Anytime you hear of a boat heading east on Lake Superior there is always discussion about the “Soo” and the “Locks”. So for us newbies, this was going to be a really big day.
We left Grand Marais at 6:15am for the 78NM trek eastward. Along the way, Niels pointed out that between Grand Marais and the Soo there are no safe harbors. The Whitefish Bay area of Lake Superior which we would be crossing has had a large number of wrecks including the famed Edmund Fitzgerald. It is considered one of the most dangerous areas of the big lake due to the long fetch with no protection. Did I say this was going to be a really big day?
After double/triple checking the weather, we started out with good winds for sailing and had all three sails out doing 6.5-7 knots. As the winds died during the morning, the iron-genny was recruited again and we continued with two sails and the engine for the remaining distance. When a specific distance has to be covered, it’s important to maintain a certain speed and we were targeting 6 knots to ensure we arrived at the locks during daylight.
There are two sets of locks – the Canadian and the American. Most commercial traffic going through the American locks. We opted for the Canadian and entered the channel with a bit of trepidation as we’d heard stories of the “locks”. Now it may have helped that Dan and I had been through many locks on a barge trip in France and that we had Niels and Vicki onboard to help fend the boat off the wall but the Canadian locks were pretty easy. Much easier than I expected and now that we’ve done it I have no concerns about future passages through the Soo.
That’s not to say everything was absolutely smooth – the lock keeper instructed us to pull up to the blue wall but there was no “blue” wall. What we eventually found was a 30’ iron rail that had been painted blue – something that you could not see until you were on top of it. Note: on the eastern side there was a prominent blue wall that we saw as we exited the lock. I guess the lock keepers don’t look at the view from below.
Our evening and the next day was spent at the George Kemp Marina in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. which had very nice facilities and even provided laundry soap – clean bodies and clean clothes – living large!
July 5, 2015 46°29.979N 84°20.251W
Side-blip: As of our arrival at the Kemp Marina, we have traveled 302 nautical miles – woot woot.