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Cornelius News

Cornelius family completes unique voyage

Angela Katsavavakis (center), Chris Del Negro and their son, Sebastian completed the 6,000-mile journey America’s Great Loop

July 6. By Dave Vieser. Angela Katsavavakis, Chris Del Negro and their son, Sebastian, who live in Antiquity, recently completed the trip of a lifetime: America’s Great Loop. It’s a 6,000-mile journey that circumnavigates the eastern part of the U.S. and Canada, cruising up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, through the New York State canals, into the Great Lakes, down the inland river system, across the Gulf of Mexico, and around the southern tip of Florida.

For completing the trip aboard their 48-foot Mainship called Pura Vida III, they just received their BaccaLOOPerate degree from America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association.

A monumental journey

How difficult is the trip? More people climb Mount Everest every year than do the Loop every year, just to put it into perspective.

The obstacles they faced during the journey sounds like something out of a Disney adventure movie.

“I have been wanting to live on a boat since my days living in Key West back in the early 90’s, where I was a pilot and an air traffic controller,” said Del Negro, 58, while explaining how the trip came to be.

Actually, plans for the journey began a few years ago, when Chris and his wife Angela were at a restaurant on the water in Wilmington. Watching all the boats go by, he knew it was either then or never for the big trip.

All hands on deck

“The hard part of course was convincing my wife and then 14-year-old son to go away for a whole year on a boat.”

“I sold the idea to my wife by telling her about all the wonderful places that we would see and the food and wine that we would taste.”

Convincing their son Sebastian was a different story.

“We knew being away from his friends would be very difficult for him,” said Katsavavakis, 51, homemaker, former attorney and Culinary Arts Professional who was born and raised in Costa Rica. “This was going to be especially tough for him since he is very social and has many friends.”

Sebastian reluctantly agreed, giving them just one year to complete the trip. He wanted to go back to his normal life in Cornelius where he had most recently attended Bailey Middle School.”

He did his first year of high school on the boat which was challenging, especially since they did not have cell or internet connection in Canada for two months, a serious issue for anyone.

Up to the challenge

In unfamiliar waters anything can happen. They bent the props in the Gulf of Mexico “when we hit something very hard with a very loud crashing noise.” They were out of the water for repairs for a month.

Indeed, every day brought some type of challenge. It was uncommon to go a day without something breaking.

“There are always at least 10 things wrong with your boat that you’re not aware of yet. It really was exhausting, and nobody can be fully prepared for the amount of extra work it takes to operate a nearly 50-foot vessel,” he said.

Would they do it again? Probably not.

Del Negro is retired after serving a stint as air traffic manager at Charlotte Douglas Internatinal; Katsavavakis enjoys the role of homemaker and Sebastian is enrolled for his sophomore year at Hough High School. With the format for public school next year still unknown, his experience with online education on the Pura Vida III may come in handy.