2003 Soo Locks Gathering
Intermittent rain and cooler temperatures failed to dampen the spirits of Boatnerds who converged on Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks for the 4th annual Boatnerd Gathering last weekend.

Those who attended the annual Engineers Day festivities Friday at the Soo Locks were treated to ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the opening of the MacArthur Lock and were also able to witness the christening of the new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey vessel Bufe. As usual on Engineers Day, visitors were allowed free access to the usually off-limits area between the MacArthur and Poe locks, and those armed with cameras were able to photograph the John J. Boland, Cedarglen, Canadian Olympic, Algocen and several others passing through the locks at the time. In addition the Corps of Engineers gate-lifter Paul Bunyan and the dredge H. J. Schwartz were moored in the Sabin Lock and open for tours (the Corps tug Billmaier was also present but not open to the public). A groundbreaking ceremony also marked the start of construction on a new and improved Soo Locks Visitor Center.

On Saturday morning the annual Tug Boat Race drew crowds to both sides of the river, with Purvis Marine’s big tug Reliance blowing away the rest of the pack to easily win in her class. Saturday evening, just over 100 passengers boarded the Lock Tours Canada vessel Chief Shingwauk for the 4th annual Boatnerd Freighter-Chasing Cruise. As usual, Capt. John Chomniak and his crew proved the perfect hosts, treating passengers to up close views of the Algolake and Stewart J. Cort in the locks area, and the Kaye E. Barker and Quedoc above the locks. While cameras whirred and clicked above deck, a tasty chicken, pasta and strawberry cheesecake dinner was served up in the main cabin.

Between scheduled events, Boatnerds gathered to chat, shoot pictures and consume burgers from Clyde’s Drive-In at Mission Point. Many vessels obliged the onlookers with whistle salutes, with those from the Joseph L. Block Thursday night and Burns Harbor Friday evening being particularly inspired (thanks to First Mate Eric Treece on the Block and Capt. Al Tielke on the Burns Harbor for their enthusiasm!). Music and other attractions at the Soo Locks Festival in Aune Park, next to Mission Point, plus a two-day open house at the U.S. Coast Guard base, also provided shipfans with additional activities. Early-risers on Sunday morning were treated to a surprise guest appearance from the Michipicoten, which passed upbound through the locks bound for Algoma Steel at 7 a.m.

For those wishing to mark their calendars, next year’s Engineers Day is Friday, June 25 (the event is always the last Friday in June).

Thanks to all who participated, with a special thanks to Dave Wobser, who organized the event, and Capt. Chomniak for another memorable cruise.

Engineers Day


River Traffic


U.S. Coast Guard Station Tours


More River Traffic


Saturday Night Cruise


Sunday Morning



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