Ray, my new crew, and I set sail from Portsmouth Olympic Harbour on Sunday afternoon for a short sail into the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River. We had a great sail, with full main and genoa, sometimes wing and wing, other times still running but with both sails to port or starboard. Regardless, we had the wind nearly directly behind us and blowing a steady 15 knots. The bright sun and striking blue sky provided a glorious backdrop for our terrific day. As we wound our way along the Canadian Middle Channel, we were treated to a wonderful panorama of great green flora framing gorgeous homes on the many small rocky islets. This area has been a summer playground for the wealthy families of Ontario, Quebec and New York for a century and a half. Parks Canada has made many of the islands accessible to boaters by building docks, mooring fields, outhouses on a number of the islands they own. For a small fee we picked up a mooring at Endymion Island. We learned about the moorings at Endymion Island from Cedric and Carol, owners of our neighboring boat in Portsmouth Olympic Harbour Marina.
Once we got Kelly settled, we took the dinghy ashore and met the very friendly crews of a sailboat and powerboat. The sailboat, an Endeavour 37, is a big sister to Kelly IV, an Endeavour 32. I didn't recognize her as an Endeavour, but something struck me about her, so I asked the owners what the make of their boat was. The couple were the second owners, buying her about 20 years ago. They keep her in beautiful shape and were tied up at the newest dock on the east end of Endymion Island.
Just south of the Endeavour 37 was a 36 foot trawler owned by young pilot living in Toronto. He and three friends invited us to sit and chat so we swilled free drinks and talked about sailing. When he was graduated high school the pilot crewed on a tall ship sailing thousands of miles in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He still plans to sail his own boat around the world on a sailboat of his own. He currently owns the trawler as his live-aboard home. The other gentleman on board captains and teaches sailing on boats in the Caribbean, so I was eager to hear about his experiences in hopes of doing that myself someday, maybe sooner than later!
Ray and I planned a short trip to Brockville for our next stop, so we only had to leave early enough to beat the rain forecasted for Monday afternoon. Although the breeze continued from the west and southwest, it was much too light to sail the boat, so we motored the entire way. In fact, we would not have sailed much of the trip anyway, as we were winding through some very tricky narrows, eddying currents and wave-washed rocky islets, many topped with beautiful homes, including the Singer Castle, built a hundred years ago by the family of sewing machine fame. In the tightest, most narrow fjord of only 140 feet wide, we passed a large tourist boat coming towards us. Our combined beams were over 50 feet so there didn't seem to be much water left between us as we passed each other, port to port.
After leaving the small town of Rockport, Ontario along our port side, we joined the main channel, so we began seeing the large commercial vessels the St. Lawrence Seaway is known for. As we approached Jorstadt Island, home of the Singer Castle, we passed a very large upbound (we are headed “downbound”) commercial tug which beat us with a 3 feet tall wake that washed green water over Kelly's bow. Of course she can handle it, but I always hope there is some way the large power vessels can pass us without creating a large, disruptive wake.
A couple of smaller tugs headed upbound also waked us, but their wakes were much smaller and no real bother. We continued into the Brockville Narrows which accurately describes the three and a half mile channel where the 1000 feet long behemoth freighters have to fit themselves into a channel only 400 feet wide. Thankfully, none came through while we were piloting the channel, so we merely ogled the small beautiful islands that lined the channel and were scattered across the expanse of the river.
Just as we pulled into our slip along the seawall in Brockville, the rain caught us and drenched us in bucket after bucket of soaking cold. Of course, we only needed to step below into our snug cabin and we were dry and comfortable. We were quite thankful we didn't have to deal with the rain out in the current and river traffic.
While drying out in Kelly's cabin, we listened to the forecast to learn that Tuesday would bring us a northeast wind of 15 to 20 knots. Since we were heading northeast and the river flows the same direction, we knew we'd face the strong breeze along with the waves created by the current challenging the wind. Since we are focused on making progress yet avoiding the rougher conditions, we decided to stay put in Brockville on Tuesday.
