Quebec City, Quebec 6/12/2006 to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. 7/1/2006.
Quebec City, Quebec. Monday, June 12. The north shore of the St. Lawrence River downstream from Quebec City is picturesque with the Laurentian Mountains (some with ski sloops) as backdrop to small towns with silos and spires and green fields. There were also steep slopes to the shoreline, often with long, dramatic waterfalls.
A long dramatic waterfall … one of many along the route
I guess you can call this “strip farming” … wonder if anyone though about erosion?
Our way to move a boat Another way to move a boat (2 sailboats on the freighter)
There was a mix of heavy clouds and sun, making dramatic sun/shadow templates on the countryside. Every once and a while we noticed a road or railroad track near the shoreline with what looked like miniature trains and trucks … a model railroad set before our very eyes. In some respects, the scale was similar to Lake Superior.
These towns are very nice to look at but totally inaccessible by boat … pity
Around 2:00 we saw our first whales. Belugas … white. In fact, they looked like white garbage bags floating on the water, disappearing, then floating on the water again. There were about 3-4 of them in a pod, playing in the flood tide going up the St. Lawrence. We were not close enough to get any great pictures.
No good pics but here is the best we could do … I don’t think it was the “Baby”
This was our first stop in a marina in which the 10+ foot tide was obvious. When we went into the marina office for showers and to close our account, huge steel beams attached to large concrete blocks in the water, holding the docks in place were underwater. When we went back to the boat, the beams and blocks were dry.
Low tide … at high tide the stairs are almost flat and the pillars are covered
Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec. Tuesday, Wednesday, June 13-14. We motored about 25 miles to a group of islands in the middle of the St. Lawrence River that is in the Marine Park and also a bird sanctuary. It was great to be at anchor again, but unlike cruising in the Great Lakes, the current as well as the wind governed how the boat lay at anchor.
Anchor rode dressed in a 20 foot piece of Kelp
At high tide the tour boats can use the boarding ramp to get to the lighthouse
We no longer see any Ring-Bill Gulls, but Herring Gulls are common along with its larger cousin, the Black-backed Gull (new to us). We also identified many Razor-Billed Auks, the closest bird we have in North American to a Penguin. These are small (Robin-sized) with a white breast, and black head and tail … an Oreo Cookie bird. They are a diving bird; when they fly they look quite plump and their landing is a belly-flop. They float about in large groups and when they stand on the rocky shore, they do stand erect and look like little Penguins. We also identified two new ducks: Black and Eider. We saw and heard the Belugas in the distance.
A fine herd of Razor Bill Aux
A seal and a flock of admiring cormorants
It was obvious we were now in salt water. The spray that dried on our cockpit enclosure windows left sparkling salt and the decks felt “gritty.” We started using our water maker (reverse osmosis to remove the salt) and found it successful, although a noisy and power-hungry bit of equipment. We now hoped for periodic downpours to rinse the salt from the boat, sails, metal fittings, etc.
The water is also very cold: 50-54 degrees F. The beer and wine stored in the bilge are kept cool, the refrigerator / freezer are working at maximum efficiency, but the water is far too cold to use to wash dishes. Swimming is out of the question.
Chanel du Bic, Quebec. Thursday, Friday, June 15-16. This anchorage is in Parc du Bic, a provincial park. The first night we anchored SE of Ile du Bic, home of a large number of Common Seals. A number of them were curious enough to do a swim-by at a safe distance, and as we fell asleep, a couple of mating seals serenaded us. On the second night we moved to Anse à l’Orignal (Moose Bay) and dinghied ashore to walk along the beach.
A seal doing a critique of our fine anchoring technique
Since it was low tide when we landed, there was an extra ¼ mile of beach from the high tide shoreline. We dragged the dinghy about 100 yards up the beach, then Brian deployed the little Danforth anchor another 100 yards up the beach. Then we began to walk toward the beach and a dramatic rock cliff that rose out of the water at high tide. We kept an eye on the dinghy every few minutes. About 15 minutes after we began our walk on the tidal beach, the dinghy was afloat! We rushed back, pulled the dinghy to us with the anchor rode, got in, and waited another 5 minutes until the dingy was again afloat then rowed away. The most interesting sensation on the tidal beach was walking along and having a buried clam shoot water up its air hole on your feet.
