Friday, August 27, 2010

Meredith Stuck in a Gravity Well in Summerside

2010 08 27 
Still in Summerside PEI

Today would have been a great day to travel.  For most people.  Not us.  We remain in deep state of drain.  Batteries are not charging.  Maybe a bug, maybe ennui, maybe a lot of things.  

Woke up at the usual 5 a.m., listened to the cold wind that blew in last night and both went back to bed.  Slept for 4 more hours. 

Summerside is very nice.  Bought an airfilter yesterday from Carquest and left my visa at the desk.  The guys at the counter drove it down to the marina for me.  Rare in this day and age.

Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club is very accommodating.  Fuel price is fair and the resto bar is reasonably priced.  A nice place to be.  Even stuck.

That is it for Today

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Log: Chandler QC to Summerside

2010 08 26
Summerside, PEI

Leaving Chandler early on the morning of the 23rd we intended to make as much distance as possible through the Straits of Northumberland.  Landfall would be somewhere in New Brunswick or PEI we just weren't sure where.  This last was because we had not a clue about cruising either side of the Strait.  

Our only information, the only "guide" to either province in this area, was the free guide published under the name CCA Cruising Guide to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  That and the tide tables.  Oh dear.

It was not that we had not looked for guidance, we just could not find it. A couple of magazine articles, and you know how complete and reliable those are, and nothing else.

It was if no one knew any good anchorages in either province, at least not on the Northumberland side.

Yeah, well,  maybe they were right.

Finally we settled our intention to put in at West Point on PEI, a nice little harbour on the South West coast.  Although making such a destination would require that we proceed through the night, not putting in until midnight.  This despite a 5:30 a.m. departure from la belle province.

The CCA guide promised depths of "about 6 feet or so" on the long entry to the harbour and more water once we arrived.

We never arrived.  Low tide at our destination was within 30 minutes of our arrival, with benefit of the light of magnificint full moon. The swell that plagued us all the way from Quebec considerately reduced itself to a manageable half foot or so.  Meredith was not affected and showed not untoward motion whatsoever.

It is unnerving to come into a strange and new harbour in the dark of night, even such a well lighted night as the one we\ were enjoying.  The tide had turned just before our arrival and it plus the wind that rose to greet us pushed us steadily into the approach to the unseen refuge.

We were making 3.3 knots with the boat in idle.

Buoyed courses marking approaches in Ontario waters are designed for true idiots.  Compared to those of Quebec and PEI Ontario buoys are lined up like pickets in a neat little yard.  In PEI you get one buoy at the beginning of the approach and one at the end.  They may be separated by a mile or two of dark disturbing water but that is the helmsman's job.  Right?

Well, the tide and wind pushed us right up to the ubiquitous 12 foot high rock breakwater which we would have to round before gaining safe haven.

We were denied.  Not 15 feet from the entrance, or what we hoped would be the entrance when we actually got there, Meredith gained knowledge of the bottom.   Nothing hard, just a gentle introduction, one new comer to an unknown host.

So midnight, wind at our backs, flood tide pushing us to the lee shore and the lee shore actually directly beneath our feet.

Discretion is important aboard Meredith and this was an occasion that demanded its application.  No macho proving of  seamanship. Just simple Get out of this place.

The Beta cranked to max revs in reverse and Meredith pulled herself off the mud.  We backed until we had sufficient room to turn and turn we did.

We rode our pony out of Fargo intending to fight another day.

But not in West Point.

Six more hours saw us enter Summerside where we put in at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club and have been ecstatic.

The French Flagged Moron

2010 08 26
Still in Summerside while the rain and wind run out

The cause of all my troubles.

We had come around the Cap de Gaspe, sailed past Perce and were headed for Chandler, QC in the Baie de Chaleur.  Despite the cold and rain and 6 foot short frequency swell out of the east we were in good spirits.  Perce was a lift to the spirits and the coastline is like no other.

Sol was declining in the west and temperatures were low.  The Budget Committee had gone below to prepare some hot food to sustain us through the remaining couple of hours til landfall.  Meredith was about 8 miles offshore to avoid fishing nets.

Out of Grande-Riviere emerged a fishing boat in the style preferred by the Gaspe watermen: smallish, well maintained and neat in appearance, colourfully painted, this particular vessel in dark blue with white pilothouse.

For some reason the skipper of the fishing boat headed right towards us.  His throttle was full forward and he was throwing a big bow wave.  As do all sailors I consider a big bow wave to be inversely proportional to penis size so I was not impressed.

Assessing his trajectory against that of  Meredith left no doubt in my mind that we would pass well ahead of this tiny juggernaut of the sea.  Or would have until the pilot altered course.  Naturally the new course was one of collision with my vessel.

Twice more did the diminutive fishing vessel adjust his course to ensure he and I would meet midbay.  Meredith was running on her rock solid autopilot so there was no chance of my being  involved in anyway with what appeared to be a developing game of aquatic chicken.  I guess you would call it a game of Tuna, that being the piscine equivalent of our egg producing but non flying feathered friend.  (chickens cannot fly of course but I have no idea what you call a fish that cannot swim - Bob perhaps?)

As the unknown sailor approached I fixed his vessel square in the binoculars. The boat was flying only the flag of France.  France!  Clearly the pilot was deranged or at least mentally deficient.  I mean, France? 

The Budget Committee remained below, fully occupied by her duties in the galley and I suspect, fully enjoying the heat of the cabin.  Thank Goodness she was not on deck.  She would have been concerned.

As every man knows when challenged by another male the only acceptable response is contestation.  You push your finger into me and I shove you back.  We both puff out our chests and come what may.  No surrender, even if you are bluffing.

So the script was written.  It occurred to me that this could number among my last opportunities to defend what was left of my descending manhood - the balance of same declining in the western sky as the sun of my universe slowly set.  OK.  Let's cut the maudlin trash.  I was pissed and this guy wasn't going to push me around.   The Budget Committee wasn't around to stop me and as we all know she is the only one who can push me around.

Slowly, inexorably our vessels converged, neither skipper willing to budge (but I did not have to, I got here first, right?).  It was going to be close.  My skin temperature rose as my heart pumped faster and faster.  I could take my pulse by listening to the flow of blood in my skull.  This was it.

