8 July, 2014
A cool and overcast day greets us on this “We’re going to Montreal” day. A couple of locks, connected by a 20 mile, man-made ditch, imaginatively named Chenal Sud (south canal), and we’re in the big city. Wouldn’t be much to talk about if we hadn’t had a hydraulic overheat alarm screaming at us in this narrow channel between the locks. Fortunately, no freighters, so non-essential hydraulics shut down, and we do a U-turn to get to an emergency anchorage about a mile back. Meantime, I’m down in the engine room. The strainer for the cooler looks good. So I pop the top, open the seacock, and get no water. Cool, there’s probably a plastic bag or something sucked up against the outside of the thru-hull. I pull the hose, and reopen the valve-whoosh, lotsa’ water! Looks like the end of a stick in the hose, so I give it a yank-Nothin’ honey. A pair of pliers extracts weed that’s a perfect mold of the inside of the hose, hard as a rock. Reattach hoses, open seacock, and we got water. Shoot the cooler with infrared pyrometer(thermometer). Temp. dropping means we didn’t fry the impeller when it ran dry-unheard of! As I emerge from the 110 degree engine room, the Admiral reports that we’re almost to the anchorage. No need, another U-ey, and we’re back on track. While we’re waiting at the next (and last) lock, all other strainers (engine, generator, and air conditioning) are checked-all good. Rounding Isle St. Helene, we are banging our heads against a 5-6 knot current. As the Girl’s top speed is around 9 knots in calm water, she’s getting a cardio workout while blasting along at 2.1 knots. 45 minutes through these swirling waters, with the wave tops blown off by a 15 knot headwind give the Captain time to think about contingency plans in the event of a mechanical failure. Better not to verbalize these thoughts at this time. Anyhoo, the wind blows the clouds away as we approach the Montreal Yacht Club, our home for the next few days, and after a call on the radio, we get our fenders hung for a bow-in, portside tie. Only problem is, that the guys on the dock inform us, is that you’re not allowed to bow-in. Okay, change all fenders while hanging in the narrow fairway, and back in blind, as the bridge is covered, and I’m driving from the pilothouse with the Admiral whispering instructions in my ear over the two-way radio. Can’t help but notice our new neighbor standing on the deck of her brand-new Azimut 53 (fa$$$t trawler), with her bitch-wings* on, guiding me in with the laser stare. Better to be lucky than good. We’re here. Lots of adrenaline, and it’s only 1300hrs. After tidying up the Girl, paying the rent, and etc., a walk is in order. The marina is in a part of town called Vieux(old) Port. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that you were in Europe. The warehouses and old city buildings, built from the 1700’s on, are well-preserved, and beautifully restored. Since Canada Day(their 4th of July) is tomorrow, it’s a holiday weekend and things are hopping. Restaurants look kind of touristy, so into the Marriott to confer with the concierge. Got the perfect place for traditional French cuisine. 5 or 6 blocks, and 2 alleyways later, we’re asking the maître d’ for un table pour deux. OMG! He has a tux on, there’s crystal, china, and silver on linen tablecloths. Normally, wouldn’t get too excited by that, but I’ve got cargo shorts, flipflops, and a T shirt on. I bring this to his attention (as if). No problem, we look “grand”. Great dinner, good service, good story. Next day is exploration day. Needless to say, we put on some miles (around 10, we figure) on foot, then 8 or 10 more on the double-decker tourist trolley. On foot, we hit every Catholic church (there are lots) from Vieux Port to the International and Financial Districts. The underground city is also a must-see. It’s a series of underground shopping malls, interconnected, and stretching for miles below downtown. Supposedly the largest of its’ kind, and pretty cool. A trip to the “marine hardware store” as recommended by our friend, Scottie, takes us to a part of the waterfront that we might normally miss. It’s Canada Day today, and they’re closed. Peering through the dirt-encrusted windows, it’s clear (sorta’) that we’ll need to come back tomorrow. (Checking out the hardware store in any town that we visit is compulsory for Yours Truly. It’s almost a religious experience). Hit the Chamber of Commerce (equivalent), buy billets for the tourist bus, and we’re off for a driving tour, highlighting the different districts of the city, culminating with a climb up Mount Royal, the city’s namesake. When we get to the trolley’s central hub, we gotta get off, and it seems that the busses are done for the day-no more hop on hop off. What’s another mile or so walk? Did I mention that it’s 90 degrees? Our dogs are barkin’ by the time we return to the Girl after stopping at the Cirque De Soleil ticket office for front/center tickets-tomorrow’s performance. Fireworks are in order for tonight. Good news is that they’re over the river, and our boat is the perfect viewing platform-Whew! Shopping day today, so off come the bikes. The trip to the hardware store is a lot quicker than yesterday. Oh Yeah, this place is the real deal. More of a supplier of navigation equipment and charts for the big guys than your typical marine store, but they’ve got a hodgepodge of small stuff too. The guy working the counter is a part timer, being a retired radar and systems designer from the Canadian military. The real business is going on behind a stack of crates at a computer terminal, where a young lady is busy on the phone and computer, filling orders for the big boats. 