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Maine Cat

The State of the Boat Buying Market

Recently Steve Russell was interviewed by America’s Great Loop Cruising Association to give his take on the current Boat Market. Below is the article from the Great Loop eLink Magazine by Karen Nettles.

While most industries saw a dramatic downturn in business when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the marine industry saw just the opposite as the pandemic ravaged on. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), sales of boats, marine products and services across the U.S. leaped to a 13-year high in 2020 to $47 billion, increasing 9% from the prior year. And, that demand included a new surge in Great Loop-capable boat sales as well.

The pandemic forced many people to have more flexible work schedules and environments, causing some to turn to boating as a way to embrace a new normal and enjoy a hobby or lifestyle that already included social distancing. This too was no different for those interested in the Great Loop. AGLCA saw an incredible 20% increase in membership in FY2021 and with so many new members who are or will be in the market for a boat, AGLCA reached out to all its Yacht Broker and Boat Manufacturer sponsors and offered them an opportunity to participate in a Q & A about the boat-buying market for this article. Thanks to Captain Steve Russell of Admiralty Yacht Sales in Delray Beach, FL and Michael Schwartz of Schwartz & Co. Yacht Sales in Westmont, IL for taking us up on the offer.

Endeavour 40 Skylounge Power Catamaran
Endeavour 40 Skylounge Power Catamaran – SOLD

What’s the current status of the inventory of boats for sale?

Russell– Inventory for Looper boats in good to excellent condition is still very low.  As the Great Loop and associated Loops continue to grow in popularity. With more people keeping their boats longer, I anticipate this status to exist for another year or two.  Of course, some makes and models are more popular than others and they are the hardest to find.  I’ve noticed that the types and sizes of Looper boats has changed since I did the loop in 2017.  Mostly, they have gotten bigger.  With a limited inventory, this is where using a Buyers Broker can be a great help.  At no cost to you, a buyers broker will often know about boats for sale that are not on the market.  This, along with helping you work through the steps of buying a boat and often dealing with a selling broker, can relieve a lot of stress.

Schwartz-Inventory continues to move quickly in this market. We have seen listings go as soon as they are posted, and oftentimes the listing broker will already have some buyers in mind when a new opportunity comes in. This certainly presents a challenge for unrepresented buyers who aren’t as familiar with the brokerage process and do not have relationships with the various brokers throughout the Region to be able to call directly and get quick answers.

Are there any particular boat makes or styles that are in high demand?

Russell– I specialize in Power Catamarans.  High demand boats are the Endeavour 36, 38, 44.  But all Powercats in the 38-50’ range are in demand.  Other makes that are very popular are PDQ, Manta and Lagoon in the used market.  Newer boats include  the Aquila, Leopard, Fountaine Pajot and Aspen.

Schwartz- If it floats, it’s in demand! The AGLCA comprises a very specific segment of the boat-buying population that typically prefers tugs & trawlers which is a particular niche for us. As the Great Lakes representative for American Tug, we see a lot of buyers looking for these and similarly styled vessels. Our view is that current market demand is artificially inflated due to the pandemic as boating by its nature is socially distanced. Boats, RV’s, ATV’s, etc. have seen unprecedented demand in the last year and a half. As it relates to the Looping crowd, we have seen younger families considering the Loop and like the space provided by tugs & trawlers to also accommodate the kids. We have also seen the Loop crowd being more thoughtful and prepared related to their purchase. Loopers generally know what they want, are quite educated on the vessels and haven’t been acting impulsively like the rest of the buyers in the market.

How quickly after hitting the market are most Looper-type boats selling?

Russell– Powercats and most other Looper boats that are in good condition are not lasting a week.  The last 5 boats that I have sold never even hit the market.  Several others sold before I had a chance to sell them. For example, an Endeavour 44 was listed one day. I had a couple that wanted to see it the next day. When I contacted the listing broker he already had a full price contract on it sight unseen! 

Schwartz-With used American Tugs, we are seeing them gone at full ask with a backup offer at full ask, almost as soon as they hit the market. This has led to lots of new orders. With other popular manufacturers that dynamic also seems to exist, but not quite to the same extent. Looper-style vessels that aren’t moving quite as fast are those in the 40′ + segment which present higher purchase prices, a higher cost of ownership and higher costs to Loop.

Do you have any thoughts or data on how close to asking-price boats are typically selling for?

Russell– Most boats are selling for close to asking price, and if in good condition, usually not more then $10k below asking.  There have been some instances where people have paid more because that boat is so hard to find.  Some of that has to do with the Year and price of the boat.  The lower priced boats, in the $80k- $250k range tend to not veer off the asking price as much as the higher priced boat in the $250k – $800k range.  If you are working with a buyers broker, they can help by providing information on previously sold boats to understand the acceptable ask/buy variable.

Schwartz-Generally, across all classes, vessel sales are tracking pretty close to ask. In the tug & trawler space, we are seeing most deals at ask where the vessel is less than 10 years old and not a project. For American Tug (specifically the 34 and newer 362, 365, 395 models), we are seeing deals at ask with backup offers at ask almost immediately upon listing, with the larger vessels taking a little more time and being a little more flexible on price.

How does the current market for Looper boats compare to before COVID?

Russell– Like everything out there, Looping has become a highly desirable adventure  because of Covid.  I would say that the current market has exceeded pre-Covid numbers by 2 to 3 times.  That has helped to drive up the prices in the boat market as the inventory decreased.  

Schwartz- Loopers are an interesting crowd. They don’t seem to be the same impulsive buyer we’ve seen enter the market since COVID. Loopers do their homework and are intentional about what they do. The market was consistent with Loopers before and we expect it to be consistent going forward. That there is now more awareness of the Loop and younger families looking to Loop is a trend we hope will continue.

Do you have any anecdotes from recent brokerage deals that help highlight the state of the market?

