The Run Home
01 August 2017
We woke up at 530am thinking of a big day to make the run to Kingston. Going outside, we noticed that the dew all over the boat was dyed green. It must have been something to do with the bridge at Prescott that we anchored just on the lee of. Anyway, got the anchor up and headed out before making coffee and breakfast. It was a cool morning and there was a very heavy fog. Little did we know the fog would only get worse instead of burning off. We decided to go anyway and motor by the instruments. The good thing about a heavy fog is that the large vessels stop to wait it out. So the only problem would be small fishing boats and the occasional tourist out on the water. They should be picked up on the radar if they do not have AIS. The current was running at between 1-2 knots against us. We checked where all the big boats were on the AIS and we knew we had a couple to pass before Brockville. The running and steaming lights were on. We soon picked up a boat on radar. It turned out to be a sailboat without AIS. He followed us for some time, I guess assuming we had equipment and he was safer following us. The fog became so thick we could barely see 50 meters. Before we knew it, we were offshore from Brockville. Brockville is complex with obstacles and also the Brockville Narrows. We could see a number of boats in harbour on the AIS. I was worried about attempting the narrows in such heavy fog however nothing was moving so it was a good shot to do. They are so narrow that only one freighter can pass thru at a time. Taylor went up on the bow to look for buoys and islands that are all over the place. The current was strong going thru however we made it without problem until after an hour I got turned in the fog and did not trust the instruments. I did a 360 deg turn to get my bearings back. Now a decision had to be made in the heavy fog. American channel ( big ships) or the smaller Canadian channel thru the 1000 Islands. We opted for the American channel thinking it was better marked and wider. Eventually we passed Jordstat Castle at about 200 meters to the starboard side. It is a large structure on a small island. We could not see it in the fog. We were now less than two hours from the narrow passage at Alexandria Bay NY. I was debating trying that in heavy fog knowing there could be a lot of small boat traffic in that area. As we reached the end of Grenadier Island, the fog began to lift. Soon as it did there were pleasure boats all over the place. Also the large tourist boats going to Boldt Castle began to operate. Each of them is usually loaded with a couple of hundred tourists leaning on the rails looking at the wonders of the 1000 Islands. At the same time we began to hit the currents of the A Bay channel. They were running at about 3-4 knots. I upped the motor to 2500 rpms to make the passage easier. Wake from other boats was everywhere making the water choppy. As the fog had lifted to a sunny day we saw all the beautiful vistas and homes thru the islands. It is really quite a sight for those who have not seen it. Apart from the tour boats that do not seem to understand the rules of the road. With the lifting of the fog at noon, the freighters and passenger ships began to move. Thru the narrows we encountered two passenger ships and two freighters. Easy to manage except for trying to anticipate all the idiots on the water on pontoon boats and sea doos. They do not tend to understand the rules of the road and are difficult to anticipate in the narrow waters when tour boats and freighters are all over the place. We made it under the 1000 Islands bridge just after 100PM and I began to feel like being at home. We had an hour run to Clayton NY and then another hour to Quebec Head (Wolfe Island). It was now a beautiful sunny day with a breeze from the south west. We lined up to make the narrow shallow channel of the Quebec Head. Having been thru there last fall, I knew the depths to be about 20 feet and not to deviate from the channel. There are also 1000 islands just below the surface. This year the water was 27-28 feet deep all along the cut. That is indicative of the historically high water levels of lake Ontario this year. Once thru the cut we aimed the boat toward Kingston and traversed the north shore of Wolfe Island. This is like home to me I have sailed it so many times. We tried to sail for a while however, as with the whole trip up river, the wind was on the nose. So we motored and knew we were less than 3 hours from home. It is no wonder I love Kingston, the water is so beautiful. Taylor and I enjoyed a lunch for the last meal and then I took a shower below, wanting to not smell bad upon arrival. We estimated arrival at about 530 PM. Nothing but pleasure boats in this stretch of water. No tour boats and no freighters. The sun was bright, the water clear and it was a perfect home coming. We soon saw the skyline of Kingston in the distance. Then Taylor was excited to see the campus of Royal Military College. Only one more obstacle, the Wolfe Island Ferry. Our speed had picked up with less current and I was not about to back off on the engine at this point. We decided to spend the night at Kingston Yacht Club as it is near the condo. Also Taylor raced out of that club for a few years. Their dock fingers are too small for my boat but I did not care. We docked at 505 PM and the journey was over. Arrival on August 1st after leaving Kingston on June 17th. I will write a follow up for thoughts on the whole journey after a couple days of getting used to being on land. Dockage meant I took a good belt out of my bottle of Ardbeg on board the whole trip. Tonight was not the time to think of the massive clean up needed to get the boat back in shape for Lake sailing.
