All one big blur…

IMGA0295Funny how time can slip away so easily. Hours turn to days and slide into weeks, then months, and no sooner than you can say “Winter Solstice,” or “holy crap I gotta stop drinking so much (Kathy’s fault 😉 )” the season has changed, and a New Year has begun.

IMG_2150Our time in Ottawa was wonderful, as usual. We had a great time hanging with Mom and Sis. Ann celebrated two firsts: turning 55 (making her a Senior Citizen in the eyes of Shopper’s Drug Mart) and officially beginning to receive her retirement pension (as of Dec. 31).

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During our extended Ottawa stay Ann had more dental work done, we spent some great time with Colleen and Connor, and even managed to visit our sailing friends in Belleville. It was great to spend time with Marvin, Gary, Frank & Aloma, Erton & Jenny, and of course Deb & Chris (whom we hope will pass us by in their boat someday soon!).

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Marvin’s cat PITA

But our time in Ottawa did eventually come to an end. We once again packed our life’s belongings into our little red car and began the trek north and then west, stopping in a few places along with way, and visiting good friends in Rossport (Cathie and Joe and Maggie Muggins) and then in Thunder Bay.

 

 

 

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While in Thunder Bay we spent an evening with our sweet friends Ben, Sherilyn and amazing Olivia. And then we hung out with old buddies and sailing mentors Paul, Julie and daughter Coralie. Ann reconnected with many of her work pals, and we had a great breky with my friend & colleague Elle and her Glen. Finally, with a new set of winter tires all installed (not thanks to Honda!), we headed off to Winnipeg and eventually Calgary.

IMG_1270The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was our first stop along the way. It was something we’d wanted to see for a while, so not being under any time pressure, we booked a wonderful AirBnB and stayed for a couple of days. The museum is not something you want to rush through, so this gave us a whole day to follow its path from Inferno, through Purgatorio, and finally to Paradiso  at least that’s how I interpreted the design.

 

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It was a moving exploration of the idea of human rights. Some of it was brutally hard, yet there was light as well. I learned a few new things, and was reminded about the evil that lives in all of us. It is well worth a visit, but give yourself time to take it all in.

The drive across the Prairies always seems the longest part … especially in a car. I’m sorry, but it is flat and boring. I try and see the beauty, but from the inside of a car whizzing past at 100 km/hr, I just don’t get it. At least Ann and her new Fitbit were entertaining…

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IMG_2619We arrive in Calgary and pulled into Hotel du Donna & Sam where we stayed for about a week. Their kindness and generosity is ever appreciated by us homeless vagabonds, and this stay had the added benefit of coming during Ann’s official birthdate.

IMG_2639We along with D&S and Peggy & Phil, had an amazing night out at the Bow Valley Ranch, which is a very fancy (and $$$ — thanks Donna!) place in Fish Creek Park. We ate and drank and toasted the Birthday girl, and even enjoyed some fresh oysters. Fun, fun.

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Over the coming days we just relaxed IMG_2667, played with my drone IMG_2662, and did some cooking and curling-watching IMG_2652. Later that week Donna played hostess to many of the extended family cousins IMG_2624. It was great to reconnect with them all.

IMG_1294IMG_1300After about a week our schedule told us to move over to Peggy’s place. This Chalet du Peggy overlooks Fish Creek Park, and is a wonderful refuge in the midst of this very big and fast-moving city. We moved in and made ourselves right at home. We even got to see Big Connor.

While hanging out at Peggy’s place Ann and I did what we do best. She worked hard to help Peggy organize her files, and I played with my drone.

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IMG_4402One day we even got invited over to play with Phil’s cute and wonderful grandkids: Theo and Vida.

The days slipped by. There were files to organize IMGA0367, walks to take IMGA0360, and snow to shovel IMGA0370.

And droning … lots of flying the drone:

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_IGP5866With X-mas approaching we moved back over to D&S’s to see Monique and Chris (before they left for X-mas in Vernon), and to spend a few more days cavorting and conversing in the house of easy living and fascinating discussion. Ann helped Donna with her files (Ann’s a Filing Beast!), we enjoyed Wally, and we assisted with the Big Meal on the Big Day.

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Our time in Calgary was wonderful, as usual. But all-too-soon the call of the Okanagan took over, and we were headed off to our winter home in Penticton. The drive through the mountains was challenging IMG_1308, but uneventful. We pulled into our  now-familiar BC home just as the sun was going down. Luckily, Maxi-the-cat seemed to remember us.

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So, after digging out from the largest snow fall we’ve seen here in Penticton IMG_2682 IMG_2685, we’ve settled in for three months of easy livin’ … including plenty of drone flying:

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Becoming landlubbers once again

IMGA0132IMGA0142We arrived back “in Canada” via the big ferry and began the  journey back to Quebec (City), and then onto Ottawa. The drive was easy, beautiful, and fast — at least fast compared to the last few months.

