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couple from Cedar Falls travel 6,000 miles on the Great Loop of a Lifetime Cruise |  Local news

CEDAR FALLS – Bud and Sue Hansen have spent the past four years traveling the rivers, waterways, lakes and bays of America aboard their 38-foot boat, the Odyssey, steeped in history and panoramic views of the country and the diversity of its people, food and cultures.

Sue Hansen holds up a bulletin board showing the route she and her husband, Bud, took by boat for the 6,000-mile Great Loop Adventure.

CHRIS ZOELLER Courier Staff Photographer

“We’re fortunate to be retired so we can do it,” Bud said. Formerly of Cedar Falls, the couple currently live in Waverly.

This fall, the couple earned their LOOPerate Baccalaureate from the Great Loop Cruisers’ Association of America. The degree recognizes their completion of one of the world’s most unique adventures, America’s Great Loop.

The boaters who make the Great Loop make a 6,000-mile voyage that circles the eastern part of the United States and Canada, ascending the intra-coastal Atlantic waterway, passing through the canals of the New York State, to the Great Lakes, down the interior river system, through the Gulf of Mexico and around the southern tip of Florida.

About 150 boats sail the Grande Boucle each year, making it a more unique feat than swimming in the English Channel or climbing Mount Everest.

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In many ways it was the trip of a lifetime, although the Hansens actually covered 10,000 to 11,000 miles, starting with their first boat, a 32-foot puppet. “We loved the lifestyle and sold this boat and found a boat we could live on,” Bud said. “We were 100 days on this first boat, and we lived on this new boat 960 days.”

couple from Cedar Falls travel 6,000 miles on the Great Loop of a Lifetime Cruise |  Local news

Sue and Bud Hansen hold a bulletin board showing the route they took with their boat, the Odyssey, on the 6,000-mile Great Loop Adventure.

CHRIS ZOELLER Courier Staff Photographer

The couple sold their home in July 2017 and moved aboard the boat. They started their big loop in Au Gres, Michigan, and followed the Illinois River to Grafton and the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Sue described the Mississippi as “a very busy river, and we were there for just over 272 miles.” They found their way to the Tennessee River and eventually to Mobile, Alabama, and the Gulf of Mexico.

“We did a night crossing of the Gulf in December 2017. It was an incredible experience. The water was like glass, and it isn’t always. It can be pretty rough. But we had a Super Moon above us and dolphins swimming alongside the boat for miles. It was a long trip – we were traveling at nine miles an hour, ”Sue recalls.

They were part of an occasional flotilla of six or seven other boats to arrive on the Florida side around 10 a.m. the next morning.

couple from Cedar Falls travel 6,000 miles on the Great Loop of a Lifetime Cruise |  Local news

Bud Hansen waves to the helm of the Odyssey after an overnight crossing of the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama to Florida.


Their travels have taken them to Key West, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, among other places in Florida. This spring, they watched Space X take off from the water near Cape Canaveral. Other scenic spots they enjoyed included Hilton Head, South Carolina, and the barrier islands along the east coast; Baltimore, New York and Jamestown, Virginia, up the James River from Chesapeake Bay, as well as Sister Bay, Wisconsin and all points in between.

couple from Cedar Falls travel 6,000 miles on the Great Loop of a Lifetime Cruise |  Local news

Sunrise over the St. John River in Florida from the dock where the Hansens anchored their boat


“We’ve seen gorgeous beaches, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets everywhere on our cruises – so many wonderful things,” said Sue, who has maintained a blog and a Facebook page for subscribers to follow their explorations.

His favorite spots included Georgia’s Cumberland Island national coastline with its wild horse sanctuary, and the St. Johns River, Florida’s longest river, and its warm central basin where manatees retreat during the summer months. winter. Bud especially enjoyed being at the helm as he piloted the Odyssey through the Erie Canal in New York State.

They have spent winters in Florida, including Fort Myers Beach, particularly during COVID.

“When the pandemic hit, we chose to stay in Florida. One thing cruisers enjoy is gathering for docks – cocktails on the dock – at sunset, but during COVID we had dingy docks. We would have our snacks and drinks, get in the canoe and meet everyone on the water, ”Sue explained.

“We made so many friends and met some interesting people, from pilots, doctors, lawyers and retirees to people living off the grid who didn’t want to give their last names. “

Last winter, the Hansens spent time in Savannah, Georgia, awaiting repairs to the Odyssey shaft. When they put the boat back in the water this spring, they’ll be wearing their golden Great Loop flag, given to the Hansens when they crossed the Loop near Detroit in August.

“It’s a way for cruisers to recognize each other. We made lifelong friends. They understand everything about your background, which is great, ”said Sue.

The boating season is short and the Hansens, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019, plan to make their wish to cruise Canada’s waterways come true next year.

For more information on America’s Great Loop, visit


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