Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sault Ste Marie, MI July 22, 2014

Today we were off to see the Soo locks at Sault Ste Marie, MI.  We were on a bit of a tight schedule as our Tiger Boy is still not eating well and we needed to get back for a late afternoon vet appointment.

The Soo locks, sometimes spelled Sault Locks, are a set of parallel locks, along the St. Mary's river, that provide safe passage between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  Water rapids fall 21 feet from Lake Superior to Lake Huron and without the locks, passage by large ships would not be possible.

The locks are owned and maintained by the US Army Corp of Engineers.   They provide free passage to over 10,000 ships annually from April - December.  Weather conditions prevent passage January - March.  The locks were first opened in 1855 and have undergone several expansions and renovations since.

The pictures within are of the MacArthur Lock.  This lock is 800 feet long and 80 feet wide.  We watched the Birchglen, from Canada, as she traveled into this lock and was then lowered 21 feet before continuing her journey through Lake Huron.  The Birchglen ship is 730 feet long and 75 feet wide.  There was not a whole lot of extra room to spare for her in the lock.  The lock journey begins with the lower lake gate closed and the upper lake gate open.  In this position the lock water level is that of the upper lake.  Once the ship is moved into position in the lock, the upper lock gate is closed and the ship is tied off.  Valves are then opened that allow 15 million gallons of water to flow out of the lock.  The ship lowers as the water level of the lock lowers until the ship has lowered the 21 feet (level of the lower lake).  All is done by gravity, no matter which direction a ship is traveling through the lock.  Simple yet still amazing to watch.  While all this takes place (minutes) a ship crew member quickly goes to shore to pick up laundry and the mail for all the crew.  Never having watched a lock system in action, we found this interesting and informative as too was the nearby information center.  From there we headed to Karl's café for lunch.

We had  a great young man as a waiter, Charlie.  Bob jokingly said to Charlie, so the Charlie's Crab Cake Panini is your creation, right?  And young Charlie told us well yes, and then gave us a tour through their menu of each creation (by a family member) and what relation each one of those family members was to him.....Paula's spicy chicken, Lily's Caprese etc.  It really was sort of fun and Charlie was so nice.  Teri had here first pasty- a Michigan upper peninsula tradition- and enjoyed it.  A Pasty is sort of a pot pie, well, without the pot.  Charlie, our waiter, was nice to tell us we had pronounced it right and said only about 10 percent of the customers do.  For those interested, here is an interesting read on the history and legend concerning the pasty.Pasty

We made it back in time to get Tiger Boy to the vet.  We are giving him B-12 shots to try and stimulate his appetite.  He seems to feel well, he just is not eating much.  Today we are going to head out to get his old food as he is not found of this no grains, no fish stuff (Ohio vet prescribed) and the MI vet thinks that it is safe to put him back on his old food.  Keeping our fingers crossed as we so enjoy him sharing our travels with us.

The Canadian Birchglen enters the MacArthur Lock
Note the Birchglen's deck height compared to the dock height
The Birchglen is in position and the gates (left, center are closing)
The water has flowed out of the lock
and the Birchglen is now 21 feet lower
than when she entered the lock (note
that her deck is now below the dock height).
The Birchglen begins to leave the Lock into
Lake Huron (21 feet below Lake Superior).
The lock is empty now.  The lock would be ready to receive
a ship coming from Lake Huron, however, it appears
that the next ship is coming from Lake Superior as water
is being allowed to flow back into the lock, to bring
the water level back up to the Lake Superior water level.


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