In our last post, we left off at Gaines Marina in Rouses Point, NY. We pick up from there as we headed into Canada for the next 8 weeks.
St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec – Canada (Thursday, 7/3):
Before heading north, Denise attempted a run around the town of Rouses Point, seeing the sites in the other direction that we missed last night. She ran past the Pfizer plant and discovered that it was being demolished and remaining buildings were all boarded up. She learned from a couple of local women out walking that the plant was recently closed and the town has been badly hurt by its closing. This was a very large facility, employed hundreds of locals, and the loss of property taxes is going to have a devastating effect on the local economy. Here are some pictures from the run:
After only 2 miles Denise’s leg and back forced her to walk it back into the marina, where Captain Mark was already making preparations to leave. And after a quick breakfast and some coffee, we did just that.
Our first stop would be 1.5 miles north of the marina as we entered Canadian waters, passing the US Customs and the (now abandoned and for sale) Ft. Montgomery.
Not wanting to repeat the Canadian Customs fiasco of 2015 when on the Loop, the Captain opted not to tell them about our CANPASS (that was supposed to enable expeditious customs clearing, but did not). Instead, he acted like any other typical cruiser; handed over the passports, ship documentation and answered a handful of easy questions. It took less than 10 minutes and we were back on our way, now flying the Canadian Courtesy flag and stowing our “quarantine” flag; it was hoisted for less than 15 minutes. What a nice welcome!
We continued our path north in Canadian waters on what was now the Richelieu River. It was a hot day, with little wind making the water calm. It was mostly flat with houses on both sides of the water. Sometimes the river is somewhat wide here and is similar to parts of the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) in Florida. The difference here is the water is very clear and the houses are spaced apart more with trees and small hills. The houses are a mixture of older homes and very modern ones, but all seem to have blooming flowers.
About 2 hours into our trip we passed by one of Canada’s historic forts, Fort Lenox. It has a public dock and mooring balls which you can tie to for the day, but the fort is currently closed for restoration and we really had no intention of stopping anyway.
Soon the Richelieu narrows as you approach the town of St. Jean sur Richelieu and you can tell by the homes that this is the high rent district. We approached the town dock where we intended to stay the night and be ready to start the Bridges and Locks of the Chambly Canal in the morning. Despite no services (electric, water, etc.), there is still a fee to spend the night but is pretty inexpensive. As there were no other boats on the dock, we had our choice of where to tie. It had been a pretty easy morning cruise and here we were before lunch ready to explore a new small town.
However, once we settled the boat, it was clear it would not be a comfortable afternoon. It was brutally hot (88°) and without electricity it meant we would have to run the generator for the rest of the afternoon in order to have air conditioning. It didn’t take long for the Captain to decide that a marina would be better, and since there was one immediately before we entered the canal, we called and got dockage for the night. They did some maneuvering of other vessels to squeeze us in on the long dock, but we got in and were very happy.
We ate some lunch and then went exploring the town. We walked down one of the streets and then looped back to the dock where we had previously tied up and saw a Looper boat coming int. We stopped to help them tie up and then introduced ourselves. Pete & Sue (“Reverie”) where early in their Loop as they had started last year but had to stop. They were headed to Montreal and were also queuing up for the Chambly Locks and bridges in the morning. We exchanged boat cards and agreed to talk in the morning.
We continued our walk, heading north through the pedestrian path which had to be altered due to the “new” bridge repair work being done. We headed up to see the first of the Chambly locks as we had heard they are the smallest locks in all of Canada.
We arrived to find a pleasant park and very informative dock attendants who explained to us about the Chambly locks, gave us a canal map, and explained about what to expect the next day. Denise smiled when she learned the lockmaster for the day was named Claire, just like her sister.
The Chambly Canal is considered an historic site and (like the Trent-Severn Waterway) is managed by Parks Canada. All the locks and bridges along the canal are manually operated (except Lock #9) and you can learn more about them and their history here. Many of them have beautifully maintained parks around the locks and it is not uncommon for spectators to watch as the boats go through the locks.
We walked around the park, then back through the main downtown street that was littered with restaurants and bars awaiting opening during the evening. During our walk we decided to eat dinner on board; a fair tradeoff in exchange for dockage at the marina, and especially because there was no restaurant that we felt we had to taste while here.
We walked back to the down dock to share our information with Pete and Sue (“Reverie”) and then headed back to the boat for a leftover dinner from our freezer stash. Throughout the late afternoon we watched local boaters and even a few paddle boarders enjoy the water along this river.