We were  1/4 mile apart and closing.

Again I looked at the French flag flying so cockily on the stern of my nemisis.  I peered into the pilot house trying to guage the alloy of the man at the wheel.  It flashed through my brain with all the clarity of a message from the gods that he would blink.  I knew it.  He was a bully and he would not risk the collision.  I knew this for a certainty.

The certainty of victory freed my mind to deal with enhancements to said win.  It is never enough to just win.  You must destroy your opponent, much like the Romans in Carthage in the second Punic war.  As our vessels closed, Meredith still on autopilot I undid my belt and lowered my fly.  I would moon this twisted little wannabe Frenchman as he passed to my stern.  That would cement my position of supreme male on these waters!!!


As the boats closed the swell which had pursued Meredith all the way from Riviere aux Renards chose to exhibit an anomaly.  One wave, timed exquisitely to match the lowering of my fly, threw me off balance.  I fell forward.

My fly caught on the little black tightening knob located on the steering wheel, a clutch knob.  This knob fixed the drum tight to the wheel so the windvane could steer the boat.  The knob worked.

Falling, my instinct was to regain my balance and stand.  As I stood my pants grabbed the clutch knob and pulled it up.  The clutch knob which had firmly fixed itself in my personal little cockpit grabbed in turn grabbed the whell and pulled it hard. 

The wheel pulled to starboard pulling poor Meredith directly into the path of the aggressor fishing boat, which was now only yards away. 

But... But...the autopilot was engaged and it pulled the wheel back again fighting to maintain the heading I had programmed in hours earlier.  This exerted both an upward and a sidereal force on my pants the clutch knob moving freely in the  fabric. 

The French Flagged vessel passed.  It must have seemed to him like I veered into his path just as he had given way to Meredith.  Little did he know that it was all just a big misunderstanding.

His wake however had the autopilot dancing a jig trying keep the boat's heading true and the autopilot worked the weasel that had invaded my pants oscillated and me with it.  I was giving my personal interpretation of Elvis' Blue Suede Shoes.

Oh...the wake... the wake.

Being tossed about without warning was not well received by the Budget Committee who was amidst some delicate operation in the galley.   She voiced her concern.  I yelled it was wake from some madman french fishing boat who cut things way too close.

There must have been something about my voice.  She checked.  What she saw...what she saw.  Well she saw me trying to remove the black clutch knob from my pants.  The boat was still rocking in the receding wake and the wheel was still moving back and forth as the autopilot corrected our heading. For some reason I could not extricate the extra passenger from my fly.

Then came the demand for an explanation.

Environment Canada refers to the ensuing events as Hurricane Danielle.  It could have been named Hurricane Connie.

PS: I beat the little french flagged bastard at his own game.  I win.

Fed Up to Here with All the Niceness

2010 08 25
Summerside, PEI

Weariness grows in the heart of me.  Travel blogs are tedious things and not just for the reader let me tell you.  How often can you write "My life is just fine and wonderful and everything is all candy and roses".  The urge to retch resides in the same neighbourhood as such vile banality.

Surrounded by nice people in Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI there is just no material for a decent rant about much.   What I crave is the society of the twisted, the unfit, the weird: someone interesting enough to write about.   Someone interesting enough to waste some time with.

Instead I see myself afloat in an ocean of suburban banality - conformal niceness a plague upon my house.

Since June there has been little word from our very favourite blogsites: Star of the Sea, Melodeon, Yara and Joana.

There is a paucity of communication worthy of the term.  I fear we suffer sclerosis of the brain, our neuronal pathways atrophied, their walls thick with oozing cholesterol.   Have we all succumbed to creeping lethargy?

Maybe Nova Scotia will do better.

Red, Red, Everywhere and N'er a Sailor afloat

2010 08 25
Summerside, PEI

According to Environment Canada sailors in PEI should not be afloat today.  We are going back to bed.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Need to Know Info to Travel the St. Lawrence for the First Time: Prep, Errors in Guides and Charts, Hazards, Fuel and more

2010 08 25
Summerside PEI

This post is only of interest to those who think they might sail out the St. Lawrence for themselves or those who  like to sail their armchairs to cool destinations.

What Do You Have to Have?

Critical: charts, tide tables, sailing guide, jerry jugs for fuel

Recommended: Chartplotter with current data mapping, sailing directions, Tidal Atlas for the St. Lawrence

What We Took (that allowed us to survive)?

We took the following:

  1. Full set of electronic charts from Canadian Hydrographic Service at a cost of $75 which we viewed on our laptop.  We have two laptops, both fully loaded with charts and plotting software in case the chartplotter fails.  For all you old fogies who are redfaced with apoplectic indignation over our choice of electronic charts: Just Get Over It.  All the other dinosaurs are already extinct
  2. The tide tables from CHS for the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Maritime Provinces,
  3. Standard Horizon Chartplotter with CMap data chip
  4. St. Lawrence Seaway Pleasure Craft Guide (free)
  5. Cruising Guide: St. Lawrence River & Quebec Waterways from Cornwall to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in English and French.
  6. CCA Crusing Guide to the St. Lawrence (available online at no cost).
  7. Jerry Cans for 20 gallons of diesel.

Each of these items suffered disadvantages and some suffered critical mistakes in their information

If we had had the money we would really have liked to have the Tidal Atlas for the St. Lawrence River.  Tides from Quebec City to Tadoussac are just about impossible to predict and the Atlas simplifies this task immensely.  At $50 per tidal area it was just too rich for our blood. 


There are no chartbooks for the St. Lawrence.  Buying all the CHS charts for the entire trip is very very expensive.  The information is the best available but at $20 a pop you will spend at least $300 to $400.  

Your better choice is to buy the DVD with the charts and learn to read charts on a laptop.  Or print the charts out from your computer before you leave home so you have both printed and electronic charts. 

Tidal Atlas

Going downriver as we did there was no real need for a tidal atlas, a pictorial representation, hour by hour, showing the expected tidal current in the river.  It is an amazing piece of work.  From Quebec City to Tadoussac tidal current predictions take a lot of work and are not intuitive.  The Atlas makes the job easier. 

The atlas is, however, $50 per area covered and very pricey.

If we were attempting to move upstream we would pay the money gladly. 