31 July 2017
We were off before 700am motoring for about 10 miles thru the Cornwall area to arrive at the next set of locks in the USA. The name of the game was to look for areas with less current against us to make better time to the locks. The weather was good. We decided to take the side of the Indian Reservation and wound our way thru the various islands. The current was anywhere from 1-3 knots against us. After a couple of hours we could see the Cornwall international Bridge. Now the fun began. We have heard rumours about the current below the locks as the gates are wide open on the Cornwall hydro dam and a lot of water is being drained out of the Great Lakes system. The current started to pick up on both sides of the channel. Time to increase the RPM’s of the engine. I usually like to run at about 2000 RPM with the diesel. We put the power up to about 2600 RPM and plowed into the current of about 5 knots. It was a struggle however we popped out of the current after about 30 minutes. The engine worked well. I do not know how lesser powered sailboats could make that stretch. After about a 20-minute wait, we were called into the first of two American locks. They are much easier to transit with their moveable bollards that rise or drop with the water level of the dock. We made it thru the first lock and headed the three miles to the second one. Once in the locks, they like to move you thru quickly. We arrived at the second lock and found there was freighter traffic that takes priority. We had to wait three hours to pass so we motored around for a while then decided to anchor to rest the engine. It was here that I hit bottom for the only time on the trip. I was circling outside the channel when I was grabbed by a vertical root system. The water level was 25 feet however this vertical root was only four feet below the surface. So it grabbed me. I was stuck and could not move forward or backward. I do not believe it damaged anything as it was just roots and mud. There was a power boater transiting with us. He tied a line and pulled us off the snag. That was an experience.
The delay cost us valuable time. After the lock we tried to make it to Iroquois Lock for the night. That would be a good goal. We motored and lifted sails as fitting with a 10 knot wind on the nose. There were a few thunder storms around with the heat however we managed to miss them. The race was on if we could get to Iroquois Lock before 7 PM maybe they would put us thru and that would be a heroic day. As we approached, we noticed that the Iroquois Dam was totally open. ALL GATES fully open. So there was not much of a level difference below and above the locks. That also explains why there is so much current we have been fighting. Anyway, after a freighter went thru we were next and were thru the lock before 800PM. The lock height seemed to be less that a meter. There was a good place to anchor above the lock but we were sensing Kingston in the distance and decided to keep going. It was a beautiful evening even with the strong currents. By the time we got to Prescott Bridge it was totally dark and we decided it was better to stop and anchor for the night. We found a quiet pool just to the lee of the bridge and settled in. We had to shut the boat up as this was the first place on the trip that bugs were encountered. We had a snack and then hit the bed hard.
Upstream from Montreal
30 July 2017
Taylor and I left Royal St Lawrence Yacht Club at 700am. It was a sunny morning and fish were jumping all over the place, Taylor, who raced his sailboat here for a number of years said, fish jump all the time in this body of water. I certainly would not eat anything here with all the sewage coming down the Ottawa River from Ottawa and Gatineau. While in Montreal I changed the oil and oil filter. The engine worked hard and needs to be treated right. Same with my body, I needed a bit of rest. 140 miles to go!
Today we have two locks and two lift bridges to pass then 20 mile long Lac St Francis if all goes well. After about 10 miles, we got to the first Beauharnois lock. We had a 20 minute wait then were passed thru with a couple of other boats. So we cleared both locks early. I thought the 10 mile long Valleyfield channel to the lake would be calm motoring. Wrong. There was a three knot current against us as this was one of the places they are funnelling water to reduce the levels on Lake Ontario. We were lucky to hit both bridges right when they were lifted for passage so we arrived on Lac St Francis before 100PM. The wind picked up a bit and was not on the nose we we decided to sail without the engine. Taylor took the helm. He had not sailed in two years since his sailing injury. He did not lose his sense in that time. It lasted for a couple hours then the wind moved to the nose and we had to start motor sailing. We dropped the jib so we could point better and get where we wanted to go. After 600PM we began to look for a place to anchor for the night. We were on the south side of the river so basically in the Indian Reservation. We could not find enough water in a safe place so we decided to head back to the Canadian side. By about 800PM we found a little bay with a couple other boats anchored for the night just off South Lancaster, Ontario. A quick bite to eat and we were both in bed by 900PM. It was a long tiring day.