Speed of travel is an interesting thing. I’ve heard it said that we experience life at the speed at which we move. At boat speed, which is usually about 5 knots for us (~10 km/hr), life is very different than zipping along at 100 km/hr or more (especially when Ann is driving 😉 ). At boat speed I see things, smell things, feel things in a way that I just don’t while driving in a car. In a car it’s all so clinical. I feel cut off … more isolated.

But of course, car speed also means we can get to places before the next glaciers appear, which is a good thing. Life is full of trade offs. We all gotta find the right balance…

IMGA0144IMGA0147In any case, our zippy two-day journey from Corner Brook to Quebec City was easy and quite beautiful. We found a couple of cheap, but decent, motels, and we even found Donna and Sam’s old digs in Oromocto. The trees were revealing their true colours, and the journey along Bras d’Or Lake  was rather stunning.

Once we got to Rivière-du-Loup we began retracing our route along the St. Lawrence. We saw some of the islands we had anchored beside, and reminicsed about the journey that already seems so long ago.

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IMG_2471IMGA0207On our way down the river we completely bypassed Quebec City. Ann had never been, so we decided to spend a few days in the old city. Ann found us an AirBnB right in the heart of the city. We arrived just as the sun was going down and the drizzle had begun.

Navigating the old city roads is challenging at the best of times. We did manage to find the place after only missing our turns twice. Gilles, the owner, greeted us and we moved into our room which overlooked some of the oldest homes and streets in Canada.

The next day we wondered the streets of the old city. We climbed up to the Plains of Abraham and saw where the battle over Quebec’s soul began. We meandered through the cobblestone alleys, just taking it all in.

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IMGA0189After lunch I went back to our room to rest tired ankles and Ann carried on by herself. She hiked down to the marina and discovered numerous art installations.

IMGA0166She watched a sailboat go through the lock that separates the marina from the St. Lawrence, and she also found the same trimaran that we had met a month (or so) earlier; the one with the young family and all the many, many kids.

 

See August post

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IMG_2524Later we met up for another yummy dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.

IMG_1211After a couple of days we said goodbye to our host and headed for Ottawa. Approaching Montreal, and getting through this big city’s traffic, is always interesting, but we made it and were greeted by Mom, Kathy, and two cute kitties. The accommodations at my sister’s place are not quite 5-star, but at least the company is great.

IMGA0212The following days, which have bled into weeks, and is now looking like more than month, has been a blur of good food, beer and wine, great company, and lots of Connor. It has been great to spend time with niece Colleen and her growing son Connor who is doing great. We’ve been going to parks with them, and Ann even visited his “school” to see how things were going with his program.

 

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While in Ottawa Ann has carried on with her Tooth Saga. Seems that despite all the wine drinking, her gum has healed over nicely and the dentist is now ready with power drill and jackhammer so they can pound a new post into her jaw and glue on a new chomper. I keep offering to build her one out of epoxy and fibreglass, but for some reason she wants to go with the “professionals.” So we’re hanging around Ottawa for a few more weeks to get it all done.

This will give us time to visit some of our Belleville friends, and for me to play with my baby sister some more.

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A fond farewell

_IGP5808 (1)IMGA0018End of season is always a hard time. It’s physically hard just getting the boat stripped down and ready for winter. It’s functionally hard as we try and keep our living space livable. But it’s the emotional side that weighs the heaviest.

Pachina Mia has housed us these past six months. She has kept us warm, (mostly) dry and safe throughout the long journey. She has taken us through some of the most stunning places in the world and has allowed us to live freely and simply. She’s a part of us, and we will miss her dearly these coming wintery months. But we know we’ll be back next Spring to carry on. In the meantime there’s is much to do…

_IGP5800The tasks of getting the boat ready for winter are many and hard. And some are a wee bit scary, such as climbing to the top of our mast to remove our anemometer and lazyjacks. Ann won the fight this year, so she got to go up — to the general applause of the gathered boating audience.

IMGA0026Later that day, with a rising tide, ‘the boys’ moved the tractor and large hydraulic trailer down the ramp and we slid Pachina Mia up onto the pads. She came out with little effort, but then the challenges began as ‘the boys’ led by John and Keith and Ray and many, many others figured out how to get her settled on the ground. With a bit of head scratching, a few failed experiments, and lots of practical engineering, the task was eventually accomplished.

 

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IMGA0087Over the next few days we got her all winterized, cleaned up, tied down, and covered. We’ve been continually warned about the ferocious winds and huge amounts of snow Corner Brook gets (average of 16 feet), so we spent extra time making sure the tarp is as snug as possible. Our spot is pretty protected from most wind, and thanks to our many new friends, we have plenty of eyes watching out for Pachina Mia, so I’m sure she’ll be OK … I hope…

But as the wise old saying goes, all work and no play makes Mike a pouty, grumpy boy. Luckily the friends we’ve made ensured there was no risk of that. Paula and Byron and their daughter Andrea feel like friends we’ve known for years. Byron and Paula are fellow boaters living the same watery dream. They have already helped us in so many ways. And just to add one more to the list, they had us over for a grand Newfoundland supper of traditional island fare. A few days later we all went out for supper at one of the swanky Corner Brook restaurants, and the manager almost had to kick us out. The stories and the laughter just kept rolling long past dessert and well into the night.