The CMap data chip for the St. Lawrence is useful but HAS SOME SERIOUS OMISSIONS.

  • The tides on the St. Lawrence are stupidly complex.  So complex the Chartplotter gives consistently and dangerously incorrect tide data.  Often our CMap based Standard Horizon used the wrong tide station and usually there was no interpolation.  Using your chartplotter for tide data on the St. Lawrence is playing Russian Roulette.
  • Sailing into Riviere aux Renard late at night, long after dark, we found the entire bay had been walled off with 12 foot high breakwater.  It was not on the CMap chart.  We are not blaming Jeppeson Sanderson, publishers of the CMap data but this is a huge omission and if we had not been informed from other sources (the guide) about the wall...  As it was the breakwater provided much needed protection from a persistent swell and we entered Rivier aux Renard specifically to use its protection. 

Not using Navionics we cannot comment but from what we have seen CMap is generally a bit sharper than its competitor.  We would expect the same comments would apply to Navionics based chartplotters.

Use a chartplotter.  You would be braindead not to.  Just keep your situational awareness up by using all the resources at hand. And never never never use the chartplotter to predict tide unless you are on a tidal station and even then only after making sure your plotter has selected the correct station.


There are 3 guides to assist in sailing out the St. Lawrence:

  • The one we used "Cruising Guide St. Lawrence River & Quebec Waterways from Cornwall to the Gulf of St. Lawrence" is the only one to provide information from the western Quebec border all the way to the Bay of Chaleur.  It is terse and contains some errors.  It shows, Port au Saumon, Port au Persil and Saint Simeon as viable anchorages and they are not remotely usable by any keelboat we could imagine.  This guide also does not identify numerous small bays (or Anses) which provide good protection from wind and current with good mud and clay bottoms.  You must look for yourself on the charts.  They are easy to spot.

  • The annoying thing about this guide is that it is available in French at a list price of $14.95 or English at a list price of $29.95.  The french language edition has bettter charts and descriptions.  Could  you imagine if someone in Ontario tried that?

  • The CCA Cruising Guide to the St. Lawrence is available online and supplements the Guide we used.  It is marginally informative but the first time you do a voyage every bit of information is welcome.

  • There is a trawler guide available from an outfit in Mahone Bay.  We could not get it in time for the trip.  They sell only by snailmail or through retail outlets you have never heard of in cities where you are not present.  It costs $44.95 and I fear it will tell you about all the marinas.  Trawler folk are like that.  Not much anchoring goes on in a trawler or any other powerboat for that matter.  Also trawlers typically draft much less than a keelboat and as a sailor I would be suspicious of their information.    The publisher of the book who may be very nice irritated me by telling me "We do not do pdf and are unable to do so".  For an author and publisher to say such a stupid thing reinforces my concerns over the usability of the information for sailors.


Good quality diesel is available but after Quebec City the marinas that carry diesel can be very far apart. 

  • Buy diesel wherever it is available.  At Saint Anne des Monts the marina sold diesel which had to be jerry jugged down a steep ramp.  The marina diesel storage tank was 55 gallons and filled your jugs using gravity feed.  Meredith carries 70 gallons of fuel when filled including 20 gallons we carry on deck just for the St. Lawrence.
  • Take Jerry Cans because you WILL need them.  Even at marinas where there is diesel you cannot 
  • always get to the fuel pump except at high tide or at all.  We have jugged a lot of fuel.

Usual brands are Sonic, Gaz o Bar and Total and all fuel supplies have been clean and fresh.  

Prices we have paid range from $1.03 at Chandler on the Baie de Chaleur to $1.25 at Saint Anne des Monts.   

Language and Attitude

This is a special section for some those grumpy old anglais who still resent the very existence in Canada of Quebec and its distinct society.  These people are a dying breed and when they finally die out will not warrant even a display at the Royal Ontario Museum, along with the rest of the fossils.  However, just in case they want to tour Quebec by boat and really just because I like to pokedusty dirty old fossils I offer this.

Language is not an issue.  Our trip to Cuba cured us of any hesitation to just jump in trying to communicate in the language of our hosts.  Generally people could tell we were struggling but struggling for good purpose and were supportive as could be.  Our efforts seemed to encourage good will in our hosts and between their broken english and our very broken french we made out just fine.  

Not all Quebecois speak English and to hold the contrary belief is uninformed.  One night in Chandler it took us 20 minutes to order pizza and a chicken dinner. By the time dinner was ordered both sides of the counter were doubled over in laughter.


There are sufficient marinas along the St. Lawrence and the price is very good.  Usually the tariff is $1 per foot including hydro and water.  Often you must pay for showers at a rate of $1 for 4 minutes of hot water.

There is a hazard however:  Many marinas are intended only for shallow draft power boats.  Many cannot be entered by a keelboat even at high tide.  Many more can only be entered during the period typically from 2 hours before high tide to 2 hours after.

The marinas we used all had floating docks so dealing with tide was not an issue.

Plan your marina stays carefully.


Until Quebec City tides are not an issue.  At Quebec City the tidal difference is  17 feet between high and low tide.  A lot of water moves up the St. Lawrence to produce a 17 foot tide and where the river narrows the tidal current picks up.  There are areas in the St. Lawrence where, if you do not choose your times wisely, you can find the combination of outflowing river current (0.5 to 2.0 knots) and ebb tide (add another 5 knots and some places more) can produce a total current of 8 knots.  

My boat does not go that fast.  

Tides from Quebec City to Tadoussac are very difficult to predict accurately.  Rich people would use a tidal atlas which would greatly simplify the proces.

Cell Phone Coverage

We use a Wind Mobile phone which has great rates and good service.  However Wind Mobile uses Rogers towers and there do not seem to be any on the entire Gaspesie.  From Quebec City to Summerside PEI we had no cell phone coverage.


Any night you stay at a marina you will enjoy decent fast interPublish Postnet. 


BRIDGES on the St. Lawrence Seaway

2010 08 25
Summerside PEI

Travelogue in next post.  This is a followup to comments on Locking Through.

Here is correspondence from Wade Alerie of Joana fame.  He and Princess Diane traveled with us to Cuba last year - part way anyway.  They took a month of spa time in Veradero in lieu of 10 days arguing with Cuban mafia in Havana as did we.

