Commerce began moving back and forth through all the Great Lakes this week with the opening of the Soo Locks Monday.
Like robins returning or the first crocus popping out of the ground, the opening of the Soo Locks each year is a sure sign spring has returned Up North.
This year's first boat through the locks was the Paul R. Tregurtha, a large self-unloader sailing in the Interlake Steamship Co. fleet. The Tregurtha is the longest boat on the Great Lakes at 1,013 feet and originally was constructed in two sections. According to boatnerd.com, she was launched in 1981, the last of vessels over 1,000 feet in length constructed for use on the Great Lakes. As such, she has held the title of longest boat on the Great Lakes longer than any other boat.
Ironically, according to the boatnerd website, the only other boat to come close to her record was Rogers City's Carl. D. Bradley.
According to Lt. Col. Robert Ells of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Soo Locks closed Jan. 15 and ever since then crews worked through the winter on annual repairs and maintenance to them.
"The locks serve as a conduit for transporting commodities such as coal, iron ore and grain that energize our nation's economy," he said.
Indeed they do. They are a vital link in not only Great Lakes commerce, but also our country's national security.
It's good to see boats back out on the water for another sailing season. Let's pray 2013 is a safe one for Great Lakes shipping.