Sailing sisters follow Great Loop to EC: McPhails left Chicago in 16-foot fishing boat

From The Daily Advance (Elizabeth City, NC):

An unassuming 16-foot yellow powerboat with two 20-something sisters aboard stopped along the Elizabeth City waterfront Friday, drawing questions about a water-bound journey they launched in early June.

Their stop at the Harbor of Hospitality is part of a journey that began on the Illinois River and will take them north to the St. Lawrence in Vermont before ending sometime in August, back in Chicago, on what boaters call The Great Loop.

The sisters, Katie McPhail, 26, and Elizabeth McPhail, 22, are from Seattle, Wash. The siblings are not out to make a point about anything, sell a book, or even write one, they’re just having an adventure.

Older sibling Katie says she got the idea to travel The Great Loop after reading a book about a similar journey, “Only in America,” chronicling the journey of three college buddies along America’s eastern waterways.

“At the beginning of the trip, it was difficult,” says Katie, a part-time teacher. “Most of our (boating) experience was on a lake.”

The Great Loop is a boating journey that begins in Chicago, Ill., runs downriver through various waterways before pouring into the Mississippi River. From there, boaters will travel down through the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida coast, either going as far south as Key West, or cutting across the state through the Okeechobee Waterway before heading north.

The sisters took the latter route, cutting their time on the water short.

“One of the things we’re realizing is that we’re missing a lot of the loop,” says Katie. “Most people take a year to five years to complete it.”

When Katie conceived of this journey, her sister Elizabeth was a senior attending Knox College in Illinois. Their father, a boat manufacturer in Issaquah, Wash., had had a slow year and as a result had some leftover inventory. Katie says the 16-foot Duraboat fishing vessel was the largest boat in stock, so it was the obvious choice.

Katie trailored the boat to Chicago, attended her sister’s graduation on June 6, and on June 7 the two had launched the boat and set off on the trip of a lifetime.