6/5/17 – 6/8/17: The morning we left Whitefish Point, we had more dense fog. We waited for a while to see if the fog would lift, but by 8:30AM it was still “pea soup”, so we decided to leave, as we had about a 6 hour day ahead, including our first set of locks. We would be in the shipping lanes about 1/2 the day, and we then realized a second great investment we made: RADAR!
The wind was blowing from our stern at about 15-20 knots, building the waves to about 3-5 feet. It was interesting watching how the waves impact your speed when they are coming from behind and are that large. As one wave passed our stern, we would get a boost of speed as we “surfed” the front side, sometimes as great as 7 knots, but as it reached the bow, we were then “climbing” the wave and would get reduced to less than 6 knots. Fun!
Shortly after we entered the shipping lanes (still in dense fog), we were so happy to have radar on board. Not only was it great for picking out the bouys we wanted to follow, but there was one instance where it was almost essential. As we were motoring along, we tracked a big red blob on the radar, which kept moving closer. All of a sudden, from out of the fog, a huge laker appeared – probably 750 feet long or more. He was not signalling any fog horn and was not running AIS, so he was virtually “invisible”, except for on radar.
Once we got within 3 miles of Sault Ste. Marie, the fog finally lifted (after 2 full days), and it warmed up to the 70s. We’ve had 70s and sunny skies ever since. As we entered Sault Ste. Marie, we decided to use the Canadian Locks rather than the US locks, as we read that pleasure craft are “encouraged” to use the Canadian Locks due to the amount of commercial traffic on the US side. Going through the locks was way less intimidating than we feared. You stop at a sign that says “LA”, and wait for a red/green light to turn green. Then you enter the locks, move to a wall, and in these locks, put 2 lines around cables they have running up and down the walls. The water slowly drops, the other gate opens, and you are on your merry way! There were also lock hands there to assist in any way, if needed. It was fun to chat with them (and the other tourists), as we waited for the water to drop the 21 feet down to the river.
There are two Sault Ste. Maries: one in Michigan, and one in Ontario. We visited both, but went to the Michigan side first. We spent the first three nights at the George Kemp Marina. The marina was beautiful and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. It was a little bit of a walk to get to stores and restaurants – about 10 blocks or so – and we didn’t find a grocery store, but there were plenty of good restaurants and gift shops. On our last night we opted for pizza delivery, because we made the trip to “town” about 6 or 7 times by then.
The riverside area was nicely land lanscaped and full of historic sites. There were several “original” houses right by the marina you could tour, the remains of an old fort, an ancient Native American burial ground, as well as lots of placards and signs about Sault Ste. Marie’s history. There was also a ship museum, the lock tours by boat, and a free visitor’s center to watch the boats and freighters “lock through”. All in all it was a great visit.
We didn’t spend as much time on the Canadian side, although from what we did see, it is much more picturesque than the Michigan side. The entire riverside is one long walkway with plenty of benches, places to stop and see the river, and lots of statues and informational placards. It was all nicely landscaped with flower planters and flowering bushes & trees. Checking in through customs was also quick and easy. It took one phone call and about 5 minutes of time. The asked our names, passport numbers, boat registration number, country of origin, how long we wanted to stay, and if we had any goods to declare such as alcohol, tobacco, etc… They gave us an “authorization” number for use if we are stopped by the Canadian Coast Guard or other offcial, and that was it. Welcome to Canada!
We visited the lock that we went through a few days before, did a quick shop at Walmart (which was supposed to be a “Super Center” but was kind of disappointing compared to US Walmart Super Centers). However, they redeemed themselves after we stopped at our first Tim Hortons. We thought Dunkin’ Donuts was good, but Tim Hortons was awesome! We stocked up for three days of breakfast (and if we were bettin’ folk, we’d probably say it’ll be gone in two). We ate dinner at Wendy’s (yes, Wendy’s – we haven’t had proper fast food since we left).
Tomorrow we leave for the north channel of Lake Huron. We’ve now crossed one of four Great Lakes and travelled 350 miles on our 3,000 mile journey. Lake Superior wasn’t as enjoyable as we had hoped. Of the 15 days it took for us to cross it, we had 14 days of rain, 3 full days of fog, and temps in the low to mid 40s. We’ve had some good experience s, yes, but the weather plays a huge part when you are in it most of the day. Our one hope right now is that moving forward we have weather as nice as it’s been for the past 3 days here in the Sault Ste. Maries.