Charleston was our last stop on the loop for now. We spent almost three weeks at the Charleston City Marina contemplating what to do since the delayed, May 15th Erie Canal opening date, did not have a clear opening date. We had reservations to work our way up to the Chesapeake Bay and spend one month at Anchorage Marina in downtown Baltimore, MD to wait for the opening of the Erie Canal. We also had plans to take the boat back south to Florida or Hilton Head and leave it for the summer and return next fall. We decided instead to truck Sea Major back to Michigan and trade her in for a Tiara C44 Coupe in Harbor Springs, MI. In our travels of looking for a winter home in Florida, it was clear to us that we did not want to settle down to one location. We want to liveaboard and travel by boat in Florida and the Bahamas during the winters for at least another 5 or 6 years.
Charleston was a nice town with much history but most of the restaurants and attractions were still closed up. On May 20,2020, We rented a 16′ Penske truck and loaded it up with the dinghy, 85 boxes of stuff, and drove 15 hours back to Milford, MI.
It is our intention to head back south for the winter completing the remainder of the loop via the Erie Canal backwards and crossing our wake in Charleston, SC. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
With approximately 2,000 more miles to complete our loop, here is an update of our stats: 4,806 miles traveled , 302 hours traveling with a cruising speed of 30 mph and an average speed of 16 mph, 4,643 gallons of diesel used including running generator while under way, 39 weeks on Loop with1 night anchored out.
Tip of the day: If you have patience and can wait, no matter how bad things seem, the waters will always settle.
The Milford Times called us for an article. Coronavirus wave overtakes Milford boaters in midst of year-long America’s Great Loop trip
Susan Bromley, Hometownlife.com Published 8:12 a.m. ET June 1, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is a storm that that has stranded a Milford couple on a year-long boat journey.
Dave and Valerie Mamo are in the midst of America’s Great Loop, a boat adventure which they began last July, leaving from Lake St. Clair.
Now they are doing the ultimate in social distancing while stuck on Sea Major, their boat, in a Charleston, S.C., marina and pondering their next move.
“We wanted to be back by July 4 or earlier, now we are in a dilemma,” Dave Mamo said. “We are stuck in not being able to complete our Loop. We have 2,000 miles more to go.”
The coronavirus pandemic, he explained, is keeping the Erie Canal closed as maintenance was delayed by two months, an essential part of their route home to complete America’s Great Loop.
The loop is a trip that, depending on route, spans 5,200-6,000 miles through eastern U.S. waterways including the Great Lakes and Atlantic and Gulf intracoastal waterways, as well as the Mississippi and Tennessee-Tombigbee waterways.
According to the America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association, only about 100 boats complete the journey per year. How many will complete it this year, including the Mamos’ boat, “Sea Major,” remains in question.
The Mamos began their journey July 27 from MacRay Harbor on Lake St. Clair, excited and blissfully unaware of the monumental pandemic obstacle waiting around the bend. Dave, 60, retired as a union electrician one week before they left. Valerie, 61, retired as a nurse a few years prior.
Both are amateur musicians and as they left on the 39-foot Sea Major, a “go-fast” boat that can travel up to 40 mph, they headed north to the Mackinac area and enjoyed the Beaver Island Music Festival in which Valerie’s violin coach played.
Music also featured in other stops on their journey as they traveled south on Lake Michigan, stayed in Chicago for about a week and then continued into inland rivers and taking a two-week detour to Nashville, where they visited the Grand Ole Opry.
As they continued south down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, hitting logs twice and pulling the boat from the water to use spare props, Dave said the muddiness of the rivers really struck him.
“I have a new respect for how clean the Detroit River is,” he said. “As well as white sand in the Gulf and any civilized Walmart… We hit Orange Beach, Alabama, and it was like coming to civilization.”
Crossing the Gulf of Mexico to the western shore of Florida also had its challenges. Two-foot seas were predicted for the 170-mile crossing and instead they were greeted with double that: 4-foot waves with 8-foot swells.
Upon arrival in Tarpon Springs, they then enjoyed a more relaxing part of their journey, spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in Florida, including a visit with Valerie’s father. Following was a month-long stay in the Bahamas.
“When we did the crossing, the ocean was more than 9,000 feet deep, I was worried about a submarine coming up under us,” Valerie said. “We saw a lot of sea turtles, dolphins, pelicans… Whoever does the trip and doesn’t go to the Bahamas misses out big time.”
But storms clouds were gathering. They had arrived in the Bahamas in mid-February and planned to stay six weeks, but it was there they first heard of the coronavirus. The undercurrent of the pandemic was rolling, and in the third week of March, the wave was about to overtake them. They left the islands a week ahead of schedule when the U.S. issued a level 4 travel advisory telling all Americans to come home.
“We were hearing about things changing, temperatures being taken, you had to wear armbands and they limited the amount of food and the kind you could buy,” Valerie recalled.