2 hours later, after coming in needing nothing, we’re back on the road with $180 Canadian francs worth of oddsnends, and an earful of politics, navigational issues, and the general state of world affairs (I love talking to people). Armed with a recommendation, it’s lunchtime, then off to the grocery store for fresh fruit and veggies. I was amazed that a 12 pack of Labatts was only $12.99. By the time taxes were added, over $18. I guess that’s the price you pay for the superior (hahaha) health care system. –sorry, couldn’t resist. I think that this is our 4th Cirque De Soleil performance, but they never get old. Canwegoagain? Canwecanwecanwe? July 3rd, and time to depart. Our trip down with the current gives the Girl a personal best 13.2 knots at ¾ throttle. After the glandular trip in Montreal, MDO and I are looking for a quiet anchorage tonight. The bill is filled with a spot in the Sorel Islands. This is a group of low-lying Islands at the west end of Lac St. Pierre. Kind of out of the way by land, and the cottages, some shacks, some with generators and satellite dishes, are only accessible by boat. All of the structures are on stilts, much like places in the low country of South Carolina. It’s so pretty here, that we stay 2 nights, enjoying the sunny days, and cooler temperatures, exploring the bays and islands by dinghy. On Saturday, the 5th, we’re off to Trois Rivierres. We anchor off the public beach at the river’s mouth, as the charts show no detail farther up the river. Even though we’re still on the Seaway, there’s very little current here. The water flowing out of the river is full of tannins, which make it kind of a black tea color, whereas the Seaway water is your typical turbid blue-gray. There is a clear line where the river and Seaway currents are fighting to a draw, as evidenced by this change in color (sorry-geeked out for a minute there). We anchor just inside the line. CRIKEY! These Canadians do NOT waste a Saturday! There’s a beach volleyball court set up, complete with loudspeakers, a D.J., decibels to spare, and a crowd to match. Sail and power boats, jet skis, kite sailing, paddleboarders and waterjet boot play. We have ring side seats for the Cirque D’eau a Trois Rivieres. I’m layin’ on the boat, catchin’ some rays with my ear on the deck, and I think that the generator’s still on. Thump! Thump! When I get up and find that it’s not, I realize that it’s the hull vibrating from the French disco music on the beach, even though we’re 500 yards away. If Salaberry was cooking a few Saturdays ago, this place is on steroids. We notice again that Canadian boaters have a different concept as to what constitutes a close quarters situation. Boats whip by at speed, and so close that you can tell the eye color of its’ passengers. Oh well, what a circus, but all’s well that ends well. At 1630, sharp, the party’s over. Music stops, rafted boats break up, and the crowds on the beach thin out. We had kinda hoped that things would go on a little longer, as it was fun spectating. It’s been windy and sunny all day, so I’m a happy camper. The solar panels and wind generators are “puttin’ money in the bank”-I love not having to run the generator. The wind stays up all night, and the morning dawns gray with high wind warnings issued for the whole day. We have a shot of chain out in 13 feet of water, and we haven’t moved a yard, so we feel comfortable leaving the boat for an explore by tender. As we are unloading “White Star”, I spot 2 trawlers about 2 mile away heading toward us. Suz grabs the binocs. “They look like Krogens” says I, “They are” says she, “48’s”. We fire up the AIS**, and discover that they are “Texas Ranger” and “Spirit Journey”, both owned by folks that we met at the Krogen rendezvous in Solomons last Fall. A quick chat on the VHF confirms that they are heading to the marina in the next bay over. After a 2 hour exploration of the 3 branches of the river in the tender and banging the crap out of the prop (but no need for a sheer pin, Andy), we’re at their boats catching up. Looks like we’ll see them in Quebec City in a few days. Still blowing like stink, and the high wind warnings are on for the next few days, we up anchor the next day, for a short trip to Batiscan River, a quiet anchorage a few miles from the village of Batiscan (pop. 1000). It’s shallow there, so we come in on the low tide-the theory being that if we run aground, the tide will lift us off when it comes in. No worries, we glide in over a shallow depth of 6.3 feet (we draw about 5 and change right now), and anchor in 9 feet. We keep the amount of chain out to a minimum, as the boat reverses direction when the tide moves in and out, and there isn’t a lot of room to swing. Pretty cool spot. Very natural, except for a clearing on the other side of a grove of trees, where there sits a high end trailer-type park. There are some very expensive looking land yachts there, which are obviously weekend getaway spots. Attached is a little marina, which looks like the parking spot for the boats, attached to these R.V.s. We dinghy’d over and walked around. Only a few people at home, I guess most at work in a city somewhere. They had a very nice, brand new restaurant/bar at the place too-unfortunately, closed on Monday. Somebody put a lot of Canadian francs into developing this place-I hope that it works out. By the way, they have an open internet, hence me slaving away over a hot keyboard, waiting for the tide to be right at the Richelieu Rapids. Gotta go soon. Tuna sandwich delivered by the Admiral. It’s still windy, but sunny. Should be a good day to shoot the rapids, and then overnight at Portneuf before Quebec City.
**AIS-automated identification system. It’s basically a transmitter/receiver similar to a transponder on an airplane. It transmits your boats vitals-name, size, speed, course, destination, etc. It receives same info from other boats that are equipped with AIS systems. The gizmo then uses algorithms to compute closest point of approach, time to closest point-basically, probability of collision for the vessels. It displays this info on your electronic chart. Pretty cool, ‘cause it can see “around the corner” and farther than radar in most situations. It is required on commercial vessels, but can be installed on pleasure craft.