Russell– In my last deal, the seller did not want to actually sell his boat for 2 months because he was still traveling.  I keep a list of people that are using me as a Buyers Broker so I sold it in 2 weeks and delayed the Closing for 2 months.  They did not want to take a chance of missing the boat, so to speak.  Many times we hear about boats that are coming up for sale before they actually do. 

Schwartz-Our counterpart for American Tug down in Florida brokers more used American Tugs than anyone in the business. A recent listing of his came to market and I sent a message asking how many offers he had. Long story short, he had an accepted offer at ask with a backup offer at ask, both with full deposits not long after posting the listing.

What is your best advice for someone seeking to buy a boat for the Loop in the next 12 months?

Russell– Know what you want.  Do not wait.  If you have questions on what kind of boat you want, contact a buyers broker. There is not cost to you and let them help you work through the search.  When a desired boat becomes available, do not wait and think about it. If it is a boat in good condition, it will be taken before you can even make an offer.  In the current boat market, low ball offers will be rejected and you will lose out on the opportunity.  If you do not know what boat you want, go on any Looper boat you can.  Go to any show you can.  Meet up with current loopers that have a boat ( make and model) that you are considering. Talk to them about their boats and possibly travel to see their boat.  Do Not expect to find a low dollar deal.  You will miss out very quickly. 

If you find a cheap boat, expect to put a lot of money, and time, into it.  Most of the time, it is not worth the time, money or effort.  If an owner has not taken care of the boat, there will be a ton of catch up to do to make it Loop Ready.  You don’t want to be Looping and making excessive repairs along the way.  It takes all the joy out of the trip. If you want to use a Buyers Broker, which doesn’t cost you anything. Do Not approach a broker selling a boat directly.  Once you do that, your Buyers Broker will not be able to help you buy that boat.  Let the Buyers Broker do the work for you.

Schwartz – That’s a tough question to be honest. It remains a seller’s market and inventory is tight. There are no “deals” and buyer beware any “deals”. I generally advise those looking to Loop or engage in any extended cruising to have their vessel for at least a season to get to know it first. This may not be as important for experienced captains, but oftentimes the new vessel is larger than what the buyer has experience with. On the Loop you will be doing a ton of locking and docking so Loopers need to become proficient at this prior to embarking on the Loop. Knowing how to properly set an anchor with sufficient rope is also a skill that should be practiced. The Loop shouldn’t be the first time sleeping on the hook! New owners are advised to practice before they play.

We would advise attempting to secure a Loop vessel between now and the end of the next boating season in 2022. Plan lots of mini-trips once securing the vessel and through the Spring/Summer of 2023. Be prepared to start the Loop in the Summer/Fall of 2023 depending on where you are starting from. For those we work with here in the Great Lakes, we advise they cruise regionally and hit the river system in Chicago with everyone else in the Fall of 2023. This timeline generally provides time to also order new, get lots of mini-trips in over the 2023 boating season and then embark on the Loop in the Fall of 2023. As order slots get taken over the next couple months for new vessel orders, the timeline to take delivery and practice before starting the Loop in 2023 will tighten.


Based on these comments, the boat-buying market for Looper boats shows no signs of slowing down any time soon so if you are in the market for a boat, educate yourself, get a broker and be prepared to move fast. If you need a broker to find your Great Loop boat, please be sure to utilize the AGLCA Sponsor Directory found under the Information menu on the AGLCA website. AGLCA has over 30 Yacht Broker and Boat Manufacturer sponsors that would be happy to assist you. And, if you’re not certain where to start to find the right boat for you, be sure to check out the AGLCA webinar library on which includes these titles: Finding & Buying Your Perfect Great Loop Boat, Virtual Looper Crawl: Trawlers, Virtual Looper Crawl: Motor Yachts & Express Cruisers, Virtual Looper Crawl: Tugs & Down East Boats, Virtual Looper Crawl: Sailboats & Power Catamarans. You’ll also find the podcast on the Boat Buying Market helpful as well as this Show & Tell presentation from a Virtual Rendezvous.

Gypsies Palace and One Eye Dog

The Inland Rivers are Calling!

Last year Gypsies Palace and our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog decided to revisit the Inland Rivers for the summer. Our options were rather limited with Covid shutting down our initial plans. I thought you might enjoy this account that April Smith on One Eye Dog wrote to summarize our summer boating on the Inland Rivers in 2020.

One Eye Dog and Gypsies Palace rafted on the Tennessee River
One Eye Dog and Gypsies Palace rafted on the Tennessee River

Ah, 2020 – the year of Looper Interrupptus!  We all donned face masks, ran out of toilet paper, learned about social distancing, lock downs and closed borders.  Some Loopers in Progress had to leave their boats wherever they were docked, rent cars and head back to their land homes.  Others were stuck waiting for locks to open or trying to understand the requirements to make it through the closed Canadian border.  Throughout the year, poor Kim Russo of AGLCA was tearing her hair out holding virtual rendezvous and helping Loopers figure out what to do.  Those planning to do America’s Great Loop or the Down East Circle Loop had their dreams temporarily shattered.  

The crews of the One Eye Dog and Gypsies Palace planned on heading north for the Down East Circle Loop.  We had our reservations already set for Shady Harbor’s famous pig roast and bought our AGLCA DECL burgees to proudly fly.  Our boats were ready for adventure, lobster rolls and seeing the beautiful sights the Down East Circle Loop has to offer.

We pulled into Fort Myer’s Edison Ford Marina for a week’s stay on March 16th when – BAM – the world shut down!  Our week turned into two and a half month’s while we nervously looked at the calendar as it quickly ticked towards June 15th.  The One Eye Dog’s insurance requires us to be above 32 degrees (Charleston) by June 15th.  We decided we’d head to the Chesapeake, but marina and fuel dock closures along the ICW, Covid hot spots, quarantine requirements, etc. were a constant worry for making our way north. Fortunately, we have to ability to make water and have sufficient solar, but we can’t make diesel fuel!  Everything was compounding with the “Great Unknown” of what to expect with Covid!