If all that wasn’t enough, the whole yacht club got together to throw us this amazing going-away party, complete with food and booze and a live traditional band:

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OK … maybe it wasn’t for us ;-). Keith, one of our other new friends who has been so great to us, was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary at the yacht club. He invited us to come, so we did. And what a joyous evening. We sang and danced (and drank) until the day turned into the next.

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The following morning Gord and Leona has us all over to their boat for brunch. Such amazing people, and such great food! But geeze, it can be hard to get any work done at all 😉

IMGA0091But work we did, and now Pachina Mia is all tucked away. We tied the last tie, disconnected the batteries, and headed off to Port aux Basques to catch the ferry “to Canada” as they say around here. We’ll spend the first night in Sydney, NS, then head over to Ottawa via Quebec City.

 

 

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It’s sad to leave this place, and to say goodbye to our boating lifestyle, but knowing we’ll be back, and that we have friends like Brian (another wonderful new friend who would give you the shirt off his back … literally!) makes it all OK. For now, new adventures beckon. Adventure, and some catching up on sleep 😉

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The end is nigh!

… And I’m not just talking about Trump’s UN speech 😉

IMGA0997It’s been nearly three weeks since we pulled into our new home here in Corner Brook, and tied up to the dock. We were greeted quite literally with many open arms as a 1/2 dozen members stood ready to take our lines and help us dock … I guess they thought I’d be on the helm ;-). As it was, Ann brought us in smoothly and expertly.

_IGP5695We tied up and spent the next few days getting to know our new home. One thing we learned right away is the fabled Newfoundland generosity is no fable. Within hours we’d been greeted and visited by many members, all asking what they could do for us. When people heard we were without a car we were given the keys to a car (thanks Byron!), and offered many others. And our engine issue was diagnosed, and assistance and parts were offered.

I love this place!

IMGA0006Unfortunately the leak that was causing us to sink faster than normal turned out to be in the transmission cooler. I had no idea we even had such a thing, but we do. And it also turns out it is a heat exchanger, with sea water flowing on one side and transmission oil on the other. Because it had sprung a leak on the water side, we decided it best not to run the engine much for fear that water might leak into the transmission. I’m not a mechanic, but I believe salt water in a transmission would be bad.

IMG_2454So we’ve sat at the dock all the time, just relaxing and living, and slowly getting the boat ready to haul out. We’ve also started to get the feel for our new little city of Corner Brook. At about 30,000 people, Corner Brook is Newfoundland’s second largest city. It’s a bit of an industrial town with a pulp/paper mill at the core, but the area is stunningly beautiful, and of course the people are amazing. I’m already looking forward to getting back here next season.

After about 10 days Marvin from Belleville arrived here with our little red car. He and his girlfriend Tatik (who is visiting from Indonesia), drove it all the way here as part of their Atlantic holiday adventure. We spent the next few days exploring the area by car and foot. This included finding a decomposing carcass of a right whale (sorry, no pics). This is one of the ones that has likely been struck and killed by fast moving freighter traffic in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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IMGA0009IMGA0007Marvin and Tatik took off to explore some other areas using our little red car as we whiled away the time doing odd jobs, and slowly getting the boat ready for winter. It’s always hard as the season comes to a close; mixed emotions, a sense of ending, plus all the practical aspects of having to take the boat apart while trying to keep it still livable.

Happily, one of our new fast-friends let us tag along when he went out to the Woods Island anchorage to sink his mooring for the winter. Ostensibly we were there to help. In reality, all we did was go along for the ride, eat his food, and play with his dog. But it was great to be on the water again.

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While awaiting our haul out day we got to know another newcomer to the club: Paul. He came in a few days after us in his 43-foot steel motorsailer. Paul is an incredibly accomplished photographer (Paul Souders) who soloed this large boat all the way to the tip of northern Labrador. Turns out this is a minor adventure in his long and varied career.

It was pretty amazing to hear some of the things he’s done. We shared a beer, and swapped some stories. He says we should take our boat up Labrador next season. We’ll see…

Our time here is rapidly coming to an end now. We plan to haul Pachina Mia out in the next few days. It will likely take us another five or six days to get her all ready for winter, then it’s back to Ottawa for a few weeks of hanging out with mom and sis. After that we’ll slowly make our way north through Thunder Bay and on to Calgary for more family bliss time.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

BANG! CRASH! SMASH!! I was abruptly and harshly awakened two hours into my four hour off-watch sleep when my body hit the ceiling of our forward berth. We had come crashing down from a huge wave. Then another…

We were within 15 nautical miles of the Bay of Islands, but the gods of Easy Crossings and Gentle Seas had handed things over to whatever gods Ann has pissed off in the past. We entered nautical hell!

… but more on that later.

IMGA0943IMGA0935We left Mingan at about 11 am, heading out on about a 230 nautical mile crossing to Bay of Islands which houses Corner Brook. This would be the longest continual sail we’ve ever done, but only by about 50 or so miles. We’ve crossed Lake Superior before, and that was close to 180 nm … or was that 140?? Ah well, close enough… Anyway, we’d found what looked like the perfect weather window for what should have been a 40 hour crossing for our little boat.

