Down the St. Lawrence and up the Saguenay Rivers

Over the past  ten days we have had the opportunity to see and experience some of the great variety that Quebec has to offer, provided from the vantage point of two very different rivers. The mighty St. Lawrence, with its broad and often pastoral views, is perhaps known to many, however the Saguenay, which is deep and fiord-like, we expect is much less familiar. The pictures in this post are from the St. Lawrence only; the pictures from the Saguenay will follow in the next instalment.

Our stops along the way – Sorel, Trois Rivieres, Portneuf, Quebec City, Cap-a-l’Aigle, Grandes Bergeronnes, and tonight, Anse-Saint-Jean – range from large cities to regional centres to very small and out of the way villages. Perhaps because we are cruising on the other side of our county, our boat and port of origin have raised as much curiosity here as anywhere. Despite our poor French language skills (the English we encounter is always better than our French) we are usually able to explain that we haven’t cruised the vessel all the way from B.C. via the Panama Canal, only from Florida. And as has been our experience when travelling in Quebec in the past, everyone has been most friendly and helpful (offers to drive us to the store, or even lend us the car, are typical).

A particular highlight of this part of the trip is that we are travelling through the Saguenay – Saint Lawrence Marine Park, renowned for its biodiversity, particularly the opportunity to observe a wide variety of whales (belugas, minkes, humpbacks, fins and blues) in their natural habitat. We have had both distant and some close up views of belugas, minkes and fins, and hope we`ll be rewarded again before we leave the area.

Our berth at Sorel, which was very shallow and had a tricky entrance…..


…..which we learned the next day had created serious weed build-up around the props and therefore much vibration; this is the Captain performing anti-fouling duties.


Sharing the river with large ships was common as there is much commercial traffic; fortunately there is usually lots of room to move over.


Pont Laviolette at Trois Rivieres.


River scene upriver from Pontneuf.


The Pontneuf breakwater, which extends well into the river from the shore; the marina – and an excellent restaurant – is located at the end.


As with New York, it was exciting to approach Quebec City from the water for the first time.


Our view of Quebec City from the Port of Quebec marina; interestingly, due to the large tidal range, the marina basin is accessed via a lock.


A view of Chute Montmorency, just east of Quebec City, through the Ile d`Orleans Bridge.


After transiting Ile d`Òrleans passage, it`s one cape after another on the way to Cap-a-l`Àigle, the next suitable harbour on the north shore and a distance of 80 miles from Quebec City; note the current at the buoy – we were getting an additional 4-5 mph (more than 20 in total) thanks to the strong ebb current.


A view of the the St. Lawrence north shore and the Cap-a-l`Àigle harbour of refuge (as they call them here).


Lighthouse at Pointe des Rochers, where we encountered…..


…..our first whales, a large group of belugas…..


…..who turned out to be very curious about His Idea; a few came very close to the boat, which was a real thrill.


We think this fellow came up to see the name of our hailing port on the stern!


Entrance to Club nautique de Bergerrones, our farthest point east for our Great Loop trip – 48*13.20’N/69*33.29’W; we were the only visiting boat due to high winds that arrived just as we did; it turned out to be a great place to hole up in – Merci beaucoup to Guy!

Saguenay River pictures to follow…..


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Happy to be Back in Canada, Eh!

Words from the Admiral

After cruising for more than two and a half months, we felt it was time the Admiral gave a personal perspective on what life is like aboard His Idea.

Overall I’ve found the nautical lifestyle to be enjoyable and enriching. The constantly changing land and sea vistas, often set against impressive skies, is a big reward for me.  Using photography to record the varied marine environments and unique cityscapes is also very enjoyable.  Another reward has come from the many people we’ve met – all have been friendly and helpful, and many are curious about our boat and our adventure. The opportunity to cycle in all kinds of interesting places is terrific! I’m still missing family and friends, however I’m thankful we have the internet and phone to stay in touch. There’s always much to see and do and I’ve yet to be bored. 

On a more practical level, daily domestic life continues.  Here are some observations on this aspect of living aboard:

–         There are daily creative challenges working in the galley and cooking “one pot wonders” and “skillet sensations”. We use our propane stove and barbecue, and sometimes the microwave as electrical power permits.

–         Our eating habits have become healthier because we are limited by what we can carry (short trips) or load on our bikes (longer trips), and we choose our foods carefully. On the few occasions when we rented a car it was to load up with bottled water and juices, bulky paper products, and groceries, not just to sight see. 

–         One unexpected aspect was that recycling turned out to be rare in the U.S.  I will never forget the look on the clerk’s face in Florida when I asked about returning a case of empty beer bottles.  “I’m sorry ma’am, did you say that where you’re from, I would take these empty bottles from you, and give you money?!”

–         Monitoring where things may have moved while underway on any boat is constant and we are now better at predicting what items need to be secured inside so as not to break or be blown away.  Of course there is still a surprise element as to what one can unexpectedly lose!

–         This vessel is more physically demanding as it is heavier with more mass, which means larger bumpers and deeper storage lockers.