Wade posted relevant comments on the BRIDGES along the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Here is our brief exchange which will be of interest only to boaters who may wish to traverse the seaway or those with an  unhealthy prurient interest in the private affairs of others:

On Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 8:34 AM, Wade  wrote:

    Hi Bob,

    We've just read through your recent posts, particularly the very informative one about traversing the locks. I'm very curious to know if you had any difficulties with the BRIDGES.  Did any of the bridges behave as they were supposed to?  Did the RED light change to AMBER and then GREEN?  For us, they went from RED to GREEN just at the moment we passed under, with no AMBER.  We also had to wait a long time at nearly every bridge.  I wrote a very nice, accurate and damning letter to the St Lawrence Seaway Commission a few days later, but they never responded to me.  Everybody we talked to had the same comment, the bridges are a pain in the ass.

cheers, Wade


There was a reason I did not mention the bridges.  I was trying to be very positive.  Everything you claim about bridge operation is completely accurate.   In the end we got results from recalcitrant bridge operators by keeping the air horn on deck and blowing it insistently at the specified rate of 3 long blows in 5 seconds. 

Compressed air seemed to work and rarely did it take more than 2 repetitions for the recalcitrant bridge operators, all of whom are located physically in Quebec, to come to life and push the damn "UP" button on their control panel.  Such a demanding job.

We actually had a powerboater slow down and accompany us through the Beauharnois channel because we could get the bridges to operate.  At least these guys were not racists - they were just highly developed bureaucrats in the French "Who gives a (you know what)" school of public service.  I think it is Parisien French: "You are shit.  You cannot treat me like a dog."

As for lights we never looked for amber.  The amber lights we were involved with were timing lights and they only came into play at one lock.  Odd that 2 1/2 minute interval for amber lights, non?

Both the Snell Lock and the Lambert Lock created inordinate delay - we were forewarned in each case that those operators were assholes.  Locking down the Chenal de la Rive Sud we came on 18 pleasure boats in a scrum.  They had just been locked up together like a single ball of snakes.  Wonder how long some of those boats had been waiting. 

All the best


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Log: It Was the Worst of Times, It was the Best of Times

Apologies to Charles Dickens, without whom I probably would have passed up reading as a worthless waste of time.

Having successfully traversed the fearsome Richelieu Rapids we entered the marina at PortNeuf looking forward to a reunion with old friends Ben Blangez and his wife, the long suffering Andree.  The marina at Port Neuf is a very good marina with excellent  friendly staff and fabulous protection for your boat.

Our every expectation with respect to the reunion was met.  In spades.

Both Nadir and Zenith of our trip out the St. Lawrence were to play out on the day following.

Departing Port Neuf at 5:30 a.m. the next day we elected to follow the North Channel along the section of river from Port Neuf to Tadoussac.  This channel was deep, well marked, and comfy.  We should have selected the South Channel or the old Sailing Channel, a route with less adequate channel markers and frequent shoals but some big advantages. 

As luck had it we ended up on the South shore by the end of that very long day.

The North Channel was beautiful.  Bathed in sun the north shore rises up to fantastic heights seemingly straight out of the water.  How true that was.

The gotcha for the North Channel was passage between Ile aux Coudres and the north shore.  Here the river narrows and the current, river and tide, quickens.  Our guide book warned in sternest terms to avoid the passage during most of the daylight hours available to us. 

Our timing was way off.  We had ourselves positioned badly with respect to timing of the tide. We worried we would need to lay up and wait anther day to pass.  Needless as wings on a porcupine were our fears.

Scanning the charts my dear Budget Committee found a pathway of charted 12 foot water which, if adhered to closely would carry us effortlessly from the North Channel to the Middle Channel.  We were on it like a Bay Street banker on a ten point spread.  We found a decent range: two points of distinguished elevation that if kept in line would carry us from channel to channel.

Lining up our unofficial range we were off and in only 90 minutes found ourselves in a significantly shallower but slower section of the St. Lawrence.  The Ile aux Coudres passed or rather we passed it without event or even ripple in the water.  Shortly thereafter the middle channel and north channel merged again into the seaway.  As we congratulated ourselves on work well done we were even then unaware that we had delivered ourselves again to the wrong channel.

The balance of the day was uneventful.  Until, that is, the end of the day or what we thought would be the end of the day.

At 6 p.m. we had traveled enough and looked forward to getting the boat anchored and ourselves straightened away.  From the guide we had selected Port au Saumon as our anchorage.  It is critical to note here that  there are few anchorages on the section of the St. Lawrence from Quebec City to Tadoussac.  Very few are shown in the guide.  Port au Saumon is the first.   As we came up on Port au Saumon a serious line of squalls showed its ugly head over the cliffs along the north shore of the river. 

Judging we had sufficient time to get into shelter in the port and drop hook we hastened our pace.  Imagine our shock when the promised dock at Saumon proved not to exist.  Not even a stick of wood or piling to show there had ever been a dock.  But that was not the biggest omission in the guide.  There was NO PORT.  How the hell can you call something that is just a rock wall with no identifying features a port is beyond me.  But then I do not write guides.

Remember when I mentioned that the rock walls of the North Channel seemed to emerge vertically from the water.  Well, that is exactly what they do.  There is no bottom.  We were a boatlength from shore and still in 75 feet of water. 

The squalls took our attention.  In fact they demanded it.  We moved away from shore as fast as our Beta diesel would carry us hoping to reduce the chance of injury to boat.  Wind grew from 5 knots to 30 to 40.  Rain pelted as hard as rocks.  We did what any intelligent person would do in the circumstance.  We turned and ran for all we were worth.   Max revs fed to the prop normally produce 8 knots in calm water.  The anemometer when I had time to look showed 42 knots of wind direct from the stern.  Add to that our boat speed running away and that's as close to 50 knots as I ever want to get.

Squalls are supposed to be short lived.  You know, they blow in fast, blow hard and leave in a hurry.  Apparently this is only a lifestyle decision for squalls.  Some squalls choose to live alternatively.  Ours did.  Rather than blow itself out in 20 minutes our storm lingered for near to 40.  Rain came so hard you could not see your own fingers let alone the other person in the cockpit.

