Portsmouth Couple Lives Their Dream with Great Loop Boating Adventure
With all apologies to Gilligan and the Skipper, Dan and Angie Frick are leaving on a much longer voyage than a three-hour tour.
Instead, the Portsmouth, Ohio, couple is setting sail on a 7,200 mile, 13-month voyage that will carry them on the Great Loop tour, circumnavigating the eastern half of the United States.
Dan, a retired medical practice consultant, and Angie, a physician who recently retired from King’s Daughters Family Care Center in Portsmouth, have planned their dream trip for several years.
To force themselves to make it become a reality, they put their house on the market last winter, thinking it would take a couple of years to sell. However, it found a buyer within a month. Then they moved into an apartment, starting the downsizing process that will lead to them living in about 350 square feet on their 40-foot-long boat for more than a year. By April, they were living on the boat almost full time, putting their furniture and cars in storage until their return.
The Fricks had owned a 25-ft. cabin cruiser at Holiday Point Marine in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, where they were part of the “Quiet Corner,” a finger of the marina where the boaters have developed a close-knit group.
“You create a camaraderie there that’s quite striking,” Dan said. “There’s always help there and we all break bread together. On the weekend, you’re together the whole time.”
Over the years, the Fricks had trailered their cruiser to lakes across the Midwest and wanted to take their boating to the next level. They found out about the Great Loop, a trip of the continuous waterway that encompasses the eastern portion of North America, including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland.
With the encouragement of their boating buddies in the Quiet Corner, they decided to take the plunge.
The Fricks knew they needed a bigger boat, so they found a much-sought-after 40-foot Mainship 350 Trawler named Seahorse, equipped with two bedrooms, a full galley, a shower, and panoramic views from the fly bridge.
After making the purchase in 2012, Dan and a couple of friends piloted the boat as part of a 17-day journey from St. Charles, Mo., to Franklin Furnace. Angie crewed for part of the trip to familiarize herself with the boat. Since then they’ve taken small trips, like one to Cincinnati and back, and enjoyed weekends on the river with friends.
Their shorter trips have prepared them for the journey, and they have handled a few emergencies together. On one voyage in their previous boat, a belt broke and left them stranded on the Tennessee River, out of radio contact. Fortunately, Dan had a spare belt on board and they were able to get under way again.
As part of the training for the trip, the Fricks took a 900-mile shakedown cruise in late May up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, Pa., and then up the Monongahela River to Morgantown, W.Va. The idea is to see if anything needed repaired or changed and whether they need to make adjustments to how they operate the boat.
They’ve passed previous relationship tests like painting a bathroom together and faced emergencies on a boat, but the length of the Great Loop makes it a new experience.
“Part of the shakedown cruise is we’ll be on the boat together over a month, so we’ll know when we get back if we can survive that kind of togetherness,” Angie said.
Then, they plan to embark on the Great Loop voyage in August, heading south along the Tennessee River toward the Gulf of Mexico. The final departure date depends on the weather and river conditions.
“The most dangerous thing you can have on a trip like this is a schedule,” Dan said. “You don’t want to take risks that you don’t have to.”
The boat travels at seven to 10 mph depending on the current, and gets about 3 mpg. When the boat passes through locks, Dan will be at the helm and Angie will handle lines and bumpers to keep the boat from hitting the walls of the lock. They will anchor at night either in a marina or in a cove along the river, and eat onboard as much as possible.
“We’re doing this on a budget so we’ll save our money for sightseeing,” Dan said.
They plan on taking the Canadian canal system up to Montreal, and maybe go as far north as Quebec. They want to take the Potomac through Washington, D.C., and stop for a few days of touring the nation’s capital. In the Gulf, Dan plans to try his hand at deep-sea fishing as well.
The Fricks plan to moor the boat and come home for family visits like birthdays and for doctor appointments and other inescapable necessities of life.
At first, the Fricks were reluctant to share their story, but they wanted to inspire others to take a risk.
“We hope we can inspire someone else to live their dreams,” Angie said. “If we can help one person break out of the routine of life and do something that speaks to them, it will be worth it.”
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