So far, George and Meg Sanders on Viridian, their 1986 Grand Banks 36 Classic, have done everything just about right. A few years ago, they had virtually no experience on a boat of this size. Now they’ve put a few thousand miles under their belts and are waiting out the cold weather in Key West, ready to resume their voyage around the Great Loop in February.
The Sanders, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama, just south of Huntsville, decided they wanted to take a major adventure several years ago: The Great Loop beckoned. But first, they needed a boat. In June, 2016, they bought the Grand Banks, powered by a single 3208 Cat diesel, in Bradenton, Florida – after they hired two surveyors to inspect it – one for the engine; one for the hull. (I relate to the Sanders’ experience; many years ago, I bought my Grand Banks 36 in Fort Myers.) The Sanders’ boat had been named Kaleidoscope, which didn’t do anything for them, so they renamed it Viridian, after their favorite color (a mix of blue and green, like the waters of Alabama Gulf coast).
They also hired a captain, to help them out, and they took the boat to their home port of Ditto Landing, in Huntsville. Then the Sanders took courses on boat systems, navigation, anchoring, everything to prepare them for cruising. And they put off their plans for the Loop for a year, since their son was getting married.
That extra time gave them the chance to make some changes on the boat. In fact, they carried out a list of 31 modifications, from installing a new Garmin radar to cleaning the heat exchanger. They took out the iconic Grand Banks teak table in the salon, to make more room, and redecorated the entire interior, since the boat was going to be their home for more than a year.
Finally, after a one more trip to the Walmart, the Sanders left on Oct. 13, and made it to the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association fall rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State a few days later. They plan to cross their wake next October at Grand Harbor Marina, at the junction of the Tennessee River and the Tombigbee Waterway.
But now, having cruised down the Gulf to Fort Myers, across the Okeechobee and down the Atlantic Coast to Key West, they’re enjoying their life. “Some of the best food in the world is just a walk away from the dock,” Sanders says, with a particular recommendation for the Key Lime pie on Pepe’s on Caroline Street.
I asked what they’ve enjoyed most so far. “The people we meet along the way are amazing,” he said. And if anyone else is thinking about doing the Loop, Sanders said they should start looking for a boat, since “having the desire is 95 percent of the battle.” Then, he said, “by all means attend one of the AGLCA rendezvous.”
In my opinion, anyone thinking of doing the Loop, or any other long-term cruising, could do a lot worse than to follow the Sanders’ example. Read more about their trip here: