Saturday, August 18, 2018

Time With a Special Guest on Board

We had company coming for a 4 night stay on Wednesday, 8/8 so on Tuesday we enjoyed our quiet anchorage at Contrecour for part of the morning and then pulled the anchor to head to a marina on the Richelieu where we planned to meet up with Al’s sister, Joanie.  We felt lucky that the anchor weeds from the day before did not collect again so no “tree” came up with the anchor.  But the windlass groaned with the weight of the anchor because it was caked with thick, sticky clay that reminded me of baby poop back when we had diaper duty (nothing a copious amount of water couldn’t handle!)


Back on the St. Lawrence, we had plenty of commercial ships around.  This big boy passed us in a narrow channel so you might notice the green buoy to its starboard which means we were outside the channel to give him plenty of room.  


As we approached the Richelieu, we found ships going both directions and some on anchor waiting for their turn to unload.  We had a 25 mile journey, 8 of which, were on the Richelieu.  


A turn to starboard put us into the mouth of the Richelieu at the town of Sorel-Tracy which is an industrial area.  


And here we sat for 2 nights in the Bellerive Camping Marina which is what it sounds like, a big, fancy campground with a marina which has a nice spacious parking lot so Joanie’s car could sit safely for the 4 nights she stayed on board. InSpeyered 2 was shamefully filthy inside and out so we spent Tuesday afternoon and most of Wednesday giving her a proper scrub.  Al took the outside and I did the inside.  It was great fun when Joanie arrived as planned on Wednesday afternoon after she spent extra time passing through customs. She had agreed to do us a big favor by transporting several Amazon orders and 5 new, replacement Kidde fire extinguishers.  That took some explaining to the customs guy so as to avoid paying tariffs!  And she also brought us more than 2 lbs of fresh, picked, Maine lobster for our combined birthday dinner.  (Her b’day is in June and we have July b’days). 
 BTW, the artsy photo above of InSpeyered 2, framed by the dock door was taken by the talented photographer, Joanie Speyer!


We had this much succulent lobster left for a second dinner and a few lobster roll lunches, yum!! 


Look, we have a new lamp to replace the nasty old tarnished one that came with the boat.  The one we have spent hours trying to shine with no success.  Joanie brought this as a special gift as it had been a gift to her late husband, TR and hung on his wooden sailboat for years.  So now this lamp has a new home on InSpeyered 2 and will serve us in honor of TR and his love of boats and sailing.  
Joanie had not cruised with us on this boat before so we chose to go up the more scenic Richelieu before going back out onto the St. Lawrence.  


After a slow morning on Thursday, we went a whopping 5 miles south to the first lock and chose to tie up to the floating dock on the wall rather than locking through.   As luck would have it, it began to sprinkle just as we untied from the marina and we traveled through a heavy downpour most of the way! It cleared for us in time to tie to the pleasant St. Ours lock dock and take a nice stroll around the lock and dam.  Joanie enjoyed taking pictures of boats locking through as the afternoon progressed.  The rain cooled the air so the evening was lovely for drinks on the flybridge and we all slept well with windows wide open and even used a blanket!


We had just enough cloud cover to create another delightful sunset.


Friday 8/10 we woke to a cool, blue sky day.  Our plan was to head to an anchorage so we all took walks to get the daily exercise.  Al and Joanie walked a bit less than me so they had a few spare minutes to enjoy the red chairs that they both admired! (It’s a family thing to like red things!!). We untied lines and the Captain did a 180 turn to face us back down the river and on we cruised 27 miles  which included 12 miles of the Richelieu and into the St. Lawrence. 


Joanie got some driving lessons using Mr. Auto and the remote while we were still on the quiet Richelieu.  Her decision was to give the helm back to her brother and enjoy her hobby of picture taking.  Our chosen anchorage was in the archipelago of Lake St Pierre which was comprised of many islands of marshland with trees and a smattering of fishing cottages accessible only by water.  We anchored in the Chanel Isles aux Sables. 


As the light dimmed, this was the view from the bow and later as the sun set we had a soft sunset off the stern.  


Off in the distance is the St. Lawrence shipping channel where we saw many commercial ships plodding along their 24/7 route until they reach their unloading destination.  This was a peaceful anchorage but lacked the expected bird watching opportunity.  It was another cool night for comfortable sleeping with blanket coverage!  


