At 12:01am on Saturday, March 25, the Soo Locks officially opened for the 2017 navigation season, with the upbound passage of Interlake’s 1,000 footer Stewart J. Cort. The locks have been closed since January 15, and have undergone various repairs and upgrades over the winter, such as sanding, welding, painting, and hydraulic work. Currently, the Poe Lock is the only one open – the MacArthur Lock isn’t scheduled to open until early April. Even with just the Poe Lock open, Saturday saw plenty of traffic. Upbound vessel passages included Kaye E. Barker, James R. Barker, Cason J. Callaway, Tim S. Dool, and Edgar B. Speer, while Philip R. Clarke, Roger Blough, Burns Harbor, American Century, Lee A. Tregurtha, and Herbert C. Jackson were downbound throughout the day.
Of course, many ports around the Lakes saw their first departures quite a few days ago, as vessels prepared for the upcoming season. Duluth’s 2017 season opened on Wednesday, March 22, when Roger Blough passed under the Lift Bridge just before sunrise. The Blough headed for Two Harbors to load that port’s first ore cargo of the season. She was quickly followed out of port by Paul R. Tregurtha, Burns Harbor, Lee A. Tregurtha, Herbert C. Jackson, and American Century, which all departed Duluth between March 22 and 24. American Spirit left her layup berth at Port Terminal on Saturday and shifted to load iron ore pellets at the CN dock. The only vessel that hasn’t moved from her layup berth is the Arthur M. Anderson, which is laid up at CN. However, the Anderson isn’t expected to sail during the 2017 season.
Sturgeon Bay saw its first departure on March 22, when Joseph L. Block moved from her layup berth and headed for Escanaba to load ore. On Friday, Cason J. Callaway and James R. Barker departed, and both vessels transited the Soo Locks on Saturday. Edwin H. Gott is due to depart soon, while the remainder of the layup fleet will slowly depart throughout the month of April.