One day at lunch, we were discussing our plans and I piped up in my typical April fashion saying “you know, we can always go west and up the inland rivers!”  At first, three surprised faces looked back at me before we all started talking excitedly.  Within 24 hours, the One Eye Dog and Gypsies Palace crews changed our plans as the inland rivers were calling our names!  The Covid cases were minimal in the small towns along the rivers and as we soon discovered, very few boaters take advantage of these amazing waterways.

We left the West Coast of Florida at the end of May enjoying an uneventful Gulf crossing and started making our way across the Panhandle.  There were two dates we had to beat – our insurance requirement of June 15th and the Jamie Whitten Lock closure that would take place on July 1st for a month.  We didn’t want to be stuck on the Tenn-Tom for an entire month while trying to get north. Of course, the other issue was hurricane season and its seemingly early start! 

Little did we realize our two-night stay would be our last at the Palafox Marina in Pensacola.  A few months later, in September 2020, Hurricane Sally destroyed the beloved marina where our boating lives began.  Hurricane season traditionally starts on June 1st, but our eyes were on Tropical Storm Cristobal as it headed east while we were heading west.  We were already on “C” for named storms and it was only June 4th!  We all decided we would be safer riding it out at the Wharf in Orange Beach and we were right!  

Sunset on Mobile Bay
Sunset on Mobile Bay

The Tennessee River

After spending a rocking and rolling 4th of July at Aqua Yacht in Iuka, MS and visiting the Shiloh battlefield, we went to Florence, AL on the Tennessee River.  Florence is by far one of our favorite small towns due to all there is to see there.  We immersed ourselves in the Alabama music scene visiting the famous recording studios of Muscle Shoals, the Alabama Country Music Hall of Fame (we were the only four people there), the Rattlesnake Saloon and the National Coon Dog Cemetery!  There was still so much more to see, but we would return on our way down the Tennessee River too.

Muscle Shoals Recording Studio
Nasa Space Museum

Heading through the Wilson and Wheeler locks, we anchored out at Joe Wheeler and continued traveling the Tennessee.  We stopped at Huntsville to visit the NASA Rocket Science Center where I began to look for cots to spend the night since I didn’t think we’d ever get Larry and Steve out of there.  Our stay in Scottsboro, AL took us to the Unclaimed Baggage Store.  Who knew that your lost airline luggage ended up in a little bitty southern town where your vacation souvenirs, electronics, designer purses and clothing, etc. were sold in a massive department like store?

We journeyed through the beautiful Gorge with its astounding cliffs before arriving in Chattanooga which was simply AWESOME!  We saw Rock City (there are barns all over the country with the saying “See Rock City” painted on them), visited the incredible Chattanooga Aquarium, rode our electric bikes on a fabulous bike trail, checked out the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and even participated in a Zoom Jazzercise class held on the bow of the One Eye Dog and broadcasted to Jazzercise members in California!  We also started relearning the history of the Trail of Tears and the Cherokee Indians. 

The best ice cream ever was in Loudon and we visited the Sweetwater Cheese Factory before heading to Knoxville. The lockmaster at the Loudon Lock video taped us and shared the footage on the lock’s Facebook page.  We soon had boaters coming from far and wide to see the unusual large catamarans traveling the Rivers.  We were the first Aquila in those waters and numerous people stopped to ask questions about our boat.

Knoxville was wonderful.  We met up with fellow Loopers, Dale and Sandy from On Missions.  The marina gave us huge baskets filled with items from Knoxville as a welcome gift.  We went to Pigeon Forge (imagine if Disney and Las Vegas had a love child with a Tennessee accent, that’s Pigeon Forge), Ware’s Valley and toured the beautiful city of Knoxville.

Next stop – the Little Tellico River which takes you right up to the base of the Smokey Mountains.  We anchored the boats while enjoying water that was 85 degrees and so clear you could see your toes while swimming. We spent more time swimming on this trip then we have in the four and a half years we’ve lived on the boat.  We visited the Sequoia Birthplace museum celebrating the life of Sequoia who developed the written Cherokee alphabet and saw Fort Louden.  Then we moved our boats five miles from our 85 degrees water anchorage to the farthest point we could travel on the Lake Tellico.  In five miles the water temperature dropped 20 degrees; Larry was the only one that braved swimming!  We had other good friends take us to see Cade’s Corner only to find out that it was closed to vehicular traffic that day, but we still enjoyed driving through the Great Smokey Mountains.

We also visited the Cherokee Removal Memorial which listed the names of every Cherokee family and, yes, even their slaves who participated in the Trail of Tears crossing the Tennessee River!  

Soon it was time to turn back and head to the Cumberland River.  We were all very sad to leave the Tennessee River.  On the way, we stopped for a second time in Chattanooga, where we were greeted by the crew of Oysterland.  Rick and Susan follow us on Facebook and invited us to stay at the Guntersville Yacht Club.  Naturally, we couldn’t turn down their offer.  Not only that, we also stayed on their home dock for another three nights!  A great time with our new friends and current Loopers.

We enjoyed a spontaneous raft up for a couple of hours with Loopers, Tim and Theresa of Home Office.  We turned their little boat into a catamaran sandwich with our two large cats rafted to each side of their much smaller vessel.  Next we met up with Loopers, Shane and Beth of Stray Cat for a three-catamaran wide raft up at the Yellow Creek Waterfall by Florence, AL which caused quite a stir as boaters passed us by.  

Soon we found ourselves turning up the Tennessee towards the Cumberland River.  We stopped at Clifton Marina and discovered that Abby is featured on their website!  Stacy and Susan still make a killer hamburger and offer terrific hospitality.

