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ALTON - Starting in October, the Alton Marina will welcome boaters from all over the world for Looper season.
These boaters are traveling America’s Great Loop, a continuous route through eastern North America that takes boats down the Mississippi River, through the Gulf of Mexico, up the east coast and into Canada and the Great Lakes. The once-in-a-lifetime trip usually includes a stop in Alton, where visitors can enjoy the amenities at the Marina and prepare for winter on the water.
“We get a lot of people coming through that really are impressed with [the Marina] and love it. The Loop is no exception,” Rob Honke said. “When they open the locks next month on the Illinois [River], we’re going to start seeing a lot of people coming through that are traveling.”
Honke owns Seahorse Ranch Marine, Inc., which operates Alton Marina. He says that Looper season is one of his favorite times of the year and the boaters, called “Loopers,” will sometimes stay at the Marina for up to a month before continuing on their route. The full trip usually takes about a year to complete.
“Most of the Loopers that come through are retired people and that’s just what they do now, but a lot of them do work still,” Honke explained. “And they will come in and they’ll dock for a month or longer, and they’ll leave. They like it because we’re the closest marina on the river to the airport.”
In addition to the many other amenities at Alton Marina, Honke and his team are also present to greet the Loopers and get them settled, offering maintenance and support. Most of the Loopers are American, but some have traveled across the globe to participate. Each one has an interesting story to share.
“You get to talk to people from all over the country,” Honke said. “You get to see all kinds of different watercraft and different mechanical systems…It’s fun to talk to all those people, and then once they get into their slips and onto the docks, when you walk the docks helping them tie off, talking to them a little bit more, just finding out where they’re from and where they’re heading.”
Honke explained that the Loopers “play the weather,” which is why they pass through Alton in the fall before heading south toward warmer waters. They typically reach Alton in early to mid-October, though many will arrive through November this year because locks on the Illinois River have been closed for routine maintenance.
But the Alton Marina will remain busy until then, with several upcoming events and their rescheduled 27th anniversary party set for Sept. 23. To learn more about the party and other events, check out this article on RiverBender.com.
“I’ve always loved being out on the river,” Honke added.
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