But after dinner we were treated to a spectacular sight of hot air balloons appearing in the sky. The first ones appeared in the west, and then more appeared on the eastern side of the river. It was an amazing sight just watching these 8 or so balloons. We were later told by a local that in August they have a big festival and there are at least 75 balloons that come out at once.
Chambly, Quebec – Canada (Thursday, 7/4):
It is Independence Day in the USA and we were in a foreign country, but flying our USA flag proudly. We met up with “Reverie” for the 9:00 am opening of the bridge before and entrance into Lock #9 of the Chambly Canal. We had to wait for 15 minutes as there was technical difficulty opening the old bridge (the new one is under repairs), but finally we were able to get through and made our way to the first lock (#9). We were first in line, then “Reverie” followed and we would stay in that sequence all day. The system is very efficient as they will group boats together to minimize the wait time at each lock and bridge. Since the locks are small, it would be just us two until we got through the canal at the town of Chambly.
It was a long hot day with the temperature now 90°. It took us 4 hours to go through the 9 locks and the 10 bridges (most requiring an opening for us) in part because the canal is so narrow and you can only go 5 miles per hour. When not at a lock with the surrounding parks, the canal is bordered on both sides with houses and much farm land. There is also a bike path that lines the entire eastern side and we saw many people riding, stopping at the locks to watch us go through. Like the Erie Canal in New York, there is a bike trail in Canada that follows the Chambly Canal.
The last 3 locks on the canal (#3, #2, and #1) are a step down lock into the Chambly Basin, where one lock feeds into the next lock chamber. Immediately after getting through these we turned right into the Chambly Marina located at the bottom of Lock 1, where we had reservations to stay for the night. We said goodbye to “Reverie” who was continuing on north for until the last lock on the Richelieu River; the St. Ours Lock.
After settling the boat and registering at the marina, we went and got a bite to eat at a local bistro (Les Grillades de Fort) for a late lunch. It was located right on the water and we could see the marina and our boat from our balcony seat.
The one thing we wanted to see when we were here was Fort Chambly. It is a very prominent landmark in this area and contains a lot of history for the people of Canada. Built in the early 1700’s this fort is now part of Parks Canada and has quite a history of changing hands between the French and British. You can learn more about it here. We walked from the restaurant back to the other side of the locks and our marina, and into another part of town that had a few restaurants, bars and businesses. Then we came to the beautiful park where the fort sits just along the Richelieu Rapids – that part of the Richelieu River that is not able to be transited by boat because of the currents and thus the reason for the Chambly Canal.
We were early for the architectural tour, so we first went inside the museum and walked around to read about the history of the place. Then we met our guide at the appropriate time and we were the only ones on the tour. We started inside the fort, but then walked the entire outside with our guide explaining about all the features as well as the history. We also got to walk over to the Richelieu Rapids and see how the water really rushes around down river and eventually out to the St. Lawrence River.
After the tour of the fort, we walked back to the boat and started laundry. We wanted to take advantage of the free laundry offered by this marina. With only 1 washer and 1 dryer, it literally took us all evening to get done 3 loads. It was a good thing we had a big lunch as we didn’t have time for dinner.
Sadly, today Denise learned that one of her very long time friends (Bob Wheeler) had passed away unexpectedly over the weekend. Denise met Bob when they worked together in Miami. He moved to a different division of the company and moved to CA in advance of Denise, but met up with her the first weekend she moved out there. They shared many ski days, running days, movies and even Thanksgivings together before either married their respective spouses. Even then, they have stayed friends via email, Skype, and Facebook. It was stunning news and Denise is still reeling from it; but even sadder that she will not be able to attend any type of funeral service. Please pray for his family; they will miss him terribly as we will too.
We really liked Chambly and would have liked to stay here another day. As it is only 30 kilometers from Montreal, it has a lot of amenities that you find around a big city, but has a wonderful small town, which we did not get a chance to more thoroughly explore. Here is a pictures of the marina office and a fantastic sunset we saw from our boat:
Trois Rivieres, Quebec – Canada (Friday, 7/5):
In the morning, Denise went to the Maxi Grocery store located near the marina. It is a large supermarket and it has a lot of food products we have in the USA. However, there are still things that are hard to find in Canada (Fritos Scoops, Activia low-fat Yogurt, etc.) however, we are frequently able to find acceptable substitutes. Of course we are in a part of Canada that speaks French, so checking out at the register can be interesting. Many people (especially the young) speak good English; way better than Denise’s poor French. But that is all part of the adventure.
