By: Steve Harris with Mike Cantin
In 2014 Donna Stewart (then director of the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center) was promoting the idea of a Carolina loop that would start at the ICW’s Mile Marker 0, travel down the Dismal Swamp Canal, the Pasquotank River, across the Albemarle Sound to Camden Point, and up the North Landing River back to Mile Marker 0. Jack Atwell tweaked that idea into what we now call the Albemarle Loop. He convinced the AP Board and the Marina Advisory Committee (MAC) to support the concept, and it has steadfastly provided that support ever since. Beginning in 2016, the MAC under the leadership of Buzz Savage, facilitated a more formal organization, and the Loop incorporated as a North Carolina chartered entity. Shortly after that, I got involved, although I had no idea what I was getting into! With the immeasurable assistance of an accountant, the newly minted Albemarle Loop, Inc., applied for and received recognition from the IRS as a 506(c)6 organization. This approach to a more formal organization provided a way for various towns to participate in the Albemarle Loop and created the basis for the organization we have today. In 2017 Jim Standing (now deceased) became interested in ways to exploit social media to promote the Loop. Jim developed a very sophisticated promotional campaign that reached over 100,000 boaters involved in the Great Loop and similar cruising activities. Through Jim’s innovative and tireless efforts, the Albemarle Loop became known to the greater boating community. Techniques pioneered by Jim have allowed us to attract Loopers from all over the Southeast, verified by emails and blogger records. Jim’s efforts have been sustained and elaborated by Marla Scribner as she took over the social media program when Jim’s health began to fail. Early in 2018, we approached Yacht Broker Curtis Stokes with a request for sustaining contributions to the organization. Stokes, a long-time sponsor of the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association, literally jumped at the chance to help. He has provided stead-fast support without fail ever since. He has provided both direct and indirect support to the Loop through his network of dealers and customers. In 2020 COVID could not defeat the Loop. In fact, the boating market saw a substantial increase in interest because boating provides great opportunities for recreation outdoors with the family. Today, the fact that surrounding communities– notably Plymouth, Columbia, Edenton, and Hertford—continue to participate in the Loop is testament to the soundness of the idea that originated with Jack and Donna so many years ago. Current Albemarle Loop volunteer staff consists of: Jack Atwell, Steve Harris, Judy Atwell, Mike Cantin, Sam Giovinazzi, Marla Scribner, Barry Marshall, Janet Benton, and Diane Ellis.