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Old 14-03-2015, 11:52   #1
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Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

Going to sail the Great Lakes this summer, but am concerned about going up the St Mary's River to Sault Ste Marie on a Flicka with 6 HP. What is the speed of the current?

Thanks.
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Old 14-03-2015, 16:40   #2
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

Can't give specifics but I don't recall if being that fast.


If you can make it up the St. Clair River, you should be fine. Just try to hang outside the channel (with care) to get into sower water. The locks get you past the bad part.


See the link below. Very cool estimate of surface currents from Detroit River thru St Clair River. Handy for finding the slower current areas.


Huron to Erie Connecting Waterways Forecasting System, HECWFS
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Old 14-03-2015, 16:54   #3
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

https://www.waterwayguide.com/images/StMary.pdf
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The passage is relatively tame now, but the discharge still kicks up a current of up to 2 mph at narrow passes around the islands. The flow is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, through their management of the gates and locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
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Old 15-03-2015, 05:16   #4
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

See ➥ Coast Pilot Chapter 9 St. Clair River
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Old 15-03-2015, 06:42   #5
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

You are correct, there is a portion of the St Marie's with a nasty current, however, the section is short- it's referred to as "The Rock Cut". Basically it's a canal that was cut through solid rock with dynamite, so it feels very much like a concrete canal or box canyon, strongish current from wall to wall.

This section is only maybe about a mile (estimate by memory). If I was trying to buck that current with a Flicka 20 at 4 knots, I would hug the starboard side of the channel, pretty close to the edge, water depth tends to be pretty good right to the edge.

If you can stay in the eddies and dirty water at the channel edge- you should be fine. Getting into the cut at the down river entrance might be stressful. Do not go through if a 1000 footer is downbound, wait until large commercial traffic is clear (and will be clear for a while).

It may be possible to avoid this section entirely in a small craft, check your charts.

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Old 15-03-2015, 07:22   #6
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

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Originally Posted by FamilyVan View Post
You are correct, there is a portion of the St Marie's with a nasty current, however, the section is short- it's referred to as "The Rock Cut". Basically it's a canal that was cut through solid rock with dynamite, so it feels very much like a concrete canal or box canyon, strongish current from wall to wall.

This section is only maybe about a mile (estimate by memory). If I was trying to buck that current with a Flicka 20 at 4 knots, I would hug the starboard side of the channel, pretty close to the edge, water depth tends to be pretty good right to the edge.

If you can stay in the eddies and dirty water at the channel edge- you should be fine. Getting into the cut at the down river entrance might be stressful. Do not go through if a 1000 footer is downbound, wait until large commercial traffic is clear (and will be clear for a while).

It may be possible to avoid this section entirely in a small craft, check your charts.

Sent from my SGH-I547C using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
Rock Cut is downbound only, for ships, upbounders go East of Neebish Island, as the OP should do.
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Old 15-03-2015, 07:59   #7
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

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Rock Cut is downbound only, for ships, upbounders go East of Neebish Island, as the OP should do.
Perfect, there you go. I thought I remembered there being two channels. So he should be fine in a flicka 20, anywhere else there should be eddies for him to ride.

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Old 15-03-2015, 08:51   #8
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

Use the Canadian side and their Lock.
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Old 15-03-2015, 08:55   #9
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

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Use the Canadian side and their Lock.
Good suggestion. You don't have to clear into Canada if you stay in the boat when locking through on the Canadian side. This lock is much kinder, smaller, and nicer than the US locks for a pleasure craft. I have used both.
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Old 15-03-2015, 09:38   #10
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

Advice is good. We came down from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario last season. In the St. Clair River I measured up to 4 knots coming under the bridge at Sarnia/Port Huron. Both the St. Clair and the Detroit Rivers are surprisingly swift.

The St. Mary's River gets swifter as you approach Sault Ste. Marie. There is also a short swift section as you round the north end of Neebish Island (upbound channel). Here It can get up to 4 knots, but this can vary depending on how much water they are letting through at the Sault. Get out of the main flow and you can get less current.

BTW, as a recreational boater you can take either channel, but it is preferred if you stick to the proper flow. Some sections are pretty narrow. This is where I loved our new AIS receiver -- it allowed us to time the narrow sections to avoid the big boys.

Definitely use the Canadian locks at the Sault. Easy, fast, friendly and zero cost.
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Old 15-03-2015, 10:18   #11
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Re: Traversing St Mary's River to Lake Superior

Thanks for all the good advice. I just installed an AIS for the situations you mentioned.
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