Or, stated less succinctly, March came in like a hibernating turtle, and is ending like a springtime cottontail.

Here’s a March 11 AIS grab.  A circle means a vessel is docked or anchored.  There’s a single vessel underway NE bound on Lake Erie.  It’s a Canadian CG ice breaker.

Below, less than two weeks later, it’s 0700 March 25.  The Soo locks opened on March 25 soon after midnight.  Stewart J Cort  (SJC) was the first vessel through, and it was upbound in ballast.   Here are some tugster posts featuring SJC, a 1000′ ship partly built in the Gulf of Mexico to fit through the St Lawrence Seaway and then added to in Erie PA.

The downbound vessels in Lake Superior over-wintered in Duluth.  The stopped vessels near Whitefish Point in Lake Superior are blocked by an ice “plug” reportedly 20 miles long, 4 miles wide, and 4 feet thick.  The three upbound tugs (aqua green) in Lake Huron are the Van Enkevort ATBs (Joyce and Clyde)  and Samuel de Champlain.

0030 March 28.  The Welland Canal (near Buffalo) has been open for a few days now, and check out all the upbound traffic on Lake Erie.  Ditto, Lake Superior has become quite busy.   The magenta dots are recreational; although some are online, none are moving.

1000 today, March 30.   The upbound (towards the Chicago steel plants) vessel along the east side of the Lake is Stewart J Cort, heading for Burns Harbor IN with her first load of ore.    Of note is the only magenta or “recreational” boat under way.  See it in the middle of Lake Ontario.  This is a vessel to watch in the next months;  it’s Bramble.

Bramble (USCGC WLB-392)  is embarking on a third life.  Launched in Duluth in 1943, she served  in the Atlantic Caribbean, and Pacific, as well as the Great Lakes.  After decommissioning in 2003, she became a museum ship the same year.  In 2018, she was listed with a yacht broker and sold to a private party who is now taking her to Mobile AL, under her own power, to be rehabbed and refitted for a reenactment of her 1957 voyage through the Northwest Passage.  

I took these photos on July 7, 2016, while she was at the Bean Dock in Port Huron MI.

Click here for some predictions for the 2019 Great Lakes season.  Better yet, find some dates that you can witness some of the traffic first hand.

All AIS captures and interpretations and photos by Will Van Dorp.