Joanie only had planned for the 4 night stay and had a 6 hour drive to and from home.  So we decided to up anchor on Saturday to return to the St. Ours Lock wall to be close to the marina for a Sunday drop off by noon so Joanie could drive home before dark.  Joanie hung out on the bow to see how the anchor pulling process was managed and brought some good luck as the chain and anchor came up clean for a change!  Saturday’s cruise was breezy and the cloud cover made for a cool ride back the way we came.  


Being a weekend day, we saw lots of boat traffic from small to very large! 


Joanie took this well framed shot as we entered back into the Richelieu with Sorel on our starboard and Tracy to Port. 
We returned to the lock wall by mid afternoon and enjoyed watching the copious amount of boats locking through.  After our cool, comfortable cruise, it was unexpected to find the breeze and cloud cover had disappeared so it was a hot afternoon.  The daily walk still took place but was a bit less pleasant.  And the flies drove us nuts so a few saw the end to their short lives!  I got the prize for killing 2 in the galley with one whack of the swatter!


Joanie and I walked the same country road and we both passed this barn and all I saw was a building falling apart and a mess of weeds and through her camera lens this is what Joanie saw!  The true eye of a photographer at work!   So after one more pleasant night together, we untied on Sunday and pulled into the fuel dock of the Bellerive Marina.  Not thinking about it being a Sunday, we were taken aback at how busy the fuel dock was.  So unloading Joanie’s things and the old fire extinguishers (that needed to be returned to Kidde), getting everything up the steep ramp to the parking lot, saying good bye and taking on 300 liters of diesel was a very hectic and hot ordeal!!   Al and I voted to head back into Lake St Pierre and find that quiet anchorage.


We chose one just one channel over from the previous one and joined a string of 5 boats “shoulder to shoulder “.  But then more boats came in and they gradually turned into a large group of very noisy, Sunday boaters enjoying the beautiful day with loud music and lots of laughter.  Nice for them but a big bummer for us!  All day we hoped they would only be “weekenders” and by 6pm our wish came true as they peeled off, one by one, and hollered to us “you have a beautiful boat” mostly in French!! 


So by 6:30pm, this was the view from the stern; ah peace at last!! 


A beautiful sunset after drinks on the flybridge never gets old! 
We indulged in a 2 night stay and enjoyed a very quiet Monday doing some reading, some cruise planning and a few chores.  The swim platform even got another coat of teak oil.  We barely even heard a bird chip! 


Watching ships pass out in the St. Lawrence shipping channel added entertainment to our day. 


And once more, we enjoyed watching the sun set peacefully into the glassy water. 
Tuesday 8/14 we began our 2 day cruise to Quebec City.  Up until now, we’ve had no tides to monitor and currents that only pushed us along.  But there is up to a 15’ tide change in Quebec City, so as we cruised further down river and passed Trois-Riviers we started to experience currents that were related to the St. Lawrence River flowing steadily to the sea and the ocean waters pushing up the river as the tide raised.  We had both a marina reservation for Portneuf and had picked out a closer stopping point if needed at an anchorage.  But we timed our cruise just right and had current pushing us along until we reached a speed of 16 mph (our norm is around 9mph) so we made the 71 miles to Portneuf in only 6 1/2 hours!  A record for us!  The day was cool and over cast until we pulled into the protected basin of the marina. 


The wall of rocks was nice to block wave action but it also eliminated all the breeze and focused the sun down on us which made for a very hot afternoon in Portneuf!  The tide change here is 12’ and we got there as the tide was lowering.  Just before this marina is an area referred to as the Richelieu Rapids so with the natural St Lawrence current and the tidal current flowing out to sea, we had a fast and squirrelly ride through the rapids.  Mr. Auto did a wonderful job and Al kept us steady, but my stomach was a bit queasy!  We had poor electric from the marina so laundry was done on shore and not a fun experience hauling it from and to the boat with the hot humidity.  But it did get done, along with a walk to town to explore and exercise.  Some fresh local strawberries and tomatoes made the walk worth it.  And we indulged in a delicious dinner at the restaurant above the marina, La Perle du St-Laurent, a 4 star eatery. On Wednesday 8/15 we will have a relatively short 38 miles to get to Quebec City.  We’re looking forward to that part of the trip because Erik is flying into Quebec City on Saturday 8/18.









Thursday, August 9, 2018

Montreal, the City of Food!