On March 22, they docked at a marina in North Palm Beach, in the nick of time. Valerie noted that within three days of their departure, the Bahaman government was rationing fuel and water and those who had stayed were stuck.
The Mamos planned to visit Valerie’s dad again, but instead only saw the 84-year-old for an hour, while social distanced.
“All the things we thought we could do, we couldn’t, and that is the way it has been since we got back to the U.S.,” Valerie said. “Everything is closed.”
“Docktails,” a social event among Loopers and other boaters at marinas, has been non-existent. The whole trip, she added, has been going downhill, despite 80 degree weather and sunny skies. They described St. Augustine as a “ghost town.”
Now they are left in Charleston trying to chart their next maneuver, through waters thoroughly muddied by coronavirus.
They are wondering if they should continue up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to Baltimore and Chesapeake Bay and wait for the canal system to open, which it might not, or leave the boat in Charleston and come home, then return in the fall for another winter down south. Or they could put the boat on a trailer and truck it home.
Valerie is leaning toward coming home. The couple misses their sons and young grandson.
Dave notes that if they bring the boat home, they could do the remainder of the Loop when the canal opens and go backwards the final 2,000 miles, but then they wouldn’t cross their own wake.
The trips has been full of unforeseen challenges, even non-coronavirus related ones, like the lock-closures on the Illinois River that forced the couple to wake at 3 a.m. one morning in October to lead seven other boats through fog at the only time that was open for pleasure craft.
Still, while the adventure was a lot more challenging than he expected with less free time than anticipated, Dave said it was more enjoyable than he expected, too, and they’ve made a lot of friends.
“To read everyone’s Facebook posts about how hard it is to live together at home (under quarantine), we’ve been doing it in a space the size of a master bedroom for 10 months,” Dave said.
Valerie, the “reluctant spouse,” summarizes it a little differently.
“We haven’t thrown each other overboard yet,” she laughed.
To follow along on the Mamos’ Great Loop journey, visit their blog at seamajor.net.
- Don MamoGreat read , it didn’t end the way you planned but what a journey
- Connie Naudi Yay! Applause!
- Troy ParentWhat a great story Dave Safe travels for the remainder of your trip
- Karen PreissWhat a great story, a trip of a lifetime!!
- Bud PenningtonYou guys are famous now!!!You’ve got your story in the Milford Times!!!!Great story, I’m glad you’re safe!
- Marla SmithCool!
- Gayle Court SpiteriYou’re both famous!A trip of a lifetime!!
- Tammy MamoI enjoyed reading this, learned a few things too. Thanks for sharing
- Joe MamoNice story Dave. Hope you get to finish it someday.
- Diane HurychNice story. Glad you’re home safe
- Barbara HenkJust glad you both made it back safely. Such a wonderful adventure!
- Diane ThomasSo glad you had your dream of so many years come true…that’s a WIN in itself many of us only get the dream. World circumstances certainly changed the end of your trip but you guys got the trip of a lifetime. Continue to keep us posted on your journey…
- Valerie MamoThanks Diane, will do.
- Kimberly KottsWhat a wonderful journey!!! So happy for you both
- Connie NaudiGreetings from Malta
- Don MamoMake smart decisions and everything else doesn’t matter
- Patricia Langell ?
- Cindy YassayIt’s been exciting to see you get that far. Let us know when you get home. Safe travels among the amped up land restrictions.
- Valerie MamoCindy Yassay will do thx. Be thinking of a new boat name.
- Bud PenningtonDave and Val,What a wonderful trip you have taken us on!Thank you so much for including us on your journey!!!… See Valerie MamoBud Pennington Thank you! We still have 2000 miles to complete the loop so stay tuned.
- Katie BrownBeen thinking of you guys lately, love following your journey! Can’t wait to see what boat is next! stay well!
- Valerie MamoKatie Brown It was our pleasure docking next to you guys in Marathon. I won’t forget honorary Grandma to your adorable Stevie. Keep in touch . We plan on being in Marathon next Jan& Feb. see you?
- Katie BrownThere’s a very good chance of that! We will most definitely keep in touch, we talk about marathon a lot and you’re a part of that memory!
- Tammy MamoSafe travels for you and Val.
- Jeanne WunderleWhat an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing the ride with us! Looking forward to your next adventure.
- Valerie MamoJeanne Wunderle Thx. Will do
- Cesolin TesolinSuch an incredible journey for you both. How memories are made Glad you’ll be home soon, safe and on solid ground
- Betsy SullivanWe are definitely hooked on boating life. Meeting you and Dave was a highlight. Curious what boat is in your future. We are exploring.
- Valerie MamoBetsy Sullivan 2020 Tiara 44 coupe. Are you looking for a live aboard for traveling?
- David MamoThis is our last loop sunset picture from Charleston City Marina. We may resume and complete the loop this fall backward from home again. We are trucking her home for the summer.