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.