Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Two Captains Aboard = Long Days of Cruising!

With Erik moved in as “Relief Captain”, we were poised to take on the 124 mile cruise to Tadoussac, which sits at the mouth of the Saguenay River as it empties into the St. Lawrence River.  This area is known as a breeding ground for several species of whales.  Beluga whales live there year round and are in serious jeopardy for becoming extinct due to massive whaling done in the early 20th century.  This is an area that Captain Al has dreamed of and talked about for years.  So Sunday morning we all woke before alarms went off and were locking through the Old Port Marina lock when it opened at 7am. Erik had done some research as we had done, and it seemed the 7am time for departure would work with the tidal currents.  Captain Erik drove us into the lock with ease and he and Al shared bridge responsibilities for the long 12 1/2 hour trip.

We experienced a mixture of rolling waves on the bow, some uncomfortable choppy seas and occasionally calm waters.  It remained chilly all day so we donned several layers and later in the afternoon added a few more to stay warm.  We passed a few big ships but no pleasure craft as it wasn’t a blue sky boating day for most of the time.  

We passed this pretty light house along the way and at that moment, the sky had cleared.  As we neared the turn off for the Saguenay, we started seeing black spots and white humps on the water and realized we were seeing whales!  At the time, we didn’t identify any species but were thrilled to be amongst the whales already.  We also spotted little heads of harbor seals and gray seals.  We arrived and took a slip at the Tadoussac Marina, cold and tired with the sun just beginning to set.  After we all warmed up with hot showers we enjoyed chili that Erik put together in the crockpot that morning.  It was too rough for me to play my role as “Galley Princess”!  We all collapsed in bed, satisfied to have made it to the Saguenay.  

Monday morning was cool but clear and we were struck by how lovely the town of Tadoussac is and what a gorgeous location.  Above are two shots of town that Erik took from the boat before we headed up to a French restaurant for a unique breakfast that for Erik, included a glass of champagne!  Then we walked to the Whale Interpretive Museum and learned as much as we could about the whales we were about to go see.  It was then that we realized that the white humps we saw the day before were belugas!  But alas we were so tired and the whales were so far off, that we got no pictures of beluga whales. 

Except for the beluga statue at the museum! 

After some more walking in town, and the inevitable trip to the local grocery for things not purchased in Quebec City, we untied lines and cruised out with many different whale watching tourist boats.  A view of the marina and the whale breeding ground out beyond it, taken from the hills of the town.  

The day warmed up just enough for Erik to dive into the river to “swim with whales” for a few minutes in high 50 degree water!  Always the adventurer!

Erik took this shot of a minke whale and it seems to be the best picture of all that we took.  The area is a Marine Park and is well protected with strict rules about keeping at least 400 meters away from belugas and blue whales, both on the endangered list.  And boats are held to slow speeds (easy for us) and regulated to keep moving because sitting still may attract curious whales and then put them in danger when a boat starts up.  So the whales in our pictures are small dots!                                                             

This one I took of 2 humpback whales that can be identified only if the picture is greatly enlarged.  The curve of the fin it the identifier for species.  

This is a tiny whale tail shot as a humpback dove.  We didn’t catch any breeches but we saw plenty of whales.  Besides what is in these pictures, we also saw some fin whales, harbor seals and grey seals.   We even saw an occasional loon.  What a thrilling afternoon for us.  We did have one moment of minor panic when a Parks Canada boat came up to us and indicated they wanted us to slow so they could talk with us.  We thought we had broken some rule and were headed for trouble but all they wanted to do was give us a friendly summary of their rules which we already knew and were following.  So the afternoon was a success and we added 25 more miles to our travel log! 

After our whale watching, we all spent the late afternoon doing what we wanted and as always, I was in need of more walking.  I found two trails to explore and took some photos of this gorgeous area. 

Just think of how many whales are out in that water with babies in tow.  

I walked up around 250 steps (I had trouble keeping the count going) to reach the top of a trail which afforded views up the Saguenay.  

On the way back down toward town, this was the view of our marina and the whales breeding ground.  Monday night, we had a nice dinner on board after drinks on the flybridge and had a quiet night.  Tuesday morning we took it slow and relaxed and walked. 

Al and Erik walked one of the trails that I had explored the day before.  I went further up into town to see some of the homes along the water, deciding which one we could live in someday!  We untied and left Tadoussac around noon with Erik at the helm and began our 26 mile cruise up the Saguenay.  It was cool and clear, a perfect day to explore this lovely fjord.  