When it blew itself by intent on inflicting itself on other hapless folk we were well along the river.  Luckily so for it placed us close by the next prospective anchorage: Port au Persil. 

Can you imagine we were not even chagrined to find this "port" to consist of no more than a pile of rotten lumber set on top of a short rock wall.  And there was a bleach bottle considerately placed midchannel in the 30 foot wide channel to warn of depths below 3 feet on the dock side.  Actually depths were too shallow by half for any keelboat and we quickly abandoned this "anchorage". 

It was of course then time for the second round of squalls which although less spectacular were just as dampening and much more cooling.  The sun was going down and we were drenched although dry in those parts covered by our offshore gear.

Saint Simeon, namesake of the next in series anchorage promised by the guide, would have become my patron saint had the dock or anchorage bearing his name been anything but the pathetic and shameless sham that it was.  Instead I trust the good saint rots in hell with the balance of the lapsed Catholics. 

A sand bottom was promised.  What the guide neglected to mention was that the "bottom" sloped away from shore at a precipitous angle, in fact in one boatlength it fell from 10 feet to 75.  And at 10 feet we would have been set on dry ground come low tide. 

Now the sun was down and we were running on the light provided by gravity's bending of the last remaining rays of hope emanating from that great orb.  It was getting cold.  We were wet.

The Budget Committee, looking as she so often does, at the charts declared the North shore of the river off limits.  We needed to cross the river from Saint Simeon and dock at Riviere du Loup.  I needed no encouragement. 

As we made our way across the river, about 15 miles at this point, to ensure we adequately avoided the island situated between Saint Simeon and Riviere du Loup I saw that a nice protected bay sat just on our side of the town.  It was not shown in the guide.  It would shave an hour of travel time off our trip and save us having to enter a strange marina in the dark. 

We agreed.  By 10 p.m. the hook was down, we removed our wetsuits and fell into bed. 

How do you think we slept?

The Log: Iroquois Lock to Lac Saint Louis - How to Lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway

Leaving Smith's Island our first encounter was the Iroquois Lock - first of the St. Lawrence Seaway Locks.  It is a standard lock.  Here is how you do it:

1. As you approach the Lock:

 You look for a series of diamond shaped red signs.  These signs are Limit of Approach Signs.  There are 3 of them at each lock: LA1, LA2 and LA3.  If any of the LA signs is lighted red DO NOT GO BEYOND LA3.  Here is what a Limit of Approach Sign looks like:

This is LA 1.  It is dark.  Here is what a lighted LA sign looks like:

You can see the green lights above the LA diamond.  Always watch for the LA3 sign as it is the critical one.  When the LA signs light up green you should be able to enter the lock.  You confirm that you have permission by looking at the big black sign just at the entrance to the lock:

If you look to the right of the mast and just above the granny bars you can see a big black board with two tiny green lights, one over the other.  This means you can enter the lock.  Here is a blow up of the sign:

Now you can enter the lock:

You can't really see them but there are two seaway employees standing at the side of the lock just where they want you to secure your boat.  You take your boat to that place on the lock wall and the seaway people hand you two lines.

One person on bow and one at stern will take the lines and hold them.  At one lock the seaway employees wanted us to secure the lines on cleats which we did.  At the rest we just held the lines.

The lockmaster lets the water out of the lock and you pay out line at bow and stern as you go down.  You end up here:

When the lock doors open you let go the lines and steam out.  Just make sure you watch for incoming traffic:

There are some oddities:

1.  You pay $25 per lock.  If you want you can pay at each lock with no problems.  Try to have exact change.  If you want you can buy "tickets" from a machine located at a pleasure boat dock which every lock has.  We did not and we do not recommend you do.  I mean Why?  Unless you don't have the cash.

2. At the US docks you cannot use the tickets you buy at Canadian ticket machines.  The fee is $25 US or Canadian.  No exchange rate is applied.

3. At the US Locks they make you wear your lifejackets while they are locking you through.  There are 2 US locks - Eishenhower and Snell. 

4. Each lock has a pleasure boat dock for use if you have to wait at a lock.  The docks are all located at convenient and sensible locations at each lock.  It may seem as if you are going past a LA3 sign to get to the pleasure boat dock.  You are but it is ok to do so.  Just stay off to the side.  At the pleasure boat dock there is a direct phone line to the seaway and a guy who will tell you how long you have to wait.  There is also a ticket machine if you insist on buying the silly seaway tickets.

5. If you buy tickets at the Canadian machine DO NOT BUY ANY FOR THE US LOCKS.  They will not take them and I suspect you have just wasted $50.

Leaving Iroquois lock we contined that day to the Eisenhower and Snell Locks and anchored behind Saint Regis Island.  We had great protection from current and wind and slept well (see, I told you)

Next day we rose early and set off for Montreal.  We cleared the Beauharnois Locks 1 & 2 anchoring for the day behind one of the Isles de La Paix.  We have already written about the approach to Montreal.  

The Log: Toronto to Kingston and Beyond

2010 08 23
Chandler, Gaspesie, QC

Leaving Toronto on August 4 we have not taken a day off save one marvelous day spent in Montreal.  On August 22 we rounded the Cap Gaspe and now find ourselves southbound.Here is how it went:

Toronto to Cobourg:

Boring from overuse.  Winds were following for most of the midday but died early in the afternoon.  We motored on and arrived in Cobourg late in the day.  At Cobourg we tied up on the public wall.  There are no services on the wall but the rates are good.  A strange little man approached as we were still tieing up to the wall.

Had we registered yet? he wondered.  I pointed to the line in my hand and the boat floating just off the wall figuring the situation was self expanatory.  He did not relent.  "This wall was full last night" he informed me.

"Seems free now" was my laconic response delivered in a tone that suggested it would be preferred if the guy just pissed off.  Naturally he did not take the hint.  There was a bee buzzing around somewhere in his belfy. The bats did not seem to have been doing their job.

I secured the stern line and went to ensure proper tension on the aft spring line.

"What do mean free?" he asked as he followed me down the pier.  "Don't you have to pay on this wall?"

I confirmed that we had never paid nor been asked to pay to stay a night on the wall. "But" he sputtered(literally, he was spitting as he spoke) "I was going to stay at the yacht club and use reciprocal privileges but had to take a slip.  This is a much better deal"

"Yup"  came my further reply I felt I was yielding to an unreasonable demand for politeness at doing even this.

