THE GREAT LOOP
This story featured in the 2013 Buyer’s Guide issue.
The Man: Josh Tart
The Mission: Paddle a 5,000-mile circuit around the eastern United States and fish all the way.
By Conor Mihell
Josh Tart wasn’t quite ready to join the rat race when he graduated from college in 2011, so he decided to take on a new challenge: Paddling the 5,500-mile Great Loop, a classic cruising route around the eastern half of the United States. Starting in his home town TK outside of Cincinnati, Tart would paddle the Ohio into the Mississippi, turn left at the Gulf Coast, left at the Florida Keys, and then left again, across New York state and the Great Lakes. Averaging 15 to 25 miles per day, he completed the expedition just in time for his wedding in November.
The Mission: A 16-month kayaking and fishing journey around the eastern U.S., raising money for Charity: Water, a nonprofit that builds freshwater wells in developing nations.
The Boat: Tart put 4,000 miles on an Ocean Kayak Trident 15 fishing kayak before upgrading to the new 15.5-foot Ocean Kayak Trident Ultra 4.7 for the home stretch when he hit the Great Lakes in August. “It’s better designed for touring,” Tart says. “It’s faster and easier to paddle, plus it has a bigger tankwell, a sealed off middle hatch, and a custom icebox storage pod.”
The Paddle: Tart progressed from the narrow, low-impact blades of an Aqua-Bound Swell to the larger, more powerful blades of a carbon Aqua-Bound Manta Ray. Towards the end of the expedition he fell in love with the Aqua-Bound Surge, which features super stiff fiberglass blades. “At this point, my body’s in top form and I can paddle all day with a stiff, high-angle paddle,” Tart says. “Plus the big blades add speed and it’s super light.”
The Fishing Outfit: With 5,500 miles to cover, Tart faced a dilemma: To fish or to paddle? He struck a compromise by trolling. To maximize his success, he used Yak Attack Mighty Mount rod holders and medium-heavy Ugly Stik rods. Baitcasting reels equipped with line counters allowed him to keep tabs on his lure while paddling. “I used a lot of crankbaits, spoons, small planing lures and jet divers,” he says.
The Shelter: Whether he was holed up in the bayou, camping on a marina dock or overnighting on the windswept Atlantic coast, Tart relied on a SingleNest hammock, insect net and fly from Eagles Nest Outfitters. “I wouldn’t camp any other way,” Tart says. “It takes up less space than a tent and it keeps you drier and up off the ground.”
The Camera: All along, Tart has used GoPro cameras to document his trip. The Wi-Fi remote control capability of the HD Hero 2 is a huge boon to the solo traveler, says Tart, who used Yak Attack Panfish mounts to stabilize the camera.