The calendar tells us that spring is ready to be sprung, but if you live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula you know it’s still very much winter here. In the coming week, an annual rite of passage (literally!) will take place and Sault Ste. Marie is offering ringside seats. Come watch as the first freighter of the year makes its way to the Soo.
On March 25th, the Soo Locks will re-open for the 2017 shipping season connecting Lake Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes. The Soo Locks have been closed for maintenance since January 15, 2017; read more about the shutdown here. This is a little-known holiday, but the first freighter through the Soo Locks is a big deal to the Boatnerd community. Boatnerd is not a derogatory name, they wear it with pride and even named their 100% boat website boatnerd.com.
The identity of the first freighter is unknown at this time; all we do know is that a Great Lakes freighter will be showing up by March 25th, 2017 to pass through the Soo Locks. It doesn’t always work this way. In 2014, Lake Superior was so frozen that the lake freighter Cason J. Callaway had trouble crossing and finally arrived on April 4, 2014 after slowly sailing across the lake with the help of the Canadian Ice Breaker, Pierre Radisson, and the U.S. Coast Guard Ice Breaker Mackinaw. This year won’t be as great of a struggle for the first freighter due to milder winter temperatures.
From mid-October to mid-May the Soo Locks Visitors Center inside of the Soo Locks Park is normally closed, but March 25 from 9am – 3pm they will open their doors offering hot coffee and a chance to warm up from the winter weather. As mentioned, the identity of the freighter and its arrival time is always unknown until a day or so before. Monitor our Facebook page for updates as to which freighter will have the honor of being first. This last photo is a personal favorite because we were able to go ON the first freighter. I’m sorry, this opportunity is not open to everyone.
Let’s be honest – you’ve had enough of shoveling and cold temperatures. Come help us cheer on the first freighter and send old man winter packing! If you make it to the Soo for the first freighter and get any good photos, please remember to share them on social media with the hashtag #ILovetheSoo.