"Well, you better register" persisted the little pest.

"We will.  But first we have to find a liquor store."  If it had been anywhere but Canada I would have said "Gun shop" but you know how it is.

Cobourg to Prynyer's Cove

A windless day greeted us on the morning of the 5th.  We delayed departure until 7 a.m. so we could take on diesel at the Cobourg Marina.  Luck had us first in line.  I waved to last night's pain in my butt as I walked into the office to pay for fuel and "register".

It is 84 nautical miles to Prynyer's Cove and it made for a long day.  No wind rose to meet us or propel us on our way.

Last night's bed bug came steaming at us hell for leather about 3 hours after we left.  He had his little Hunter pushing max revs as he blew by us.  Despite the unrelenting effort of the Budget Committee to engage the little man with a wave he studiously ignored us as he passed at 7.2 knots only metres off our beam.

As we exited the Murray Canal we discovered the reason for Little Man's hurry.  He had tied up to the concrete wall of the exit wall of the canal.  It was a free mooring.  We passed him at our stately 6 knots and observed that his poor Hunter was pitching and rolling with the wake of frequent Saturday morning water traffic.  Seemed a high price to pay for a free mooring to us.

Wind evaded us until we got to Long Reach.  We hate Long Reach.  It leads north from one of the most boring pieces of water on the planet, the Bay of Quinte, to Picton and it must be traversed to get to Kingston and beyond.  Always we find it full of wind opposing our progress and today was no different.  Cold bitter wind struck at us without relief for the entire 14 mile length of this unpleasant stretch.

Arrival at Prynyer's was late in the day, well after sunset.  We set the anchor amidst 30 or 40 boats in 35 feet of water facing 25 knot winds with a forecast of worse tomorrow.  Sleep came easily.

Prynyers to Brockville

It rained and stormed all day the next day so we sat tight, leaving boat only once, during a lull in the rain, to swim and freshen up.

Next morning we were off at dawn making our way through the Thousand Islands, fondly remembered by us.  A day of motoring it was to be.  River current found us and we were carried along at a nice clip.  Presence of current worried us as we did not wish to anchor in such a strong force if we could avoid it.  We found an anchorage behind Smith's Island just off the Brockville waterfront which assuaged our concerns.  Current was neutral behind the island and the holding was good.  Again we slept well.  (I am going to stop saying that because it is going to get pretty boring).


2010 08 23
Chandler, Gaspesie, QC
48 20.62 N 64 40.15W

Perce, Gaspesie, QC
48 37.10 N 64 12.00 W

Leaving our anchorage at Riviere aux Renard it was a dark and stormy day but then they are all dark and stormy days on the Gaspesie:

In the Distance We Could See this Strange Rock:

You Could Sail Right Up To It:

And Then We Were Past:

Left, Alone, With Our Wake:

Friday, August 20, 2010


20 August 2010
Sainte Anne Des Monts, QC
49 08.10N 66 29.25W

When you cannot find the words it is difficult to write the blog.  Not even in French can one define the experience of sailing the St. Lawrence.

I am not going to try.

We are in Sainte Anne Des Monts, 
pictured above as Meredith approaches the marina
(behind the big pile of rock in the foreground).

Since leaving Quebec City we have braved the Richelieu Rapids, the Isle aux Courdres channel, crossed the fearsome Saguenay, sailed through three days of squall lines delivering winds of 50 nmph and horizontal rain.   Left with no tenable anchorage at the end of a 16 hour day due to our notoriously unreliable guide we crossed the St. Lawrence to drop hook in what appeared to us, and in fact was, a wonderful calm protected anchorage not mentioned by said guide.

We have entered anchorages with channels only 2 boatwidths wide while fighting river and tidal current to guide our Meredith to safe harbour.  Five foot waves have attacked us in our anchorage coming around a 20 foot high rock wall to do so.  We have pretty much frozen to death 3 days in a row. 

Meredith has sailed with the whales, pods and pods of them and frolicked for 20 minutes of unadulterated fun with a lazing sea lion.

In our wildest anticipation never did we dare imagine that which we have done and seen and experienced. 

This has been the time of our life.  Sailing the St. Lawrence alone together has been life altering.  And at our age that does not happen often enough.

At Riviere de Loup the water temperature drops likes mad.  
Mind, this meter reads 2 degrees warmer than things really are.  
Normal air temps here are low 10, high 15. 

We have met scores of wonderful, helpful people.

Future posts will contain a more detailed guide for those of our friends, like Ian and Joy, who would someday like to do this trip themselves.  Don't wait is the best advice we can give.

Tonight is our first marina in 5 days.  The heat is turned on and tendrils of warmth grab at what is already a weakened consciousness.  It is 8 p.m. and I am going to bed.

Wonder what tomorrow brings.

Rarely do we stop having fun to take pictures.  It always seems to us that we will remember the good bits and if we do not remember well then...  Pictures do not convey what this is about.  Here are a few sad offerings shot when we grew bored.  

 Lost in the Estuary of the St. Lawrence

Another view of Sainte Anne Des Monts

Isle Rouge Behind Which the Saguenay overwhelms the Flow of the mighty St. Lawrence

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The A Team Approach to Navigation

posted from Port Neuf, QC
August 15, 2010

As nice as it is when a plan comes together it can be rather, well, dull.

Leaving Montreal we faced apprehension over two issues: the Richelieu Rapids and the Saguenay River.  The first of these, the rapids, we would face on our second day out of Montreal bound for Quebec City and it is with this we concern ourselves today.

Leaving Port d'Escale Montreal was a joy.  The 5 knot current which had set us so unfairly on our attempt to gain entrance to the safe harbour was now with us.  Leaving the safety of the Vieux Port we could see the edge of the river beyond the mouth - a wall of water moving at great velocity.

Nothing for it but to jump in and so we did.  This time our acceleration was from 6 knots to 10.8 in under 5 seconds.  Shiny!!

Not that we were anxious to leave Montreal.  We really enjoyed walking about the old city, watching the buskers, taking in the offerings of the patio bars.

