Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Embracing adventure at any age - AT LAST

John Mencel is getting Loopy — literally. He’s undertaking a nearly yearlong trek around the Great Loop.

Taking off from his home harbour of Bayfield, Ont., last week, this Londoner will be journeying with his son James, 22, on a 36-foot Hatteras, powered by twin Caterpillar diesels.
At 58 and retired from his position as a vice-president at the Bank of Montreal, Mencel is ready for adventure, and is still young enough to make it happen. “I’ve loved water all my life and been a sailor since high school. I’ve always loved adventure stories and have a great sense of adventure,” says Mencel. He’s been planning the trip for over five years, with a good deal of that time taken up with finding the right boat.

at last - Hatteras 36 sedan

Mencel usually favours sailboats and has covered some of the Great Lakes and the North Channel on his 31-foot Niagara. 

The Great Loop

Since navigating the Great Loop involves cruising on rivers and under bridges, Mencel decided a powerboat was the way to go. Mencel is heading toward the North Channel, will go through U.S. Customs in Michigan, and travel through Lake Michigan to Chicago — hopefully by Labour Day.  He’ll then cruise down the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to the Tennessee River, through Kentucky to Alabama.

There he’ll attend a convention with up to 100 other “Loopers” to look at charts and plot strategy. “There and at the marinas you look for other boats with the Loop flag. It’s a great way to meet people who are on the same journey as you,” says Mencel. After hurricane season ends in early December, Mencel will enter the Gulf of Mexico and cruise down to the Florida Keys. He’ll winter there and possibly in the Bahamas, heading north up the Intercoastal Waterway in late March or early April. Then it’s on to New York City, taking the Hudson River to the New York canal system, then back to Lake Erie and home from there. Mencel plans to be back in Bayfield by early to mid summer 2012. A list of friends have already signed up to keep him company on the homeward trip.

Worries? Not many, he says. Navigating rivers can be tricky; weather is always a concern. He’s not concerned about much else. “Along the rivers, communities are 30 to 50 miles apart and they are very accommodating to boaters,” he says. Being away from his wife, Wendy, will be the hardest part, but the couple plans to make good use of technology to keep in touch. She’ll join him from time to time during the journey.

Mencel figures the venture will cost him around $30,000, the largest part of that for fuel.

The man who longed to live the life of Robinson Crusoe thinks that it’s a cost well worth the adventure of a lifetime. His boat’s name sums it up: At Last.

Follow his blog: jmencel.blogspot.com

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