11/07/2007/9:00 pm, Along the Gaspe coast
Reflections on a River sailed
Well we have now entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence along the Gaspesie coast and have successfully transited the St. Lawrence from very near its source in Lake Ontario. A milestone successfully attained leads to a certain amount of reflection. We have been gone for three weeks and Beth's log postings give a sense of what we have encountered and experienced during that time.
For me this has been a period to decompress and to de-stress. It has been surprisingly easy to ignore the news and all the office issues that only a few days ago seemed important, occupying so much time and energy. Sailing this river and experiencing the cities, towns and villages along its path has taken me back to my youth. Life was really quite simple then (at least for me as a child) and it is simple again. The preoccupation is the weather and whether or not it will be fit "to go out and play". No worries about anything else in the adult world.
But for me the analogy runs deeper than that. I grew up in a small Nova Scotia community along the main road leading from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. That was before the construction of the four lane highways that bypass the small towns and even the cities from one end of Canada to the other. In those days, every vehicle coming into Nova Scotia had to pass through the streets of my home town- and we had traffic jams during the summer months. Many of those cars stopped so the passengers could reprovision or just stroll through town. We met interesting people from all across North America and they got a sense of who we were and how we lived. That all changed with the modern highway.
The St. Lawrence is like the old highways of my childhood. The river is too big to change. It still winds along small towns and big cities. Freighters from all over the world pass by connecting the inhabitants of the communities in a certain manner to the rest of the world. As sailors, we pull into those communities to rest and to reprovision or to seek shelter from the weather. We meet the people living there as well as our fellow travellers from Canada, the United States and even Europe. We take time to talk to strangers, to learn about them and their community and to accept their many offers of help along the way. The St. Lawrence is a spectacular river. It affords a glimpse of eastern Canada that you cannot get from the highway or from the sky. The pity is there are not more people out here re-connecting with their roots and discovering the astounding similarities and the enriching differences we all share as citizens of the world.
11/07/2007/8:45 pm, Riviere-au-Renard
Warm Welcomes, Bonfires and More Fletan
July 8, 2007 10:00pm, Posting#8
We left Rimouski and headed for Matane on Saturday, after staying an extra day because of heavy fog. The fog is one of those things we can cope with if we run into it, but choose not to deliberately go out in it. That might change I suppose if we were blocked in somewhere for days and days, but so far this plan is working for us.
When we left, we were able to see the huge windmills along the coastline - we counted 71 in one grouping and almost that again in another group- and also to sail a fair bit of the day. Usually when there is fog, there isn't much wind.
After a long day (we didn't ever do much better than 5.5 knots) we circled around through the Matane commercial basin because the book said it is possible to anchor behind the ferry there. It really didn't look very hospitable to pleasure boats and we couldn't see where that anchorage might be, so we went back out and continued another mile to the yacht harbour. Are we ever glad we did! There on the dock along with our good cruising buddies, Blair and Mary, were our friends Gilles and Marielle of Lady M! Lady M is a sister ship to Madcap (a Bayfield 36). They left Iroquois last June to head south and made it all the way to Grenada where they have hauled out for the summer. We connected with them en route in Charlottetown last summer, and Annapolis in October and now here they were in Matane!
Mary and Jim had both been talking with Gilles when we were in Rimouski so he knew our planned route and they had come by on their way back from Montreal to Halifax. We had a fine gathering in our cockpit, with the six of us sharing stories and peppering Gilles and Marielle with questions about their travels - good anchorages, nice marinas, protocol for entering countries and more.
After we had a quick bite to eat, Jim and I walked down to the beach where a huge bonfire was blazing, and some drummers were keeping a good beat. It was interesting to see the gathering of local townsfolk and be part of this party.
We made an 8:30 start on Sunday bound for Sainte Anne des Monts. Again, we were able to sail for most of the day. The wind was pretty much behind us and we experimented with our sails for the first hour - first the main went up, then the stay and then the yankee. There just didn't seem to be a good configuration that worked and yet kept us any where close to the course we wanted to follow, so we hauled everything in except the main, let it out wide and cruised along nicely in a following sea. Sometimes our speed went up to 8 knots as we surfed a particularly good wave.
Today, July 8th, is Alex's birthday so, thanks to the glorious invention of the cell phone, we made a call as we traveled to wish him a happy day. Happy birthday again, Alex! It seems decidedly odd to have flown the nest ourselves, and to keep in touch by phone and e-mail with all the children in their own nests.
Sainte Anne des Monts is a very pretty little Gaspe town with a friendly "guardian" on the dock to assist us in tying up. There are fascinating driftwood sculptures all around the exploramer centre next to the marina, and pretty little parks all along the waterfront. We took a walk to the poissonerie and bought more fletan (halibut) because Jim was begging for another feast! After dinner we walked out on the pier - amid a steady stream of cars that cruised out, circled around and came back in to the main street again. We watched some make two and three trips out. There were the usual fishermen and women casting their lines over the breakwater, and a collection of oldies and young folks parked in their cars watching the people go by. We've seen pretty much the same sight in every village or town with a driveable wharf - Brockville, Coburg, Portneuf and many more. It's quite fun to see, and I can almost picture myself perched out on the wharf in my old age eying the boaters as they come to look at the locals!!
We have now reached the Gulf of St Lawrence - out of the river and into the Atlantic Ocean. Tomorrow, we'll reach our northernmost latitude and start heading south. We feel like we have come a very long way in the last three weeks!
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.