Everything went according to plan for the first two days and most of two nights. The winds came up steady and moderate (10 to 15 knots most of the time) from the SW over the first day and through the night, but the seas were moderate and the direction remained pretty constant. We had swapped out the normal heavy headsail (yankee) for our light air drifter, so we moved along nicely all through the night. Aries, our windvane, steered us through those first 24 hours with nary a complaint.

no landThe overnight sky gave a stunning stellar display. Other than a somewhat close encounter of the freighter kind that required a course change (1.8 nm seems awfully close in the dark), everything was great. We ate well from the stew I had made the previous day. We slept, and just enjoyed the solitude. There’s something stunningly beautiful about being alone on the sea with nothing around you but water, wind and waves.

IMGA0940The sun rose on the second day, and as predicted, the winds began to drop. We expected this to happen so eventually dropped sails and turned to Grampa Tractor to push us along. We’d covered close to half of our distance by then, so things were going well.

The sun set as normal. We’d had our second hot, warm supper of stew and bread, and I had been off for my last watch, when… well, you know.

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(These were taken well after the big wind and seas had passed.)

I clawed my way up to the cockpit to find Ann hanging on to the tiller, working very hard to keep us on track and safe. We were still motoring at this point, and naturally, things were looking odd with the engine. “The oil pressure is dropping!” yells Ann. Oh goodie… Our engine loses oil. It’s always done this, so we just keep adding a bit after every motoring day. But we’d been running for nearly 20 hrs now, and Grampa was running dry.

I got on my foulies, and crawled out onto the foredeck (harnessed and tethered) to raise a double-reefed sail and staysail. No easy task in the large bouncy seas, but we got the job done. Once we got the sails up Ann was able to keep us moving through the seas, so we shut down the engine and I managed to get down below, get the engine room opened, and get enough oil back in to make Grampa happy once again.

Things were looking good. The engine was purring away, and winds that had risen to high teens had dropped back a bit. Seas subsided a little and we thought we were home free. But Newfoundland was not happy yet. We still had to prove our mettle.

IMGA0955By about 3 am wind and seas started building again. The nor’easter that the forecast promised wouldn’t hit till late in the day had overtaken us. We were now facing near-gale wind right on the nose, and rapidly building seas. By then the day was dawning and we could at least see the land. Of course we could also see the big waves … sometimes it’s better not to see them 😉

Anyway, it took us the next six hours to travel the few nautical miles to enter the Bay of Islands. With Ann’s expert helming (she wouldn’t let me touch the tiller till the worst had passed), and Pachina Mia’s awesome nature, we managed to make it inside the big bay. Once inside the bay the seas dropped off, giving us a relatively easy sail to our anchorage.

We found our way past the shoals and entered Wood’s Island anchorage. It was about 9 am and we were just about to drop the anchor when a skiff came roaring over to us. “Welcome to Corner Brook Michael O’Reilly!” yells the one fellow … ?!?

Not often does one sail 62 days only to have the very first words you hear being your own name.

Turns out the fellow was/is Byron. He is a member of the Bay of Islands Yacht Club — our new yacht club. I had emailed the Harbour Master a couple weeks earlier, letting him know we were getting closer. Turns out the whole club seemingly knew we were coming b/c we later met a few more boaters in the anchorage who knew all about us. Gotta love small communities!

Anyway, we encountered a few more problems getting the anchor down (the chain pile had completely flipped over in the locker with all the huge seas), then discovered one of our hatches had leaked onto the bed. The boat was a general mess, and the composting head had flooded from water coming down the air vent.

It took us a few more hours to sort all this out. Then we ate something. Had a quick toast to Newfoundland, and went to bed. We slept for a goodly long time before waking up to the stunning beauty of the place.

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“This is why we left Lake Superior!”

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Wood’s Island was once a thriving fishing community. It was apparently the largest community on the west coast at one point. Now all that remains is a small collection of camps.

_IGP5652The anchorage remained peaceful and calm the four days we were there. But we were warned the winds can become pretty fierce, even in this protected bay. And as evidence, we could see a house that had blown over — yup, blown over…

IMGA0978We spent the last few days relaxing and sorting out a few more problems on the boat (turns out, we were sinking faster than normal…). We rowed ashore and met a few more of our fellow club members, all of whom had heard we were coming. Don & Lisa, and Gordon & Leonna greeted us warmly, gave us (me) beer, and fresh-picked chanterelle mushrooms which we ate and drank with gusto!

_IGP5693With weather predicted to come in we decided it was time to officially end our journey. We had a great sail, coming into the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. This feels like home for the next few years (at least). The warm welcome continues.

_IGP5696The friendliness of Newfoundlanders is legendary, and accurately earned. Everyone has been amazing. When we casually mentioned that our car wouldn’t arrive for another week Byron casually said, “no problem. You can have one of mine.”

We love it here already!