It seems that Montreal has more restaurants than local people and they are packed day and night with international tourists!  What a busy and vibrant city.  Who knew that Montreal was an island?  We arrived on Tuesday 7/31 after going through the commercial locks so our 37 mile cruising day took 6 hours.  Based on what others have reported, we had a fairly efficient locking day.  The cruising on the St. Lawrence was uneventful and took us into one of the widest parts where it spans 3 miles of width.    After getting properly tied to the dock, we set out to wander the Old Port City.  I was in search of Creperie Chez Suzette after doing some google and TripAdvisor recon to find the best restaurant for crepes.  That would be the breakfast spot for the next day!  Tired from locks, cruising and currents, we ate on the boat and just relaxed on the flybridge to watch other boats go by.  Plus there was plenty of music wafting from nearby restaurants and the Quay (pier) next to our marina to keep us entertained.


As the sun set behind the city, the lights brightened the sky.  Our marina was right in the heart of the Old Port City.  Wednesday morning was another adventure in French cuisine! 


I had crepes with ham, Brie cheese and carmelized onions, topped with real maple syrup!  I got through about a 1/3 of it and had to stop because it was so rich.  Al had crepes with eggs and bacon that was not quite so rich.  We worked off our meal with some more wandering around the old buildings in the Port and passed the Notre Dame Basilica which stands behind the Maisonneuve Monument to honor Montreal’s founding father.  



Note the overcast sky which kept the heat away thankfully!  The afternoon was a mix of time on the boat to write the previous blog post for me and more reading about upcoming cruising waterways for Al.  Then we ventured out to find the IGA and got some exercise plowing through throngs of tourists.
We had a need for pickles and fruit which called for the walk to the grocery! We ate on the boat again and waited for the Italian entry for the International Fireworks Competition of Quebec.  This is a competition between countries that occurs most Saturday and Wednesday nights in July and early August.  We were glad to make it to Montreal for the second to last fireworks display.


But we were disappointed that, despite what others told us, the viewing from our flybridge was not very good and we watched all of the explosions of lights through the lit carousel.  


The fireworks never got above the giant carousel and we also couldn’t hear the music that accompanied the display.  Lesson learned, we should have not been lazy, as we could have walked to a much better viewing area nearby.  


Thurday morning was a slow one for us.  We got our daily walk by walking along all the piers which weren’t as crowded as the city streets and gave us nice views of boats while benefiting from the breeze off the river.  Another view of our marina with a Ft. Lauderdale mega yacht on the far wall.  InSpeyered 2 is no longer the prettiest boat in the marina as we are competing with 3 mega yachts. I scheduled myself for a tour of the Notre Dame Basilica which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Al opted out. 


This is as lovely as any grand basilica in Italy or France.   


And unbeknownst to me ahead of time, there was a free concert performed on the grand organ just as the tour was ended.  Part of the tour was going up to the choir loft and seeing all the pipes of the immense organ.  Sitting in the pews of this ornate sanctuary with the massive sound of the organ was quite amazing.  Even though the sound was loud, it was soothing and clear.  Al missed out!  He spent his time napping and scoping out the best Mexican restaurant in Montreal.  He picked La Capital Tacos which of all places, was located in China town.  The tacos were edible but Mexican in China town, in French Montreal, Quebec, Really?! Might be the Captain’s last time for picking restaurants!
 So the next day’s adventure was my pick and we trekked about 3 miles to find the Atwater Market. 
   

The market was partly outdoors and partly indoors and had everything to offer from cheeses and meats to fresh produce galore!  It was actually beautiful to see all the colors.  Neither of us thought to take pictures so here is what we bought and brought back to the boat.  Plus we had a nice lunch there. 
Those strawberries were local and absolutely delicious.  The pastries were not as good as what we  had in Westport so the quest for flaky pastry is still on!  We had the return trip that we originally thought would be done by bus but Al got a burst of energy and so we walked.  But we were both exhausted by the time we made it back with our purchases.  (Not everything made it into the picture so our bags were a bit heavy!) Al found the energy to head back out one more time to buy take out poutine and smoked meat after carefully researching where to find the best and once more he was snookered and the place he picked was virtually empty, likely because there was a better choice somewhere!  But he ordered his food that is one of the things Montreal is known for and was disappointed in his greasy meal.  But really, French fries with cheese curds, covered in gravy with smoked brisket in a box, doesn’t sound even edible to me!! Maybe I’ve helped to change his palette! 
We did have a delightful petite dejeuner on Saturday morning of fresh berries, nice Greek yogurt and our pastries, soo french and soo fresh!  The clouds moved in and it lightly rained as we walked the quays which was fine by us!  When we got back to the boat, the rain picked up and it was stay put time.  So Al got to work and did engine room maintenance.  When the rain let up, I trekked out with the mission to find take out dinner for the night.  