We met up with our dear friends, Mike and Laurie, Gold Loopers formerly of Firestorm, at Paris Landing.  They recently bought a log cabin close to the marina.  We also met Victor whose home over looks the marina. Victor brought us food gifts because there are no real restaurants or stores within close distance of the marina and he worries about the boaters.  What a sweet man!

We were soon on our way to what I call the “Looper reward” you earn after traveling down the rivers from Chicago – Green Turtle Bay Resort in Grand Rapids, KY.  We enjoyed massages, pedicures, great food and meeting up with both old Looper friends and excited new Loopers.  It was so fun to share memories of adventures with former Loopers and to give new Loopers bits of wisdom hoping to make their Loop experience even better.  The week went by way too fast, but the good news was, we were coming back there for a week after the Cumberland too!

The Cumberland River

We picked up Mike and Laurie along with their two dogs in Clarksville as they decided to hop on board Gypsies Palace as we cruised up the Cumberland.  There were six people and five dogs for the trip.  We spent the night at a few free docks before making our way to Nashville.  It was a blast sightseeing, listening to music (Nashville is LOUD), eating Hot Chicken and tasting various bourbons and drinking Yee Haw beer!

Pets on board
Pets on Board!

We pulled into Cherokee Marina by Lebanon, TN for one night.  Ryan, the marina’s owner, charged us a whopping $15 per night which included power and water.  We ended up staying for a total of five nights with the wonderful people at the marina who truly have become friends.  They told us to go spend the night at the old Lock Wall #6.  Some of the guys went up before our visit to mow the weeds and leave several cords of firewood for us to enjoy in the large firepit they constructed.  We tied up to the old lock cleats and a few tree trunks.  There was no power or water or people or anything for miles!  We made a huge bonfire and spent a glorious evening in the middle of nowhere listening to music and enjoying our time with good friends.  It is probably our favorite memory of the summer. 

Sadly, it was time to turn back down the Cumberland to drop off Mike and Laurie before going back to Green Turtle Bay.  We had planned to travel up the Ohio River to Cincinnati, but it was getting late in the year and we needed to start our way towards Demopolis for our insurance required November 1st below 32 degrees time frame.  Besides, we still want to do the Ohio River trip all the way to Pittsburg so we figured we would save it for another adventure.

We chose a new stop on the way down at Birdsong, TN which is the home of the only freshwater pearl factory in the United States.  They were beautiful and, yes, we bought some lovely freshwater pearl jewelry.    

We again visited favorite marinas on the way back – Clifton for another burger, Florence because we simply needed more Florence time and Aqua for great fuel prices.

Down the Tenn-Tom Waterway

Soon enough we found ourselves heading back through the Jamie Whitten lock to begin our trip down the Tenn-Tom.  We made it to Demopolis on Halloween in time to attend Anna-Marie’s famous Halloween Party (our costumes were Social Butterflies“}. There were 10 Looper vessels that would make the last leg of the trip down the waterway with us.  Of course, we had been running into several of these vessels at various towns all summer.  

We had a little bit of excitement while traveling down when Whiskey Business lost their anchor and ended up rafting to us for two nights.  Other than that, it was a lovely, non-eventful trip down the Tenn-Tom.

Before we knew it we were all in Mobile Bay where the real fun began.  Of course, not only were we dealing with the issues of Covid, 2020 was a horrific year for hurricanes and tropical storms. Two of which made direct landfall in Mobile Bay and the Panhandle.  The devastation was incredible and made for difficult conditions traveling back to the West Coast of Florida.  Marinas were destroyed, fuel docks were gone, carnage from the numerous vessels that sunk was everywhere and homes were covered in blue tarps having lost their roofs.  We were grateful the Wharf Marina in Orange Beach was able to fit us on their docks as Tropical Storm Eta was now overhead.  Seriously, we weathered two tropical storms at the Wharf on this trip!

We continued our way across the Panhandle anchoring the rest of the way as the few marinas that survived Sally were completely overwhelmed with boaters.  We were not disappointed as love anchoring as well.

Our trip back across the Gulf was equally uneventful.  Well, except when about five miles out, we thought we were out of fuel! We literally limped into Clearwater only to discover that we still had over 60 gallons in the tank and our fuel gage was just acting up!  There were strong adult beverages later that evening!  We made it back to Florida’s West Coast in time for Thanksgiving and our daughter’s birthday at her new home in Palm Harbor.

Why We Loved the Inland Rivers

When looking back on the five and a half month trip, we are still blown away at what we saw, the people we met and the magnificent country we traveled through.  Overall, cruising through the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers is easy.  It is pretty much point and shoot.  If you get lost, you really had to work hard to do it!!  There are lovely anchorages all along the Tennessee where you can enjoy the quiet, swim in clear fresh water and fish.

We didn’t find ourselves fixated on weather apps like we do when traveling the coastlines.  The inland rivers are calm and many areas are wide enough for sailboats to actually sail.  The Tennessee is a series of lakes separated by locks.  The roughest water conditions we suffered were caused by boaters at Aqua Yacht for 4th of July weekend who churned up Pickwick Lake.  We did hear one tornado siren go off, but never saw a tornado.  We had occasional rain and a few gusty days, but mostly, the sun shined down.  It wasn’t overly hot or humid which was a big surprise as well.  Mosquitoes were at a minimum too! I was super concerned about bug bites because they love me.  I’m happy to report that I received very few bites.

The locks on these inland rivers are a breeze, as long as you learn how to work with the lockmasters and do your homework ensuring there aren’t any lock issues before showing up.  Communication is key. We always contacted them by phone the night before and again in the morning prior to departure.  We explained that we were pleasure craft and that we would follow whatever instructions required as we knew the tows and barges had priority. The lockmasters willing to accommodate us and great to work with.  The One Eye Dog has traveled through 222 locks to date.