We actually got a few projects completed, including the addition of a 50 feet long rope section between two lengths of chain on the anchor rode. This gives the anchor better holding, but without requiring us to lift too much weight off the bottom. In addition, Ray suggested an improvement for stowing our two main anchors. Since we only expect to use the CQR on rare occasion, we moved it to a space forward of and at the base of the mast and tied it down securely. Then we moved the primary anchor, our new Guardian, to the anchor roller. It makes for a neater foredeck and easier launching and retrieval of the primary anchor. While we were at it . . . (famous last words) . . . we also redrilled, rebedded and rebolted the port chock and anchor brackets so the anchor wouldn't come loose even when clobbered with big waves. Of course, this requires that someone scrunch their right arm and their forehead and eyes into the small space at the forward end of the v-berth so they can see and work the nuts and washers on/off the appropriate bolts. Sean knows what I'm talking about, as he did a similar job in the same space a couple years ago. Tuesday was our day to tighten the other bolts that finally worked their way loose.
On Wednesday, we found the weather to be beautiful, if calm. We motored the entire day and saw two larger freighters in our first stretch of the day. Fortunately, this was in a wider spot in the river, just south of the Prescott-Ogdensburg Bridge. The first freighter was upbound and pushing a large bow wave, but his wake rocked us very gently and minimally. The second freighter was downbound and although catching us, it seemed he would not reach us until we were both under the same small space under the bridge. To avoid squeezing into the bridge with the fast moving freighter, we decided to turn 180*, motoring southwest in the wider part of the river for a few minutes until the freighter was past us. Then we turned back to the northeast and followed him under the bridge.
He led us all the way to our first lock since clearing the Welland Canal from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.. The Iroquois Lock is the first of seven we'll encounter as we transit the St. Lawrence River. Since this first lock is merely to check the current of the river, we only dropped about a foot and were on our way. We shared the lock with a couple moving their boat to its home mooring further downstream. It turns out that they bought their boat in Vermilion, Ohio, the same town where we bought Kelly IV. Small world.
From the Iroquois Lock, we continued downstream following the main shipping channel. While we did keep an eye on the chartplotter and radar, that was mostly for practice. Our primary means of piloting was to follow from one bouy to the next, using the binoculars to confirm that we were in fact at a given bouy. Since each is numbered, it is easy to compare the number on the bouy with the same detail on the chart, confirming our location.
Upon reaching bouy number “51” we turned north into a series of islands behind the dams that serve the American Locks, that we were to transit the next day. Our first choice for an anchorage was a deep indentation to the north between two islets, but we discovered that the depth was much deeper than the charts indicated, almost 40 feet, which was more than we wanted to deal with. It would have required a very long anchor rode (line) and there was another very good anchorage only 8/10ths of a mile due south. In fact, the anchorage was at the same GPS waypoint that Bluejacket shared on the internet about their same trip in 2008.
The next morning we set off for the Eisenhower and Snell locks as they were less than 4 miles away. We locked through both locks behind a Catalina 30 that showed its home port as Saguenay. Since we expect to visit the fjord at Saguenay in a couple weeks, I was very curious about them. But except for a few friendly waves, we didn't get to talk with them. They motored ahead when we left the Snell lock and within an hour they were out of sight.
We continued across Lac St. Francois, the lake created for the St. Lawrence Seaway to serve the last four locks before reaching Montreal. At the northeast corner of Lac St. Francois we tied up in the small park in the town of Coteau, our first stop in French speaking Quebec. When we tied up on the seawall, a friendly gent who was camping in one of the nearby trailers, stopped by to chat. Although English wasn't his primary language, he was very good and even helped us communicate with the park official who stopped by in his golf cart to collect the fee for our stay in their park.
We had a nice little walk to the main road and visited a couple shops looking for a few odds and ends, but mostly we were just interested in walking around and chatting with a few locals. Fortunately their English was better than our French. Ray had claimed no knowledge of French, but his pidgin French is really pretty good, so we get along pretty well.
