Navigating ‘The Great Loop’: Texas man docks in Vicksburg amid cross-country voyage

Published 8:40 am Saturday, May 4, 2024

Austin native Thomas Graves docked his small sailboat in Vicksburg for several nights this week on his way to New Orleans by way of a route known by travelers as “The Great Loop.”

Graves and his dog, and co-captain, Mucho spent several days seeing the sights in downtown and waiting on the weather to clear before setting sail again on the Mississippi River, headed to the Big Easy on one leg of an epic journey that began in New York.

The Great Loop is a system of waterways that encompasses the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. It includes the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal, and the Mississippi and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Graves set sail from New York and planned to travel to the Mississippi then around the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and back to New York Harbor. Then, he said, he will head up the Hudson River, where he will end near where the adventure started. When completed, his journey will have taken him more than 6,000 miles.

His plan started in his brother’s barn with the building of a boat designed by world-renowned boat builder and adventurer Colin Angus.

The boat is a combination of a rowboat and a sailboat. It has sleeping quarters just big enough for Graves and Mucho.

He said his journey has included some memorable moments, including a nine-mile stretch between Lake Champlain and the Allegheny River where he had to ask some “nice Amish men” to help him carry the boat over land and relaunch it in the water. He also took the winter off and disembarked in Louisville, Ky. in November. He has been back in the river since Easter.

Graves said his trip was inspired by the book, “On The Water,” by Nathaniel Stone.

“I liked the idea of seeing America at a certain place and a very human scale, connecting disparate locations with waterways captured my imagination,” he said.

Graves explained that the idea of traveling under his own power – just himself and the wind – inspired the design of his boat.

“I imagined the boat as a sort of time machine that could transport me out of my daily life into places that I couldn’t have imagined,” he said. “And that largely has proven to be true.”

When he isn’t embarking on cross-country adventures, Graves said he is busy with other passions, including being a member of a theater collective in Austin called Rude Mechs.

Rude Mechs makes original live performances and runs a small performing arts venue.

Graves said his voyage has already taught him much he will take back with him to Texas when his journey is complete.

“I am always learning to adapt and to pay attention to what is going on around me and how to respond,” he said.

He also said he has learned people are good and decent to one another in most places, including Vicksburg, where he said everyone he met was very nice and hospitable.

“I have met so many wonderful ‘strangers’ and most everyone has been so generous and kind, truly.”

Graves said Friday he planned to sail out of Vicksburg as soon as the rainy weather passed and looked forward to making it to New Orleans. There, he and Mucho will spend a little time with friends before taking to the water again for the next leg of their trip.

Depending on the wind, weather, and traffic along the river, Graves said he averages around 30 miles per day.