Diva Di's Cruising Adventures

Day 55 - Sault Sainte Marie, MI

26 July 2016
Day 55 - Fri 22 Jul 2016
Docked - Sault Sainte Marie, MI

[photo: an example of the architecture here]

We slipped quietly out of the marina before 0700 and had a nice run up the St. Mary's River for over 6 hours. At first, the long fetch let the waves build to just noticeable, but once we enter the river itself, we had no wind waves to worry about.

I wanted to travel at our economical speed of 7.5 kts, and was surprised to see a prominent speed limit of 9 mph posted for much of the narrower part of the upper river. I don't why I was further surprised to see no one obeying it, except for the large freighter astern of us which was catching up to us slowly. I could not tell whether it was a 'laker' (whose dimensions are as large as possible to fit the locks of the upper Great Lakes, but too big for the Welland Canal and therefore they can never exit the lakes) or a 'saltie' (a smaller ocean-going ship that can make it all the way out the St. Lawrence River to the ocean).

The ship seemed to close the gap a bit on straight sections and lose ground at the turns, so I assume it had to slow down to get its massive bulk around the 'corners' and still stay in the channel. I made the mistake of pulling off to one of the few wider sections and slowing way down to let it pass. That wasted almost 20 minutes and when I finally pulled in about 300 yards astern of him, I had to fight the wash from his propeller(s) and discovered he was only going 6.5 kts at that time. I should have just stayed ahead of him, even if it meant a few bursts of higher speed.

Along the way, we were treated to views of some very modest and some very expensive cottages/homes. There were quite a few small fishing boats out and most were right in the shipping channel. I understand that is often where the fish are, but these guys hardly make an effort to get or of your way. They obviously do for the freighters.

It was a boring trip, really, but that is not a bad thing. When we turned the last corner, we were greeted with the sights of Sault Ste. Marie on both the MI and ON sides of the river. The ON city is much larger, but we were committed to staying on the US side at that point. One building that got our attention was this gorgeous, old brick structure that I later learned is the Saint Marys Falls Hydropower Plant. It houses 74 generators and uses the water flowing from Lake Superior through a man-made canal and deposits the water into the St. Mary's River on the low side of the locks. It was completed in 1902 and remains a civil engineering historic landmark.

The George Kemp marina was really quite a nice place in so many ways and we were very pleasantly surprised. It was almost 1400 by the time we got settled, and the trip had made us sleepy, but we were determined to get out and do something. We borrowed two of the courtesy bikes to discover that the original, narrow seats were not nearly as comfortable as the wide, cushy one we have installed on our four bikes at home and on the boat.

First, we rode a very short distance to the Tower of History. It is a tall (210 ft above the river) concrete structure with fantastic views from several observation decks and a fair amount of historical information inside. We bought the combination ticket to view the museum ship, Valley Camp, adjacent to the marina, sometime later. I guess the trip was more tiring than we thought because we brought neither my phone nor the camera, so here we were with all these great views and nothing for taking photos.

Through with the tower, we started biking towards the grocery store, but Diane's bike was not behaving well so I asked her to stop and stay at the Soo General Store where we would pick up some liquor, and I carried on to the grocery. When I got there, I realized the list was not in my backpack, so I had to scramble my brain to think what things she might have wanted. Of course, neither of us brought a phone. As it turns out, I only missed about one-quarter of the items and they weren't critical.

We didn't buy much at the liquor store, but it was heavy enough that we walked the bikes back to the marina - about one-third mile away. Diane stowed the bikes while I carried the stuff to the boat, and then I met her at the showers. It felt great after the hot afternoon and since I had turned on the boat A/C, it was a comfortable time to relax before supper.

They had nice, new gas grills here, so I cooked up some bacon, slivered onions, sweet potato fries, and hamburgers - all on the grill with some aluminum foil as needed. When I got back, Diane had everything ready inside and we enjoyed a rare treat aboard. With the heat, the biking, walking, shopping, and all the tiring travel earlier in the day, we read our books and made it an early night to bed.

The lock operations on the US side are 24/7 and you can both hear and feel the rumble of the big ships' engines as they motor slowly into and out of the locks. It was not a disturbing sound at all, but near midnight, two ships must have been passing near the locks and gave the whistle signals of their intentions. The word whistle is the correct one, but incredibly loud air-horn is more accurate. I nearly fell off the berth. In this day of AIS and radio communications, why would they need to do that?

Sneak preview - our plans to duck into Lake Superior have been foiled by weather. We could travel to Whitefish Point in great weather on Sat, but overnight they forecast thunderstorms and then the wind and waves are forecast to be rather nasty for our return trip. Better to stay here another day and then head back down the St. Mary's River towards Mackinac Island. We would stay at anchor somewhere in between.
Vessel Name: Diva Di
Vessel Make/Model: PDQ MV34 Power Cat
Hailing Port: Punta Gorda, FL
Crew: Duane and Diane

Diva Di Crew

Who: Duane and Diane
Port: Punta Gorda, FL