Tanya Binford: Crossing the Wake

By Nancy Gadzuk

Tanya Binford, author of Crossing the Wake: One woman’s Great Loop Adventure spoke at the August 21, 2017 meeting of the History Center. She talked about her experiences traveling the 5,000 mile Great Loop Cruise Route around the eastern United States in a 25-foot Ranger tug motor boat. Alone.

Usually I take copious notes during our History Center meetings, but Tanya’s presentation was so spellbinding all I could do was listen with my mouth open in awe. Fortunately, Tanya also wrote a fascinating memoir to provide backup for the notes I didn’t take, and I recommend reading Crossing the Wake for an in-depth look at her trip.

Tanya dreamed of learning to sail, even though she spent most of her life in Arizona. She didn’t want to wait until she was able to retire to pursue her dream.

“Sometimes we have to make the adventure,” she said. At the age of 45, she decided to take a year off when she turned 50 to pursue the dream. Fortunately, she had a job she could do from anywhere that had a good Internet connection. She drew a line on a map from her home in Arizona due east and it led to Southport, North Carolina.

Once in Southport, she made every mistake a beginning boater could make, bought several boats that weren’t right for her, realized sailing was too difficult to do solo, and finally ended up with a 25 foot ranger tug motor boat.

She decided to travel America’s Great Loop Cruise Route, through the Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Approximately 100 boats make the loop each year, but most of them are much, much larger than hers, and very few people make the trip solo.

One of the frightening parts of her presentation was her description of going through close to 100 locks on the canal system along the route, where she was surrounded by much larger commercial vessels in a tight-fitting trough of moving water. She frequently needed to be in two places at the same time, holding a line on one side of the boat while doing something on the other.

Any long boat trip requires time, money, and energy for boat repairs. At one point, Tanya limped into a marina for a needed engine repair. (An impeller, whatever that is.) Tanya was working with Bob, the marina owner, on the repair and she was trying to get a bolt attached somewhere on the engine.

Bob asked what was taking her so long, and she yelled from under the engine, “I’m screwing as hard as I can! Can’t you feel it?”

There was silence until Bob said, “I’ve never had a woman say that to me before,” and they both burst out laughing.

A sense of humor is also useful for any adventure.