–         As we are outdoors on the bridge every day with constant wind and walking up and down between levels (there are five on His Idea) we experience more muscle fatigue. We’re frequently tired by the time the sun goes down. (But then again, we are getting old!).

–         We spend “free time” and evenings planning our routes and destinations, reading about the area we are visiting or taking in the local sights.

–         Although we have two TV’s on board we have yet to watch anything other than a few DVD’s. No more vegging in front of the screen.

–         We have chore days where we combine laundry events with vacuuming and dusting, just like home. While the vessel is not large it still generates a lot of dust, plus a constant debris field of bugs to contend with, both inside and out (we’re adjusting to the wide variety of bugs there are in the world, and have gained a new respect for entomologists).

Words from the Captain

Because we’ve now entered Canada and are roughly halfway through this year’s trip, I thought it timely to provide a statistical update:

  • Statute miles travelled (Stuart, FL to Canadian border) – 1843
  • Hours of motoring – 195
  • Fuel used (not including generator) – 2469 litres (543 imperial gallons)
  • Average MPG – 3.4
  • Average fuel cost – $1.06/litre
  • And for Ted, average nightly moorage cost – $30.24

The following pictures cover the portion of our trip from the northern end of Lake Champlain along the Richelieu River, which includes the Chambly Canal and the St. Ours lock, to Sorel, Quebec.

Our final picture from Lake Champlain, from our anchorage at Deep Bay, near Plattsburg, New York.


Oops, we left something behind! John on a mission (in blustery winds) to recover one of our big bumpers that got away while we focussed on clearing customs.


Once part of the major industrial highway linking Canada with markets in the U.S., the Chambly Canal is now used only by pleasure boats.


The canal travels through rural and residential settings – in Quebec, many of the homes we saw were still quite modest, unlike much of the waterfront property we’ve seen so far.


The Chambly Canal is the responsibility of Parks Canada, and all but one of the canal locks are still operated by hand.


Sharing with a de-masted sailboat the final three successive locks into Chambly basin – between the two of us, it was a tight squeeze!


Chambly Basin, with Fort Chambly in the background – this is one of a number of 18th century forts built by the French along the Richelieu/Champlain corridor.


A common site along the Richelieu River – this being Sunday, traditional services were in full swing….


….as were more modern weekend pursuits (note: French Canadian boaters love to zoom by at very close proximity – sometimes it felt like we were being swarmed by bees).


Speaking of swarms, there were scads of people watching the show from above as we locked through the St. Ours lock, our last on this river – we had lots of interest in that funny looking boat all the way from Vancouver.


Sunset over Fleuve Saint-Laurent, our destination at the end of a busy but very enjoyable Canada Day.

On the horizon – Quebec City and the Saguenay fiord.

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New York, New York (Revisited)

Due to maintenance on the server which hosts our blog, the June 17th version of “New York, New York” was unexpectedly lost a few days after it was posted. To maintain a complete record we are reposting the photos (without the commentary).

A view of the the Fifth Avenue skyline from across the Central Park Reservoir.


The historic Shubert Theatre, where we enjoyed the musical “Memphis”, is in the heart of the Broadway theatre district.


Competition for the Shubert Theatre, just across the street.


Times Square, which is just around the corner, always seemed to be filled with people.


Despite what you might expect, cycling around Manhattan is not that difficult as there are many dedicated bike lanes, including an extensive and scenic route along the Hudson and East rivers.


Views included an Occupy Wall Street protest ship, complete with drummers.


At the top (almost) of the Empire State Building – the spire of the Chrysler Building, another art deco icon form the 1930’s, can been seen in the background.


Rooftop dining in the shadow of the Empire State Building.


This is an interior view of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim Museum – for us, New York’s wide variety of architecture (both new and old) was one of this city’s most interesting features.

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Up the Hudson River to Scenic Lake Champlain

With the ICW and New York City behind us our cruising surroundings have changed significantly. Most of the ICW was set in the lowlands and marshes of the east coast, but as we headed up the Hudson River the hills and eventually the mountains of upstate New York (the Adirondacks) and Vermont (the Green Mountains) have become the background for what we see.

The Hudson is a fairly wide and powerful river for much of its length (about 140 miles) and is navigable by large ships all the way to Albany, New York. A little further along, at Troy, we encountered our first of 23 locks for this section of our trip, which will end at Sorel, Quebec on the St. Lawrence River. Managing our way through the locks of the Champlain Canal was uneventful and enjoyable, although as you will see, one of the bridges was another story.

We arrived at Whitehall, New York, the final lock of the Champlain Canal and the start of Lake Champlain, on June 15th. Since that time we have gradually travelled up the lake, moving back and forth between the states of Vermont and New York, enjoying its beauty and a variety of surroundings along the way. An added bonus is the interesting history of this route, which has French, British and American  aspects , including significant conflicts such as the War of Independance and the War of 1812, that shaped both the U.S. and Canadian nations.

