downtown Chicago with Lock Number „one“. At least I will refer to „Chicago Lock“ as „Number one“ counting how many I will have to pass until I reach the Gulf Coast.
To do so I follow the basic outline of the Great Loop: a route to circle the eastern US. It has no given start or end. Most „Loopers“ start right from their home and take whatever way takes them to hit one of the suggested paths. To cruise The Loop they follow a circle route along the US Gulf Coast, around Florida and all the way up to New York. Form there the Hudson River and Erie Barge Canal leads them back inland to the Great Lakes. Now many various routes, depending on boat sizes and time frames, exist to head on. Most of the Loopers chose to cross to the Canadian shorelines from Oswego and take the Trent Severn Canal from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay or like I did follow the Detroit River from Lake Erie to reach Lake Huron. Finally we all came back together in Chicago on Lake Michigan. Here the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal provides the only navigable route from the Lakes into the river system to eventually head down all the way to Gulf Cost and finally circle „The Loop“.
Paulinchen will not fully circle it. Even though the unplanned detour down to the Bahamas in winter 2010/2011 added the Intra Coastal Waterway to it and made it even more „The Loop“ than it was before, I will not head back north along the Florida- and Georgia-Coastlines. This will keep the Loop unfinished while I will head on into the Caribbean and further on to South America, following the major plan.
But before that a smaller step has to be taken: Follow the Canada Geese on their way south again for the second time to stay ahead of the slowly oncoming winter. The route leads downstream along the Illinois River to reach the Mississippi. Fast currents and heavy commercial ship traffic make this the hardest part. Shortly after passing St. Louis I have to exit the river Mark Twain wrote his famous book about into the Ohio River. Currents are slower, for a short time even against and traffic is more relaxed along this stretch into the Tennessee River and along the Ten-Tom water system down to the city of Mobile, Alabama.