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Dodging Freighters

Howdy Water People!


Here we sit in the cozy confines of the Lake Superior State University Library to tell you of our recent adventuring. After our seemingly endless paddle across the desert, we rounded the famous Whitefish Point and started heading South into Whitefish Bay. We paddled through choppy conditions but this time, our hands weren't freezing cold. This is because water in parts of Whitefish Bay can be warmer than the rest of the lake. While the warmer water started as a treat, we quickly learned why the Whitefish region is notorious for shipwrecks. The warm water and cold air combination cause thick fog above the water that engulfs anyone boater or freighter and limits their visibility to ten yards or so. So we paddle close together and always keep the trees in sight so we can maintain our path along the coastline.


After paddling through some waves that would have been alot bigger without the protection of Whitefish Bay we came across the Bay Mills and Brimley communities where a friend of ours, Lynette Carrick, was kind enough to show us around town, which included a fresh whitefish basket from their local fishermen. Best tour guide ever if you ask us. Bay Mills and Brimley are small communities with strong ties to the lake. The fishing goes back a very long time. We spoke with Jim Leblanc, an elder who has seen many changes to the community over the years. He told many great stories some about the fisherman, and some about his dog. Overall, the people of the Bay were more than welcoming and we shared many great laughs while in town.


The next day started out a little rainy but we packed up camp and headed for the Sault. On a gloomy, quiet day, we paddled slow and embraced the stillness of the lake. Soon enough the bays were narrowing, and the line between Lake Superior and the St. Mary's river blended together. We hopped islands and kept our eyes open for freighters coming through. One of our top highlights of the day (depending on who you ask) could be a seagull inhabited island that we paddled around. On the backside of the island and among the chaos of circling seagulls, a flock of pelicans flew off. We've only heard pelicans were in the area, so to see them was quite the treat.


The real highlight of the day was approaching the bridge of Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks. So knowing we had to navigate the canal and locks came as excitement to us since none of us have had experience with locks. To spice it up a little bit (since we like it that way) through in that thick fog I was talking about and a couple of 1000 foot freighters buzzing by. When the fog set in, we could not see the bridge that symbolized the Soo to us, so we paddled blindly along the coast. Eventually, through a break in the fog, we managed to spot the top of the bridge and we knew we were getting close. Just after that moment a "ghost ship" appeared (barely) in the fog and reminded us that we had to keep our eyes peeled. Our next step to make it to the locks included the long crossing of the St. Marys to the Canadian Locks, since the U.S. Locks are for those giant freighters and/or larger boats, whereas the Canadian Locks pertained to us small craft, pleasure boaters. We navigated between freighters, that were invisible until just a few hundred yards in the distance, as we paddled quickly to the other side. "We were playing frogger with the freighters." - Drew. Eventually we made it to the Locks where we dropped 21 feet and had the time of our lives! You could say that was because we made 21 feet of progress with zero effort. We are enjoying the Sault staying with our gracious hosts Chris & Roger. Had a great day talking with LSSU Professor Derek Wright about pertinent water issues of the Great Lakes. We also chimed in on a skype session with 3rd graders from Marquette who asked us questions about our trip, and sang to us their super yooper song!! On to Canada soon!