The closure this week of the Erie Canal won’t dim the spirits of Wayne and Rhonda McManus.
The Alabama couple, on the water since 2008, is traveling back to that state and not scheduled to arrive home until the fall.
“It’s a home on the water, for all practical purposes,” said Wayne McManus, a retired air traffic controller who said the 44-foot Gulfstar “Help Me Rhonda” takes 500 gallons of gas and 250 gallons of water at each fill-up.
Wayne and Rhonda McManus of Alabama have been sharing details and photographs of their adventure on their blog at www.wrmcmanus.blogspot.com.
Wayne McManus said roughly 150 people make the “Great Loop” trip each year, a 6,500-mile journey.
There are several variations possible along the Great Loop, according to the website of the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association.
With the appropriate boat, a mariner can travel from Alabama into the Gulf of Mexico, through or around Florida and up the East Coast, with visits possible anywhere along the way.
From New York Harbor, boaters can then travel up the Hudson River and into the Erie Canal, through Lake Erie and then around Michigan, into Illinois, straddling Missouri, then to Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama. Another route travels to Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, then to the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s a trip McManus said is filled with memorable scenery and, every so often, a stroke of luck when it comes to the waterway being shut down.
There’s no schedule for when the water gets rough — as the Mohawk River did this week, forcing the state Canal Corp. to shut down the locks.
Wayne and Rhonda McManus could have wound up at Lock 7 in Niskayuna, where there isn’t even a vending machine available with soda or candy.
They were pleasantly surprised to find a laundry facility, hot showers, electricity and a rate for mooring they consider reasonable at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park.
“What y’all are doing here is wonderful,” Wayne McManus said.
“We make a point to patronize businesses when we get to a really nice setup like this,” he said, as the Mohawk River churned behind him, its current buffeting a green buoy.
Mariners seldom travel without some resource to call upon to determine what services they may find — it’s a big factor when making the decision to dock for the night, he said.
Ken Price, who is heading to Ontario from Florida with his wife, Trudy, said the wireless Internet available at Riverlink Park makes it easy to keep in touch and informed using online resources such as www.activecaptain.com.
The website is similar to those on which consumers rank services and locations — and Price said he was planning on giving a positive review for his stay in Amsterdam.
“You guys have a fantastic little oasis here,” said Price, 66, a retired Air Canada pilot who considers himself just one of many people taking in a different view of America.
“I am so grateful we ended up here. We could be tied to a lock wall,” said Trudy Price, 60, who was happiest about the hot shower and the ability to go walk around and go out for dinner while in Amsterdam.
Though already accustomed to sailing, Trudy Price said the trip from Florida presented new challenges: saltwater, tides and “canals that close.” It’s the type of adventure, she said, that requires self-sufficiency.
“You have to be that way,” she said.
For Wayne McManus, now 60, the yearslong cruise is a lifelong dream that almost didn’t materialize.
He nearly died from a heart attack at age 50 after working for decades and raising a family while planning and dreaming about cruising the waterways of the United States.
Rhonda McManus recalls whispering in her husband’s ear while he was in the hospital that he had to survive or he wouldn’t get to go on the cruise.
“That’s why he stayed alive,” she said.
For those who are able, a waterborne cruise is something that shouldn’t be missed, Wayne McManus said.
“You see the country from an entirely different perspective.”