Life on The Loop

Life on The Loop

YouTube influencers Mark and Cinda Boomershine are long married high school sweethearts from Atlanta, Georgia with a family that’s keen on adventure. They’ve been boating recreationally all their lives, but about two years ago they decided to take the plunge as liveaboards with their two children, Rex and Belle, for a 15-month journey around America’s Great Loop. Now back on land, the accomplished Loopers look back on their journey.

Power & Motoryacht: What inspired you to take on the Great Loop as a family?

Mark: Almost two decades ago, one of us bought the book, Honey, Let’s Get a Boat, which is kind of what got us hooked. It’s a step-by-step personal account of a couple on the Loop, who are actually the founding members of the AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association)—the Stobs.

Cinda: We thought it would be really fun and interesting and a safe way to get more experience because for the most part, you’re always within sight of land. And then we knew we eventually wanted to have kids. And so, we figured when they were in the third, fourth, fifth grade range it might be a great time to do it because we could incorporate all the history of the Eastern seaboard as we were cruising. And they would be old enough to remember it and be relatively safe and still want to spend time with us. So that’s what we did.

SeaShine carried Cinda, Rex, Belle and Mark Boomershine through a life-changing 6,000 mile journey.

PMY: Tell us a bit about your boating background prior to the Loop.

Mark: My dad had a 60-foot houseboat and he would do a lot of fundraisers and entertaining. And so, I would be at the wheel on Lake Lanier, which is a fairly large lake outside of Atlanta, docking the boat. And he didn’t have to worry about driving the boat, he could entertain his passengers.

And then both of us were driving ski boats with friends. And then at the ripe age of 80, my father bought a 42-foot Meridian 408 down in Florida and basically said, go learn how to operate it and use it as much as you want—that was for us, a seven-year experience. Later, Cinda and I went to the Chapman School of Seamanship and did our CPC 1000 (Basic Powerboating) and really cut our teeth there.

PMY: What was the genesis of your YouTube channel?

Cinda: We started our YouTube channel when we were looking at boats. We called it “Virtual Boat Shopping;” we would look at boats that met our qualifications for doing the Loop. Only certain sized boats can do the Loop, there are height, beam and draft restrictions. And then we needed space for our whole family. So, we are kind of a little different than the typical looper in that we needed a bigger boat for our whole crew.

Mark: We had a social media presence, both Instagram and YouTube prior to the Loop, but it was a lot of just raising a family. We had a Volkswagen bus and we did some camping. We did a lot of cross-country drives, Atlanta to California. So, we got a traveling kind of vlog presence. But then when we started the Loop, it really started garnering more attention. Compared to other sailing blogs we’re small. But we definitely grew. It scratched an itch.

Cinda: We’re still learning and making progress and we are doing it mostly for our own enjoyment—we quickly realized that we could not navigate, enjoy the Loop, parent, homeschool, juggle some of our work stuff and edit. So, editing got pushed back. It’s not our full-time gig, we do it when it works in our schedule.

Mark: You can pull into Annapolis or some amazing town and go, “that looks beautiful, I’m going to go down and edit,” or you can go explore the town. We chose to explore the town with the kids.

A valuable Loop motto the family adopted was “What’s the best that could happen?” It was a phrase that helped convert uncertain moments into favorite memories throughout the 6,000-mile journey.

PMY: Tell us about the timing of bringing the kids aboard.

Cinda: They were eight and nine when we started the Loop. And now they’re ten and eleven.

Mark: We could have taken them earlier, but our concern was they’re not going to remember it well and it’s not necessarily safe. We wanted to make sure that if they fell overboard, they could handle themselves. One day, we were at a lake playing and we saw them jumping in and literally wrestling in the water with no life preservers, and we’re like, okay, I think we’re there, they’re strong enough swimmers.

Cinda: And they were incredibly helpful. Our son manned the stern lines at every docking and every lock. Our daughter manned the bow lines. Mark was at the helm, and I kind of went back and forth as needed. It was like having a tiny little crew.

Mark: And we had the headset marriage savers (for communicating while navigating and docking). So, we all communicated in normal speaking voices and at a lot of marinas we’d pull in and they’d say, your eight- and nine-year-old crew are better than some professionals we’ve seen. So, they got a lot of thumbs up from professional deckhands.

Mark and Cinda agree that their now 9- and 10-year old children learned more adventuring along the Loop than they would ever have in landlocked classrooms. Independence, resourcefulness, resilience and a love and respect for nature were the 101’s.

