By Karin Davis-Thompson
Susan Pellett said she gets emotional just thinking about it. After years of thinking it was only a dream, she recently sailed the 6,000 mile journey known as the Great Loop, something very few get the chance to do.
The Great Loop is made up of natural and man-made waterways that include the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways. If you travel the entire path you end up making a giant loop, eventually ending up where you started.
After her achievement, the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) gave Pellett, known as Suzy Q in the sailing world, her BaccaLOOPerate degree, given in recognition to those who complete the unique adventure. The AGLCA is an organization with members who are interested in exploring and possibly completing the Great Loop.
But getting the honor wasn’t easy for Pellett, whose first attempt ended almost before it began when a barge crushed her boat on a marina just 1,500 miles into the trip.
“I was hysterical,” Pellett said. “It folded my boat in half and I had to come home.”
Pellett wouldn’t be denied however. After suffering two heart attacks, the 59-year-old was determined to make every moment count and find a way to make the trip and fulfill her dream.
Then, she heard about another cruiser who was thinking about taking the journey. Thom Frederick’s wife had passed away and he needed an outlet for his grief but he didn’t want to go alone.
She reached out to him and he agreed to allow her to be his co-captain. After making sure they made all of the necessary arrangements to be away from home for several months, the pair set sail from Louisiana on her 40 ft. Silverton powerboat, Allons-y, on March 6.
“It took 176 days,” Pellett said. “We went straight through.”
Pellett, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania before moving to the Valrico area, said she has always loved being on the water and enjoyed the diversity of the trip.
“You see something different around every corner—all kinds of trees, wildlife, colors of water and fellow cruisers along the way,” she said. “There were about three to four hundred boats making the journey this year. We would have ‘docktails’ together and tell our story of where we started our journey.”
When the trip was over, Pellett said she wasn’t ready for it all to end.
“It’s a big let down when it’s over,” she said. “But I am glad I did it.”