Trip of a Lifetime: Sandusky couple spending a year in the Loop


“We’re on vacation, we’re just going to live the life for a year. It’s all good.”

Richie and Tina Brown left the Sandusky Yacht Club on August 7, 2022 and won’t be back until August of this year. They have embarked on the Great Loop, a Holy Grail for boaters.
The Browns' travels have taken them past the Mackinac Bridge. (Photo/Courtesy of Tina and Richie Brown)
The Browns have been planning their trip of a lifetime for more than ten years of their 37-year marriage. All they had to do was find a boat that could make the journey. They didn’t have to go far, as they found a 1976 32’ Grand Banks Sedan in Sandusky. The boat, now named the Tina B, was in great condition, although small by looping standards. But the Grand Banks was larger and newer, by a year, than the family’s 1975 Lyman originally owned by Richie’s grandfather. Richie grew up in Sandusky on the water and Tina grew up on South Bass Island and is a Put-in-Bay High School graduate.

Tina and Richie don’t have everything planned as they are taking the year-long trip in three to four-day increments. Tina journals every day, the fun things or “not-fun” things. Richie journals the statistics like gas mileage and pump outs. The Tina B has logged 441.5 engine hours and used 900+ gallons of diesel up to this point in the journey. That includes travel through 27 locks and 92 stops with 16 of those at anchor and 21 pump outs.

A map in the Tina B indicates the waterways on which the couple have traveled. (Photo/The Helm)
Halfway done, halfway to go
Tina and Richie are taking their time on the loop. They have to with the total trip encompassing 6,000+ miles and they are traveling at eight miles an hour. The couple is in their seventh month of the trip and a little more than halfway at 3,221 miles logged so far. Their stop in southwest Florida in Venice is an extended one, as they take a break from the loop to go from their boat to a ship. Richie and Tina have been able to meet up with many friends and family since docking in Florida, including Tina’s brother Wayne while they were in Sarasota. The Browns are taking a week-long cruise with family including their three children and seven grandchildren, out of the Miami area for seven days before returning back to the Great Loop.

The cruise is perfect timing for the Brown’s daughter, Sarah Barone, as she misses her parents. 

“It’s been tough not having my parents here because we are a close family. My parents are my best friends.” Sarah says. “They are the most wonderful, kind, selfless people you could ever meet.”

Real-time couples therapy
Although they are enjoying their current section of the loop in Florida, the entire trip hasn’t been perfect and has put their boating skills, and their marriage, to the test.  “You have to work together, you just have to,” Tina says. “Don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be easy-peasy the whole time, because it’s not.”
After the Tina B made her way through the Great Lakes, it was on to the toughest portion of the trip, according to the Browns: the rivers. The first half of the loop includes time on seven different rivers including the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers. For two and a half months, the couple pushed through the section of the journey with no marinas and no shopping.

“I think she was getting a little sick of me, but we're getting along now,” Richie says.

The Tina B floats down the river in Florida. (Photo/The Helm)From the best day to the worst day
Richie starts the story, “With a name like Rock Harbor, we should have known it would be bad.” 

The couple had a pretty good day on the river and were ready to dock for the night. As they entered a marina they heard live music coming from a nearby bar and then “BAM” the boat ran aground near the entrance to a marina. It was 4:55 p.m. and the marina closed at 5 p.m. With no help in sight, Richie launched the Tina B dingy and threw the anchor out to try to free their boat, but had no luck.

Tina went from the starboard side to the port side of the boat quickly and lost her footing. Rather than fall on a knee on which she recently had surgery, she fell on her ribs and broke several with the fall. To top it off, they had raised their mast and hadn’t lowered it to come into the dock and struck it while docking.

 “It went from a perfect day to bad,” she says.

The second half of the trip
Once the Browns have finished their family cruise, it is back to the loop. Their journey will wrap around Florida and back up the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and along the ocean borders of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey before cutting through the state of New York on the Hudson River to the Erie Canal.

Richie Brown peeks out from the engine in the Tina B. (Photo/The Helm)Just as the Tina B traversed the first half of the trip, they will take their time and enjoy the journey.

 “We don’t like cruising on the weekends because there are so many boats and they have no regard for anything,” Tina says.

The couple has collected small tokens along the way, Tina collects stickers and Richie collects bottle openers. Those collections should double by the time they make their way back into Sandusky Bay.

The first person waiting for them as they return to their dock in Sandusky? Their daughter Sarah, of course.

 “I think this trip would’ve been unbearable 20 years ago, but with FaceTime, Facebook, phone calls and Amazon deliveries it’s been an amazing adventure to watch,” Sarah says. “I call at least once, sometimes upward of four times a day. Every day is a new adventure with new people and experiences, so I love to start my day hearing their excitement and new stories. I’m so happy for them that they get to do this incredible adventure.”

The best part of the trip so far for Richie? Not having a television.

Bodies of water in the trip (so far):
Sandusky Bay 
Lake Erie
Lake St. Clair
Lake Huron
Lake Michigan
Calumet River
Illinois River
Detroit River
St. Clair River
Mississippi River
Ohio River
Tennessee River
Cumberland River
Tenn Tom Waterway
Tombigbee River
Mobile Bay
Gulf of Mexico