Having 2 captains on board, allowed the first mate to sit back and warm up in the sun while taking in the breathtaking scenery.  We had in advance, called the small marina in Anse St. Jean to be sure we could use a mooring ball.  I had help with the call because French was all that was spoken at the marina so I did not have first hand information about the logistics of the area.  We approached the marina and saw no moorings and no one answered the radio hailing.  Eventually someone on the dock heard the radio and in partial English tried to give us directions to the moorings.  Apparently no one was actually working at the marina and our helper was someone on a boat.  After 30 mins of poking around, we finally spotted a mooring ball and then found all 10 of them on the opposite side of the harbor from the marina.  In the mean time, a loon was spotted a few times!  We finally got a line through the pendant and were secured for the night.  We had a special dinner of crab cakes we had shipped from the Chesapeake and an enjoyable evening in a beautiful setting.  Our plan was to stay up on the Saguenay for a second day but the weather forcast changed that.  With possible high winds, we departed the mooring at 7am on Tuesday and headed back down the Saguenay.  

It was cold and rainy and as the morning progressed, the fog set in.  It was a time that all 6 eyes were glued to the waterway to look for other boats and channel markers.  

By the time we were out on the St. Lawrence the visibility was down to about 1/10 of a mile.  We actually saw some whales close by but by the time we saw them, they dove to get away.  Ironically the water was like glass and the predicted wind did not materialize, thus the fog stayed with us.  We decided to go 69 miles to a marina at Cap-a-l’Aigle (we still can’t pronounce it right!) so we could have a shorter cruise to get Erik back to Quebec City.  With varied currents as the tide changed, we had some slow travel and then picked up speed as we went west.  It was not the most pleasant day to cruise, but we were grateful for calm seas the whole way. Our entry into the marina was easy and eventually the rain stopped.  I walked up the very steep road to see what was around the area and found a few houses and a few inns.  

I also came upon this detailed bronze statue of an eagle, the namesake for the area.  That night we had hot showers and dinner on board and Erik treated us to the movie Cocoa that he had downloaded onto his computer.  Al and I never think to do cool things like watch movies on a cold night!  

Al took this photo of my boy and I after taking our showers and heading back to the boat.  The marina is well protected by a high wall of rocks to make for a quiet night.  
Cruising back to Quebec City meant for more slow speeds due to the strong current of the St. Lawrence so we were up early again for a 7am departure.  Our speed varied from as slow as 4 mph to 13 mph when the tidal current gave us a push.  We had another mixed day of smooth water and then 1-3’ rollers that we plowed through.  Erik had the helm most of the day so Al had a rare opportunity to relax in the salon part of the afternoon.  It was sunny and cool most of the long, 82 mile trip back to Quebec City.   Erik had a bit of a stressor when we came upon kite and wind surfers flying across the St. Lawrence main channel without a care in the world and completely oblivious to our approach. He gave them a few long blasts of the horn and they scattered to let us go safely by.  Another irony as Erik called them idiots and then I reminded him of all the edgy things he’s done in his past.  He got a chuckle out of that!  At last, we made it into the lock at the Old Port Quebec Marina and we were  tied up by 5pm.  Erik had a tense moment spinning the boat 180 degrees for a port-side tie with tourists and boaters watching his performance but he did it perfectly and we were done with long cruises for a few days.  So having an extra captain on board lead us to 327 miles of cruising over a 5 day period.  That was more than we have covered the whole time we’ve been in Canada, but it made  for a great family vacation for us!! 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Enjoying Quebec City

We awoke in Portneuf on 8/15 to an overcast sky that eventually lead to rain. We both did a little rain walking but didn’t get a good workout. We had 38 miles to get to Quebec City and it made sense to time our departure just past the peak of high tide (around noon) so we could ride the flow of water out to the sea as the tide lowered.  That tidal current, along with the natural St. Lawrence River current made for another relatively fast cruise.  But the only drawback was the threat of thunderstorms which materialized along the way as the afternoon progressed.  So while we hit a top speed of 16 mph, we also had winds and rain and some occasional thunder and lightning to contend with!  It’s all a part of the adventure we keep telling ourselves!  We arrived to lock through at the Old Port Quebec City Marina mid afternoon and went straight to the fuel dock for a pump out and to take on 1,400 liters of diesel.  Yikes, there goes the credit card bill!!  The marina sits behind a lock so the tidal change does not affect the boats in its harbor which is nice.  It means calm waters while tied up.  Being antsy after an afternoon of sitting, I headed out to walk the streets a bit and find the market which was teeming with shoppers and lovely fresh farm produce along with meats, cheeses and all kinds of prepared foods. The Captain walked a bit and rested his eyes from the strain of watching the gages and waterway while driving the boat.

