Pick your inspiration — 1902, 1958, 1960s, or 1999

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes – As they say, the horizon is not a boundary but an invitation for discovery. My blog, Trips of Discovery, is based on that invitation of the horizon, any horizon when I look into the distance. However, I never forget Dale Carnegie’s quote, “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” Inspirations and discoveries are all around us and I do take advantage of that, every day, really. At the same time, I am looking at the horizon as well.
The gaff-rigged Great Western was not an easy boat for a man with no fingers to sail.
The story goes that, in January 1883, Howard Blackburn, a doryman, was separated from his mothership Grand Banks Schooner in an open dory when a sudden blizzard hit them. He was a Gloucesterman, the fishing folk of Gloucester, Massachusetts, who from generation to generation plied their trade in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth—the North Atlantic. A dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, 16 to 23 feet long. It is usually a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. His story is told in a book titled, Lone Voyager. After enduring a 5-day ordeal at sea, Blackburn made it to shore alive, although he lost all of his fingers to frostbite. Later in 1902, even more incredibly, he undertook the circumnavigation of the eastern U.S. with a sailboat. He sailed up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, through the Illinois and Michigan Canal to the Illinois River, and then down the Mississippi River and through to the Gulf of Mexico. That is a part of American’s Great Loop. Disgusted with how often his sailboat had gotten stuck on the shoals, he then switched to a 12’ rowboat in Miami (strapping his fingerless hands to the oars) and completed another 200 miles of the northbound Atlantic ICW in Florida.

An incredible 6,000-mile journey

Nathaniel Stone was inspired by the story of Blackburn’s voyage, having dreamed of doing such a trip since the age of 10 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. On April 24, 1999, started his own journey circumnavigating the entirety of the ICW and more. Starting from New York City with his 17’ rowboat, he went north, through the Great Lakes, around down to the Mississippi River, around Florida, up the whole length of the northbound Atlantic ICW, passed New York City, and ended in Eastport, Maine, on August 17, 2000. His book, On the Water: Discovering America in a Rowboat, captures his experiences during his incredible, sometimes funny, 6,000-mile journey of America’s Great Loop. Today, he lives in Zuni, New Mexico, where he founded the local newspaper. Meanwhile, I am still in search of information about whoever may have taken a 17’ canoe in 1958 or Donzi’s in the 1960s and piloted the Atlantic leg of the ICW, and am planning my own not-nearly-so-adventurous Atlantic ICW trip, starting in October 2020. Fair Winds and Following Seas.

2 things I learned

  • The human spirit has no boundaries. If we can imagine it, there is a good chance that we can do it.
  • Years and generations may separate us from others, but no matter where we are at, we all share the same spirit.

1 thing I recommend

  • No matter what age you are at, don’t stop imagining.

How easy?


Are you planning to do an adventurous trip, like any of the ones we covered in the story? If so, please share it with us.

3 Responses

  1. Tawanna says:

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  2. Tracey says:

    Aw, this was a really nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to
    make a really good article… but what can I say…
    I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get nearly anything

  1. June 14, 2021

    […] have briefly touched upon America’s Great Loop in two of my previous posts titled, “Pick your inspiration — 1902, 1958, the 1960s, or 1999” and “7 Tips for a summer vacation with social distancing and Erie Canal Adventures.” Also, […]

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