Securely anchored with a large scope at low tide
Jane the “explorer” on the dry beach heading for the campground
Looks like a safe place to take a stroll
Oops … the tide had different ideas … time to run for the dinghy
A safer beach to explore … Pilgrim in the background anchored in 15 feet of water
Francine’s boat anchored in a more protected spot (local knowledge helps)
As we have traveled northeast over the past month, every harbour has had lilacs in bloom. Brian is allergic to lilacs.
Rimouski, Quebec. Saturday, Sunday, June 17-18. We stayed in Rimouski a day longer than planned because of gale warnings. The extra time allowed us to do laundry, get provisions, and go for a walk along the shoreline. It also was an opportunity to talk with several local boaters and get tips about cruising down the St. Lawrence. We spent a lovely and informative evening with Francine, a woman who solo-sails her boat out of Rimouski and a retired surgeon (who generously drove us into the town to buy more local cheese) and enjoyed talking with the marina operator who recently retired from flying Hercules transport planes for the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Rimouski Harbour … well protected and nice folks
Fishing boat with net floats … each fishing boat has a numeric id … it also appears on the floats
When the tide goes out it seems to be universal that people like to walk on the exposed surface
A young women crew member mending collection nets aboard the research vessel
Anse du Petit Metis, Quebec. Monday, June 19. We left Rimouski in a strong southwest wind, but the gale warnings were over. The wind was hot (30 degrees C., 88 degrees F) We had an exhilarating sail (broad reach). We were surfing at 7-8 knots. It was our first good sail since Lake Ontario. Suddenly Brian’s Tilley Hat (he had the straps ON) blew off. I offered to attempt a quick-stop maneuver to retrieve the hat, but Brian said, “No, keep going.” A few minutes later Brian said, “My hat is still on board; it is caught in the mainsheet.” He tried to reach it but knocked it into the water instead. This time, I decided the hat was retrieval-able, and headed up into the wind. We managed to turn the boat back up-river, but couldn’t get close enough to the hat. With the wind and waves, the boat was hard to control, so I turned on the engine and made another attempt. Brian was on lookout on the port side; I was looking out on the starboard. I saw what I thought was a seagull, then recognized it was Brian’s hat. We were able to get close enough so that Brian could catch it with the boathook. Needless to say, it was soaking with saltwater, but that was a good thing. It meant Brian had to rinse it off with fresh water, and the hat was cleaned in the process.
About 30 miles downstream from Rimouski we anchored in a large bay that was supposed to be a meeting place for seals. We saw none, but did rock ‘n’ roll most of the night with a surge that skirted round the reef that was supposed to give us protection from the growing waves in the river.
Along the south shore from this location to Cap Chat (50 miles downstream) there are a number of windmill farms. They are installed on the moderately high hills a fair distance from the water. At Cap Chat (Cape Cat), there is a huge windmill farm with the largest vertical windmill in the world. There must have been 50+ windmills on the hilltop. We hope that they are providing inexpensive power to an economically depressed area rather that being exported to the rest of Canada or the US.
Because the water is so cold, causing the hull of Pilgrim (the part of the boat that is under water) to be cold, and the air was so warm and moist, the bilge (inside part of the boat under the water) was dripping with moisture, making everything inside that boat seem damp and clammy, including our mattress.
Matane, Quebec. Tuesday, June 20. 30 miles further downstream we anchored in a harbour for ferries crossing from the north shore (Baie Comeau and Forestville) to the south Shore (Matane) and fishing boats. The harbour has seen far better days. A shrimp and crab processing plant is located onsite but does not sell to individuals. There are many derelict fishing boats in various stages of decomposition both in the water and onshore. We watched as a burned out fishing boat hull was loaded onto a large truck on its way for scrap. Signs of an industry that has failed.
Remnants of a thriving fishing fleet with high tech windmills in the background
We have just read In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is the story of the Whaleship Essex in the 19th century. The author describes how the Whaling industry destroyed itself by reckless over harvesting. We just heard that Japan is stacking the International committee that sets current Whaling limits and is intent on restarting the Humpback hunt. Denmark has joined forces with Japan and has turned it’s back on the EU to placate its voters in Iceland. We see the impact of uncontrolled over harvesting of fish/seafood stocks in every harbour we visit. We just never learn.
Ste. Anne des Monts, Quebec. Wednesday, June 21. We motored through rain, mist and fog and used our Radar for the first time this cruise. When the fog finally lifted late in the afternoon we saw the countryside reminiscent of illustrations in children’s books, like Farmer Small. Gently rolling green hills with pastures and forests, dotted with barns and silos and the occasional house. Small villages with brightly coloured houses and a church with a spire, of course.