 

Mingan magic

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We spent two more days hiding from the weather and enjoying the Sept-Îles scenery. In those days we watched storms pass, seals sunbathe, cruise boats go by IMGA0845, wood being delivered via helicopter IMGA0848, and minke whales surface right next to our boat while at anchor (and I do mean RIGHT NEXT — within 10-feet!!! — sorry, no pics).

Finally, the long-awaited weather window opened up for us, so we said goodbye to Sept-Îles, and headed off on our first overnight sail in over three years. Much like Lake Superior, this area is not to be taken lightly. Seas and winds can build to overwhelming sizes. And the cold air and water makes mistakes unforgiving, so we planned well, and were cautious.

Along the way we were treated to numerous close encounters of the whale kind, including many minkes and what we’re pretty sure was a small pack of fin whales. Fins are very large, and a group passed not far in front of our boat.

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IMGA0861Luckily our overnighter went exactly as planned and we arrived in the Mingan Archipelago National Park just as the morning sunshine was creeping over the hills. We grabbed a free mooring off one of the main islands and promptly when to bed for some well-deserved sleep.

IMGA0863We were awakened to an odd sound. A kind of clattering bump, bump, bump. Looking outside we saw a line of “campers” who were using the freely-provided luggage carts to haul their equipment to the various camp grounds. How bizarre…

IMGA0903Turns out our anchorage area was a hoppin’ spot for locals and tourists alike. We arrived on a Friday and were witness to a few large parties of local folk, either “camping” or partying from their boats. They were all pretty respectful of the peace, if not the quiet, of the place.

IMGA0898IMGA0902The second night another classic-looking sailboat grabbed the mooring beside us. On board was a young family of mom, dad and three kids (~10, 7 and maybe 1). They also had with them what looked like a sister of mom, and likely their father. We waved and exchanged a few words back and fourth in our broken English and French. I’ve been increasingly sad that there is this language barrier. Should have paid more attention in French class…

That evening the mom came out with a violin, and left Ann in tears as she played hauntingly into the open anchorage. The following day the dad pulled out a banjo, and then the sister brought out her violin. We were deeply sad to see them leave.

Mingan is one of those stunning places of beauty. It is a protected area for many reasons, not least of which are the flower pot structures that line many of the islands. We went ashore to explore.

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We stayed on the mooring for a few more days, resting and planning for our next steps. There is one more good anchorage about forty miles east, and then it gets pretty sparse. The shoreline becomes treacherous and the few possible anchorages are poorly protected and hard to get into without local knowledge. So it’s one more Quebec anchorage, then ‘Hello Newfoundland’ … at least that’s the plan right now.

IMGA0915IMGA0922We left our beautiful mooring and made the sail (mostly a motor) past the town of Havre St-Pierre, to our protected anchorage behind an island. We arrived here just ahead of predicted strong winds and rain, and the forecaster was not wrong, but we’re in a safe, if foggy, place awaiting our good weather window to make the leap to The Rock. It will be the longest run we’ve ever done, but only by a little bit.

With a little luck, and good planning (which we are doing), the next missive will come to you from The Bay of Islands.

Addendum: At our last anchorage in Mingan we were treated to another type of sea life: Jellyfish. These guys were swimming all around our boat most of the time we were there:

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Hotel Sept-Îles (or Stuck in Sept-Îles)

IMGA0794IMGA0788We left our dock in Baie-Comeau fully loaded with diesel, water, food and wine. The weather and wind forecast was not what we wanted, so we decided to do a short hop to Anse St. Pancrace, a deep bay about 10 miles east of the marina. Similar to Thomson Island or CPR docks in Lake Superior (our boating friends will know what this means), the local sailors have a dock that people can use.

The dock is in a deep bay with steep hiking trails and a beautiful waterfall very close by. We spent some time walking around and exploring a bit.

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_IGP5418_IGP5438The next day we headed east again. Weather and distances between viable anchorages are becoming more of a challenge now, but we’ve got a few mapped out, and are moving along as best we can. By the end of the day we made it to Baie-Trinité and anchored about a mile offshore of a large sandy beach. The shore offered some protection against the predicted west winds, but little from the big rollers coming in from the south and east. It was a rolly, ruckus night. Pretty though, watching the porpoises, distant whales and tons of gannets.

We left shortly after dawn the next morning as the seas were starting to build. The wind piped up to around 30 knots and the seas built from 2 to 3 to 4 or more meters. Our planned anchorage some 30 miles away turned out to be a dud, so we pressed on all the way to Sept-Îles, which was more than double our planned distance that day.

The seas were too large and building as we closed in on the seven islands (which is really only six), but thankfully the wind had been in our favour, and quite strong (hence the large seas), so we made good time. Along the way we saw distant large whale spumes. Never could tell what they were, but they were BIG!

IMGA0804We passed the Sept-Îles entrance shoals just as the sun dipped below the horizon, and managed to find an anchorage and drop the hook in the dying light of dusk. Happily the anchor grabbed right away, so we finished the job using headlamps and crawled into bed after nearly 14 hours of hard travel that day. We were both exhausted.

