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Madcap Sailing
Up the Saguenay River
03/07/2007/9:57 am, Baie Eternite, PQ

The Saguenay - at last!

We left Tadoussac on the morning tide and motored (again) up river toward Baie Eternite. No whale sightings today; I'm sure they were there but with the white caps on the water, the Belugas are hard to spot.

This place where the St Lawrence and the Saguenay meet is a magnificent place for sure. The water in the Saguenay is hundreds of feet deep. One writer put it this way - if the St Lawrence went dry the Saguenay would still have 600 feet of water in it! This mingling of cold fresh water and warmer salt water creates a gourmet feeding ground for the marine mammals. The resident and separate population of Belugas feeds here year round, while other species - up to 13 of them- come and go. We've spotted minke and fin whales in our time here, along with little seal heads popping up for a quick look-see.

For the first part of the river, it is a fjord, and that is the portion we traveled. Baie Eternite has to be one of the most beautiful anchorages anywhere. There are a dozen or so mooring balls scattered around a huge bay, a wharf where dinghies and the small cruise boats tie up, a long kayak ramp and that's it. Well - that's it except for the gigantic rock walls! A nature centre is just 400 feet down the trail from the wharf with park guides, natural history display, a little café and a pay phone. There is no cell phone coverage here and no wifi. This would not normally be much of a concern for us, but since Mary Beth was having surgery on her knee on Tuesday morning, we wanted to have lots of contact with her.

We arrived here on Canada Day. What a fitting place to raise a toast to the 140th birthday of this remarkable country. It was a little too cool to wear the Canada eh? T-shirt I had onboard, but we snuggled into Strathspey's cockpit to celebrate with champagne and chocolate and sweet Quebec strawberries.

We had always intended to hike to the top of Cap Trinite, but the rains came just after lunch so we hunkered down inside our cosy nest to read and nap and take pictures of rainbows. Our full cockpit enclosure is handy here. It keeps out rain and cool air, and makes a little screened-in patio for us. Later in the day Jim and I traveled the boardwalk that skirts the edge of the bay and the streams that feed into it. There is a remarkable range of plant species here too and clear evidence of the changing geography. Streams are silting in and becoming first marsh and then land again. Around a few turns in the path, we found massive boulders that have loosened over centuries of freeze/thaw cycles and have crashed to the earth. One of those boulders juts out of the wall like the top of an amphitheatre. It looks precarious but there is more of it inside the earth than out.

Cap Trinite is high and rocky and bare. Cap Eternite on the other side is sloping and rounded and well treed. As the glacier that created them slid away, each side was affected differently.

We planned to stay 3 nights here, but -as usual on a boat- we revised our plan because the forecast was for a favourable wind to take us back down river the next day, and to Rimouski the day after that.

It turned out to be not quite as brisk as we had hoped but we still managed to sail a good part of the way, drifting lightly along as we passed Baie St. Etienne, playground for more Belugas.

I could very happily spend a couple of weeks in this river. It would be nice to stay many more days in the beautiful bays, and to go further up river to see how the walls flatten out and the landscape changes.

I could also happily spend a week in Tadoussac where we landed again on Tuesday night. The people are friendly; the history (this was once a Hudson's Bay trading post) and natural beauty, along with good facilities and always the whales, is a most attractive combination.

An update on Mary Beth - her surgery went well. The miniscus has been flipped back again and a new ACL has been constructed to hold her knee together. Our courageous and determined athlete will be wearing a brace for the next 6 months and recovery is expected to be very good.

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09/07/2007/9:56 pm | Margaret & Jim
How lovely to sail vicariously with you. Your writing makes us feel as though we are there and can see the whales. Glad too to hear that Mary Beth's surgery was successful.
Where do we head to next????
30/06/2007/10:00 pm, Tadoussac,PQ


The weather report was favourable and we headed out in the wee small hours of the morning for another day. This business of getting weather data is a little different from the way it happens in the area of Prescott Coast Guard Radio. The reports are updated twice a day on VHF - at 1330 and 1530 hours. It is given only in plain language; the Mayfor code is available on request. We learned to like the Mayfor code a couple of years ago because it breaks the forecast down into chunks for the 24 hour time period. The first number is for the area - always #1 for us, the second number indicates the number of hours covered by this forecast, third number is wind direction, fourth number the wind speed in knots, and the fifth number gives the weather conditions - fair, cloudy, rain etc.

I called Coast Guard Radio to ask for more details and the fellow who took my call, while pleasant enough, just kept telling me to listen to the radio! The next time I called, I asked for the Mayfor code and got it.

We arrived off the Prince Bank Shoal lighthouse in good time - an hour and a half before the current would allow us an easy entrance into Tadoussac so we drifted around a bit enjoying the company of the amazing belugas, minke and fin whales that were feeding and playing all around us. My photos do not do them justice, but I was too busy just watching to be framing perfect pictures, and whenever I had the camera aimed in one direction, the blow would be in another. Mary has a couple of amazing shots so check out

There are rules about how close boats can come to these marine mammals - 400 metres from the belugas and 200 metres from the others. That's pretty hard to do sometimes since the whales don't necessarily estimate the distance as they dive and swim. Nonetheless, we cut our engines and spent a very enjoyable hour hopping from one side of our boats to the other, calling out, "Oh! Did you see that one? Over there! Over there!"

Our lines were handily caught by Alex on the dock, and after we registered and made sure we were fast, we all tumbled into our bunks for a nap. The Epicerie Cote is well stocked with most everything we need so I made a little grocery-shopping trip up there. Blair discovered that the good folks at the Tadoussac Hotel wouldn't mind if we sat in their beautiful lobby and connected with the Internet, and the Whale Interpretation centre was across the road from the waterfront so the rest of the day was filled with education and connection!

In the evening, we trooped along to a little café where Barry Dawe, a very good guitarist was performing. I was embarrassed that I could hardly keep my eyes open and Mary had to poke me a couple of times. We were at a table right in front of him and he was most gracious. It was a fine evening and a good ending to the day.

We decided to stay put on Saturday because the wind was sur le nez yet again. I don't really understand how it can be that whatever direction we need to go, the wind comes from exactly that place. We enjoyed good conversations with other cruisers, glorious walks around the little boardwalk that circles the point, and ended the day back in the hotel lobby connecting with the wider world.

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