The obligatory church and rolling countryside … very low population density
There is a wharf here, and lots of locals drive their cars and trucks down to the wharf for a look at the river and to see if any new boats are in the harbour. Young kids were walking along the breakwall made of huge boulders, having a great time. I’m sure it is officially off-limits to them.
The young in age and spirit on the rocks … just enjoying life
We saw starfish and sea urchins near the shoreline and Brian identified a new bird, a black guillemot (small duck-like bird).
Mont Louis, Quebec. Thursday, June 22. The air was relatively clear and not too humid in the morning, and we actually could see the shadow of the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. This is where the north shore veers north quite steeply, up to Sept Iles, and the water is difficult for pleasure craft to navigate due to the winds whipping down the high cliffs of the shoreline and the Gaspé current. I do not think we will even be able to see Anticosti Island, the very large island in the Gulf where the River meets it, separating the north section from the south.
There was little haze, no fog, and the rain held off until we anchored, so we got a good view of the south shore.
The first of many sunsets …
The hills along the south shore of the Gaspe peninsula are the northern part of the Appalachian mountain chain, and are gentle, rolling, green, high hills with the occasional dramatic cliff. There are small villages nestled at the foot of the hills along the shoreline, most of them having fishing harbours, but no marinas for pleasure craft. Also, each has a church with one or sometimes two spires. Brian thought the spires coming into this harbour acted as the range lights, but then we saw the real range lights. The main road goes right along the shoreline joining each of the village. This is not the Trans-Canada Highway. At Rimouski it curves south to head out to the Maritime provinces.
The bay just west of us is very much like this bay, but the hills have a cliff facing west, and the site is famous for para-gliders and hand-gliders. Because the wind was light and from the east, there were no gliders today.
Gaspé, Quebec. Friday – Sunday, June 23-25. Today we had it all: thrill & chills, sun & rain, mist & fog, wind & calm, and waves, lots of waves. We decided to leave Mont Louis early since we planned to stop for the night at Riviere au Renard, 54.5 nautical miles away. The wind was 15 knots from the northwest, so we hoisted the main and set out on a broad reach. By the time we had breakfast, the wind was 20-25 knots and the waves began to build. At 8:00 AM we hit our northern-most point for 2006. 49 degrees, 17 minutes north. That is just 27 miles further north than we cruised last summer in Lake Superior. Our northern-most point was Rockport, Ontario at 48 degrees 50 minutes north. We will not be this far north again until we sail to Ireland from the Azores next June. By mid-morning the fog had burned off and it was sunny, but quite cool. By noon, the wind reached 25-30 knots and we decided to put a reef in the main.
The early stages of the wave buildup. These are still in the 4 foot range with the tops being blown off.
We turned on the engine, since we had to turn the boat around (into the wind) to get the wind pressure off the sail to bring in the reef line. Going into the wind we both realized just how high the waves were: 6-8 feet. We took water over the bow pulpit. As we were falling off back on course (with the wind), a huge wave hit us broadside. We managed to control the boat, but things were flying down below.
By 2:00 the waves had built to 10-12 feet and we were going dead downwind (as best we could). It was like being on a skateboard going down steep hills on a train rail. It was hard to keep the bow pointing downwind. This was both thrilling and chilling (scary). These were the biggest waves either of us has experienced, and were much like Great Lakes waves with lots of whitecaps breaking as they hit our stern wave. We were approaching Riviere au Renard, and were concerned that not only would it be difficult to take down the main under the wind and wave conditions but the entrance to the harbour would be broadside to the waves. We both agreed we had to change our plan. The only other place we could stop was Gaspé, which was another 40 miles around the Gaspé Peninsula and up the Gaspé Bay. We estimated it would be midnight when we arrived, but it was the best alternative. (There is an understanding that the helmsperson never asks how high the waves are … they just look at the crew and if they are looking UP it is a big wave … well today I was looking UP for the first time in my life … )
An hour after we passed Riviere au Renard, the rain started, and was with us for the next hour. It did little to dampen the waves, but the wind began to lessen to 20 knots. By the time we got to the end NE tip of the Gaspé Peninsula and were ready to turn up (NW) into the Gaspé Bay, the waves had lessened to 3-4 feet and the wind dropped suddenly to 10 knots. Once in the bay, the sea was glassy and there was no wind. We motored the last 17 miles to our anchorage. We saw a beautiful new bird: Caspian tern. This is one of the largest terns, about the size of a Herring Gull, with forked tail, bright orange beak, and so very sleek.