Our first “adventure” or challenge of the trip came overnight in the wee hours when the wind picked up and began pushing Kelly IV against the seawall. Of course, we had our fenders out and there wasn't any danger of damaging the boat, but we had rigged our fender boards to reduce the chafe and possible early demise of the fenders. Ray had noticed that the lines holding the fender boards in place were chafing against the wall, so we promised ourselves to fix them so they wouldn't chafe when we returned from our walk. Of course I forgot all about them until we were long asleep and I woke up hearing the sounds of a board splashing in the water. Yes, it was the first fender board to chafe it's line and it was no longer protecting the fenders or Kelly. I pulled out some tools, pulled myself and the fender boards onto the seawall and created 4 loops made from steel cable. I then tied the fender board lines to the cable loops and returned the fender boards to the proper place and function. Once done, I crawled back into my sleeping bag and slept comfortably the rest of the night.
The trip into Montreal proved to be the longest day on the water so far this trip, except for the overnight from Erie. The mileage was actually quite typical of our daily trips, about 48 nautical miles. The longer day was due to several delays at lift bridges and locks. We had two lift bridges and we arrived at the first within a half hour after we departed the Coteau seawall. We radioed the Valleyfield Bridge over four different channels, then called the Canada Coast Guard to get specific instructions on how to reach the bridge tender. It turned out that we had already done what was suggested by the CG, but we repeated the efforts another couple times. In the meantime, we were dealing with a 2 knot current that was trying to push Kelly IV under the bridge deck which was almost high enough to scrape her mast off the cabin top. Our solution was to motor in continuing ovals with the long part of the oval being our motoring up current then being swept down current when we turned back towards the bridge. Finally after about 40 minutes, the bridge tender called us on the first channel we had tried (VHF 68) to let us know he would raise the bridge in about five minutes. We certainly understand that the bridge tender has a responsibility to road traffic as well as us, but it would also be nice if they would just take a moment to let us know they are aware we are there. We never knew if they were aware of us until their call just five minutes before we went through.
When safely under the lift bridge, we were following the Beauharnois Canal which ends with 2 locks. Once again we shared these locks with our friends from Saguenay, but this time the lock tender had us raft up to the Catalina. In other words, the Catalina held the lines holding us onto the lack walls, while we held lines that tied us to the Catalina. Then both boats were lowered together as the lock was drained. And that made it easy to talk with them and learn about their adventures.
Helene and Rejean of “L'interrompue”, their Catalina 30, have their home in Baie Ha! Ha! on the Saguenay Fjord and were returning from a year away in the Bahamas. Exactly the same trip I am taking! They were on their last few miles while I am just embarking on my first few miles. While waiting for one of the locks to take us, Rejean wrote down a number of GPS waypoints for us. They were anchorages, marinas and a mooring field we could use while we are in Saguenay. They proved to be very friendly and helpful as we rafted to them through all four locks of the day. French was their primary language but they were also very good with their English and they helped in the locks by translating for us with the lock tenders.
Also while enroute through the day, I called Ron of the Beneteau 28, “Old Hand”, out of Grimsby, Ontario. We had met at the Toronto Boat Show as we were both going to sail down the St. Lawrence. His trip had him leaving in May, a few weeks before me, so we kept in touch as he was progressing along the river. While in Toronto, I heard from him that he had completed his sail through Saguenay and he was ready to return home so was now headed back upstream. Ron and I had hopes of running into each other, so we had kept in touch. I called him while Ray had the helm and discovered that Ron was staying in the same marina that Ray and I were planning to visit for the night.
Upon clearing the last lock, we turned the corner and pulled into the Longueuil Marina for the night. It was very easy to do as Ron has secured a slip for us and we just followed his directions to find him waiting for us. Once we were all settled, we spent an hour or two catching up with Ron and discovering the details of his experience and his suggestions for our travel going downstream on the St. Lawrence, especially as we would soon face the tides and related currents a couple days after leaving Montreal.
In the morning, we topped off our fuel and headed to Sorel, Quebec another 40 miles downstream. Except for passing a few freighters and a brief rain shower, it was another uneventful day in cruising paradise! :-) Well, we did have a little excitement as I struggled a bit when we pulled into our slip in Sorel. The winds had finally picked up to about 18 knots and were trying to blow Kelly away from the finger pier I was assigned for the night. After bumping the bow we got her into the slip and all is well., except for my pride.
Tomorrow we head for Trois Rivieres, only a few days from Quebec City. So far we are 593 nautical miles into our adventure.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 October 2011 23:57 )