Les Isles de la Madeline
19 September 2006
One of our shakedown cruises was to travel to a small piece of Quebec that is nestled right smack in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence between PEI, Cape Breton and Anticosti Island. It's called Les Isles de la Medeline, or the "Maggies".
For the first part of the trip we had extra crew in the persons of Pat, an old friend that I had served with in Montreal, and his wife Katie. We were also sailing in the company of another boat, a Tanser 7.6 called NOONAN KNIGHT that was crewed by some good friends, the husband and wife team, Pat and Lisa Noonan.
We set off in relatively calm seas under an overcast sky. The forecast was for fair winds and following seas so we set off full of optomism and high spirits. Of course, within a hour of leaving the harbour mouth, the weather deteriorated to 15 knots on the nose, 2-3 metre seas, and 10 metre vis in fog. Almost immediately lost visual contact with NOONAN KNIGHT but were tracking each other by radar, or rather we were tracking. Their's, being a smaller boat, often had the radar below the wave height so they quickly lost sight of us. We were able to follow them though and fed them continuous radio reports as to where they were in relation to us.
Our original intent had been to head straight to Liscomb Lodge, about halfway up the Eastern Shore of the province as our first stop, but with the bad weather and the fact that some of the crew was getting sea sick, we elected to put into Wolf Island, one of our favourate stopping spots.
Long Creek was dead calm and we went ashore for an explore and to walk Periwinkle. NOONAN KNIGHT came alongside and we had the first BBQ and party of the trip.
Next day we set off again, this time for Liscomb. The weather wasn't too much better but I handed out Bonamine pills and everyone kept their breakfasts down.
Shortly after leaving Wolf Island we lost touch with NOONAN KNIGHT. We tried to radio them to stay in Long Creek and wait for better weather be got no response. Assuming they heard us but we couldn't hear them, we continued on to Liscomb planning to wait for them the next day.
We arrived in mid afternoon and the sky cleared to allow us a beautiful run up the bay and the river to the lodge. The small dock was full as were all the moorings so we anchored at the mouth of the river and went in for a swim in the pool and a wallow in the hot tub. We even took the Zodiac up the river to try some fishing - no luck. In fact I lost one of my favourite lures in the current amidst some rocks. Later we went in for a meal at the lodge restauraunt. That's one of the really nice things about the lodge - they don't mind if you use the lodge facilities even if you anchor out, assuming, of course, that you'll come in for a meal or two.
We were just finishing an excellent meal and were getting into desert, liquors and coffee when one of the marina staff came up and asked us if we know of a boat called NOONAN KNIGHT. Hearts in our throats we stared at each other fearing the worst. He then let us know that they had just arrived at the lodge with engine problems and were wondering where we were. In a boat half the size of NELLEKE they had sailed through some awful conditions only to have their motor konk out when they needed it to motor up the river to the lodge. The least we could do was to buy them some dinner to take out from the restauraunt.
We stayed in Liscomb for a couple of days until the weather cleared and then said good-bye to NOONAN KNIGHT and her crew as they were styaing in the harbour to visit friends. We set off for Port Hawksbury where we arrived at midnight and tied up at the face of the Strait of Canso Yacht Club's dock. From Canso across the Straits of Canso at least we got some good weather so that our friends could see why we enjoy cruising so much. Up until that point it had been fog, waves, and sea sickness. Not much fun.
Next day we followed a tug towing a barge of gravel through the Canso Lock and made course for the Maggies. A pod of Minke whales escorted us from the north end of the lock for about five miles. This almost made the previous 3 days of fog and waves worth while for our crew.
Since our friends had a flight back to Ontario to catch the morning after next, we decided to push right through to the islands so they'd have at least one day to visit. This made for quite an adventure as it turned out that the buoyage on the water did not reflect exactly what we had on the charts and we wound up running aground twice on the way in to the marina. Fortunately the bottom was soft so we could back off and no damage was done. The next day when we saw the very narrow passage that we came through in the dark to get into the harbour....well, lets just say we were lucky.
The next day Pat and Katie rented a car and we made like speed tourists to see as much of the island as we could. The "Maggies" are a beautiful place and deserve better but that was all the time that they had. The following morning amid sad and regretful faces they drove of to the airport to begin their trip home. We, on the other hand, spent the following five days beachcombing and visiting museums and aquariums. People in the islands are wonderful to visitors. Most are locals or locals who have traveled away to Montreal or Quebec for employment, but they all come home to the Maggies for their vacations inthe summertime.
Many of the old fisheman's cottages along the beach have been converted to artisan's stores. You can buy everything from varvings to jewlery to home made soap. There is one that is left as it was for visitors to get an idea of what life had been like in the earlier days, with the accomadations on the top floor and the salting tanks at ground level. In still other cases people have bought them for cottages and made the comfort conversions. We met one couple that invited us upstairs where they were entertaining some friends. Everyone seemed to play one musical instrument or another and we had an Acaedien Ceilih. Great fun. Wonderful time. Great hospitality.
At the end of our visit we left to return to Halifax by way of Cheticamp on the west coast of Cape Breton Island. This is a place that seems to be little used by the cruising public. There is a very nice town dock that we couldn't find anyone who could tell us if there was a fee for tying up to. There was even an electrical outlet to plug into and a water tap. There were a couple of reasonable restauraunts, a grocery, a hardware, and drug store all within brief walking distance. Not sure why we were the only boat alongside for the couple of days that we weree there.
We left Cheticamp and headed through the Causway and made for the town of Canso accross tha Strait. Canso is one of our favourite spots to stop, mostly because there is a well equiped marina but also because of the local hospitality. At one of our first visits we learned that when the crab boats were in, for the price of a case of beer you could get "given" more crab legs that you could eat in a month. This trip was no different. We got some crab legs from one of the fishing boats that had just come into port and had a nice relaxing couple of days at the marina. It was at the end of their season so we had it to ourselves.
We made very good time continuing down the coast so took the opportunity to stop over at Liscomb again and to visit Sherbrooke Village, one of those historic re-enactment sites. Our daughter Kayt drove up to join us and drove us the 50 km from the lodge to Sherbrooke.
And then, regretfully, the cruise ended in Halifax. Other than the grounding in the "Maggies" it was the first time we have made a shakedown cruise in which nothing broke or stopped working. Maybe we're getting on top of the maintenance.