Beyond the Vieux Port (Old Port) in Montreal 
Lies a Miles Long Working Harbour

Each of us had slept poorly on the night before departure, the call of Morphius rudely interrupted by concern over the upcoming running of the Richelieu Rapids.  We were out of sorts for a good part of the day but fortunately Meredith does not run on good intentions.

Her diesel carried us along the St. Lawrence at a robust 7 to 8 knots all the way to Trois Riviere. 

There are few anchorages between Montreal and Quebec City.  In fact there was only one which we considered acceptable, the west branch of the Riviere Saint Maurice just east of Trois Riviere. 

Leaving Montreal at 6:00 a.m. we made our anchorage by 4:30.  Entrance to the river was a bit tricky due to its narrowness - only about 6 feet of usable channel was available to us.  Once in we found a current of about 2 knots as the Saint Maurice delivered its aqueous contents to the master St. Lawrence.  We travelled a half mile or so upriver and Connie dropped the hook. 

As I backed down on our trusty CQR we could feel the boat sliding backward along the bottom as the anchor reached into the river muck seeking a hold.  Security at anchor had not yet been achieved when the diesel shuddered and died instantly. 

Our dinghy painter had wrapped itself around the prop shaft and stalled the diesel.  Now this was interesting.  We were sitting in a 2 knot current with a hook that had not set.  Our stern was aimed at a massive shoal across the mouth of the river.  Hmmmm.

Connie got goggles and knife while I stripped in the cockpit.  No time was wasted on conversation.  I was over the side in under 30 seconds.  The painter cut away easily.

At Anchor Along the West Branch of the Riviere Saint Maurice

Anchor down and set to our satisfaction the crew of Meredith were in their beds by 7:30 p.m.  Fellow boaters informed us there would be fireworks at 10 that night.  Maybe there were.

This morning we were up by 5:30 a.m. and ready to face rapids.  We had planned our approach to the rapids, which are located just past the town of Grondines so that we would arrive at maximum flood tidal current.

The rapids are a problem because the current of the St. Lawrence which normally runs at .5 to 2 knots is increased due to a narrowing of the river.  This current is increased further by the tide.  At ebb tide the tidal current alone can be 5 knots.  Put it all together and you have a maximum current of 8 knots.  Naturally this extraordinary flow is running at a location in the river where there is a narrowing.  Outside the channel depths are fatal to a keel boat.

If we timed our run of the rapids to coincide with a flood tide (tide flowing up the river) we reasoned that this would reduce the usual river current.  It was hoped this would give us an easy ride.

It worked in spades.  When we got to the rapids there was no current at all.  By the time we exited the Rapides Richelieu we were actually being set about 1/2 knot due to the tide.  There was no turbulence to speak of.

 The South Shore of the St. Lawrence just at Port Neuf.  Beautiful.

Out of the rapids by 11 a.m. we entered the marina at Port Neuf intending to meet up with friends Ben and Andree from Gatineau.  We wait now for them to arrive and look forward to spending the next however long enjoying their company. 

What a non event.

But, Monsieur, No One Goes There

posted from Port Neuf, QC
August 15, 2010

We are standing in the store at Services Maritime McGill, the only chandlery in downtown Montreal.  It is a wonderful 2 century old huddle of a place still dressed in its original tired wood floors and interior decoration.   Warm and smelling of aged wood and just plain old age this was a chart shop.  Chart cases and chests adorned every inch of the space behind the counter. Piles of government charts and commercial guides lay about everywhere.

We took great heart.  Here was a chart dealer.

This paper kingdom was presided over by a deceptively unimpressive looking fellow.  Short, soup bowl haircut his middle larger than either end of him, the man was singularly undistinguished.  If he were a book the rash of thought would not pick him up.

Engaged in conversation the man quickly demonstrated the error of choosing your books in such ill considered and thoughtless means.  His mind was a steel trap when the inventory of his shop was concerned.  Asked for an item he would nod and without a word turn to a chest of drawers, without hesitation opening a drawer to withdraw the chart or selection guide asked for.  His skill went beyond competent.

The crew of Meredith had sought out this little shop at 269 Place d'Youville, in search of a cruising guide to the lower St. Lawrence and more importantly a chartbook.  Our grail, a book of charts which would carry us out the river in splendorous safety esconced in the comforting knowledge of those brave sailors who preceded us, had eluded us in Toronto, Kingston and parts East.  Individual charts were certainly available but a chartbook did not exist at any venue in Ontario.

Charts by the way cost $20 a piece and there are a lot of charts along the St. Lawrence.  A chartbook would we hoped give us $300 of charts in a single source bound edition costing $75 to $100.  Such books exist for every major sailing ground in North America - each Great Lake has its own, the Inland Waterway has several, each 400 mile stretch of the Eastern Seaboard is blessed with two or three publishers each competing furiously to sell you their compendium of massed charts.

So, the request was made.  We sought a chartbook of the lower St. Lawrence.

But, you see, as the nice man behind the counter at Services McGill explained as he regretfully but firmly confirmed the absence in his inventory of any material, printed or electronic, which would meet our needs:

"But, Monsieur,  no one goes there.  It is too far, too cold, too wet.  No one goes beyond Quebec City."

Next morning we left Port d'Escale bravely going where seemingly few have gone before.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Toronto to Montreal - The Life of Leisure

August 13, 2010
Montreal Old Harbour, Montreal, QC

Before leaving Toronto the Budget Committee and I invested hours and hours in refitting, upgrading and maintaining our beloved Meredith.  Wood was sanded, windows removed and recaulked, a new SineWave Inverter installed and so on.  Our proposed venture - Toronto to Annapolis via the St. Lawrence was our most ambitious yet and we wanted Meredith as ready as she could be.

So systems were checked, double checked and whatever needed to be done was done.

So we thought.

Leaving Toronto we discovered the massive spider infestation which afflicts that poor metropolis had resulted in our windvane being welded to its bearing.  It would not move.  A few full turns in the lake did nothing to free it.  Heavy rain two days later had salutory effect but it remains sluggish and unreliable.  Time for the Budget Committee to go up the mast.

On the afternoon of our first day out our manual head went south.  It stopped sucking in raw water to flush away the tainted contents in the bowl.  Pump as fast and as hard as you would - the result was you staring at the same stool sample as when you began.

For the next couple of days we just poured a glass or two of fresh water into the bowl and flushed away.  Sometimes more than two glasses.