Of course, both the Cumberland and the Tennessee are working rivers which means lots of barge and tow traffic.  The tow boat captains were responsive when we contacted them and interested in our catamarans as well. Some even gave us tourist advice! They are the kings, and even a few queens of the rivers, and we always respect their authority.  We found them friendly and respectful as we treated them in kind.  Make sure you learn your Ones and Twos – you are going to need to know which is which! Remember to repeat back what you think you heard after getting their instructions.  Using VHF radios over the sound of engines and with many unusual accents, transmissions can be hard to understand at times.

We met many new Loopers and loved sharing the excitement of their upcoming experiences.  It was great that we saw many of our good Looper friends that we have known for years.  We were astounded by the generosity of the people along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The inexpensive (average about a dollar a foot) marinas that were run by competent and compassionate staff pleasantly surprised us.   As foodies, we were not disappointed by the offerings we enjoyed along the way.

We are already looking forward to our return trip to the Inland Rivers.  They are truly the best kept secret in boating!

Sunset on the Tenn Tom Waterway
Gypsies Palace with Buddy Boat


Wondering what it is like to be full time cruisers?  Gypsies Palace was interviewed by Gulfshore Life Magazine along with our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog.  This is a copy of the article where you learn what it is like to live on a boat full time and create a community on the water.


Two liveaboard couples leave dry land and create a community on the water.


It’s a particularly hot morning on the Caloosahatchee River, the sun warms the back of my neck despite the clouds threatening an afternoon shower.

Debbie and Steve Russell’s dog Jazzy relaxes on the couch on their boat, “Gypsies Palace” while docked in Fort Myers on May 22, 2020. Jazzy rides with Debbie and Steve while they travel in their boat throughout the year. (Photo by Scott McIntyre for Gulfshore Life Magazine)

The gentle, lulling snores of a sleeping schnauzer, named Jazzy, are audible in the background as he cuddles up against my side. Abby, a one-eyed Maltese, crawls across my lap to get to her owners sitting beside me.

We’re poised around a table at the stern of April and Larry Smith’s home, an Aquila 44 power catamaran lovingly named One Eye Dog, with their boating buddies Steve and Debbie Russell. The Russell’s own Endeavour 500 power cat, dubbed Gypsies Palace, is docked next door.

April and Larry Smith relax on their boat “One Eyed Dog” alongside their one eyed dog Abby (on table) and April and Larry Smith’s dog Jazzy while docked in Fort Myers, FL on Saturday, May 23, 2020. (Photo by Scott McIntyre for Gulfshore Life Magazine)

The four typically cruise from port to port together, and are part of a group of boaters known as Loopers—people who travel the approximately 6,000-mile Great Loop that encompasses waterways throughout the eastern United States and parts of Canada, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River and channels that connect the Great Lakes.

When the pandemic hit, the two liveaboard (a term used for people who reside on a boat) couples decided to stay at The Marina at Edison Ford in Fort Myers until docks along the loop started to reopen.

Marina at Edison Ford
Docked at The Marina at Eidson Ford

Southwest Florida’s quiet marinas serve as temporary homes for many boat-dwellers, with some docking at The Marco Island Marina or Goodland’s Safe Harbor Calusa Island once they reach the Gulf. Steve tells me that even beyond the pandemic, Fort Myers is particularly appealing for longer stays, due to its proximity to the city and its plentiful dining and entertainment options, as well as being close to Marco Island, Naples, Sanibel and Captiva.

Read More

Ladies on the Loop

A collection of 35 short stories offering guidance, humor, and reflection from women who have traveled America’s Great Loop.

Gypsies Palace Great Loop Track
Our track of the Great Loop in 2017

In 2017 Steve and I achieved an amazing accomplishment of completing the Great Loop on Gypsies Palace. Approximately 150 boats every year cross their wake by making an entire trip around the Great Loop. A friend and fellow Looper, Susan Costa, came up with the idea of gathering stories from women who have traveled the Great Loop. 35 women, including myself, volunteered to write a chapter in this e book. The stories are amazing and cover a wide range of topics. I am so proud to be part of this project.

Below is the part of the Chapter that I wrote called Cat Tales, Dog Tales and Docktails. At the end of my chapter I will provide a copy of the book and hope it will inspire others to accomplish their dream.

Cat Tales, Dog Tails & Docktails By Debbie Russell On Gypsies Palace. 47 Ft. Leopard Power Cat / 50 FT. Endeavour Power Cat Gold Looper 2017

Cat Tales

Most people spend a lot of time in the Planning Mode to do the Great Loop.  We went backwards – we decided to live aboard full time on a boat and go “All In” without even hearing about the Great Loop.  We sold our house and bought this big (47 feet long) and wide (25 feet wide) power catamaran.  We didn’t even talk about where we would go, but it would be somewhere fun.  Our first task was to move our “stuff” onboard and make some modifications to cruise.  One day I opened Passage Maker Magazine and there was this big ad for the Great Loop from this organization AGLCA.  I joined it without telling my husband and began to read up on the Loop.  It was fascinating. I couldn’t keep it a secret for long because I was getting so excited about all of the places along the Loop that we would see.  Very soon I was a daily Forum reader and found much of the information was overwhelming.  How could we ever do this?  We bought the boat in October and by December my head was filled with Looper Lingo, including a Rendezvous that was taking place that Spring!   My heart sank when I learned that we were too late to attend, but we would be on a wait list. I hoped that someone would cancel.  It turned out that Kim Russo emailed me in February saying that we were in!  Now we had to figure out how to get there in time! 

Leaving on the Loop on Gypsies Palace
Leaving on the Loop on Gypsies Palace

I also wondered about our big and wide Catamaran.  Could we really take it on the Loop?  We didn’t have anyone to ask (no one had big catamarans then) so I started researching any restrictions on the Loop for width and height.  Gypsies Palace is certainly a “Wide Body”.  When she is coming at you all you see is width.  I learned that we could not fit in the Trent Severn Waterway, but we could use the Welland Canal and go through Lake Erie to get to Canada.  Great!  One obstacle solved.