We woke up to a beautiful protected bay sandwiched between two islands. With seals and whales and beauty all around us. Almost makes you forget how hard it was to get here.

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IMGA0823IMGA0816But like the Eagles song Hotel California, it seems that we can come to Sept-Îles, but we can never leave. A two day stay turned to three and four as weather remained dubious. Then the wind changed and we had to move anchorages within the seven (six!) islands and we sat for another couple of days. Then wind changed again and we moved back to our first anchorage.

The problem is, we have a long sail to our next safe anchorage (100+ miles), with a long straight fetch (so possibly large waves) and strong currents that sometimes run in opposition. We need a good weather window to do an overnighter, but each time it seems to emerge in the extended forecast, it then gets closed down with the wrong wind or thunderstorms, or huge seas, or thick fog.

So we wait… and wait… and wait… At least the scenery is beautiful

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At least we’re getting some good reading time in.

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To find there but the road back home again…

IMGA0743Heading east from the Saguenay we continued to encounter belugas, seals, loons and even a few minke whales. It’s a beautiful and stunning place — but then it all is now. Rocky granite shorelines covered in thick forests of evergreens and some deciduous. Few signs of urban life. It all looks so familiar…

IT LOOKS AND FEELS JUST LIKE LAKE SUPERIOR!!

_IGP5359Ever since leaving Thunder Bay Ann and I have been somewhat jokingly asking each other: “Remind me again; why did we leave Lake Superior?” This was usually at times when we were surrounded by urban bleck, crowded anchorages, sweltering heat and waters dark and thick with weeds. Lake Superior is cold and clean. It’s shorelines are rugged and mostly empty of Man’s influence. It is a place where you must travel on Nature’s rhythms. And we’ve both been missing it dearly.

But now we’re back. This land feels very much like our old Superior home. It is a little less remote, with a little more urban influences, but in so many ways it looks and feels just like home. It’s wonderful.

IMGA0747Heading east we passed by a shoreline lined with campers and paddlers. The whale watching boats were all over the place. It’s amazing to see the large numbers of tourists, and tourist businesses, given how far away this place is. But whales and wilderness attract people.

_IGP5375We found an anchorage for the night some 20 nm east in a bay used by whale watching boats, with overlooking rental cabins. It was a small bay that shallowed out quickly, and we were still dealing with 12-foot tides, so we had to set our anchor right.

_IGP5377Of course just after we’d settled in for the evening another sailboat came around the corner and took up residence very close to us. Seemed a bit too close, but it all worked out fine, and we exchanged a few broken pleasantries — us in broken French, them in broken English. We then settled in for an evening of boat watching and a dinner of chili, reading and planning for the next day.

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This journey has been an amazing one so far, but sadly it has also mostly been under engine power. Given the demands of locks, then tides and crazy currents, we’ve had to motor more than we’ve ever done. Usually we don’t burn a tank of diesel in many seasons, but on this trip we’ve already refuelled once and are now looking for our next stop. Not only that, the engine oil is looking very black and a bit sludgy. The oil pressure gauge is beginning to act a bit oddly, so it looks like it’s time to change our oil. Where to go… How about Baie-Comeau.

The Club nautique de Baie-Comeau promises 10 transient berths, with water, diesel and access to grocery and booze stores. Plus it claims to have a waste oil service, which is perfect for our needed oil change. So we make our plans and head toward the land that the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney once represented in the House of Commons.

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_IGP5407_IGP5416The last anchorage before arriving in Baie-Comeau ranks as yet another odd one for us. We’ve been finding places all along the journey, mostly by looking at charts and studying the limited guide material we have (some of it in French!– Merci. Paul et Julie!). But this one had us anchoring more than a nautical mile off shore so we could have enough depth to allow for low tide. Naturally, the wind also came up rather strongly, but our anchor held and we slept well.

That morning we sailed off the anchor (something we’d done a few times recently), and headed towards Baie-Comeau. It was still a long journey, but for once the winds were with us, so we sailed most of the way. Ann, as usual, expertly guided us through the narrow gap of the marina, right to the dock.

IMG_2417As with our last marina, this club nautique was incredibly welcoming and friendly. Most people’s English is better than our French, although it is definitely more French here than further up the river. Somehow we manage though. The restaurant is great — especially the seafood! And the beer and wine taste good.

This place has all we need … all except the oil disposal service which their website claims. When I asked our dock neighbours they immediately offered to take our old oil and dispose of it in town. People are so wonderful everywhere!

IMG_2419IMG_2422Of course, our planned two night stay has now morphed into four. We did our oil change and supplies restock. The diesel and water tanks are full, but a predicted strong east wind did land on us starting on the fourth day. Since we have to head east for the next leg, this was enough to convince us to stay tied to the dock and near the nummy restaurants for the extra nights.

IMG_2424IMG_2438To celebrate our cautious behaviour we walked to a nearby brew-pub restaurant in town and sampled some local beers and regional cheese. Yum, yum.

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One final night out on the town (OK, at the marina restaurant) and we were ready to say goodbye to Baie-Comeau.

