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Madcap Sailing
Learning Something Every Day
05/07/2007/10:30 am, Rimouski, Quebec

Learning Something Everyday - July 5, 2007

We've had a highly successful stay in Rimouski - for a couple of reasons.

Our engine has been sounding a little odd the last couple of days - one of those changes that we notice but keep wondering if it really is different or if we are just imagining it. Then a lot more smoke started coming out of the exhaust, and then on the way across the river from Tadoussac, the alarm started sounding.

Jim has been checking all the fluid levels everyday and we had recently cleaned out the water intake filter; there was always water being pumped out from the stern when the engine was on, and apart from burning more oil than we used to, there didn't seem to be anything we could pinpoint as the culprit. Our Yanmar 4JHE has been a real workhorse engine and we were not looking forward to having to do any major work on it.

We made it across the river without mishap, keeping the revs down to below 2000 and continually adjusting our sails to take advantage of every wisp of wind. Strathspey kindly reduced speed as well to be nearby in case of trouble. Jim radioed ahead to the marina to request the services of a mechanic, and we all agreed to stay two nights in Rimouski because the weather didn't look ideal for travelling onward anyway.

Jim met with Fabien Levesque the next morning and paid careful attention to his step-by-step analysis. M Levesque follows the practice that most good problem solvers use - start with the simple things and go on from there, and in fairly short order he discovered that the water intake hose for the cooling system was partially plugged with vegetation. We've been through a few areas of "floaty stuff" on the water in the last while. So - now we know to check not only the filter, but also the hose connecting it with the thru-hull and the thru-hull itself. His technique was interesting. He disconnected the hose at the filter and blew hard into it thereby getting a mouthful of stale, salty water. Jim says he will arrange to be elsewhere when one of us needs to do that job!

What a very good thing to learn about this early in the trip! It's a good news story - engine fixed, no lasting damage, new information learned, and a diesel mechanic to recommend to anyone traveling through Rimouski. As a little extra bonus, M Levesque declared Madcap's engine to be in fine shape.

In the afternoon we were lucky recipients of some very fine hospitality. Odette, who learned from Mary that we were heading for the grocery store, offered to drive us all there and back. The supermarket is not all that far from the marina, but it was just wonderful to get whatever I needed without pondering about whether it would be too heavy to carry. Odette added the bonus of door to door service for the guys to go to Canadian Tire, a stop at the most wonderful Poissonerie Gagnon where we purchased very fresh Fletan - known to us as halibut - some pickled turbot (a bit like our familiar Solomon Gundy) and incredibly tasty smoked trout.

With the shopping done, Odette moved into tour guide mode and drove us out to see the old lighthouse at Port-au-Pere, the picturesque village of Saint Luce, her friend Mike's delightful house with its water view, and a beautiful little art shop with local weaving, unique jewelry, and lovely nautical paintings created by the owner.

In the evening, after dining on fresh halibut, grilled to perfection by Jim on our little BBQ, we walked along the seawall, reflecting on the exceptionally kind people we have met here, and on our good fortune in being able to continue on our journey of discovery.

This morning (July 6th) it's foggy with no wind so we are staying put for another day.

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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????

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