From 12 foot waves and 25 knots to calm seas and winds within 20 minutes
The lighthouse at the tip of the Gaspe
Motoring time to Gaspe … time to relax and a bit of dinner …
As we were eating supper underway, suddenly Brian jumped up, thinking he saw some rocks ahead of us… but they disappeared. He checked the chart. There were no obstructions at all in the bay. We looked again, and sure enough there were more back humps … we had seen our first, second and third Fin Back Whales. They were within 300 feet of the boat, and were spouting. They are BIG … longer than our boat. We did all we could to stay out of their way.
We played “dodge the whales” all the way to Gaspe … at 80 feet they rule
Fin Back whale a little too close …
But, what an ending to a long, thrilling, arduous day. We stayed in Gaspé for two days: to recover from Friday’s adventure and to do some re-provisioning. We found a fish market and bought some wonderful smoked fish: turbot (very sweet), herring (savory, smoky) and cod. Watching the jellyfish swim around our boat was mesmerizing.
A different kind of sunset heading into gaspe
Gaspe or as Brian sees it … Jane’s Christmas ring
L’Anse à Beaufils via Ile Bonaventure. Monday, June 26. As we left Gaspé Bay we saw two more Fin Back Whales. One approached us from our port quarter, swam under our boat and surfaced about 100 feet from us on our starboard side. It surfaced three times, then left. We truly felt we were interlopers in its home. We also saw a couple of seals and a pod of porpoises swam our bow wave for just a few moments. As we approached Ile Bonaventure the number of Auks increased greatly, and we saw thousands of Gannets. They are twice as large as a Herring Gull, white and buff with slightly yellow heads. They fly in formation, rising above the water and then coming down again in the most beautiful undulating motion.
Gannets in formation
Ile Bonaventure is a national park and also a rookery for the Gannet. The island has very steep rock cliffs about 300 feet tall. The birds were so thick on the cliffs it appeared as snow. Very dramatic. Perce Rock is quite a wonder. It rises straight out of the water with vertical rock cliffs, and an open archway and shallow arched caves (much like the sea caves we saw in the Apostle Islands last summer, but not nearly as deep since the rock is so very hard). Unfortunately the weather was overcast, misty and sometimes foggy, so our photographs do not do justice to the site.
Perce Rock in the mist
Perce Rock the tourist site
Perce Rock with 2 tourists trying to fill the whole
edge on view of Perce Rock … an unpublished view
Bird observation platform on Ile Bonaventure… lots of targets to practice on
Some of the thousands of birds people come to observe … The birds use the tourists for target practice
Since L’Anse à Beaufils is a working fishing port with a wharf, but no floating docks, we were instructed to raft off an antiquated tour boat so we would not have to put out fender boards and adjust our dock lines for tides.
A tour boat, a fishing boat and us … snuggled down for the night
Quaint harbour but no real facilities … coed shower room … not bad for Quebec
Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick. Tuesday, Wednesday, June 27 – 28. We are in the Atlantic time zone, and in a new province. We motored 97 nautical miles because there was no wind in the morning and wind from the southwest in the afternoon, the direction to the anchorage. The biggest excitement was avoiding lobster trap markers. The water for 10 miles out from the New Brunswick coastline is less than 100 feet, and a great lobster fishery. Unlike fishnets, lobster traps are dropped in a hodge podge manner, and since every one needs a marker, and each fisherman has his own colour or style, many of the markers are old, dark green, black or white with no flag. They can easily be mistaken as a bird. This meant that Brian spent much time on the bow pointing out the floats and I hand-steered much of the day. We couldn’t believe how dense the traps were in some areas. We did not hit one, but that took much care. It seemed any water (including channels) 40 feet or less is fair game to put lobster traps.
A Lobster trap marker just waiting to wrap around the prop shaft
Lobster trap markers right in the channel … What are pleasure boaters to do?
Lobstermen … with 80 traps per boat don’t have time to worry about anyone else
This one came close enough to ram us but back off at the last minute
We learned a few new words from these kind folks … seems they didn’t want us there
The National Yacht Club in Toronto has a race committee boat, Grand National, that is actually a lobster boat built in Miramachi. We saw a number of “Grand Nationals” and they were not running sailboat races.
