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Madcap Sailing
Blowing into Batiscan
24/06/2007/10:00 pm, Batiscan, Quebec

Blowing into Batiscan

We motored onward from Montreal through the well-marked channel, watching a continual series of huge tankers and container ships heading upriver. We have a book called Know Your Ship and we look up each ship as we spot it. This year we have had to add many, many new checkmarks. Interestingly, far more ships were headed upriver than down. We've spotted ones from Panama, Shanghai, Morovia, Majuro, Helsinki, Rotterdam, London among others. We have found it fascinating to see these ships from far away slipping by, unnoticed by most of us on land. We have certainly become more aware of the international shipping traffic.

In good time, we arrived at our destination, Contrecoeurs, and wound our way through a narrow and shallow channel. Strathspey, with a shallower draft, kindly went ahead and called back the depths. Pas de problem! We cruised past the public wharfs and what to our wondering eyes did appear?? A Bayfield. A Bayfield 36 to be exact. I trained the binoculars on it and was amazed to see it was Little Gidding - the boat owned by our friends Eileen Quinn and David Allester. It was David and Eileen who encouraged our interest in traveling south and whose company we enjoyed in Belleville last summer when we were getting our cockpit enclosure made and they were first arriving back in Ontario after many years south. You can bet it wasn't long before we were in the dinghy and heading over to see what was up. We had a very pleasant conversation with Rene - the new owner - and confirmed that Eileen and David are entertaining lucky passengers on cruises on Lake Killarney this summer.

We paid a visit to the local supermarket and were delighted to find a very well stocked store in this little town. There were good produce, exotic herbs and spices, interesting meats - including bison and cheval. We didn't try the latter. Every store in Quebec has a selection of beer and wine, which is handy for cruisers who dine on their boats. This is a fine little town, and a beautiful anchorage. We were entertained by birdsongs and a fabulous sunset.

We made another early start on Friday, again in light wind so the motor was roaring away as we inched through Chenal Sud and rejoined the shipping channel. We passed Sorel, crossed Lac St Pierre, cruised by Trois Rivieres and were pleased that the wind picked up. Our sails went up, the motor was doused and we had a magnificent ride the rest of the way to Batiscan. Mary took some great shots of us as we blew along (the one on our profile is hers). I was marveling at how far over Madcap can heel without actually having the rail in the water. The waves just rise up and fly by, kissing the gunwales as they go. It was hard work handling lines though, letting them out a touch as we leaned too far and winching them in as we straightened up so we were happy to confer with Strathspey and head into Batiscan.

Jim and I had stopped here for a satisfying lunch on our drive back from Nova Scotia last summer and so it was with warm memories that we dropped our anchor just opposite the marina and near the bridge that spans the river. All that sailing had whetted our appetites so Blair and Mary, Jim and I hustled ourselves up to the restaurant. There we met Patrick, the smiling young owner, who informed us that we were parked "a little far from my wharf", but who welcomed us for an excellent seafood dinner cooked by his talented wife.

After having a look at the charts and the schedule of tides, we decided that in order to do our sailing in daylight, it made sense to linger another day, and then spend three nights in Quebec before heading toward the Saguenay. We have had experience sailing at night, but when all this is new territory, we'd like to see it! This is also St Jean Baptiste weekend and Patrick promised entertainment and fireworks on Saturday night, so we happily settled ourselves in for a two-day stay.

We walked past beautiful gardens down to the village on Saturday looking for a hardware store, only to find that it closed at noon on Saturdays (and this was 12:30). Even though we didn't find our screws and bolts, we found life decisions that make sense and that was good. The entertainment was loud and enthusiastic in the evening and the fireworks were set off in the river near our boat so we had a perfect view.

On our way out, we learned just exactly how precisely our depth sounder is aligned with our true depth (in boating terms, what we "draw") The tide was low as we headed out and we learned that 0.3 means we are afloat, and 0.1 means we are touching bottom. No problem because the bottom was mud and we just plowed our way through the short stretch to deeper water. Another time, we'd probably leave when the tide was a little higher!

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TYC to Montreal
20/06/2007/10:00 pm, Montreal


What an amazing journey this has been - even in the short 4 days since we left Trident Yacht club.

That fine Sunday morning - June 17th - Fathers Day, our sons, Liam and Alex, drove us from Ottawa to the club near Gananoque, Ontario. Mary Beth had been with us for a visit the week before so our hearts were full of her presence in spirit as well.

