The St. Lawrence

It’s been a while since we’ve posted on our progress east. Truth is, since we left Montreal we’ve been moving along at a pretty good clip. Lots of sailing, some long days, and several multi-night passages. When we have stopped for a few days in places like Montreal, Quebec City or Halifax, our days have been busy provisioning, chasing boat parts and other supplies, and most enjoyably spending time with friends and family. Finding time to catch up on the blog has been difficult, and as we look ahead to the next month, we still feel like we have a lot to do and many miles to cover. So as much as I really want to write up the details of some of our adventures along the way this last month, I think I have to accept that’s probably unlikely to happen. Instead, I’m going to try and do some quicker summaries with highlights, so we can get back to blogging about what’s going on where we really are.

Down the St. Lawrence River

After the Thousand Islands we made our way fairly quickly downriver to Montreal. The three days travelling down this stretch of the river was paced by the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the times they had scheduled for pleasure craft. All pretty easy after our experience in the Welland Canal! Short overnight stops at anchor in Crysler Park (made famous by the War of 1812) and Valleyfield brought us to Lac Saint-Louis, where the river widens at Montreal and to the docks of the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club for several nights.

Montreal was a bit of a whirlwind, but a great one, with boat visits and dinners with my cousin and good friends. And as often happens on what we have come to call “marina days”, the days were busy. Provisioning, pump-out, refueling, engine oil change, even some sanding of exterior wood on the boat meant we didn’t get into downtown Montreal this time.

Departing Montreal our weather luck ran out. Colder weather set in with strong north-easterly winds (i.e. from the direction we were headed). We tucked in to the maze of little islands east of the island of Montreal our first night… taking two tries to find a spot that felt safe with the wind and strong currents. The next two days were long slogs. While the river is wide in many parts, it’s actually surprisingly shallow. The Seaway channel is deep enough for the freighters (and for us), but outside that few hundred meters, or less, it’s dangerously shallow. Facing a headwind and a channel too narrow for us to tack back and forth, we motored most of the time, and the going was slow. Pushed by the river’s current against the headwind, the water built up into steep waves, packed close together, and we spent two days bashing into the waves in the rain and fog before arriving in Quebec City. The sun came out for us there, and we had a few days of happy visits with my aunts and uncles, and walking through the old city, topped off with fireworks over the river on our last night.

Into the Gulf

The tricky part of moving east from Quebec City is timing the tides. From Quebec City to the Saguenay, there are few harbours available where you can enter and exit at any time; in many cases the harbours are dredged but not the entrances, so entry isn’t possible at low tide. The other factor is current… go with the ebb and you get a big boost of speed. Fight the flood (especially near Ile aux Coudres), and your progress grinds to a halt! So, all that to say we were up before dawn and out of the harbour in Quebec City in the dark. Heading east we fought against the last bit of flood tide before the ebb set in and carried us quickly from Ile d’Orleans to Cap a l’Aigle. The weather was beautiful and sunny, though there was very little wind. We sat and watched the beautiful mountains of the Charlevoix pass on our left then after arriving hiked up the hill in Cap a l’Aigle to check out the community garden and it’s phenomenal lilacs, and the views across to the southern shore.

The calm, sunny weather persisted as we left the next day, though we did get the sails up as we approached Tadoussac. The big highlight of the day was our first (and many!) sightings of Beluga and Minke whales. But I think that one deserves its own post…

Arriving in Tadoussac we tied up to a mooring in the town harbour. The lovely beach and town stretched out in front of us and the beauty of the Saguenay beckoned.