Cruising the lake has some similarities to cruising the coast of British Columbia – rocky cliffs and headlands, an abundance of green everywhere, and interesting small towns to visit. There are plenty of boats on the lake, many of them visiting from Quebec, which is less than 100 miles away.

With the very hot weather we’ve had (over 95 degrees a fe days ago), the opportunity to swim in fresh water has been a  relief. The lake temperature is about 60 degrees, and probably a bit warmer in the protected coves where we’ve anchored, so it’s very comfortable and refreshing.  We hope to have more swimming chances before we reach the Richelieu River and the Canadian border sometime later this week.


Looking back towards Manhattan as we depart New York City.


The West Point Military Academy, first fortified in 1779, dominates this section of the Hudson River.


We saw an interesting selection of historic lighthouses along the river – this one is at the entrance to Roundout Creek, Kingston, New York.


Albany, the state capital of New York, and still an important port city.


Waterford, New York, the start of both the Champlain (heading north) and Erie (heading east) Canals – this view looks back towards the Hudson from the first Erie locks.


Getting ready to enter the first lock of the Champlain Canal.


Some of the locks are quite deep, the largest vertical rise being almost 20 feet.


The railway bridge at Lock 4 – with mast down we need about 16’6″ clearance, but the minimum had been set at 15’6″ – we waited while the lockmaster asked the local power company to lower the pool for us…..


…….and we made it with only inches to spare (the light area in the picture is our canvas bimini top). Whew!


Terminus of the Champlain Canal in Whitehall, New York – one of many ‘rust belt’ towns that prospered during the heyday of this historic 19th century marine highway.


The town of Vergennes, Vermont, our first stop on Lake Champlain after a winding seven mile sojurn up Otter Creek – but definitely worth it.


A Fathers’ Day bike ride respite – relaxing in a roadside Adirondack chair.


Even though the War of 1812 is over, some folks still aren’t taking any chances with those pesky Canadians.


Sunset view from our Kingsland Bay anchorage after a very hot day with lots of cool swims.


Thanks Dave for helping us find our way to the end of the trail – it was a great ride!


“Come on in Admiral, the water’s great!


It’s difficult to capture the scenic beauty and diversity of the lake in a few photographs, but this vista is a favourite – it reminded John of the Deep Cove view of Sannich Inlet and the Malahat.

Coming up next – La Belle Province!

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Completing the ICW; New York City Beckons

After the relatively long trip down Delaware Bay we decided to spend some time in Cape May, New Jersey, a place we new little about until our arrival. We’re glad we did, as there was much to see and do there – long beaches (and this was to be our last chance to walk the beach for some time), an iconic and interesting lighthouse, a lively beach strip, and a huge variety of restored (and some not-so-restored) houses from the Victorian era. It also turned out to be a great place to ride our bikes.

After Cape May came Atlantic City. the east coast’s Las Vegas. Quite a contrast! Although we originally had planned to anchor out and not visit the city, the day we arrived was a blustery one, so we decided to take a berth at the marina which was part of the Golden Nugget Casino (this was formerly one of Trump’s casinos – I guess it got fired).

So far this has been our most expensive place to stay –  just over $100 for the night and well beyond our usual digs – however the unique views helped to make up for it. We made a bus trip into town the following day to go to the post office, which gave us a broader view of the place. To these casual Canadian observers, Atlantic  City is a study in contrast itself – many new, glittery casinos set against a rather dowdy background, and an overall feeling that the city has yet to reclaim its past glory.

Some parts of the New Jersey ICW are very challenging to navigate, with a maximum recommended draft for transit of 4.5 feet and unpredictable shoaling in some spots. Although we had a couple of close encounters with the bottom along this stretch, slow cruising speeds and a high level of concentration kept us out of trouble.

The ICW ends at Manasquan Inlet, where it is necessary to travel ‘offshore’ for 30 miles or so before reaching the Hudson River. Needless to say it can be a difficult passage if the weather and tides are not co-operating, but we monitored both closely and chose a day that turned out to be just about perfect. In addition to providing safety and comfort, this allowed the crew to full enjoy one of the expected highlights of our trip, the approach and entrance to New York harbour. It did not disappoint.

Walking the beach at Cape May.


A resident of the beaches of Cape May - a very pre-historic looking horseshoe crab.


Cape May lighthouse, built in 1859 - the view from the top was worth the climb......


......and here it is.


One of Cape May's 'Old Painted Ladies'.


The high rent/high roller marina at Atlantic City.


Atlantic City Boardwalk on a Monday morning.


After Atlantic City, our quiet anchorage at The Glimmer Glass, end of the ICW.


Heading out to the Atlantic - "Yes Admiral, it looks quite calm".


Approaching New York - Manhattan skyline in the distance.


View of Coney Island beach and strip from the water.


Manhattan, the Battery and Governors Island from the Hudson River.


Statue of Liberty (undergoing restoration).


Manhattan shoreline as we cruised up the Hudson River.


His Idea berthed at 79th St. Boat Basin in Manhattan.

More New York City to come…..


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