Before Engineer’s Day, all the talk of the locks was about the Viking Octantis, a newly christened this year, luxury cruise ship that had locked through, headed upbound, just the day before. The Viking website lists several itineraries for this vessel, but Marine Traffic listed this ship’s next destination as Silver Islet, a small Canadian resort island located near Isle Royal and Thunder Bay. The ship’s manifest lists space for 378 passengers, with a crew of 256. Not quite enough crew to go man-to-man, but they would make one heck of a zone defense. As cruise ships go the Octantis is on the small size. It has closer to the number of passengers of a riverboat cruise than an ocean going one. Staterooms start at $6,495 per person, with double occupancy required. So, not exactly cheap. The Octantis is part of a new line of ships for Viking branching out from their traditional ocean-going vessels and riverboat cruises, this boat is slated to be part of their expedition line of boats that will go to those part of the world that are less accessible. I guess that this includes Lake Superior. This represents a new market for Viking that will offer something different for those customers who have grown tired of cruising tropical waters and European rivers.
Today, being the last Friday in June also makes it the annual Engineer’s Day at the Soo locks. All of the various state, local and federal agencies around here were in attendance. There was a small street fair ongoing just outside the lock’s gates on Portage. Inside the gates, it was all government business. There were more different kinds of police forces there than you could shake a stick at. They had not one, but two locks open so that you could cross them, over one of the lock gates. Occasionally, one of these locks would open to allow a freighter or one of the many tour boats to lock through. No tourist lost, at least not yet. All of the engineers had all of their toys out on display, which included deep water diving equipment, underwater drones and a gas-powered airborne drone with a seven-foot wingspan and five hours of endurance. Elsewhere there was a “touch pool” of sorts containing lamprey eels. One little boy let one attach itself to his arm long enough to leave a big red welt on it, which he proudly would show off to anyone the least bit interested. We stayed downtown for about two hours. It was hot and very bright in the sun. Afterwards, we hit Wicked Sister, which was as good as ever, if a wee bit too dark to read the menus, after being out in the bright sun for so long. Then the hardware store, to stock up on more seats and springs and finally Meijer’s. It was 87 ºF when we got back to the cabin, which was still comfortably cool inside and ready and waiting for our well-deserved afternoon naps, after so much sun and such a large lunch.
The State of Michigan is a training vessel, sort of a floating school for lake boat crews and it has been busy all day yesterday and today. It first heads upriver from the locks, to about Point Iroquois, turn around there and then head back to the Soo. It has been repeating this course, regularly since yesterday. Tomorrow is Engineer’s Day at the locks. The Coast Guard is also holding a similar celebration. Maybe between these two events there will be a graduation exercise too. I’m hoping that they will allow us to cross the McArthur lock over one of its gates like they have in the past, but those days are probably gone for good. We’ll be in town to see what is up with Engineer’s Day, which is held every year on the last Friday in June, but this will be my first one.