The Soo

Well we got up today thinking, oh boy, we’re going to go through the locks at Sault Saint Marie (Soo) and be in our lake – Superior! We motored the rest of the St. Mary’s River from our anchorage. The first big boat we met was as we came into Sault Saint Marie, Michigan meeting a ferry boat crossing the busy ship channel to take cars and a semi (!) to the north end of Sugar Island.

ferry crossing

We made a big turn west and the entire Soo canal system appeared before us. Whoa! We stopped at the George Kemp Marina on the Michigan side for fuel and to spend some time on land since we arrived before noon and thought we had until 7 p.m. to go through the locks. The next anchorage on the other side of the locks was only a couple of hours away so we had lots of time. So, we thought we’d check out the town and then sail across to the Canadian locks later in the day.

Before we pulled into the marina, there was a great view of the Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant (photo left below), a marvel of American engineering from the 1930s. They actually diverted the river to flow through the building to generate electricity. The boat in front of it in the photo is a big two-story tourist boat and the building made it look small. Just next door to the plant is the museum boat, the Valley Camp.

The Canadian locks are more pleasure-craft friendly than the American side. The photos below show a 1,000 foot boat very slowly cruising into the American lock. There was a platform we could stand on to watch it go in. A lady there told Chuck that the boats were called “footers” short for 1,000 footer. The second photo was taken from the Tower of History, a tourist attraction relic from the 60s that overlooks the locks and provides history of the area. You can see the 42 foot La Rive Nord sitting lonely in the marina next to the 1,000 footer if you look closely.

So after walking into town enjoying all of the amazing history since the 1600s, having lunch, touring the Tower of History (and taking a shower!), we went back to the boat to get ready to go through the locks. It was very gusty – probably 15-20 mph out of the west. So we made a plan – first to get La Rive Nord safely away from the dock in all of that wind and then to cross the ship channel to get to the Canadian locks.

Because of the plan, we safely made it over to the lock but then we were turned away! Because the westerly winds had blown ice into the canal and it was blocking the gate that lets the boats in and out. The lock was closed for the rest of the day. So we turned around and did everything we just did in reverse in the crazy wind. We got back to the dock around 5:30 p.m., tied off, and breathed. More patience training, right? A glass of Borealis was next on the list for me! We will try again tomorrow.

The Sears store is on the Canadian side – check out the current on the buoy!


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