The second restriction is height.  We had to fit under the Chicago Railroad Bridge of 19.7 ft.  I cannot tell you how many times that we measured our air draft!  We could fit if we took the satellite dish down and that would put us to 18.5 feet.  But, this part of the trip was going to be a worry for me.   What if we got there and had to turn around?   What about getting under bridges in tight situations?  The one thing I didn’t want to do is to be the one to go look at our roof and say, “Yeah, we can make it…..I think…..”  So, what my husband did is that he created a pole that I could stand on the bow of our boat that would equal the height of our boat.  If the pole touched the bridge we couldn’t make it.  I will say that this really helped us on the Erie Canal because we were close for one of them!  But, we never touched.  Another worry got put away.

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Dockview from Gypsies Palace


Gypsies Palace
Gypsies Palace In Shelter

Our blog has been “in shelter” these days as we are tied up in a marina and not doing much of anything, like most of you.  It is a little hard to be excited about writing about every day life on board when nearly every day is like the other day…..not very news worthy.   But, then again, you may be curious if you are not on a boat and may be wondering how life is doing for Gypsies Palace. 

We were very lucky to have made arrangements at the Eidson Ford Marina in Ft. Myers for mid March, just as things were going downhill.  This marina is where we have spent most of our winter stay and has been so nice to us.   We came in initially for a week, then 2 weeks, then a month and then another month.  It is a small marina where we are able to sit, get our pump outs at the slip and receive our numerous Amazon orders.  We are able to walk to Publix and occasionally get take out from the local restaurants.  Additionally, the restaurant at the marina sold us fish. We bought snapper, grouper, mussels and even chicken.  That is a nice unexpected perk. 

It was very fortunate for us and our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog that we didn’t have to worry about travel plans because at this point we had none!

Some boaters were not so lucky.  Many marinas were no longer taking transients or worse, made them leave.  The Florida Keys took the matter seriously and asked many boats to leave if they had not made long term arrangements.  Canada completely shut down.  The Bahamas took extreme measures due to their limited medical care so boats either had to leave or stay in place and follow strict regulations.  Certain states were closed to boating completely.  It was hit or miss, but luckily we are a tight community with shared information, particularly from the Waterway Guide and Facebook.  We kept saying everyday that we were very lucky with our decisions.

Gypsies Palace at Cayo Costa
Gypsies Palace at Anchor

But, let me back up and give you a glimpse of our week before the big Dock Tie Up.  It may take your mind back to paradise.   On the way to Ft. Myers we were excited about spending a week at anchor at a very beautiful spot by Boca Grande, called Cayo Costa State Park.  This anchorage can accommodate a large number of boats and is very protected from winds.  It is located by Captiva Island and Cabbage Cay.  There is a state park with walking trails and access to the Gulf.  It is nine miles of untouched beaches accessible only by boat.  It is the perfect place for swimming, kayaking, shelling, bird watching, fishing and long walks along the Gulf. 

We were met by our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog and we rafted together for several days.  During this time we took our kayaks and dinghy around to explore Manatee Cove and fun places within the anchorage.  By the time we were ready to leave we started hearing about Covid-19 and Social Distancing.  We had been rafted together during our stay so the four of us became a “family” to weather out the In Shelter order on our boats.

It was eerie going back to the marina, which formerly was full of activity and people.  The boaters that were there remained on their boats and we had very little contact with anyone outside of One Eye Dog.  So, there we sat – all Fit to be Tied Up at the dock.  Our fuel tanks were full since we bought fuel with the reduced fuel prices, but nowhere to go!  What did we do to occupy our time with No Docktails!  No Loopers! 

The guys got busy with projects.  The most frequent complaint from the Captain is that there is never any time to work on things because we are always moving.  Well, Steve got his wish and he completed over 21 projects.  The BBQ got rebuilt, the engine room got painted – some were more exciting for me than others.  We got new upholstery upstairs and down.  The biggest project was upgrading of the solar and inverter system on the boat.  This also involved adding batteries and controllers for the panels.  We look forward to testing this out at our next anchorage.  The Galley got TLC with wet sanding and polishing the Corian counter.  Plus, lighting was added under the cabinets.  Thank goodness West Marine was open and Amazon delivered. 

While the guys were slaving away the girls improved our cooking skills.  What was fun is that Steve started catching blue crab at the marina and nearly every day we had a feast of crab cakes, crab bisque or crab enchiladas.  Steve perfected his skills at catching and cleaning them.  Who knew we would be eating daily crab in Ft. Myers!

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Sunset on Tampa Bay

Cruising Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Sunset
Sunset on Tampa Bay

This year Gypsies Palace decided that it would be fun to spend a month cruising Tampa Bay.  Most Loopers and boaters stick with the normal route of going north and south on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Cruising Tampa Bay requires an extra 27 miles to go all the way to Tampa and most cruisers find this out of the way.  We planned on doing a whole “tour” cruising Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach and finally ending up at St. Pete Beach. 

However, in order to get there we had our very first engine problem in over a year and a half.  When we went to leave Ft. Myers Steve could not get the throttle to work on the port side.  We were unable to leave and he spent several days troubleshooting.  We managed to limp at idle speed into Sarasota where we discovered that it was not a Cummins issue, but a Twin Disc Transmission issue.  I will say Twin Disc went out of their way to get us help.  The repairman showed up on a Saturday at 5:30 in the morning!   It turned out that it was a wire that was disconnected.  Easy fix, but of course, the bill was time and a half plus travel! 

