One Suzuki and two sisters take on America’s Great Loop

The boat ride would cover 5,805 miles of rivers, gulf, ocean and canals.

Two sisters, Katie (25) and Elizabeth (21) McPhail, have complete the Great American Loop in a 16-foot Duroboat powered by a Suzuki 50 horsepower 4-stroke outboard motor.

The fire for the McPhail girls was stoked after reading John Mirassou’s Great Loop chronicle, Only in America. “I thought, Wow, I’d love to do that,” Katie says.

“Back in January,” Katie explains,  “I asked my sister, Elizabeth, what she planned to do after college this summer”? “I don’t know,” said Elizabeth. “Wanna go on a boat ride”, asked Katie? “OK”, Elizabeth answered.


Little did she know the boat ride would cover 5,805 miles of rivers, gulf, ocean and canals.  Leaving from Chicago, the girls traveled south on the Illinois river – Mississippi river – Ohio river – Tennessee river to the to the Gulf of Mexico, travel along the Gulf coast and around Florida, up the Eastern seaboard, and over to the Great Lakes, and back to Chicago IL., all in a 16-foot Suzuki-powered Dura boat.

Scores of adventurers have completed America’s Great Loop in small vessels, but the McPhails know of no other two-women teams. “They wanted to prove a couple of gals can do it, too,” says the girls’ father, Larry McPhail.   “Growing up, we had trouble sharing a room, so sharing a 16-foot boat for three months has been a little tricky”, explains Katie.

The sisters were not out to prove the impossible, just the opposite. Their goal was to prove that boating is great fun for everyone – and especially to encourage the younger generations to take up boating as a hobby. 
Katie and Elizabeth received a lot of tips and advice from previous “Loopers.” (Looper is a name that has to be earned by making the Great Loop excursion.)  Most of their stops were pre-plotted at marinas along the way, but the girls were willing to rough it.  They had a tent and camping supplies onboard, just in case.


The trip will took about three months, from June to September. “It wasn’t complicated or ritzy, it just needed to be fun,” Katie explains. “We’ve always spent our summers on the water at Lake Sammamish in Washington state USA, but ‘scooping the loop’ seemed like the best way to celebrate my first few months out of college”, Elizabeth continues, “We want everyone to know that there are small boats available that can handle some pretty big adventures and hopefully to inspire others to try an adventure of their own”.

The memories these sisters made during this summer will last a life time.  Small Boat, Big Summer. 
Read more about the McPhails’ trip through their blog at