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Gainesville couple finishes 6,000-mile-long boating journey along America's Great Loop
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Gainesville residents Brian Chapin and Karen Silverhorn recently completed the 6,000-mile Great Loop on their 25-foot boat "Tug Life". The trip is up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, through New York State Canals, into the Great Lakes, down the inland river system, across the Gulf of Mexico and around the southern tip of Florida. - photo by Scott Rogers

After 159 days, a Gainesville couple has completed a boating journey that took them through 20 states and more than 6,200 miles across the Eastern United States.

Brian Chopin and Karen Silverthorn first set sail in October of 2020 to complete the long boating trip of America’s Great Loop where they explored lakes, rivers and towns across the country.

The great loop takes boaters from the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, along the Atlantic coast to New York, through the Hudson River, Lake Eerie, Lake Michigan and back down to Alabama through the Mississippi River. Roughly 150 people complete the loop per year making it a rarer accomplishment than climbing Mount Everest.

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Photographs from Brian Chapin and Karen Silverthorn's Great Loop boat trip. Photo Courtesy Brian Chapin

They decided to try their hand at the loop after buying their Ranger Tugs 25-foot tugboat, appropriately named “Tug Life’’. 

“I heard about it decades ago and I’ve been kind of dreaming about doing it for decades,” Chopin said. 

Though both were used to the water after being avidly into sailing, canoeing and kayaking their whole lives, Chopin and Silverthron prepared for months for the trip with help from America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association. 

They would spend nights and days on their boat on Lake Lanier seeing what was needed for their trip. As well as studying the Waterway Guides, navigating, radar and boating etiquette and safety with webinars from the association. 

“When you do something like this you have to be a lot more cautious and conscious of boating safety and rules of the road, navigation, right of way and all those things,” Chopin said. 

The couple would often share dock tales in marinas with hundreds of other boaters and travel with others completing the loop. The couple would dock their boat and visit nearby towns to refuel, buy groceries and explore new places. 

“It kind of flew by,” Silverthorn said. “Every day was different and we would make plans for how far we would go the night before, where we might stop. By morning it had all changed.”

Along the way, the couple saw everything from rare birds, eagles, manatees and dolphins on the water to jazz festivals, big cities and the Statue of Liberty. 

Though they started in October, their trip was cut short when their boat’s engine blew out in December of 2020 and they had to head home. On March 15 of this year, they set out again to finish what they started and completed the loop on July 26. The AGLCA sent them their golden AGLCA loop flag to show that they completed the journey.

Chopin said he hopes their story will inspire others to go out and do what they want to do no matter how long it takes.

“The best thing to do is look up the America’s Great Loop Association because then you get so much information and so much help that then you can believe that it’s possible,” he said.

The couple hopes to continue going on adventures and try their hand at the northern part of the loop again in the future. To follow along with their adventures and read more details of their trip visit kbtravelsdotblog.wordpress.com.  

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