Loopers, not Yoopers: Boaters venture into Lake Superior after completing the Great Loop

Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 4:04 PM EDT
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It was a quiet morning in Munising at the Bayshore Marina, as Jane and Ben Stephen and their loyal boat dog, Sawyer, got ready to cruise to Grand Marais.

Grand Marais is their next, and possibly final, stop on Lake Superior.

This trip comes as an extension of their Great Loop trip in 2015.

"Lake Superior is the last of the Great Lakes for us to boat on. We have traveled with this boat on all of the Great Lakes, so this was the last one," says Ben Stephen, captain of the Jammin' Jane. "It was sort of the scariest one I guess would most people say, but to me it was something I really wanted to come see. It has not disappointed, it has been stunningly beautiful, the towns have been wonderful, and the people have been even nicer."

They've been to every port of call on the southern shore of Lake Superior, up to the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The Great Loop is a system of waterways encompassing the eastern portion of the United States and a part of Canada.

While there's no single itinerary for boaters to take, the trip averages around 6,000 miles. Each year, hundreds of boats set out to make the trek.

Wisconsin couple Jane and Ben began their first loop in September of 2015, and finished it in 13 months. They say only 30 percent of that time is spent moving.

Jane blogged that trip, and their current adventure,

. The point of the Great Loop is to stop in cities and towns along the waterways, enjoy what the route has to offer, and make friends.

They say if you see a gold or white flag on the bow of a boat, it means you've found a fellow Looper. The couple equates that to finding family.

"In my head all I was thinking about is great, we're going to stop port to port, what's all this going to be about? And what ended up happening, it wasn't just the journey, it was the friendships that we've made," says Jane Stephen.

They planned their trip a year in advance - charting courses, reading guides, and readying their boat, a 42-foot Grand Banks.

But for daily itineraries, they only schedule those a couple days in advance. Successful Loopers are flexible in their scheduling, and allow for delays if they enjoy their port of call, or are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

That includes plotting your course around the hurricanes of the Gulf, for both insurance and safety purposes.

And while all the time together may seem like a bit much, Jane and Ben handle it well.

"You learn a lot about your spouse, in terms of personality because you see a lot of emotion that you may typically not see, but also it changes things in how you communicate. All experiences are shared, so what do you have to talk about," says Jane.

She says they each did their own things at various ports of call to keep busy. Ben picked up banjo, and Jane learned how to knit.

And not only did they do the trip well, they loved it. They're planning to make another Great Loop trip in 2021.

If you see the Jammin' Jane out on the waterways, be sure to give Jane and Ben a wave.