Bad News on the Great Loop: Army Corps of Engineers Will Close Six Locks on Illinois River in 2020

Here’s some bad news for anyone thinking of tackling the Great Loop in 2020: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is closing six locks and dams on the Illinois River, that part of the Loop connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, from July 1 to October 31, for major infrastructure repairs.

The options for Loopers are to stay in the Great Lakes and leave Chicago on November 1, although as someone who has lived in Chicago, I can safely say you might get a bit cold then. You also need to determine how many marinas and other facilities would be open at that later-than-normal date.

Another option is to head down the Illinois River before the closings on July 1. This totally depends, of course, on where and when you can start the Loop that spring, and the speed of your boat. You also could haul the boat near Chicago and ship it to the Mississippi, although that could be expensive, again depending on the size of your boat.

The Army Corps hopes to make all the closures and complete work on the locks and dams in a relatively short time frame to make the impact on recreational and commercial shipping as small as possible. There is little doubt, however, about the need for repairs. Indeed, the Corps said that the current gates at Starved Rock lock and dam in Ottawa, Illinois, are “on the verge of failure.”

Here’s the complete list of closures and work needed from the Army Corps:



Published in CRUISING ODYSSEY 107, 11/23/18


The 2018 schedules are here! Due to overwhelming demand, we’re sailing along the Amalfi Coast of Italy again, in June! And also because you asked, we’ll have classes in the Pacific Northwest – Washington State’s San Juan Islands – in May. Sailing and powerboating courses are scheduled in Florida, for all of you who want to warm up in the sunshine while learning or polishing your boating skills.  We’re still working on additions, so check in with us often.

Give us a call!


The Loop-ready 36′ PDQ powercat “Magic” is available for sale.  Currently docked in St. Petersburg, FL, “Magic” has just completed the Loop with her owners Nelly and Jacques, who will now return home to France.  She is a turn-key vessel, ready and eager for more cruising adventures.  If interested, contact Nelly and Jacques at 727-478-7481 or email or

After a grand adventure in the US and Canada, Jacques and Nelly are also thinking of new cruising adventures to come. Perhaps you’ll see them exploring the Pacific Northwest next!

So much water, so little time!






We get mail about our live-aboard courses …

A little free publicity for Sea Sense Boating … I spent Sunday through Friday with Capt Carol Cuddyer and Capt. Jill McCarthy as instructors, and Diana as my fellow student, on a 42′ Californian power yacht.  I came away with a new confidence in my ability to drive, dock and anchor a boat.  I can read a chart, plot a course.  I know the Rules of the Road, I can navigate through crab pots, various markers, and how to use the radio.  Of course, I have much to learn yet but I’m ready to partner with my husband in life aboard a boat!  I highly recommend this company – owned by and operated by women, both licensed captains, extremely knowledgeable and very patient.  Carol owns the company with Patti and they have been doing the teaching, moving boats all over (including in other parts of the world), readying folks for handling their own boats for well over 20 years.  Love them, love what they do!   Gena