We keep a spare set of seals for our manual head at the ready.  We also keep a complete second pump assembly. In this way when the head balks we have short work to replace it.  Just 3 hoses and 4 screws and the job is done.  Then the deficient pump can be rebuilt at our leisure after it has been disinfected and dried out.  A much more appealing prospect let me assure you.  It took 2 days for me to get to the job.  The Budget Committee changed seals on the old unit and we are ready in spades for the next attack.

Day two the PL256 connector joining the coax cable  to the radio fell off its coax.  It just fell off.  It had not been installed by me but by some moron who had no idea how to solder a connector.  It was done by a commercial yard in Toronto at very high cost to the last owner of our boat.

Day two slightly later in the day we discovered the sheet car was frozen solid and would not turn.  Neither could the axle bolt be removed; it being just as frozen.  We began applying PB Blaster every couple of hours and after a day and a half it now grudgingly delivers our sheet to us with less resistance than it did on Day 2.

On the evening of Day two the anchor rode jammed in the Hause Pipe.  Somehow 3 separate lengths of chain attempted to escape the chain locker simultaneously.  The result was the classic 3 stooges - 3 men in a doorway - jammup.  We took the windlass apart and wrestled the chain into good order leaving firm instructions for all ingress and egress to be single file.

On day 3 we rested.  We did this because it rained and stormed all day.  This gave the Budget Committee a fair test of our latest attempt to seal the mast at the partner from ingress of water.  The rest of the day saw my abused wife redirecting the near flood of water penetrating that which we were sure was impenetrable. 

We are pretty sure we have all the leaks sealed now.

There was a bright side.  Being totally occupied with the imminent flood the Budget Committee was unable to fire up the vaccuum cleaner, an event which I anticipate with the same joy as did my old dog Molly.

While the Budget Committee played "little dutch girl" I installed the battery switch and combining relay shose installation had fallen victim to our need to leave the Toronto marina on the day we ran out of contract time.  It was leave with no switch or pay more money.  I mean, c'mon.

Day 4 I had to fix the problems caused by my ham handed failure to install the battery switch correctly and my leaving a couple of nuts improperly tightened.  Man does an electrical system hate loose nuts.

Today, in Montreal, the Budget Committee and I installed the remote control for the inverter.  This was necessary so we could put back in place the big drawer under the quarterberth which we had to leave out and blocking 3 square feet of space so I could reach under and press the buttons on the inverter itself.

Finished that job the Budget Committee did the laundry.  The laundry machines were broken but you could not find this out until you had put all your money in.  She had to enlist staff aid to get the machines, which are brand new, to actually wash or dry.

As this drama played out I removed, dissassembled and modified the Iskra alternator that came with our Beta diesel so it would take external regulation.  Then I installed the alternator, tested to ensure nothing would blow up (it didn't to my confused surprise), added the external regulator, a new switched busbar needed for the regulator to function without my having to actually hand crank the thing and then attempt to find all the parts I lost in the process. That was not a total success.

Tomorrow, underway again we anticipate having to fix the snags arising from today's installations.

But tonight we have the night to ourselves.  We can do anything we want. 

Guess what we want to do.

St. Lawrence Seaway - CHECK

Friday, August 13, 2010
Vieux Harbour Marina, Montreal, QC

Toronto to Montreal - The End of the Journey

 Downtown Montreal from the Cockpit

Coming through the St. Lambert Lock at Montreal Meredith had travelled the entire length of the St. Lawrence Seaway, every lock and bridge.  There's a big checkmark in our logbook for this one.

 The Mile One Sign At the End of Ile Ste Helene

Our only surprise in the whole affair from Toronto to Montreal was at Montreal.  Just a mile west of the city the St. Lawrence throws a bit of a hissy fit - round about Lachine.  Simultaneously the river narrows, shallows and turns.  The result is the Lachine Rapids.  Nasty water best avoided.

Meredith avoided it by taking the large ship Canal de  Rive Sud.  Easy going, protected from wind and current it made easy sailing.  Our plans to stay overnight in Old Montreal required that, upon our exiting the Canal, we turn West and backtrack about 2 miles to the protected old harbour.  

That last line did not impinge on our consciousness either until we made the turn.  

We took the Canal to avoid the rapids.  Exiting the Canal we turned into the force of the river which was just finishing its release of pent up frustration.  It was fierce.  We were motoring into a 5 knot current.  Meredith only makes 6 knots at cruise.  So for an hour and a half we fought the St. Lawrence, sometimes to a draw, sometimes losing a step or two.

 The Current Against Meredith as We Turned Towards the Vieux Harbour 
Just After The Mile One Marker

Arriving at the old harbour we immediately saw our speed over ground increase to 6 knots.  From 1 to 6 in under 5 seconds.  

Today, our day to explore the City, we walked from the point where we turned to run up the River to get to the Port of Call of Old Montreal, the name of the downtown marina here.  It took 7 minutes to walk.  Yesterday it was a voyage of more than 90 minutes.

So Old Montreal is fun and we are glad we are here.  We are the only sailboat in the marina.  We know why.
Meredith Alone and Resting Hard at Port of Call of Old Montreal


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Invoice

August 4, 2010

Meredith sets sail on Friday after a 10 week layover in Toronto. 

While in Toronto we have spent little time on the boat not devoted to repair and refit.  Meredith has new rigging, new batteries, a new inverter, several rebedded portholes and some clean and varnished brightwork.  Many portholes and a lot of brightwork remain to be done.

The costs were impressive and the marina fees in Toronto not insubstantial, although refreshingly competitive, another sign of that city's continuing decline as a destination.  As we recap the costs of cruising we find ourselves unconcerned with the bill for refit.

Our main purpose in returning to Ontario this year was to spend time with our children and our goal was achieved in grand style.  Reunion was a smashing success.  It was heartwarming to realize our children genuinely enjoyed our return.

Come Friday we leave once again abandoning our family to the fray of daily life, they having demonstrated their capability and resourcefulness in this regard to our satisfaction. 

Parents who cruise tend not to talk much about their family left behind nor will I do so here other than to say on the cruising life's bill of costs absence of family is most dear. 

And now, before I turn all maudlin, I sign off.  Damn.  Too late.