I started in China town, thinking I would find delicious Chinese food.  There probably was some there but it was difficult to read menus in french and I was turned off by the tiny, not so pristine places.  It was fun to watch noodles being made!   Plus China town was full of young people dressed in costumes from European and Japanese comic books that were fun to watch as well.  I was told it was a convention similar to our Comicon.  
                       

Not just the ordinary kind of costumes!  I finally found our take out dinner at the old stand by, Creperie Chez Suzette and we had more authentic french quiche with salad and enjoyed more time on the flybridge watching boats go by! 


This cruise ship was on its way to NYC via the St. Lawrence to the coast of Maine, on to Boston and then the big city.  For us, we’ve had enough of a city so on we will go.  After another walk on the quays, we untied and headed out with the current behind us, pushing us along.  


We left Montreal on Sunday, 8/5 and cruised 32 miles with the current on the St. Lawrence to a quiet anchorage in the Contrecour channel.  


Here we entered the channel which is well marked and stopped between the town of Contrecour and the Isle Devant de l’Eglise or the Island in Front of the Church.  It was a hot day, so after the decks were swabbed with river water, a cool swim was just perfect! On Monday, the daily walk was on town roads and around a park in Contrecour with yet another run to the grocery. When we got back to the mother ship, we noticed weeds around the anchor chain, and this is what we found!


Al worked some magic with a boat hook and eventually the anchor chain was free from the flow of weeds and on they went with the current to wrap around some other object in their way!

 

It’s easy to see where the name of the island came from when the view from our boat has this lovely church spire front and center in the town. 


A brief storm left some clouds to create another beautiful sunset for our enjoyment.  


This was a very nice and quiet 2 night stay; an anchorage worth returning to some day. 


















Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Four Days of Big Locks

Saturday 7/28, began on the free wall at Hawkesbury.  Hard to believe with all the extra grocery stops that we actually needed some fresh fruit and veggies, so the morning walk took us across the Perley Bridge into the town of Grenville where a large IGA was just waiting for us to buy some groceries.  Hawkesbury lacked a good store.  That accomplished, we untied and cruised 11 miles to the 65’ Carillon Dam which is a busy dam most days and crazy busy on weekends.  The weather called for comfortable temps and minimal chance of rain.


But as Al says frequently, prediction is prediction, actual is actual.  Actual weather brought on a pop up storm with wind, heavy rain, and lightening just as we arrived at the lock which was closed with a red light.  That meant we had to tie to the wall at the blue line to wait for the lock to open for us.  We just missed an opening as there were boats heading down which meant we had to wait for their lockage and the one for more boats to be brought up the lock.  So we waited 1 1/2 hours for that process before we could lock through ourselves.  We should have gotten an earlier start, oh well!  As we waited more boats joined us at the wall.


Al got off the boat during the wait and took pictures of the boats coming up.  For me, waiting was a bit worrisome since it’s a different type of lock and I had time to stew.  But it turned out to be one of the easier lockages.


Nice lock workers stand on a dock inside of the lock and grab lines and tie everyone up.  We were the biggest boat and first in line, so we didn’t have another boat raft up next to us.  The French Canadians  refer to rafting as  “tying to your shoulder”.  I spent the time for the lock to lower the water chatting with, what I assumed was the lockmaster.  He was interested in our boat and hearing about looping.  So we invited him to visit with us at the end of his work day to tour the boat and get a lesson on using Active Captain.  Another new friend that we may see someday as he passes through Nashville on his looping adventure.  We exchanged contact information for future use.  

 

The boats behind us in the lock did have to tie up to each other’s “shoulders”.  But for a Saturday this was not a full lock.  


We were extremely lucky that a boat moved some to open a spot for us to tie up on the wall below the dam.   We were the last boat to find room.  No electric or water on this wall, but there were friendly people and a nice place to walk around.   


The Carillon Dam is unique with its guillotine type door on the lower side which raises above the lock to open with the use of a counter weight so a small 40hp motor is all that is needed to raise this massive door. 


The Captain enjoyed his walk around a park next to the wall where he found nice chairs for viewing the river.  I met another looper boat and chatted with them as they waited to go up in the lock.  Most loopers we’ve met are going in the opposite direction of us.



