Jan Dobbs of Deer Park, Illinois, has been an avid, Lake Michigan boater for years. But her recent trip around The Great Loop with her husband onboard their 61-foot Viking Pisces has opened her eyes to much, much more.
Power & Motoryacht: How’d you get into boating?
DOBBS: I got into boating because of my husband. It was his lifelong dream to sail. I didn’t grow up on the water and didn’t know or care much about it, but he wanted to get into boating and so I just went along. We took classes and learned how to sail at night, in the fog, rough conditions, whatever.
Power & Motoryacht: And …
DOBBS: And I ended up falling in love with it, lucky for him.
Power & Motoryacht: How’d you make the transition to powerboating?
DOBBS: I don’t know how well you know Lake Michigan, but we didn’t have tons of time to be on the water, and it got to the point where it felt like the wind was never in the right direction when we needed it. We like to travel to specific places, and we found ourselves motoring more and more. Eventually we just decided to go into powerboating because we were basically already doing it. Plus—and again if you know anything about Lake Michigan—you know if you’re not going fast enough you can hit huge swarms of flies that attack you for hours and it’s awful.
Power & Motoryacht: Nasty. So you have three kids right? Do they like to boat?
DOBBS: Yup, 30, 21, and 20, plus a granddaughter. They have boated with us their entire lives and my oldest son just bought a sailboat this year so he obviously is into it. And my granddaughter just loves it. They’re not with us right now though; we’re doing The Great Loop.
Power & Motoryacht: Right now? Very cool. Have you done The Loop before?
DOBBS: Nope, first time. It’s been our dream for a while. We talked about it for ten years at least, and we finally decided to do it.
Power & Motoryacht: What was the impetus to stop talking and actually do it?
DOBBS: Well we’re not getting any younger, and our kids are in a stable place. So we thought that we could leave them for periods of time, and my husband sold his business a few years ago so he didn’t have that on his back, and we were just a little more free. He still works daily doing financial planning from the boat though.
Running a 61-foot boat with two people is a physical thing and we didn’t know how much longer our bodies could do it. We talked it over a lot. We were a little scared I think, we didn’t know what to think. But! We started from Racine on September 18th, and now we are in Hawk’s Cay on Duck Key Island in the Keys. Nice place to be.
Power & Motoryacht: Is that your favorite spot so far?
DOBBS: I don’t have a favorite spot. We came down on the river and there are some bridges that could’ve presented obstacles but we did fine. We had read and heard a lot about taking that route, so we were quite nervous, but we had a blast. We had never been to a lot of those parts of the country. Alabama, the panhandle of Florida, everywhere’s different. That’s what’s great about The Loop—there’s so many different experiences you can have. Different places, different things. It’s hard to explain. The Loop is teaching me to live in the now. You can’t look too far ahead. You plan of course, but you deal with what’s in your face at the moment. Boating is like life in that way. You need to be flexible and you need to live in the moment.
While we were on the river we were so on our game. The water depths, the bends, the towboats headed right at you, there are so many aspects to it and you need to be on point. That’s my favorite part about all of this: not knowing what’s up around that next bend.
Power & Motoryacht: How did you guys decide on a 61 Viking?
DOBBS: [Laughs] Well, we don’t fish! Years ago we’d be in our little sailboat with our kids and we’d see these big Vikings and I just loved them, the way they looked, their lines. I wanted to put a little table in the cockpit and just sit. And I saw those boats and I thought, I’d like one of those one day. And now I have one.
Power & Motoryacht: So what’s the next stop?
DOBBS: Next we’re going to Key West for a Viking rendezvous in the beginning of April. Then we’re headed to Miami, then cruising the Bahamas for a while. We’re going to try and go everywhere. But by June first we need to be above the Florida-Georgia line for insurance purposes and then we’re headed up the East Coast which will also be amazing. It’s all new to us. We’ve spent so many years on boats but doing The Loop makes it all new again.
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.