Tomorrow we begin what will hopefully be the final big push for Newfoundland. The shoreline for our next stretch is a bit less friendly in terms of good anchorages, but we’ve mapped some stuff out and should be fine. I hope…

Travelling the Tiger Lily Road

_IGP5205The storms passed through without too much problem, and our anchor held us through the 15-foot rise and fall of the tides overnight as we overlooked the ski hill of Mont-Sainte-Anne. As Great Lakes sailors we never have to concern ourselves with tides and currents. This stretch of the River has forced us to take a crash course in this new dimension of cruising.

The next morning we realized we’d missed our ebb-tide window to reach our next planned stop, so we scanned our books, charts and guides  and found something about 12 miles away.

IMGA0649As we approached our area we sailed a narrow passage between a few islands, one of which turned out to be the Grosse Île Quarantine Station. Apparently immigrants, mostly from Ireland, were funnelled through this station from 1832 to 1937 as a means of controlling cholera and smallpox. It now operates as a living museum.

When we arrived at our intended stop we quickly concluded the currents were way too strong to anchor there. But sharp eyed Annnneeeeeeeeee noticed another spot on the chart so we dropped there for the night. While there we watched a bunch of local boaters sail/motor over to a shallow area, and anchor in high tide. Then we watched as the tide went out, and the boats were left high and dry. This included sailboats with their keels left stuck in the mud. Amazing, and kinda scary.

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The next day was a long sail to our next possible anchorage at Isle-aux-Coudres across from Baie Saint-Paul. Ian Tamblyn, whom we saw live in Belleville a few days before leaving, has a wonderful song called Tiger Lily Road. It traces a summer spent in the area we are now travelling. Needless to say, Ann was all a-swoon as we passed and sighted the various locations named in the song:

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Les Eboulements
  • Baie St. Paul
  • Les Eboulements
  • Mal Baie
  • Tadoussac
  • Saguenay
  • Saint Rose
  • Les Escoumins

It was a 60+ nm day, but by catching the early morning ebb tide we were able to travel at around 2 to 3 knots of additional speed. This is a lot for our little boat that usually averages around 5 knots. We’ve been averaging around 7 to 8 knots these days!!

IMGA0661IMGA0663As we approached Isle-aux-Coudres around noon a couple of warships (one American and one Canadian) that were docked in Quebec City finally caught up to us. The American one gave me a blast from the horn when it decided to try and run us over by turning directly into our path!

We anchored off the island in about 10 feet of water and 1 knot of current. Later this turned into about 30 feet or water and currents just shy of 4 knots!!! That’s a lot of current. It’s like being in a rushing river. There was little sleep that night as I listened to every scrape and groan of our anchor, fearing it would rip out of the ground and send us hurling into the island.

Later that same day we were also overtaken by the fleet of tall ships that had left Quebec City. We had front row seats to the best tall ship show in town, including watching the Bluenose II under full sail!

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We did hold through the night … and held good. The next morning it took us about an hour to bring up all the anchor and chain. The anchor had buried itself so deep in the sand that I was afraid we were going to have to abandon it. But we got it up and headed off again.

IMGA0654This part of our journey has been completely dictated by tides and currents. We leave with the ebb tide, which produces an ebb current in our favour. These tidal currents are normally around 2 to 3 knots, which means we can barely make ground when the current turns against us (the flood current). This means leaving with the ebb tide, and stopping when slack turns to flood. The ebb tides have all been starting very early in the morning, which means WE start very early in the morning. The nice thing is the flood starts by early afternoon, so we have to be settled around noon. Short, but fast days…

_IGP5295Checking the charts we found a likely spot about 16 nm south of the Saguenay Fjord off an island in the middle of the river named Iles du Pot à l’Eau-de-vie. Pot of the water of life … sounds wonderfully poetic. And it was. We dropped the hook as close to the small islands as we dared, and watched the birds fly and play all day.

A few hours after anchoring we noticed the same trimaran which had anchored near us off Isle-aux-Coudres come motoring up and anchor nearby. We waved at the couple at the helm, and then noticed, one, two, three and then four small heads appear on deck. Turns out this cute young family from Quebec City was on their first real cruise with their new (to them) boat. The kids were from about eight to three … quite the adventure.

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two whalesThe next day we hauled up anchor and headed to the famed Saguenay Fjord, a national park and environmental treasure along these waters. The first few hours under sail went great. We even saw our first beluga whales! But as we neared the mouth of the fjord I (who was on the helm) began getting navigationally confused. I kept pointing across the river to our destination, but all my chart plotters kept telling me we were going in the opposite direction — DIRECTLY TOWARDS AN ISLAND!!!!

IMGA0705Turns out there are these vicious currents called rips that ramp up to 7 knots or more. We were caught in one of them, and no matter what direction I went, we could get no where. The only way forward was to go the long way around the island, and then come back up using the island as a current shadow. We motored for hours to break through, but finally did, only to meet some of the dreaded Saguenay outflow current, swirling whirlpools and large standing waves right at the mouth of the fjord.