Knowing that Sunday 7/29 was not the best day to go through the very busy Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock, we agreed to just wake up, untie and go straight to the lock.  Breakfast was eaten on the flybridge while underway.  It was a cool morning with some clouds to give respite from the sun.  This area has pretty rolling hills and distant mountains.  It was a good day to be cruising the 26 miles to the next lock but there was plenty of Sunday boat traffic.  The wind picked up so it was difficult to tie up at the blue line to wait for an opening, but a nice man, who seemed to be a tourist at the lock, bailed me out and caught my lines.  Trying to lasso a short cleat in the wind is beyond this first mate’s skill level!  We were lucky at this lock with a short wait for it to open and spill out the numerous boats that were packed inside.  We were first in and this time did have a cruiser tie to our “shoulder” which is a new experience in a lock for us.  But the lock workers made it all very easy and the ride down was only a short drop. We were lucky again, to find plenty of space on the wall for a two night stay so we were tied up by 12:30.  The boat traffic flowed strongly all day so at times, the 2 walls in St. Anne-de-Bellevue were full with some boats rafted to each other and then spots would open up as boats moved on.  



Al enjoyed taking videos and pictures of the locking that went on all afternoon.  This town was alive with plenty of boaters and tourists watching boats pass through the lock.  We found a good place for a late lunch and then we split up for Al’s picture taking of the lock action and my walk around a quaint neighborhood.  Al’s videos of the busy locking day can be seen on his personal YouTube channel.


As the day progressed the music and people noise increased.  There were performers along the wall entertaining all and plenty of drinking toward late afternoon.  Al’s videos are full of bikini clad young women dancing on their boats as they locked through!  We had lots of people walk by our boat and take pictures of themselves in front of her.  There were loads of comments on how beautiful she looks!  We even gave 2 groups of people a tour of the inside, just because they were so interested in the different looking trawler.  It did quiet down once the lock closed and we had a quiet night.
Monday was not nearly as busy with tourists and boats but there was still a steady stream of boats locking through.  We used the time on Monday for a few boat chores and a visit to the local bibliotheque to use the wifi and printer.  The next two locks are on the mighty St. Lawrence Seaway and are big commercial locks that each cost $30 Canadian.  We paid for them online and printed our tickets to make the locking go smoothly.  BTW, one of the boat chores was checking strainers for the engines and refrigeration and they were half full of weeds, likely picked up on the Rideau.  Important chore to keep those strainers clean as the water flow to cool motors/engines is critical!   We finished our Monday with a very good seafood dinner at Pete’s Cape Cod which claimed all the seafood they served came from the Cape.  The scallops and tuna seemed Atlantic authentic! 
 Tuesday was the day to go through the two commercial St Lawrence locks and they both have to be done in one day.  There is no where to stop in between.  We had a phone number to call to check on estimated times for pleasure craft to lock through.  Their priority are the commercial ships so two, one hour windows are identified for pleasure craft but the times are frequently subject to change.  The first lock for us was the Saint Catherine Lock and the first opening was slated for 11 am.  We untied and left before breakfast to give us 3 hours for the 24 mile cruise.  We arrived 15 mins ahead of schedule and then floated around waiting for the lock to open.



An hour later, this cruise ship exited followed by 8 or 10 small cruisers and we were finally allowed to enter.  The dock for waiting was small and already had 2 boats so our waiting time was spent idling around the basin above the lock.  


These locks are very big and the first dropped us down 32’.  There is nothing on the wall to fasten to because they hand each boat two lines to play out slowly while lowering.  Even though these locks are huge, they asked us to allow another cruiser to raft to our port.  It was a bit tricky to play the bow line out for me with the pull of the other boat and the push backward from the water flow.  I managed but was a bit nervous through the process.  Al handled the stern line just fine.  We repeated this process for the second lock, St. Lambert which is 10 miles away from the first lock.  These two locks make up for the rapids that are around the south shore of Montreal.  To get around the rapids, they created the Canal de la Rive Sud so the travel between locks was via this canal.  Coming out of the canal brought us into the turbulent water of the St. Lawrence.  To get to our marina, we had to head into the current so we went from 11 mph to 4 mph and for about 2 miles it was squirrelly driving for the Captain.  


Look at the current rushing past the green buoy that is tilted from the force of the water. 


Almost to the basin for the Port d’Escale Marina where we will stay for 4 nights to explore Montreal.  
The locks are behind us for a few days of city life.