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      Soo Locks welcome first commercial ship of season

      I t's been eleven days since the Soo Locks opened up for shipping season, but Friday was the first day that a ship was able to pass through.

      T he thick ice on the Great Lakes has made it very difficult for vessels to travel this spring.

      I t may have taken two weeks of traveling , but the crew of the Cason J. Callaway finally made it to the locks.

      "W hen we got into the rivers last night we were all looking at each other saying man I can't believe I'm here," Michael Merrick, the ship's captain said.

      T he historically thick ice on Lake Superior made for a tedious trip from Deluth, Minnesota.

      "T hey would say , well we made 16 miles of progress , but the whole ice sheet got blown back four miles so it was a struggle this year," Jim Peach, Soo Locks Assistant Area Engineer said.

      T his trip would normally take two days .

      "T hey had t wo C oast Guard cutters, one Canadian and one U-S helping them," Peach said. "It was like a convoy."

      T his is the first of more than 4000 ships that are expected to pass through the Soo Locks this shipping season.

      T he first day is always marked as a celebration for the locals , who welcome it as a sign of spring .

      "I t's kind of the opening of the tourist season here in Sault Ste. Marie with the first ship," Tony Bosbous, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor said. "We always want to be able to meet the first ship no matter what day, no matter what time of the day or night it came."

      A few more ships were able to pass through later in the day and as the month goes on the Army Corps of Engineers hopes to see traffic pick up.

      "T he lower l akes have cleared up pretty well so I hope this is the beginning of a good navigation season for us," Peach said.

      B ut for the Cason J. Callaway, they have still have a long road ahead.

      T hey are expecting a week before they get to their destination in Gary, Indiana.

      "I think this is the worst conditions I've seen in almost 40 years of sailing, so it definitely is a struggle," Merrick said.