PMY: Was homeschooling much of a challenge?

Cinda: (laughs) Homeschool really was challenging for us. Very few kids do the Loop. We met five boats total with kids.

Mark: I think you have to caveat home school with everything else.

Cinda: Yes. And we weren’t homeschoolers before. So, of the five boats that we met with kids, I’d say half of them were home schooling before they were boat schooling. It was a very easy transition and they were used to it. I was not used to it. It was hard for me, I think, because I went from having time to do all this other stuff like planning, navigating and booking the marinas and all the logistics that go into the Loop. I was used to having time during the day to do those sorts of things—with school I had no time.

Mark: As you’re moving, if a weather window changes by two days, then you’ve got to back up or change the reservations you have for those two days. For the normal Loop couple, they’re just doing it underway and hanging out, you know, getting it done. But in our instance, it’s like, how do we do long division and—

Cinda: And help Mark navigate safely and know where he’s going. It takes multiple eyes because there’s just a lot going on­­—lots of different waterways with lots of different obstacles and challenges. And you also want to enjoy it. So, it’s an interesting balance.

PMY: But the kids must now have quite a non-classroom education.

Cinda: I think our kids have learned so much beyond the classroom. We did an online school program, so they learned everything that they needed to learn in third and fourth grade, but they also learned so much resilience and persistence and they got to live and breathe a lot of the American history. You’re floating by Fort Sumter or you’re touring Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War history. So, there was a lot of that in addition to just so much nature—all the animals, all the weather, things that they have just kind of absorbed by living through it. They just learned so many other things. And independence. There are a lot of times where, if you’re hungry, you got to make your own breakfast. Mom’s busy.

Mark: My 8 year-old son, by the end of the trip—he’d go in the fridge while underway, crack open and scramble himself some eggs, make some toast and sit down and do his schoolwork. That was pretty cool to see. And we learned scientifically, your brain adapts to do hard things. Now we have this kind of family motto that we can do hard things, and we proved that we did it.

PMY: We’d imagine there must have been occasional challenges that made you question continuing the Loop.

Cinda: The first wall I hit was when we hit rough water near Saint Simons. You have to kind of go out into the ocean. You’re still in the ICW, but the way that works, there’s a sound outside and it was rough and Mark was having a hard time navigating. The kids were scared and the cats were puking and pooping simultaneously. I was like, “This is not fun. I don’t like this.” And Mark said, “Let’s just take it one day at a time.” And we took it one day at a time.

Mark: We were in the rivers in Indiana, Illinois, going through a lock, and it was a really hard school day. And we all literally hit a wall as we’re pulling into a lock, when we should be all hands on deck, getting out the lines, getting out the fenders but the kids are crying. Cinda’s probably crying. And I’m like, what are we doing? At that moment we all decided we’re selling the boat. We’re just selling the boat and getting off at the next stop. At that point, we’re traveling with two other boats, who get on the radio and say, “SeaShine, are you moving forward or should I just go around you?” And I got on the radio and I said, “SeaShineis having a teachable moment right now please go around.”

So, we were ready to pout the whole rest of the evening on anchor. And our dear friends said, “We’re coming to get you.” They put their dinghy in the water. They came and got us and we went on board their boat and we ended up having a dance party. They had installed some new lights inside and it was one of the most memorable fun nights.

Cinda: We adopted a motto: “Assess, adapt and overcome.” It’s true in life and it’s especially true in boating. You figure out what the problem is. We got to assess it. We got to adapt. We got to change because obviously something didn’t work right that day when everybody was upset and we figured out how to overcome it. We never quit. And we survived and we thrived—sometimes we were just surviving, but a lot of times we were thriving.

PMY: What would you call your most memorable moment?

Cinda: The most beautiful thing about the Loop to me was meeting all the people along the way and just seeing how beautiful and kind and generous and thoughtful everyone is.

We’re approaching a lock, coming into this tiny little town of Hastings, Canada, and Mark and I are down at our lower helm at the end of the day. We’re about to stop, just one lock, and then we dock, and our son Rex goes, “Mom, why is there so much smoke?” And I turn around and I look behind us and our whole back sliding glass doors, you can’t see anything but black smoke. And so, I immediately thought we had a fire in the engine room.