We left Chambly and headed across the Chambly Basin (looks like a lake) with Mont Saint-Hilaire to our east and Mont-Saint-Bruno in the distance to the west. Surrounding the basin are homes and a few prominent buildings like Fort Chambly and Église Saint-Joseph-de-Chambly Catholic Church on the southeast and southwest corners, respectively.
The Basin feeds back into the Richelieu River and narrows considerably. We cruised under many bridges and past many small communities, all of which have at least one church with spires you can see for miles. And these churches are so beautiful! We also had to traverse several cable ferries, not unlike the one on Lake Champlain. These are smaller and only have about a quarter of a mile to traverse from shore to shore, but we had to wait for them to dock before we could intersect their path so our boat would not run afoul of the cable.
The weather was nice at first, then it started to rain, but we had a current that was favorable and helped push us along. The rain stopped just before we arrived at the St. Ours Lock; the last lock for us on the Richelieu River. This is much bigger than the ones on the Chambly Canal and instead of holding onto lines, the boat is tied to the floating dock that rides down as the lock empties. We had to wait on another boat, but that gave us a chance to talk with the dock attendants who are incredibly friendly. One had been to the Saguenay River (where we will head in a few days) and told us of things to see and even a place to anchor near there. Once the second boat arrived and was secured they started the operations and locked us down.
Once through the St. Ours Lock we continued north through several more residential areas before coming to the industrial area and the town of Sorel. Here the Richelieu meets with the St. Lawrence River and we turned right on our way to Trois Rivieres where we would spend the night.
As we left the industrial port of Sorel to our right, we cruised past Ile de Grace and its surrounding smaller islands (Ile a la Pierre and Ile des Barques) in the middle of the St. Lawrence. It is mostly low-lying and there are a few anchorage areas in a rural setting. Just past this area the St. Lawrence turns more residential with houses on both sides of the waterway. We continued to have rain intermittently, but the wind stayed calm so the cruising was very tolerable.
As we made our way east, we passed a freighter, a container ship, and even saw a few pleasure boats on the water. We went under the Laviolette Bridge and the coastline was more developed, first with homes and then with more industrial sights as we approached the town of Trois Rivieres.
As we entered the channel off the St. Lawrence, we made several attempts to contact the marina as to our slip assignment for the night. No one answered the telephone or the VHF radio so we pulled into the long dock that the guide book said was for transients, and tied up there as it started to rain again. Mark walked up the hill to the marina office and managed to get us checked in; the person in the office spoke little English and Mark knows no French. But we he did come back with a slip assignment, and we had to move the boat to another dock, which we did. Once on that dock, we had difficulty locating a power outlet to use and had a local bi-lingual boater call the office who would send someone down to help us out. Fifteen minutes later a dockhand came by and showed us the connection point and we were finally able to settle the boat. It was raining again and had been a long day.
Although near the larger town of Trois Rivieres, it is too far to walk to any restaurants and the marinas “café” was not open. We ended up eating dinner on the boat and watching boats run down the St. Lawrence with favorable current, including this cruise ship. The rain had stopped and the skies were clear, so all the locals came out. Here are some pictures from around the marina:
Quebec City, Quebec – Canada (Saturday, 7/6):
We left Trois Rivieres just before 7:00 am as we wanted to take advantage of the calm river and currents that would run in our favor for most of the morning. This also would allow to have most of the day to spend in Quebec City. As we left the marina we cruised past the beautiful church of Notre Dame du Cap, and crossed the path of cruise ship heading up river who was fighting the current.
As we headed east we saw more homes on both sides, and a few marinas. It was a bit foggy, but we could see for a few miles out so we were not too concerned. The river has wide turns in places and reminded us a lot of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville; it goes from industrial to residential to rural and sometimes is wide and sometimes narrow.
Thirty miles east of Trois Rivieres the St. Lawrence narrows to a width of .25 miles and forms an area known as the Richelieu Rapids. Here the current picks up speed and can run as fast as 8 kts. This allowed us to maintain 20 Kts of speed, but under less power (and therefore burning less diesel). Unfortunately, this only lasts for a few miles, and eventually we had to power back up. About this time we also encountered a shift in the current and the water got a little choppy. We also were dealing with on-again, off-again rain and an occasional passing freighter or container ship.
