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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Merry Maritime

~Sunday, July 11, 2021~

Day 392

Spent our day in Sault Ste. Marie which included a culmination of a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Must stay flexible, right? Plan A: Taking the Soo Lock Ferry; Plan B: Taking the Soo Lock Ferry on a different boat; Plan C: a museum tour, on a boat. Not quite the outcome we expected, but before I go into the details of what went wrong, I’ll talk about what went right. Tim found a bar & grill joint in Sault Ste. Marie called The Wicked Sister which from the outside did look like a place where wicked things go on, and appeared even more so when we first walked in the door. But once our eyes adjusted to the dark interior and we saw more people flowing in, we knew it was the right spot. A good menu selection, friendly staff and good beer. Their specialty….Sweet Potato Tots. All filled up and ready to go for our next adventure…..the Soo Locks. But here’s what went wrong……..

Instead of focusing on a meal place, we should have first checked the boat schedule, then worked on our lunchtime around that. We showed up at our Plan A place: Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours,

but their boat had just left with the next one not leaving for another 2 hours. That would push us too late in the day, since we had plans to have an earlier dinner and play a round or two of Cornhole. But the gentleman was nice enough to suggest their competitor just down the road to Dock #1 called the Original Soo Locks Boat Tours, with their ferry leaving at 3:00 (an improved 45-minute wait). We were all excited that our Plan B was about to work out, that is until one of the staff walked up to us to see if we were interested in a tour and explained that all the boats were backed up at the locks and wouldn’t be leaving for another 2-½ hours. What to do now that we realized our lock tour was not going to pan out at all? Plan C: Tour a maritime museum. I don’t think Tim would agree, but in the end, Jeff and I found it quite interesting and worthwhile. For 2-½ hours, we explored one of the Sault Historical Sites on a retired Great Lakes freighter called the Valley Camp,

which has been turned into a 20,000 square foot museum filled with hundreds of artifacts, paintings, shipwreck items and aquarium displays of fish, native to the Great Lakes region. We also got to tour the poop deck and living quarters for the captain and his 23-man crew. In its working days, the Valley Camp logged over 3 million miles over its 49 years of service in the Great Lakes area. There was a well written poem on display in front of Valley Camp’s engine that really struck me like “The Little Engine That Could” as it hung in there all those years and it went something like this:

(an old man talks)

Well how are you doing there Henry Finebine? (the ship’s engine)

You’re a hundred years old now-it’s been a long time

since we met on that hot summer’s day way back when

a young man and his engine ‘came very close friends.

(Henry talks)

Well, I miss the wet steam and the smell of hot oil.

I still hear the songs of my feed pumps in toil.

I remember those hurricane west-winds we braved

kept chuggin’ straight ‘way and my sailors were saved.

(the old man talks)

Technology’s certainly changed since that time

when we were much younger and still in our prime.

I’ll polish your brass, you should run once again,

we would make a great team, you and I, my old friend!

(Henry answers)

As much as we’d like to, it’s not in the game

for us to head out to the lake once again.

So, I’ll be content to be still and embrace.

It’s an honor to have such a fine resting place.

………………… Fred Swanson

One of the highlights inside the museum was the Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial and Exhibit. Quite moving in fact. It holds the two lifeboats from the stricken vessel that occurred on November 10, 1975 and goes into great detail of the building, launching, and demise of one of the Great Lakes’ largest freighters. Have you heard the 1976 tune by Gordon Lightfoot ....”The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”? If you’re interested, read what’s in blue (the song is over 6 minutes long). If not interested, skip on.......

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee”.

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

when the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,

that good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

when the ‘Gales of November” came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side

coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

with a crew and good captain well-seasoned,

concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

and a wave broke over the railing.

And every man knew, as the captain did too

‘twas the witch of November come stealin’.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

when the gales of November came slashin’.

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

in the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

“Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ‘ya.”

At seven PM, a main hatchway caved in, he said,

“Fellas, it’s been good to know ‘ya.”

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

and the good ship and crew was in peril.

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes

when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized;

they may have broke deep and took water.

And all that remains is the faces and the names

of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings

in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams;

the islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario

takes in what Lake Erie can send her.

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

with the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed

In the “Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.”

The church bell chimed ‘til it rang twenty-nine times

for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee.”

“Superior”, they said, “never gives up her dead

when the gales of November come early!”

By the time we were done with our museum tour, I said, “Look, perfect timing. We can now board the 4:30 lock tour!” But the guys weren’t having it. So back to the campground we went for an early dinner and Cornhole. Both the dinner and Cornhole were epic. Jeff made a spice crusted salmon with bourbon glaze, while I took care of the sage/nut rice dish and Caesar Salad. Tim couldn’t compliment the chefs enough. Thank you Tim! You know how much we love to cook which means every dish and utensil will end up in the kitchen sink. 😉The Cornhole was eventful too as Tim, who never plays, won a straight 6 games. Yeh for Tim, bad for us, as I’m sure we’ll be reminded from here to eternity about just how good he is! (kidding)

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