After 20 years of "houseboating" on the St. Croix River (on the MN/WI border just east of St. Paul), Dick & Diane Hanson had a retirement dream of cruising The Great Loop (MN to FL, then up the East Coast & back across the Great Lakes). In 1999, the interest was piqued with the discovery of a couple from FL who had completed the trip and posted a fascinating Web site, http://janandbillhaueisen.com. We had an e-mail exchange with them about their trip, and determined that someday we would use their experience and Web site as a model for our own (Thank you, Bill and Jan!).
We were further inspired in early 2001 when we discovered the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association: http://www.greatloop.com. We became member #502, read the AGLCA founders' (Eva & Ron Stob's) book, Honey, Let's Get a Boat, and began to learn about the interests and experiences of hundreds of "Great Loopers" through the Membership Directory and newsletter, "The Great Loop Link."
With Dick’s retirement from 3M in mid-2001, we decided we needed a different boat for the Big Adventure, listing Mind Sweeper IV (a ’94 SkipperLiner) for sale in LaCrosse, WI, and planning a winter vacation in the FL Panhandle in a condo in Destin for the month of January. While there, we unexpectedly stumbled into a deal with Ship & Sail, the Carver dealer in Ft. Walton Beach, which was good for both of us. It was a leftover, new 2001 Model 506 (described in "Our Boat" section), and the deal included the trade of our old boat.
Diane suggested that a new name of "So uvenir" would be appropriate for a boat purchased in these circumstances. Her punch line is, "Better Than a T-Shirt." I agreed that it was time to move on from our beloved Mind Sweepers, which had become our identity back home in the St. Croix Valley. So we returned home by auto as planned for the month of February to "shuffle papers" and do taxes, while Bob Faulkrod of Ship & Sail prepared Souvenir for delivery the first of March. The plan became reality when we spent a beautiful month of March at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, FL, exploring the local waters, and becoming accustomed to operating our new boat.
On April 11, 2002, we began our first long river voyage (described in the Practice Run section), hoping to arrive at our home port in MN at the same time as spring. Sixteen days and 1660 miles later we were home, but spring was late. The next day it snowed 5"! After enjoying our family and another summer on the St. Croix River, we launched our Great Loop Cruise in October, 2002.