12/07/2007/9:30 pm, Riviere-au-Renard
Waiting out the Wind, Riviere-au-Renard, July 12,2007
July 11th - Wednesday - turned out to be what Blair says his daughter would call an "It Day".
We had a series of, "That's it for the water", "That's it for the propane" statements happening. It was coldish. We knew already that we had run through all the water in our tank (neither Jim nor I had been keeping track of the days since we last topped it up - another lesson learned) and had brought back a big jug the night before. We had had the wonderful little propane fireplace on for a while to take off the morning chill, made a hot breakfast, and were doing some of the endless boat jobs when I decided to heat another pot of water for tea. Oops - no fire. I tried the fireplace again. Oops -no fire.
The upshot of all this was that we dinghied over to the marina and, with only a little coaxing, altered our "anchor whenever we have the opportunity" strategy. We docked along the long wharf since all the slips were occupied. A kind woman from the marina drove Jim in her cute yellow Mustang to get propane, and then another kind woman drove Blair and Jim to get jugs of diesel to replace what we had burned getting here. The propane system seems to have healed itself (there was still propane left in the tank) and Blair and Jim went to work on the job list while I went to practice my French as I procured a length of steel tubing "la meme que ca) to fix the davit. Showers and laundry and a visit to the poissonerie and the market filled the rest of the afternoon.
This is a very busy working harbour with ships arriving in laden with fish, and a coast guard station just beside the marina office. It is quite an education to see the fishing industry up close. Have a look at www.strathspey.ca for Mary's excellent description and pictures.
Both boat crews dined today on delectable bouillabaisse with freshly caught fletan and mussels and crevettes, and then in the evening Jim and I hiked up the road to the auberge where we linked ourselves with the rest of the world via wifi.
The wind howled all night and we were supremely grateful to be snug in this harbour.
The forecast for today - the 12th was for strong wind again so we opted to stay put for another night, and do our exploring by car. In conversation with the boat next door, Mary gleaned the name of a local man who has a car he rents out. Jim made the call; by 0930 and for the reasonable cost of $30.00, we had a Hyundai Elantra at our disposal for the day. We drove over to Perce, with the intent of admiring the rock and visiting Ile Bonaventure - home of huge colonies of gannets, basking seals and a guide to explain the history to us. Unfortunately, it never occurred to us that high winds and reduced visibility might affect not only our travel on the water, but also that of the tour boats! The island was closed; the boats weren't running.
Never ones to just cry in our beer, we betook ourselves to a local diner for a fish lunch - much better this time - and wandered around the beach and the interpretive centre. As we lounged on a bench, gazing at the waves washing over the beautiful pebbly beach, the sky started to clear, the rock emerged from the mist, and along with it, a sailboat! We hustled down on the wharf for some picture taking and discovered that the boat was Zero Gravity - which we had seen in various places along our route, ever since we came through the Iroquois lock together. Small world!
It was a fine day of sightseeing, and as we drove home along the coast that we will - hopefully - see from the water tomorrow, we all commented that although we have been here longer than intended, it has been a very good place to do this stopover.
Tomorrow if the forecast remains good, we'll depart at 0630 for L'Anse-a-Beaufils.
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.