So, I run down to the engine room and the engines look fine, but we are just billowing black smoke. So, we shut our engines down and figure out it was just one engine. We had no idea what was wrong, but we figured it was catastrophic because it looked absolutely horrific.

And we call the lock on the radio and say, “We got one engine, we’re limping in.” We’re in the lock and I’m talking to the lock master because he saw the black smoke and Mark’s on the phone trying to find a mechanic.

Mark: I called three or four mechanics. They’re all saying the same thing: “The soonest I can see you is like a few weeks.” The lock master goes, “What’s going on?” We say, we can’t find anybody; it’s going to be a few weeks. He goes, “We can do better than that.”

Cinda: So, he took our phone number, which was so sweet of him. We went and docked and like 30 minutes later, Mark gets a call on his cell phone.

Mark: It’s a Canadian phone number. I pick it up and the guy goes, “Hey, what dock are you on? I’m a mechanic. I’m here.” And I’m like, “That’s incredible.” The guy was on what was kind of like Canada’s spring break. He was eating dinner with his wife just across from the lock and the lock master called him. He said he could swing over and check it out. So, I meet the guy. He says he’ll diagnose the problem right now, and if it’s fixable, he’ll have his apprentice on call and he’ll be here 10 a.m. tomorrow to do whatever needs to be done.

Cinda: And then all the boats on the dock next to us just adopted us and took us in and helped us figure out the logistics because we had to get a part and we had to drive to New York to get it and it was a holiday. But they just all rallied and were just so kind and so helpful and loving and it was a really cool experience.

Mark: It was their Labor Day weekend. And on our way back after getting the part, they were calling, asking “When are you going to be here?” We said, “We’ll be there soon. Is everything okay?” They said, “Yeah, we just have a grill out and we don’t want to start without you.”

Cinda: We had a great time.

Mark: I learned how to make a new drink from that [party]—some sumac drink that was amazing.

Cinda: But we had another saying that we kind of adopted on the Loop. Murphy of Murphy’s Law apparently was a sailor, so that’s why there’s that phrase of: What’s the worst that can happen? Well, we decided to turn it up like, What’s the best that can happen?

Mark: Pulling into a marina that didn’t have room for you, you’d say, “Well, what’s the best that can happen?” And amazingly, one slip would open up right where you’d want to be. So, it was amazing how things turned around when we shifted our focus.

PMY: What would you consider the Loop’s greatest gift?

Cinda: I think the most precious thing about our Loop is that we stopped the crazy machine of life living in the city—we paused everything. We paused the piano practices and the soccer practice and the baseball practice and all that stuff. And we spent a year just with our kids. And I think that was the most precious gift of the Loop, it was the quality one-on-one time for a solid year. And I think that will be the ultimate gift of the Loop for us.

PMY: So now, what about life after the Loop?

Mark: A hurricane almost took the boat out in Brunswick, Georgia, where we kept it. We sold the boat and quickly thereafter, Cinda’s dad had a stroke. We got through Thanksgiving, then my dad passed away right at Christmas. I think we were ready to get off the boat. Now, if we were a single couple cruising [it’d be different]. Cinda and I moved the boat for a four-day period while the kids were at summer camp and it was a completely different experience. And that is what most of the Loop, or cruising is like for couples without kids. The kids were amazing, but they definitely added a different stress factor to it.

But it also makes land life seem super easy. Like if the air conditioning goes out at the home, well, the home’s not going to float away or sink. So, I mean, like, that’s half the problem. Things seem a lot easier on land than they do on a boat.

We have a lake house and a ski boat. I have a 13-foot sailboat. The kids have a dinghy that we kept. So, we are boating on almost every weekend—it’s a very different kind of boating.

Cinda: The water calls us and we will always want to be on the water, but we’re going to be a little more stationary, at least for the next few years.

PMY: Would you have any closing advice for a family who’s thinking of doing the Loop?

Cinda: Dream big, chase your dreams. If we can figure out how to pull it off, I think it’s totally doable. And the beautiful thing about the Loop is that people do it with all budgets, all different sizes of boats, all different ages. There’s no right or wrong way. People have done it on jet skis and pontoon boats, not that I would recommend doing it in a pontoon boat, but people have done it.

Mark: As parents, you get really into the T-ball and the football and the soccer and everything. And that’s still going to be there. But what won’t be there potentially is the opportunity to be together and to experience what we experienced. Sometimes you’ve just got to rip off the Band-Aid and go do it.

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This article originally appeared in the June/July 2024 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.


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