The view from the boat at night was spectacular!  Our first night, we were tired so we ate on the boat and rested while doing recon of the city to make a plan for exploring during the next few days.

First up on Thurday morning was finding a good french breakfast on Rue St. Jean.  So while Al savored his eggs benedict, I indulged in crepes with chocolate and bananas, topped with vanilla custard. Yum! Once our appetites were satiated, we walked the city.   

We made it up to the Champlain Monument and looked down at the great view of the St. Lawrence.

We popped in to the Château Frontenac and decided this was our second favorite bathroom stop while waking a city!  (First choice was the Château in Ottawa).  

Part of our walking tour included scoping out restaurants that were recommended by my friend Lily (aka Grand-Maman to my girls back home) as she has lived in Quebec and knows Quebec City well. This restaurant ended up being Erik’s pick for his first night with us.  It has a very unique menu, more on that later.  

We came upon these street performers and thoroughly enjoyed their show while resting our legs for a bit.  Then we hiked down the narrow streets and steps back to the boat for a break before going back out to shop at the nearby chandlery for a few needed boat items.  More teak oil for me to apply to the swim platform, wahoo! The morning walking got to us, so rather than going back up into the city for dinner, we stayed close to the marina and ate at Cafe de Monde and had a mediocre dinner with a great view of the river.  

Later that night, we were surprised by gorgeous fireworks that we didn’t know were scheduled!  Ironic that we went to Montreal purposely to see their fireworks display which was a disappointment but were paid off with an unexpected great show both Thursday and again on Saturday!  Friday morning we spent doing catch up things and for me this meant getting a form mailed for a car registration.  For Al, it meant he slept in and enjoyed a slow cup of coffee. So after eating my luscious leftover crepes, I set out to climb up and up the streets looking for a post office and then seeing more sights of the Old City.  Al focused on engine room maintenance and then walking to find a bicycle tire tube to replace one he over inflated!  Plus he wanted to get some “happy hour” treats for Erik who was coming to join us the next day. 

I accidentally came across another of the recommended restaurants that later became another choice for Erik’s visit.  

These streets could be anywhere in Paris!  

I had seen a picture of this street prior to our visit and found it by sheer luck!  Google maps had trouble with all the steps and narrow streets! 

The Place Royal was one of my stops. 

Murals like this seemed so real.  

Looking up at the Château Frontenac gives one an idea of just how much climbing it takes to see the Old City properly!  The day got more cloudy until we were hit with a hard downpour about the time Al headed out to pick up very unique, thin crust pizza.  But it was worth his effort because it was delicious and perfect Friday night food.  Al’s pizza had smoked meat which was on his list of things to try in Canada.  Saturday arrived finally, which had us excited to see our son.  We used the day for some boat chores and a large grocery run to stock up for our week of travels with Erik.  It also included one last walk for me along the river and up some of the narrow streets of the city.  Chores done, and all cleaned up, we were ready to greet Erik when he arrived around 4:30 after a challenging taxi ride that left him on the wrong side of the harbor for the marina entryway!  So after Erik moved into the v-berth, we headed out to dinner up in the Old City at Aux Anciens Canadiens.  

On the way, this picture was snapped by Erik of InSpeyered 2, sitting in the marina and itching to get  going again since we had 2 licensed captains! 

Our adventurous son, loves to try interesting food.  So dinner started with escargot and pate made from big game like bison and caribou.  (I have tried everything I read to do in order to put the proper french accents on pate, but none of them worked on blogger!)

And his dinner was caribou!  Interesting food for sure!  After walking back to the boat with full bellies, Erik hit the sack and Al and I were not far behind after watching some more lovely fireworks.  The next day presented itself as a long and challenging cruising day to get the 3 of us to Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay.  So we needed an early start.  Next post on our trip!

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 port and Tracy to starboard.  
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.