Woohoo! Spring has arrived with Seaway ships

Around the Nation

by Tom Van Dusen

Despite the tartness in the air early this week, the traditional early signs of spring are all around us: the snow cover is receding, the maple sap is running, most of the ice fishing huts have been removed from various semi-frozen bodies of water before they sink, and bizarre Daylight Savings Time has kicked in.

Excuse me for going off on a tangent… but I say “bizarre” because the antiquated practice of fiddling with time twice a year is inconvenient, disruptive and has got to go. There’ve been many groggy mutterings from Powers That Be we could have seen our last clock flip as of 2021… let’s hope that turns out to be true!

Meanwhile, Spring 2021 officially arrives this Saturday. Forecasters are calling for weather to match the occasion. Depending on whether they’re right or wrong – and they tend to be right much more frequently these days – I might even roll out my 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible and see if she starts up without too much of a fuss. Don’t ask me why I just referred to the car as female. It just seems natural! And besides many, including my three brothers, call her a girly car!

The cream-coloured Cruiser, which I bought last summer, has spent the past four months in the garage biding her time until she could reemerge in all her vintage glory. Here’s hoping she does that with minimal expense!

Also reemerging for the first time this year is another breed of conveyance we commonly refer to as “she”: The freighters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. March 22 at 8 a.m. is when the Lake Ontario to Montreal section of the Seaway will officially open for 2021 with a virtual ceremony scheduled to mark passage of the first ship of the year through St. Lambert Lock. The Welland Canal section opens this Friday.

If you live close to Seaway shores as I do, in Prescott across from the harbour, reopening of commercial navigation becomes a more colourful harbinger of the changing season than any others, including the first day of spring itself. Along the waterway, we wait for it, plan for it, keep breathless track of it through Facebook and other platforms!

We don’t have to go to St. Lambert to get up close to the first ship because we have the Iroquois Lock which provides the same thrill if your timing is in sync with the celebrated arrival. I might go to Iroquois and wave through whatever vessel it is to be first up or down… but that’s really unnecessary because passage in front of my house, while more removed, is equally majestic.

It’s one of the reasons I bought this old house about five years ago, so I could be close to the Seaway traffic I’d always admired. And the thrill of watching the big boats glide by hasn’t diminished. I get an extra charge knowing something about their financial impact.

Even 2020, a COVID-19 crunched-down year was decent. Total cargo carried was 37.7 million tons, down only about 1.7 per cent from the previous year, with the biggest losses in liquid bulk and iron ore shipments. The number of trips on the Seaway in 2020 was 3,855, down nearly seven per cent from 2019.

“Considering the impact of the worldwide pandemic, we’re very pleased with the results,” says Terence Bowles, CEO of St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. The system supports over 329,000 jobs and creates $59 billion in economic activity in Canada and the U.S… what’s not to love!

Face Book site The Prescott Anchor is counting down to opening day and dedicated Ship Watchers are weighing in with excited comments as simple as “Yay!!!”, “Yippee!!!” and “Woohoo!!!” to the more elaborate “something to look forward to after a long winter with COVID.”

It really is something to look forward to, especially in the C-19 era, a bold reminder that life goes on in the face of whatever adversity. Woohoo!

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