Gypsies Palace and Fish E Business
Gypsies Palace and Fish E Business

Our first stop cruising Tampa Bay was Apollo Beach.  The reason we chose this is that we have a sister boat called Fish E Business docked there and they had a dock for us behind their house.  They had also completed the Great Loop in their 48 Endeavour and we wanted to hear about their journey.  I took a picture of both our Endeavours at their dock.  They also hosted a Looper Gathering with over 55 people in attendance that had either completed the Loop or were planning it.

Things to do in Downtown Tampa

Tampa Downtown
View from Gypsies Palace of Downtown Tampa

It was an easy hop to Tampa from there to Marjorie Park Marina, a city owned facility on Davis Island.  We stayed there and used our dinghy to explore downtown Tampa, which is thriving.  We were constantly entertained by the boats that passed us – a Pirate Ship Tour Boat, water taxis and sculling/ rowing crews  from the local university.  Plus, we had an awesome view of the city at night.  They light up their bridges with different colors.

Tampa Pirate Ship
It’s a Pirate Town!

Downtown Tampa has a 2.4-mile Riverwalk that is really interesting and people take full advantage of it.  We ate at Sparkman Wharf, a new district of restaurants that are made from containers on ships.  It reminded me of permanent food trucks.  At the other end there is an entire building of food court type businesses called Armature Works.  It has been drawing the locals.  Our favorite is a restaurant called Ulele, named after a Florida Indian Princess.  They have their own brewery and make their own ice cream.  We had both!  We also took the free trolley to Ybor City, the Cuban district.  Naturally, we ate at the Columbia Restaurant, which is the original in Florida.  The food was awesome!

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Dogs On A Cat

Dogs on Board

One of the most frequent questions that we get about living on a boat is “How is it with the dogs”?  It might surprise you that in our travels we would estimate that maybe 65% of the full time cruisers have one or two dogs onboard.  Even more amazing is that many of the dogs are fairly large – Labs, Goldens, Huskies, Bull Dogs and many Doodles.  We have seen a wide variety.  For most people it is the pet that they had on land so they simply took the dog with them.  The Dog House is now the Boat House and some adapt better than others, but overall everyone is happy for the companionship of their best friend. 

Dogs on Perimeter Patrol
Perimeter Patrol

Our dog, Jazzy, is an eight year old Schnauzer, who is in his 4th year of living on a boat.  Dogs are able to adapt pretty easily to the lifestyle.  Dogs love to be close to their people and we actually spend more time with him on the boat.    When Steve and I were working we often left Jazzy alone for 8 hours or more.  This never happens on a boat.  We may go out for dinner, but often the restaurant is pet friendly and he goes, too.  While we are in a marina he loves to be out on the exterior of the boat and patrol the perimeter.  He doesn’t jump off or on the boat unless told.  If I leave the boat to take out the trash he will wait patiently and watch for me to return.  There is always something interesting going on in a marina and he gets lots of attention.

When we are underway he sleeps, much like he does when riding in a car.  He doesn’t like a rough ride, but neither do I.  When the wave action gets too much he honkers down on the couch next to the pillows.  I try to sit next to him and we all grit our teeth until we get to smoother water.  I know that some dogs do get seasick, but he has been okay on the boat and not been sick.  He does the mental block out with sleeping.

Jazzy naptime

His favorite time is after we dock at the marina.  He knows that I have to go up to the office and check in and this is his time to explore.  Oh, he also knows that many marina offices stock up dog treats so he can’t wait to go.  He constantly is meeting new people and lots of dogs.  It would be difficult to travel with a dog that didn’t like other dogs or greeting people.  Fortunately, Jazzy is up for all of that.  I call it “Doggie Speed Dating”.   He can’t wait to get to the dog, but once he has had his sniff he is looking for a new dog.   He also looks forward to Docktails when people come to our boat.  If they have dogs, they are invited, too, so it all is one big social event. 

Dogs on Bord

Jazzy is fortunate that we often travel with his BFF, Mozzy (which is short for Maserati cuz he’s fast).  Mozzy is a five year old Shi-Poo who has adapted to Boat Life better than Jazzy.  They place “chase” up and down the hall, on the dock and especially on any beach.  Steve had to put up dog netting along the side of the boat because they would run back and forth “body checking” each other.  I would strongly recommend the netting for dogs living aboard if your sides are low.  We ordered the material online and Steve installed it himself.  We sometimes add more dogs as Gypsies Palace and become the dock kennel when owners leave the boat.  Abby from One Eye Dog loves to come on board and get the boys all chasing her ball.  We really do have so much fun with these dogs!

Some places come with Perks.  Recently, we stopped in Titusville, FL.  Next to the marina is a Dog Park.  Life could not be better than a Dog Park.  Well, maybe a beach is a great time, too, especially without a leash.  No one is happier than to see dogs enjoying themselves on a beach.  Jazzy likes the sand, whereas, Mozzy and Abby splash around in the water.

Dog in Dinghy
Happy Dinghy Ride

The dinghy is another reason for tail wagging.  Both Jazzy and Mozzy love to ride in the dinghy.  They readily jump in and out and cannot wait for Steve to get it ready for them.  They know the dinghy means “relief” and great spots to explore.   The dogs also love to ride in the kayaks.  Who knew?

The question that you all want to know is what do the dogs do when they have to go to the bathroom?  Are they trained to go on the boat?  Ideally, we all want the dogs to be boat trained on a pad before casting lines for the cruising lifestyle.   Sadly, that doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes not ever. 

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Gypsies Palace

Meet Gypsies Palace – An Endeavour 48 Power Catamaran

Since we are starting over with our Coastal Journeys blog I thought it would be a perfect time to provide a more detailed look at Gypsies Palace and why we selected her.  The majority of our 1st blog was on a Leopard 47 Power Catamaran with a 25 foot beam.  Gypsies Palace now is an Endeavour 48 Power Catamaran with an 18 foot beam.  As you can tell, we love Power Cats! 

