Currently Away (PragProg)

When the pandemic, heart disease, and personal tragedy threatened to steal everything the Tates spent years building, they found hope, healing, and themselves on a 290 square-foot boat.

Bruce A. Tate @redrapids

edited by Michael Swaine @michaelswaine

The walls were closing in on Bruce and Maggie Tate. Isolation forced on them by the pandemic, combined with America’s growing political factionalism, threatened their bonds with community and family. Something had to change. Maggie’s surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. For nine months Bruce and Maggie navigated rivers, coastal waters, lakes, locks, and loss. Against all odds they conquered the Loop, and along the way found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Bruce and Maggie Tate were spiraling downward. Normally outgoing and cheerful, Maggie was broken down by pandemic isolation. Bruce, facing asthma, heart disease and Covid-related professional issues, was sure that the virus and his comorbidities would kill him. And the plant-based diet he had just started made him wish it would hurry up. Meanwhile, their country seemed to be crumbling into warring factions.

That was when Maggie made a life-changing decision. With no experience, knowing little about seafaring, inboard motors, or navigation, she and Bruce and the family dog decided to take on the Great Loop, a six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They had to navigate canals and locks, were threatened by dangerous seas, and even had to deal with heartbreaking loss. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

When, in a time of great divisiveness, two broken people took on the challenge of their lives, against all odds they found common cause across political divides and made themselves whole again.

Bruce Tate is a programmer and CEO of Groxio where he is helping to redefine how computer languages are taught and learned. In 2022, he captained one of the roughly 150 boats to complete America’s Great Loop with his wife Maggie. Professionally, he is the author of more than ten books including best-selling Seven Languages in Seven Weeks and Programming Phoenix. He was involved with the Elixir and Ruby languages early in their adoption curves.

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