12/07/2007/8:00 pm, Riviere-au-Renard
Waves, Wind and More Wind (Sainte Annes des Monts - Mont Louis - Riviere-au-Renard)
Riviere au Renard, July 10, 2007
We set out from Sainte Anne des Monts about 0830 the other day - now what day was that?? - headed for Riviere Madeleine. We did a few circles in the harbour to try once again to calibrate the compass on our new chart plotter and autopilot - with no success. Both of them work but the chartplotter shows us moving either stern first or sideways - a bit disconcerting but we're getting used to it- and the auto pilot is "mostly" OK but I wouldn't leave it on its own for too long! Every now and then it takes a little swing one way or another. We'll have to work that one out later.
The forecast was for an increase in wind later in the day and we thought we might make it to our chosen destination but no such luck. It was interesting to see the waves change and feel the motion of the boat change along with them. If only the wind was off our beam, Madcap would be a very happy boat. She doesn't mind the waves at all, although she can pound with pretty impressive force into them. Unfortunately the wind always seems to be coming at us or following us, and put that together with some sideways waves and things get a little uncomfortable.
All this is to say that we decided on a change in destination and pulled in at Mont Louis - about 3 hours before we would have made Riviere Madeleine. Fortunately, Mary and I seemed to have a little telepathic thing going and we reached for our VHF radios at almost the same time! We were wearing all our woolies and full foul weather gear, and the boat was doing well, but this kind of travelling gets tiring after a while and if we don't HAVE to do it, well...why would we?! Jim and I were both reminded that when we plan our schedule and decide to venture out when there is a small craft wind warning, it is really important to have established some choices in available safe harbours.
We cruised nicely through the breakwater at Mont Louis, lowered the main and dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water - low tide. The relief was delightful. The teapot went on the stove, the books came out, the cribbage board got its first use of the season, and we just relaxed...until early evening! That is because Mont Louis has the distinction of being one of those places where the katabatic winds come up in the evening...every summer evening! That means that each evening, the wind funnels down the mountainside and off the land quite abruptly and with considerable vigour. We clocked a little over 22 knots, and it may have gusted to more through the night. It really is amazing to have such a significant change. Our anchor held well in the gravel bottom even though we swung completely around and we rocked all night. One little technical note - our anchor of choice is our dependable CQR - a version of a plough anchor that has never yet let us down.
We were ready to leave in the morning (one night for this experience was enough, thank you very much) so after consulting with Strathspey and litening to the 0330 weather forecast, we hauled anchor and departed shortly after 0630, enroute to Riviere au Renard more than 50 nautical miles away.
By 1100 we had passed both our alternate destinations and were on target for Riviere-au-Renard in late afternoon. With the wind on our nose, we were motoring all the way, but we had the company of whales and flocks of terns and gannets soaring against the backdrop of the mountains, and then skimming the surface of the water. The shoreline was just spectacular, and it was really evocative to see miles of mountains and trees, and then come across a point with a lighthouse perched there. One that really appealed to me was the light at Pointe a la Renomee. It must have been a most wonderful sight in the old days before GPS and radar. Somehow the strength and security still linger around the old building.
One thing I've discovered is that I'm not comfortable with being completely out of cell phone range and wireless coverage. July 10 is my dad's birthday - Happy Birthday Papa!! - and I couldn't make contact with him till midafternoon. At least Jim can post our newest whereabouts on Winlink through the Single Sideband Radio most evenings so somebody knows where we are!
We arrived at Riviere-au-Renard about 1630 (4:30 pm) after a 10 hour trip. It felt very good indeed to drop our anchor in the big basin of this large and busy fishing harbour. We settled in, discovered that somewhere in the waves, we had lost a piece of our dinghy davit - drat! - and dinghied over to where Strathspey was moored in the marina. We hiked up the road to a recommended restaurant where we planned to celebrate our arrival with a fine fish dinner. The company was terrific and the scenery was lovely, but both Mary and I could have produced a far nicer dinner - and proceeded to do so the very next day!
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!