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Pooler Magazine

The Magnificent 7: Seizing the Moment with a Once-in-a-Lifetime Boating Adventure

May 04, 2023 07:59AM ● By Jan Southern

The Magnificent 7: Seizing the Moment with a Once-in-a-Lifetime Boating Adventure

Story by Cindy Reid  |  Photos by Leidi Lester

A bucket list. Most of us have one, either written down in a journal somewhere or fixed in our minds. See the Grand Canyon, climb Mt Everest, write a novel, learn bass guitar. The honest truth is that only a handful of us ever really get to check off these experiences because well, life. Careers, mortgages, kids, responsibilities. The daily grind.

But sometimes we get a wakeup call, one we actually pay attention to, because it strikes so dear to our heart. For this close knit family the loss of their beloved Robert was that wake up call.

The Wake Up Call

On Sept 4, 2021, Robert L. Dasher, Sr., 53, of Guyton, Ga., passed away after a courageous fight with COVID, leaving his wife Lori, children Robert, Nolan, Maggie and April, and extended family in grief stricken shock. Brothers John and Glenn Jackson, along with their cousin Wayne Dasher, had grown up with Robert, remaining the best of friends into adulthood, and his death “hit us hard,” says Glenn.

This was the wakeup call and that’s where the Great Loop— a six thousand mile water journey—comes in. The catalyst was Wayne and his wife, also named Lori, who are long distance truck drivers. She says the Great Loop had been on her mind for years.

“Actually I wanted to do this for a long time,” says Lori, “and I kept trying to talk Wayne into it but Wayne wasn’t fully on board. The morning Robert died, Wayne and I were in Arizona,
driving back home to be with friends and family for his funeral when Wayne had a turning point. Out of the blue he looked at me and said, ‘we are doing the loop.’ Shocked, I replied, ‘well I was going to somehow do it but I’m glad you’ve decided to join me!’”

She says right after the funeral they told the others they were doing it, “and Glenn, who is the most responsible out of all of us, said ‘If you’ll wait till spring 2023 we’ll do it too.’ That settled it—it was a go!”

Pamela Jackson, who is married to Glenn, says boating the Great Loop was “always a bucket list item” for them. “We were all sitting around and talking about bucket lists. Robert had only had 53 years, which is such a short life,” she says, “so we decided we could do the Great Loop ‘one day’ or it could be ‘day one’ of the adventure. We chose to make it day one, which subsequently became the name of our boat—Day One.”

“There was something about losing Robert that created a determination in us all,” says Lori. “Before we knew it we were all deciding on boat names and were boat shopping!”

The Magnificent 7

Pamela and Glenn Jackson, Lori and Wayne Dasher, and Johnnie and Teresa Jackson are all successful people in middle age who found the impetus for adventure in the profound loss of a loved one. For the Great Loop they are ‘all in,” each couple essentially taking a year off, with trips back as needed for work and family.

They wanted to create a group name and logo so Glenn came up with “The Magnificent 7”—the core group of six plus Robert. The 7 is also a sweet reminder that Robert was a baseball player, and was always #7. The group says bonding together as the Magnificent 7 helps them to remember that “living life while you have it to live is simply magnificent!”

They are all experienced boaters, and although they have all owned various boats over the years, they were not of the size needed for the trip. They will be traveling together but in three separate boats and so each couple has purchased a trawler specifically for the trip. Piloting a trawler has been a learning curve for all the couples but they are getting the hang of it.

For Wayne and Lori it was an adventure from the start, having purchased a boat in Port Charlotte, Fla., that they arrived to bring home on the eve of Hurricane Ian. Just before the storm, they brought the boat inland and rode it out while onboard. After Ian passed Lori looked at Wayne and said “What the hell have we done?” But as she says, riding out the weather is part of the adventure and they are ready for whatever comes next.

Glenn and Pam are on Day One—a 44 ft Gulfstream—Johnnie and Teresa are on All In—a 43 ft Hatteras—and Wayne and Lori are on Hootie Hoo—a 47 ft trawler.

The Great Loop

The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that recreational mariners can travel that includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland.

It’s America’s Great Loop—aka the Great American Adventure That No One Has Ever Heard Of. Think of it as the Appalachian Trail for boaters.

The route follows the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Chesapeake Bay, and the New York Canals northwards, goes across the Great Lakes, then south on the Inland Rivers, and then west on the Gulf of Mexico. Like the Appalachian Trail, the trip can be done in one loop or in segments. The route can be done in two months but typically boaters take a full year if doing it in one continuous loop. There are just over 150 locks on the great loop, which passes through 15 states and two Canadian provinces.

Loopers can begin at any point along the route, and when they return to their starting point they are said to have “crossed their wake” and to have finished the Great Loop. It’s a lengthy trip and less than 200 people complete the 6,000 mile journey per year. Those boaters who are on the loop often fly a white burgee and those who have completed the loop fly a gold one. Those who finish the entire loop earn the right to be called “Loopers.”

Seasonal Compass

Because there is no official starting point or single route to complete the loop, boaters start wherever location and weather conditions make sense for them. Of course they want to avoid severe cold and hurricane season, and the large route gives them that flexibility.

Most boaters plan segments dockage stops, and many take the opportunity to go ashore and see the sights.

The Magnificent 7 plan on following the seasons by heading north in the spring, east in the summer, west in the fall and south to the Florida Keys in the winter. Basically they are taking the Canadian route on the north side and then down through Alabama on the west side of the loop.

They embarked on April 15—the first Saturday after Easter Sunday—so they could celebrate the holiday at home with family before leaving. The three boats left from the Savannah Riverfront at the same time so friends and family—including Robert’s wife Lori—could see them off.

Planned stops include the Trawler Fest, held in Baltimore in May, where they can meet fellow “Loopers.” Other highlights they are looking forward to are seeing the Statue of Liberty by water, the Arch of St Louis, Niagara Falls and exploring Canada. They also want to visit as many baseball fields as possible, such as the iconic Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium and, when the season changes, football fields throughout their journey, especially Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“It’s an adventure and we gravitate to adventures,” Wayne says. “It may take us a little longer due to contractual obligations for work, necessitating a couple of quick trips back, but that’s okay, we will take it as it goes.” He says he is looking forward to meeting new people, discovering new restaurants and bars, and enjoying small towns along the way.

One thing the Magnificent 7 knows is that Robert will be with them and is in fact their guardian angel for the long trip. In honoring his life, they are choosing to live their lives without wasting a day or having any regrets. This is a story about the Great Loop, but it is also a story about family, friendship, bucket lists and most importantly…love.