We enjoyed conversations with many club members that morning, as we had in the days before. Some offered valuable information from previous experience with such journeys; some were filled with shared enthusiasm and eagerness to hear how it all unfolds; ALL were rich with good wishes and encouragement. It surely warms our hearts to know that so many people - at Trident and from all other areas of our lives - are traveling with us and sharing our experience.

As we motored away from the dock, I had to stop coiling lines and pulling up fenders to keep my watery eyes on our boys, standing together on the dock - waving and throwing kisses. Jim managed to steer us in the right direction even though his vision wasn't quite as clear as it usually is. Farewells were shouted from along the dock and an air horn blew and it was a grand departure.

We motored along all day, and as we rounded Toussaint Island (just before the Iroquois Dam) that evening we saw Strathspey anchored there, as Mary and Blair Buchanan awaited our arrival for a celebratory toast to the journey and the friendship.

From Monday morning onward, it was new water, and new experience for us. We tied up at the pleasure craft dock at the Iroquois Lock, as we would for each lock on the way to Montreal. It was there that we met up with Chris and Mary and Ellen and Monika on Wings (soon to be christened with her new name, Arctura) on their way to Summerside, PEI. This was the first of what I expect will be many meetings with boats on a similar track.

After a huge ship emerged from the open doors of the lock, we entered, caught the lines that were thrown down to us, cleated them off and dropped a few inches before motoring out the other end of the lock. It was much more exciting to go through the Eisenhower and Snell locks later that day. The procedure is to tie up at the pleasure craft dock, phone the lockmaster to request passage through, wait till the green light beckons us in, and either toss a line around a bollard or catch a line thrown down by the lock employees. I'm glad the first big drop was one of those where the lines were tied off because it gave us time to take pictures and ooh and aah at the experience. It was just amazing to drop down and down, till the top of our mast was at about the height of the ground. It happened quickly and smoothly. Then the gates swung open, the lines were removed and out we went.

In other locks, where the lines are tossed down, we had to maintain tension on them to keep steady on the wall - not swinging too far out, nor rubbing too closely on the wall. We were very glad we had prepared a fender board to take the worst of the rub. In fact, that fender board saved us from much worse damage when we had a hard landing on a horribly constructed pleasure craft dock at a lock farther downstream.

The locks were just challenging enough to make us feel like we had really accomplished something at the end of the day. The attendants were helpful and the guidebooks clear in telling us which side to have our fenders on and what the procedure would be. The Canadian ones cost $25. and the two American locks charged $30. (in either currency) Most of the waits were fairly short, and the one long wait was easily passed by watching the huge Captain Henry Jackman snuggle itself into and out of the lock, and in conversing with fellow sailors.

I read in Phil Jenkins' book, River Song that the early engineers who built these locks had to enable a drop equivalent to a 20 story building over 168 miles between Kingston and Montreal. Imagine! We have dropped into a whole new landscape.

We have been fortunate to have a combination of anchorages and marinas - peaceful Touissant Island, (thanks for the suggestion, Jennifer of Moon River), St Regis Island where unlit and very fast boats blew past us in the dark of night, to the hustle of the port of old Montreal - reached via a strenuous push against the current as we rounded Ile St Helene. It took us close to an hour to make 1.5 nautical miles; we shot out of there in 10 minutes the next day.

We had a perfectly lovely evening in Montreal, enjoying the company of our friends Elizabeth and Dave Austin in our cockpit and then over dinner at the Jardin Nelson. On Thursday morning we wandered the streets a bit more, sat in a coffee shop with laptops on...yes... our laps and café au lait close at hand, and then made a smooth departure from Marina Port d'Escale in Jacques Cartier Basin. It was a rapid trip down the stretch of water past LaRonde where we could hear the screams of excited roller coaster riders, across the river to Longueuil for a quick and efficient stop to fuel up and pump out, and then out on the river again.

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11/09/2007/3:37 pm | Alexis
WOW!! What a great book in progress you have going, and a very amazing trip. Wondering where the dog is -- I thought sailors had 4 legged companions. It seems summer has come and gone but I shall enjoy reading your logs Beth and enjoy an extended summer from a Sailor's point of view. Alexis (in Edmonton).
Welcome (spring, 2007 and onward)
Beth and Jim
19/06/2007/6:00 pm

Welcome to the Madcap sailing adventure.

