The Ann Arbor couple travel more than 5,000 miles by boat to complete America’s Great Loop

ANN ARBOR, MI – An Ann Arbor couple traveled nearly 6,000 miles on rivers, bays, and coastlines around the eastern half of the United States for 10 months, finishing their trip in August.

Celeste and Tom Martin, both 63, completed America’s Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern United States and part of Canada that includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, New York State Canals, Canadian Canals, Great Lakes, inland rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico .

According to records from the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, just over 2,000 boats have made the Great Loop since 1985.

Celeste said she believed she was the first African American woman to complete the trip. Kimberly Russo, the director of the AGLCA, said that while the organization does not track the ethnicity of its members, it “wouldn’t surprise me if that were right”.

“We have always loved to travel – that used to be my whole job,” says Celeste, a retired flight attendant. “We’re just a traveling family.”

Tom, who used to work as an engineer for Ford Motor Company, was with friends on previous sailing trips.

The couple first heard about Loopers at a presentation at a Chicago boat show. They had previously owned a pontoon and a ski boat, but upgraded them to a 42-foot long and 16-foot high yacht for their trip.

After purchasing their boat in Kentucky and training to navigate, the couple set sail on November 9, 2020. During their absence, they rented the lower half of their house. Her youngest child is currently in college, which has partly prompted her travel decision.

“Empty nests,” said Celeste. “Why not?”

They took a counterclockwise route, descending from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico near Florida and back to New York. They then drove through the Great Lakes to Detroit and Chicago before returning to Kentucky. Although the trip may include a Canadian section, Celeste and Tom stayed in the United States due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions.

When traveling through Canada, most loops cover 6,000 miles by boat. Remaining in the United States, Celeste and Tom traveled 5,600 miles.

The couple also made several inland trips and rented cars while docking. They spent about a month each in Pensacola and St. Augustine, Florida and Port Clinton, Ohio. They also spent a week in Detroit and Mackinac City, Michigan.

During their time in New York, the couple anchored near the Statue of Liberty, where Tom could see Ellis Island, which is where his great-grandfather arrived in the United States

The trip was not without its flaws, however.

“Driving down the Mississippi is boring,” said Celeste. “It is so boring.”

Tom agreed.

“The most beautiful and clearest water I saw during the whole trip was the lakes here [in Michigan]”Said Tom.

The couple also spent time trapped in New York after Lock 17 got stuck in the Eerie Canal.

For Tom, one of the hardest parts of the trip was predicting and dealing with weather conditions.

“I had all these worries about everything. I really enjoyed staying in one place for a while, ”said Tom.

Membership in the association helped Celeste and Tom identify and meet other “looper” on their journey. White flag boats are on their first voyage, while gold flag boats have done so before.

Boats that end the voyage are awarded a gold flag when they cross “their wake,” which means they are crossing the place they started from.

Celeste and Tom crossed their trail at noon on August 1 at Barley Lake, Kentucky, just 10 months after their departure. Thirty minutes after they docked in Kentucky, someone on their boat made an offer. It was sold two weeks later.

“And it’s back on the loop,” said Celeste.

Celeste said the trip taught her how to live with fewer things. When she got home, she gave away many of her belongings.

“The goodwill is very lucky,” she said.

Tom said the trip taught him how to deal with fear in order to achieve something great.

“You can overcome all your fears,” he said.

The couple plan to buy another boat and settle in Florida part-time.

“It’s the greatest trip you’ll work for,” said Celeste.

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