27 July 2017
So will we make Montreal and Lac St Louis today? We were off at 600am into a very tranquil river. A bit of current kept our speed at about 4 knots under motor only. Next a thick fog hit for about an hour so it was instrument motoring buoy to buoy. A couple of freighters passed but nothing earth shattering. Finally the fog lifted and we could see again. More light rain. The current is tougher now. We put up the main to try to get an extra knot of forward motion. Finally, we turned a corner and we could see the outline of the Montreal skyline. It took another three hours to get into the busy harbour. We knew that we would be done with the currents at La Ronde ad the beginning of the Seaway. It was like we were on a treadmill. We had a good wind angle, gusts in the high teens, were heeled over and only doing 2-3 knots motor sailing. The current in Montreal Harbour can be 3-4 knots. So after a couple of hours avoiding freighters, passenger ships, tour boats and little dick boats we made it to the calm of the Seaway at about 1300HR. Down with the sail and preparing for our first of two locks in the Seaway today. We motored at 6 knots past the Formula One race course and the Olympic Basin to arrive at St Lambert lock. There were a number of boats waiting and as soon as a freighter cleared the lock we were green lighted into the lock. Given the number of boats there was a smaller sailboat tied up abreast of us so as the water lifter we actually had to pull in line for the weight of two boats. It was uneventful and then the stretch in the canal to the next lock. No sailing here. No current either. Nonetheless we had a 15 knot head wind to slow us town to 5 knots. When we arrived at Cote Ste Catherine lock we had a short wait before loading. Same situation, same sailboat rafter to us. Uneventful lockage and out into the canal again. The wind was strong on the nose but we made it at over 5 knots against a 20 knot wind. We could sense docking at Lac St Louis. Crew change here Rob leave and my son Taylor joins. Because Lac St Louis was used as a dumping ground after the 2nd world war and the building of the Seaway in the 1950's, there us a tricky channel in a big Z to get across the lake. We come around the corner to leave the Seaway and bang, we are hit by a strong current and the wind. We had a bit of a down hill run at first so that worked. No sails and flying. As we got closer to Royal St Lawrence yacht Club we could see al sorts of dinghies out racing, joy we have to navigate thru the boats and they have right away. RSLYC is known for shallow water on the approach. At the same time a rain storm is brewing bearing right down on us making visibility difficult. The gods were not going to make it easy to make our destination. Into to harbour I saw depths of 9 feet ( I draw 7 feet) and we had trouble figuring where to go. We were supposed to dock at service dock however the office was closed and there was no one around to guide us. After a couple of 360's we found the dock and tied up. 2000HRS and we made it. Many beer followed. This is to be a two day stop to re stock and rest before Taylor joins for the run to Kingston. We are hearing all sort of rumours about the horrors of the currents this year. Anyway, tomorrow will worry about that. By the way, we could not go to Pointe Claire Yacht Club as the only dock there that can hold my boat was damaged in a wind storm a couple of days earlier.
Lac St Pierre
26 July 2017
We departed Trois Rivieres at 600am to take on the Lake today hoping to arrive a Sorel for the night. The current was tough against us and we made 2-3 knots only thru Trois Rivieres harbour to the bridge. It was a struggle and we had 10 knot winds on the nose. After a couple hours we reached Lac St Pierre and put the sails up. The lake requires a zig zag as there is no water depth in most of the lake. The first leg we were able to get a wind angle on the port side for a couple miles then for the rest of the 20 mile trip we had the wind on the nose. Took the jib down to maintain a straighter course. The lake was uneventful, it was a sunny day, but speeds were slow. The usual freighters and fishing boats. Quite a lot of little dick boat traffic as well. As we neared the end of the lake we headed south and figured the wind would become more favourable. Every buoy we passed and there was more of an angle. The wind followed us around just to keep on the nose. We were seeing 2-3 knots and felt like we were stuck in the mud. We finally make it to Sorel, our destination, but the wind picked up in our favour. Also sailboats out on the water. Next thing you know we are three sailboats abreast and flying 7-8 knots. That encouraged us to try to make it further on the day instead of stopping at the great resto in the Sorel Harbour. (Steak Tartare on the way down river). So we flew by a number of anchored freighters and the requisite industrial plants and turned the corner again. BANG. Wind over. We watched the other sailboats sailing and beating back and forth across the river making it 50 years every tack. Not for us. We decided to make a run for Contrecoeur for the night. It was slow and boring going up the river but finally we made it and found an anchorage hidden behind an island where we could not see or here the industrial heart land of Quebec behind us in Contrecoeur. We anchored in 14 feet of water with a 2 knot current about 100 yards from a weed lot full of bull frogs. It was raining a bit but we enjoyed listening too the frogs. We were alone. Occasionally a Great Blue Heron would let out a cry or a fish would jump out of the water beside the boat. BBQ dinner then bed. Hopefully Montreal tomorrow.
Rapids & Trois Rivieres
25 July 2017
We got up at 600 am for breakfast and to prepare to run the rapids at 800am. That being the best time to get a push from the tide. We both liked Portneuf harbour and thought we could have spent more time here. We knew there would be a number of sailboats making the climb this morning and wanted to go thru first and before 3-4 boats get into there. A check of the AIS confirmed that there were no big freighters in either direction so time to go. We get out into the tidal current and quickly jump over 6 knots SOG. No sails for the rapids. I was nervous at the wheel as I did not know what to expect. So into them we went. When will it hit? We did about three miles at 6 SOG and looking at the buoy numbers I declared that we were thru the rapids. A non event again. Due to correct timing of the tidal push. The rest of the day was a non event and the tide pushed us as far as Becancur. Then the speed dropped to 3-4 knots as we began to feel the river current. It is now construction holiday in Quebec so lots of stink pots on the river. They are commonly referred to as little dick boats. They have no regard for the wakes they create and the effects it has on sailboats. We fought the river current for a few hours and finally made it to Trois Rivieres Marina for the night. Good marina however right beside a pulp & paper plant so noise, light and smell pollution. None the less a good day of travelling. Before having showers, we needed to eat at the snack bar. My first cheese burger in over a month decorated with greasy french fries. Heaven. After showers and a few sun downers, we had dinner on the boat to the orchestra of the pulp mill. Luckily the wind was blowing the smell away.