If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow, (er… the Pachina Mia), would be lost 😉 . But we got through and made our way up this ecological wonderland. The first thing we noticed was the blast of warm air that hit us as we entered the valley going past Tadoussac. The air on the St. Lawrence had been quite frigid during our sail, but the fjord was funnelling warm air from the land. It was beautiful.

IMGA0721IMGA0733We made our way up the valley to one of the likely anchorages and dropped the hook. It was tricky due to 15 foot tides, strong currents, and steep drop offs that went from 30 feet to 200 feet. We found a spot and spend the next three days relaxing and reading, and watching whales and seals and loons and other various birds as they lived around us.

 

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After a few days we had to move on. We watched a few more belugas cruise by as we headed out the mouth and back into the St. Lawrence, on to the next steps in our journey towards Terre Neuve.

Keeping our time to the turn of the tide

_IGP5024We left our little anchorage east of Montreal and headed off once again. The river currents remain strong and the boat traffic, large, small and odd, is ever-present. We’re getting used to sharing seemingly narrow channels with all sorts of vessels:

 

 

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As we approached the city of Sorel the traffic got increasingly large (in size and numbers), and increasingly annoying. Sorel boaters now hold the prize for some of the dickiest people on the water. People zipping every which way, with little regard for others, plus all the large freighter traffic made for some pretty stressful hours. (Later, we met a sailing couple from Sorel: Madeleine & Philippe. They were the sweetest people ever, so Sorel is redeemed!).

IMGA0562The fact that there was a tall ship event going on, plus it was the weekend, all added to the mayhem no doubt. But it was wonderful to finally find our anchorage and settle in for the night. We shared it with perhaps a 1/2 dozen other boats, but there was lots of space.

IMGA0557We settled in beside a reed bed that night and were treated to a chorus of bull frog croaking all night long. Ann was most amused…

From there the river widens to what they call Lac St. Pierre. It is large, but quite shallow off the dredged channel so we spent the whole day hopping from one buoy to another on our way to Trois Rivières. We once again arrived in the midst of Tall Ship revelries, which certainly added to the traffic and the excitement.

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_IGP5029_IGP5035We found an anchorage up a branch of the Rivière St-Maurice which is one of the “trois” rivers. Our view included a public beach on one side, and a couple of fancy condos on the other. Lots of other boats were anchored and moored, although oddly none as close to shore as we. Hmmmm, I wonder why 😉 .

Trois Rivières is the place where tides first make themselves known. They started small — only a 1/2 foot here — but quickly built in range and water speed. In fact our next steps were to traverse the mighty Richelieu Rapids, which is a marked danger zone with currents reaching over 5 knots in normal times. We’ve consistently been seeing currents running at least a knot over normal, so we expected the worst. We decided to stay two nights so we could learn how to read tide and current tables.

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Most boaters reach Quebec City from Trois Rivières in one day even though it is about 70 nm distance. We could have done this, but given the Tall Ship event, we’ve decided to have to bypass the City all together. So we made our plans to stop about 1/2 way along in a place called Portneuf. And glad we did b/c the trip down did not disappoint.

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IMGA0586We did indeed hit over 5 knots of current. Here you can see our boat speed over water (right) at 3.6 knots and our speed over ground at 8.7 knots … and this was when we were trying to slow down! Here the tides average 10-12 feet. This drives very fast currents at times, which can either speed you on your way, or slow boats like ours to a stop. We arrived in Portneuf after a short and fast run down the river.

Portneuf is our first marina stop in 23 days. We decided to make this our re-provisioning stop, so we stayed three nights and filled our diesel and water tanks, dumped the garbage and recycling, cleaned up the head (emptied the compost), and made it to the local grocery store for a restock of essential additions: mostly coffee and wine 😉 .

The marina has a wonderful restaurant which we’ve been enjoying a bit too much. And the people of the marina and town are friendly and so very helpful to us poor Anglos. After learning the nearby grocery/booze store had recently burned down, leaving the only place many km away, we not only got a ride up there from a friendly marina member, but we also got a ride back from the store by a store employee. Incredible people!!

Tomorrow we make our run past Quebec City. The plan is to ride the ebb tide all the way past the city. Early start: 5 am!

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_IGP5078_IGP5080… And so we did. Left Portneuf at 5:30 am about one hour ahead of high tide. We motored into a slackening, but quickly turning current, and rode the big wave all the way down. Zipping underneath the Quebec City bridge we hit a top speed of 12 knots, while showing 5 knots on the water. That’s 7 knots of current!! Our boat’s top speed is supposed to be 7 knots!!! That’s Trans-Warp Speed Scottie!!!!!

 

We bypassed Quebec City b/c the Tall Ship event, while pretty cool, also meant the city was a zoo. It would have been pretty impossible to find a berth for our boat at this late date, so waved and moved on.

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We arrived at an anchorage some 15 nm further east from QC and dropped the hook. This would be our first major tidal anchoring with over 15 feet. To top it off, a major squall system rolled through the whole area, and lasted for hours. The squawking radio kept issuing WARNINGS, DANGEROUS SQUALL APPROACHING. Over 50 knots of wind was possible. Talk to you soon… I hope 😉 .

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