We are James D. Bissell and Elizabeth Lusby - now known as Jim and Beth from Madcap - and this is where we will share our cruising story with family and friends - old and new.

Madcap is a Bayfield 36, built in 1988 in Clinton, Ontario. You'll see lots of pictures throughout this site, and will perhaps come to understand how we fell in love with her and purchased her in 2003.

As much as we enjoyed sailing in the 1000 Islands and Lake Ontario, the desire to explore further and to use this sailing vessel as "home away from home" on a long journey has grown, and so...

We left Trident Yacht Club, near Kingston, Ontario on June 17, 2007 to spend the next 16 months on a Madcap journey down the great St. Lawrence River to the Maritime provinces, and then south along the Eastern Seaboard, into the Intracoastal Waterway that winds along through the US, then across the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas, and back North to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We'll make postings from time to time on our experience, and will let you know where we are so you can track our progress if you like.

You are welcome to e-mail Beth at [email protected] or Jim at [email protected], or leave comments after the postings.

Come along with us through this site - we enjoy your company!

...and an afterword or two... we were land based in Halifax from the fall of '08 until fall of '09, and continued to welcome visits by cruisers and interested landlubbers. We headed south again in the fall of 2009, spending another glorious winter in the Bahamas. In the spring of 2010, we left Madcap on the hard in Fernandina Beach, FL, while we returned to Nova Scotia for the summer. November, 2010 took us to the Bahamas and Cuba for an exciting winter of cruising and Madcap spent another successful summer at Tiger Point Marina in Fernandina Beach, FL

In 2011/12 we headed down through the Florida Keys to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and in 2012/13 we cruised the waters of Belize and Guatemala once more. We sailed east to the Bay Islands of Honduras (mostly in Roatan and Guanaja) in 2013/14, and in 2015 we spent the winter months back in Belize - leaving the boat for the summers in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

Follow along with us and leave a comment if you'd like. We're delighted to have you travelling with us and we love to hear from you - either on the blog site or at [email protected] or [email protected]

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09/07/2007/2:01 pm | Judy O'Neill
Have just enjoyed an hour or two sailing with you. What a great story to tell and a great story teller! Have fun and kind breezes. Judy
18/07/2007/6:05 am | Gwen Wells
I'm SO excited to get the website and to be able to send you notes. I just read the first one about the locks. How wonderful to be able to follow you on your journey. You are very much in our thoughts and prayers. Happy sailing!
18/07/2007/12:11 pm | Annette
Wow, beautiful boat!!! I hope we can bump into each other when you hit NS.
23/07/2007/11:39 am | Catherine Finucan Mcmullen
I am the daughter of Betty Mayhew Finucan(Jim's cousin). I have already enjoyed reading about your adventure and will copy and take to mom to read. Have a safe trip. Sounds like quite an adventure. Funny how families are. My mothers is very quiet and just likes to stay at home whereas her sisters Phylis Mayhew and also Lorraine Mayhew Panabaker did travel around. I also, since my husband passed away have in a couple of days decided to take a trip and love an adventure. Have a great t
14/09/2007/10:44 am | Tony Ross
Hi Jim: I inquired of you and Michael Pare told me of your plan. I am in St. Lucia until October '08. Email me and I will fill you in so that we can "hook up" if you drift that far.
10/12/2007/5:20 pm | Lee & Phil Gertler
Enjoy reading your blogs together with Strathspey. I checked last week and I couldn't believe that you were already in the Bahamas. Enjoy the winter down south as winter has arrived early in Canada. Look forward to reading about more of your exploits. Say hi to Jim.

Cheers, Lee
11/12/2007/3:16 pm | Steph Echols
Oh my gosh you two, this sounds absolutely fabulous! What an incredible trip, and how great is it that we get to follow your progress online! I'm so jealous - Chicago winter vs. sailing in the Bahamas...hmmmm ;) Happy sailing!
Steph Echols
23/12/2007/9:46 am | Odette & Michel
Our condoleances to Beth. Despite theses difficult moments, we wish you a bright 2008 filled with adventures and mysterious moments. Pls be careful. XOX
14/03/2008/8:06 am | Georgette Smith
Just re read some of your earlier entries and discovered Kalin spent several days at her great uncle Herman Paully's home at cape tourmintine. This would have been in the late 60's and early 70's. They had beautiful property which stretched to the shore.

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