- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

ROGERSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - When Ron and Eva Stob sailed America’s Great Loop in 1994 and started the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association in 1999, they never imagined it would become what it has today.

“We did the loop and then wrote a book about it,” Eva Stob said. “We decided to start the association, really as a way to promote the book and the loop. We did a few articles for boating magazines about the loop and the association, and (the association) just really took off.

“And now, it’s developed a life of its own.”

The association now has several hundred members who have either been on a part of the loop or the entire loop.

America’s Great Loop is a 5,000- to 7,500-mile journey - depending on the route taken - that wraps around the Atlantic Coast from Florida to Canada, then to the Great Lakes and through the Midwest and South on inland waterways such as the Tennessee River before heading back to Florida.

The association also holds two rendezvous - one in the spring and one in the fall - for the boaters to come together.

Since 2004, the fall rendezvous has been held at Joe Wheeler State Park.

“Some started coming in about two weeks ago,” Kelly Ezell, manager of Joe Wheeler Lodge, said this week. “When you think about how this has grown, it’s really amazing.”

She said the first year Joe Wheeler hosted the rendezvous there were 25 boats.

“And they needed a few rooms in the lodge,” Ezell said. “Now, they take up the entire lodge.”

She said this year there were 47 boats in the marina for the rendezvous.

“We have had as many as 70,” she said. “It’s great to see some of the same people who have been coming here since 2004 and then we’ll see new faces.

“We really love having the association here with us for this week.”

After the rendezvous ended, most of the boaters headed south toward the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and onto Mobile.

“From there, they will head to the Atlantic Coast and back up the coast,” said Kim Russo, who handles strategic development for the association.

Russo, who is from Charleston, South Carolina, said she is doing the loop in segments.

She said seeing the countryside from a boat is “magical.”

“It gives you such a different kind of perspective on towns and wildlife. It’s a totally different way of traveling,” she said.

“You go through so many cultures, and get to see a different way of life,” said Stob, who is from Greenback, Tennessee. “And then the scenery, it’s unreal.

“And the people you meet along the way are amazing. Whether it’s other boaters and people in the marinas or towns you stop at. There are so many stories to live through by traveling on the water.”

Janice Kromer, executive director of the association, said she and her husband, Steve, will stay on the loop for a year.

“We love to take our time and enjoy each part of the trips,” she said. “You have to be a little adventurous; that’s what makes it exciting.”

Russo said the association has been described as a family.

“And it is. You see that Looper flag, and it’s like a welcome mat,” Russo said. “I love it. We all do and we all share that same common goal - adventure. Because that’s what it is. It is an adventure you’ll never forget.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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