We spent Wednesday moving twice to find an anchorage that would protect us from the waves and allow us to make some repairs. We moved the dinghy off the davits (stainless steel tube braces off the stern (back) of the boat on which the little boat is hauled via pulleys when we are underway and also form a platform for our solar panels). The davits must be replaced, and the system we have to haul the dinghy out of the water must be redesigned. We almost lost the dinghy twice due to parts failure on this trip. (See my list of items that don’t work … It is accessible from the web page).
failed bridle for the dink failed anchor chain snubber hook … rated at 14,000 lbs
Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Wednesday, Thursday, June 29-30. The strong SW winds that kept us an extra day in Miramichi Bay had diminished to moderate, 10 – 15 knots. As soon as we cleared the channels out of the bay, we sailed on a broad reach to get around the point of land that forms Miramichi Bay. When we cleared the point, we headed south as much as we could, but were only able to make a 150-degree course (SE) when we really needed to go 180 degrees (South). Summerside is SE from our previous anchorage, but requires a course of East, then South, then East again. We ended up sailing all the way to Prince Edward Island (PEI), reaching the NW end, then coming about and sailing all the way back to New Brunswick to clear two points of land on PEI and get into Summerside Harbour. The “crow-flies” distance was 63 nautical miles, but we ended up sailing 110 to get to Summerside because of the wind direction, wind speed, waves and currents. At 6:00 PM we came about on the New Brunswick shoreline with a clear shot for Summerside. The winds were 15-20 knots with a 6-8 foot waves; we were wave surfing at 7 to 8 knots. Sailing can’t get better than this, but it would have been better in daylight. We arrived in Summerside at 2:00 AM. Brian’s excellent navigation skills and eyesight got us safely into the harbour where we anchored in 15 feet of water. We spent Friday recovering from our 20 hour sail to Summerside and riding out three thunderstorms and downpours. When we went below we saw small rivers of water on the floor boards. The net result of our investigation is that all of our chain plates are leaking. (Chain plates are the stainless steel plates … about 1/4 inch thick, 2 inches wide and 12 inches long that are bolted to the hull and on which the shrouds (wires) that support the masts are attached.) We had Whitby Boats remove and reinstall all 16 chainplates in February / March. One more strike against Alex and his crew at Whitby Boats for a sloppy reinstallation job. Brian has already re-calked some of the chain plates with 5200 (3M marine adhesive) that seems to have fixed one of the leaks during the second rainstorm. It appears that none of the existing silicon sealent that had been previously used had been removed before the chainplates were reinstalled. Once silicon is used nothing else will stick. Alex had assured us that all traces of silicon would be removed prior to the reinstallation. It was obviously not done. It is good that this was a recovery day for us crew; it gave us a chance to find a few new problems before they bite us hard.
Summerside lighthouse in a severe thunder storm
Summerside PEI … we could not get to the dock due to weather conditions
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Saturday, July 1. Today we had the best sail of our cruise so far. Leaving Summerside was a challenge, since it is situated on a large bay that is only 20-25 feet deep. The wind was from the SW at 20 knots when we left, so the seas were very high. We motored with sail assist for about 1 hour, then sailed the remaining 50 nautical miles to Charlottetown, reaches all the way … no tacking. At 11:13 we sailed under Confederation Bridge, which joins the mainland, New Brunswick, with Prince Edward Island. It looks like a Roman aqua duct. What more fitting way to celebrate Canada Day than sail under Confederation Bridge.
Coming into Charlottetown we dodged more lobster trap floats and raced with some sailboats in a regatta from Pictou Island (Nova Scotia) to Charlottetown. We almost held our own with a 36-foot sloop flying a spinnaker.
Racing the Pictou boats into Charlottetown Harbour
There was no room at either marina/yacht club due to the boats arriving from Pictou. No one had either the knowledge or interest to help us with an anchorage recommendation. A fast look at the chart gave us an option close to some ruined docks, which provided marginal protection. We anchored in 15 feet of water with a tidal range of 5 feet. We anchored just after high tide so we expected to drop to 10 feet at low tide. The anchorage was became very busy with 5 lobster boats and a number of power cruisers arriving to take in the fireworks display being held on the opposing mainland. It felt like Toronto Harbour during fireworks night (Symphony of Fire). After the show (ho-hum) a torrential rain drove away the other boats away and allowed us to have a peaceful sleep.