It took 18 months to prepare themselves and another eight months to complete their 6,500-mile journey, but a Palmetto couple recently returned home from what is likely to be the greatest adventure of their lives.
Jody, a 72-year-old realtor, and Tom Goldman, a 74-year-old retired immigration lawyer, recently became two of about 100 people who successfully complete America’s Great Loop every year. The Great Loop is a boating journey along the eastern seaboard, Canadian canals, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
“We had to convince each other that we could do it, but even at our age, when you put your mind to it, you find success — and here we are,” Tom said.
The Goldmans set off from Terra Ceia on April 2 and completed their trip, or “crossed their wake,” as loopers say, on Dec. 12. The satisfaction that comes with wrapping up such a life-changing adventure was too much to bear, they said.
“I was just full of tears. It changed my life. Both of us are very disappointed to be home. I mean we are so bored. There’s no planning, there’s no going over the charts, there’s no anticipation,” Jody said.
As they cruised from Florida to the Carolinas to Canadian canals, they quickly learned that each body of water presents its own challenges.
“Our boating skills went up exponentially,” Jody pointed out.
But with those challenges comes experience and a lifetime of stories to tell.
“We met some folks before looping, and they wouldn’t stop talking about it, but now we get it,” Tom said. “There are just too many memories.”
Besides the memories, it was the sense of community and companionship that stood out for the local couple. At every turn, they were met with boaters willing to provide a helping hand, whether it was lending a car for the Goldmans to pick up groceries or general boating advice.
“People really look out for you. They would say, ‘Oh, this is our car and here’s the key. Use it whenever you need to and just leave it in the parking lot,’” Tom said, pointing out friendships made along the way with supportive boaters.
“Everyone along the way sort of adopted us.”
During their trip, Tom and Jody encountered others making the same journey around America’s Great Loop and would befriend them, making dinner plans to catch up while they were in the same area.
“Sometimes we’d meet folks once and then see them again further down the road in three or four months,” Tom said.
For the Goldmans, their biggest test came in the dead of night as they crossed the Gulf of Mexico from Florida’s Panhandle to the Tampa Bay area, a 185-mile journey that took them 22 hours, Tom said.
“There were seven of us going across together but it was pitch black with no moonlight. All I could see was a faint running light from the guy in front of me and the waves got high enough to start coming in on the boat,” he described.
They relied on each other, too, in Braveheart, their 25-foot Rosborough boat. While Tom sat at the helm, Jody would take charge of the plotting their course on charts. It was an experience that made their bond after 25 years of marriage even stronger.
Their vessel was outfitted with all the accessories they needed to sleep on it every night. Braveheart includes a dining booth, sink, two-burner stove, head, bed and plenty of storage for all of the necessary equipment, Jody said.
While their friends and family thought they were crazy for embarking on such a massive adventure after turning 70, the Goldmans found key support from companies. Jody said they were able to reach out to their boat manufacturer, Rosborough, for a financial contribution and Suzuki, which made their twin engines and provided them with all the boating repair and maintenance parts they needed for the trip.
“Clothing was the least of what we packed,” Jody said. “We needed most of that space for 14 gallons of oil and a stack of boating charts that piled up this high.”
There isn’t another big boating trip in the books right now for the Goldmans, but they haven’t ruled it out, either.
Those interested in reliving their adventure can visit the online blog they ran throughout their journey at www.BraveheartRequired.com.