Gypsies Palace – Endeavour 50 Power Catamaran

We often get the question when people look at Gypsies Palace – “Isn’t she top heavy?”  I admit the boat does look that way, but she is not.   The boat is 52,000 lbs. and extremely stable in the water and wind.  This Endeavour appears to be tall, but she is only 19 feet to the top of our running light so we fit under many bridges. 

Gypsies Palace is an American made boat manufactured by Endeavour Corp., who has been making sailboats and catamarans for over 30 years in Clearwater, FL.  This is not a mass produced boat.  Only 11 Endeavour 48’s have been built with the last boat being splashed in 2019.  Endeavour also makes a 40 foot model that is very similar to the layout on our boat.  However, their most popular model is their Endeavour 44 Power Catamaran, which is also a great Looping boat. 

Bob & Alice Vincent from Endeavour Corp.

We truly did love our Leopard 47 Power Cat, but after two years cruising on it we decided that it just did not provide enough living space in bad weather.  The exterior cockpit was gorgeous, but frankly, we experienced more cold weather, rain, wind and bugs that made sitting outside unpleasant.  The interior salon was just too small for our needs. 

Why Did We Select the Endeavour 50?

  1.  Space – Gypsies Palace has nearly 850 square feet of living space.  There is plenty of room to entertain guests with a salon downstairs and a large Sky Lounge upstairs.  The feeling of openness with windows 360 degrees that can be opened up for cross ventilation.  That is a rarity in trawlers.  People find that a catamaran feels more open which is important when cruising long term.   Steve is 6’2’’ and is able to stand easily throughout the boat.
  2. Galley – It is a pleasure to cook on Gypsies Palace with an island bar much like you would have in a condo.  There is a dishwasher, propane stove, convection microwave, ice maker, 2 refrigerators, freezer and wine cooler.  There are deep pull out drawers and plenty of cabinets for storage.  Additionally, there is shelving behind one of the couches to store extra supplies.  Creating a dinner on board is just like cooking at home!  
  3. Master Bedroom – Again, plenty of space including a complete walk around bed that can be either king size or queen. 
  4. Master Head and Shower – It is mostly the shower we love.  It is down in one of the hulls and provides so much room!  There is plenty of room for toiletries, too.
  5. Comfort While Underway – We can easily carry on a normal conversation.  The helm / Sky Lounge has 360 degree visibility with windows (with screens) that we can open.  This is particularly nice when traveling the area with the biting files.  We are protected!   The staircase is inside so no one has to go outside in bad weather while underway.  The enclosed helm is also really nice on cold and rainy mornings.  We are dry and comfortable. 
  6. Stability and Maneuverability –  A catamaran provides greater stability and it is easy to control.  Our 18 foot beam allows us to fit in many marina slips. 
  7. Hull Design – Our props are protected in a tunnel drive.  Our hulls are actually flat and we could beach the boat and float off at high tide if we wanted to.  Our draft is 3.5 feet and even if we “touch” we can back off easily and continue on without any damage.  It is also harder for us to grab a crab pot!
  8. Economical – We typically travel at 10 mph and we burn 10 gallons per hour of diesel fuel.  We can also carry 1,000 gallons of fuel.  We have 2 Cummins QSB 6.7 engines at 425 horsepower each.  We can pump the speed up to 18 mph, but the fuel burn is considerably more.  It is go to know that we can do this faster speed if we need to outrun a storm. 
  9. Exterior Design – While we do not have a large outside seating cockpit area we do have 2 outside patios   The bow of the boat has an upper patio plus some cushioned seating below.  We also have a sliding door to an upstairs back patio with chairs if we want to face that direction.  The sides of the boat allow easy access to cleats and fenders.  The boat is smartly designed with 2 stepping areas on the stern which allow for low or high tides.  Additionally, we have a mid ship ladder for exiting on high fixed docks.
  10. Quality of Workmanship – Both the interior and exterior of the Endeavour is well thought out with beautiful woodwork and craftmanship.

So, how long are we going to do this?  


Endeavour Owners

Coastal Journeys Re-Launch

Welcome to the Re-Launch of Coastal Journeys. You might ask, “Why is there a Re-Launch of our Coastal Journeys Blog?” The reason is that we forgot to renew our Domain with Go Daddy and failed to renew our blog theme. Blame it on the Bahamas and too much fun! We were enjoying the Exumas and did not pay attention to the email notices that were sent. The end result is that the original blog was not backed up so it was lost – our fault again. So, a new Coastal Journeys has to be created.

Our first Coastal Journeys blog was all about our adventure on the Great Loop in 2017. We had quite a time on a true Bucket List Journey that provided numerous memories and life long friends. We are now Gold Loopers having completed the Loop and are looking for new Coastal Journeys.

Gold Looper Flag
Gold Looper flag at sunset
Baltimore Harbor
Baltimore Harbor

For the past two summers we have enjoyed exploring the Chesapeake. We are continually finding new anchorages and new towns that are a delight. This year we went back to the Hudson River. It was every bit as beautiful as we remembered our Loop. We find that as we are now seasoned cruisers we spend many more nights at anchor.

This summer we also checked off a Bucket List for us which was anchoring behind the Statue of Liberty. It is a magical experience that did not disappoint. At night she held her lighted torch high against the backdrop of the New York City lights. We were delightfully surprised that the sun rose behind the Statue and we were able to capture that moment.

Statue of Liberty Anchorage

We also dipped our hulls into Long Island Sound where we took a mooring ball in Port Washington for a few days. The Long Island Railroad stops there and it is an easy trip into New York City. We always try to catch a Broadway Play and this year it was “Bat Out of Hell”. It was exhilarating and we loved it!

Coastal Journeys will feature our travel destinations plus also tales of everyday life as we cruise. We hope you enjoy being “virtual cruisers” with Gypsies Palace.

Deb & Jazzy on the bow of Gypsies Palace

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