On the north shore we passed the Portneuf marina; a place many slower cruisers stop if they cannot make it all the way to Quebec City in one day. Here the landscape becomes hilly and you get the first hint of the Laurentian Mountains; a range that runs all the way out to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Periodically there are waterfalls, but we were unable to experience this as visibility was reduced due to the fog.
As we were getting closer to Quebec City we cruised under the Pierre Laporte and the Quebec twin bridges, but not before having to negotiate our way around a sailing regatta. First there were 20 or so mono hauls, then as we got closer to the bridges a slew of “Hobie-style” catamarans. Of course Captain Mark relied on his sailboat racing experience to do a great job of moving around them all without any collisions.
It wasn’t long after this that we rounded the “Cap Diamant “and saw the roof of the Chateau Frontenac; Quebec’s famous landmark hotel (now part of the Fairmont chain).
In order to get into the Quebec Marina, you must first have to pass through a lock. However, we timed our arrival to take place when the marina and St. Lawrence were at the same level and so we cruised through the lock without stopping and went right into the marina. We pulled into the fuel dock in order to top off the tank and got them to throw in a pump-out (usually a $25 charge). Denise went up to the marina office to register us while Mark took care of the fuel and pump out. This is a very large marina and our boat would be far from the office, so we wanted this done now so we wouldn’t have to walk all the way back to register once we were in the slip.
After docking and settling the boat we went off to explore the old city of Quebec. With a tour book and map in hand we set out to locate the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral so we would know how to get there for mass on Sunday. We left the marina and first had to get to the other side of the water. We took the shorter path that allowed us to cross over the lock and go by the Naval Museum. We continued on a path that took us past Le Festibière (a most creative beer garden with splash pool), the cruise ship pier (no ships in today) and eventually up Rue St.-Pierre where we stopped at Uncle Antoine’s pub for a beer.
We continued walking up and down the streets of the old city and taking in the many historical statues, sculptures, and artwork. There were street performers out in all the public areas and they included musicians, jugglers, and even a low-wire artists. We discovered old excavated home sites, parts of the old city wall and a few other churches. We got a recommendation from a local for a dining spot, which was several blocks and a staircase away on Rue St. Jean; the main pedestrian path with restaurants and shops. We ate an early dinner at L’Entrecote-St.-Jean then walked up to the arch where the old city and new city come together.
In the nearby square a band was performing and people sat out on the grass on the top of the city wall, as well as in the square where the stage was set up. During the day we learned that the city’s 10-day summer music festival (FEQ – “Festival d’ete de Quebec”) was underway with many live music acts performing over 7 different venues. This was just one of those many acts.
Another act scheduled for tonight was Lynyrd Skynyrd (of “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” fame). They were to be at the “Plains of Abraham” and we had no idea where that was or how we could get there (remember we had only been in the city for under 4 hours). Not that we wanted to go, but if we did we would not have been able to get tickets; apparently you buy an “all venue” ticket for over $100 and you can attend any and all of the shows. However, the tickets had sold out weeks ago. Other performers coming this week include Mariah Carey, Blink-182, Buddy Guy, and many others that we did not recognize through the various genres (punk, rap, hip-hop, rock, heavy metal, etc.).
Another happening in the city while we are here is the projection of colored lights on the grain silos that are adjacent to the marina. It was quite the site and they rotate colors between pink, blue, green and red.
After dinner and walking around the shops on Rue St. Jean, and then headed back to the boat by way of the city wall that overlooks the St. Lawrence. It was lined with cannons and runs past the seminary and college that has one of the most prominent buildings in the Quebec skyline. It had been a very long day and we had walked over 10,000 steps in the few hours we had been here.
Quebec City, Quebec – Canada (Sunday, 7/7):
We started the day with a brisk walk to mass. We intended to go out the marina the same as yesterday, but the lock was open and due to the missing (in repair) bascule bridge, there was no way to cross the lock. This meant we had to walk all the way around the marina and then up to the old city. We arrived barely in time for the start of mass at Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral. Of course the mass was all in French, but most of the music was performed by a handful of men who chanted many of the usual prayers sung by the congregation. There were also at least 6 priests who were concelebrating the mass. In this most beautiful church, it was a sight to be seen.
After mass we went on all-day stroll starting with the Dufferin Terrace and the park near the Chateau Frontenac. It was a perfect day to be there as the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. The views down the St. Lawrence were spectacular and there were many people out in the parks and in boats on the water.
We walked up the street to “Peppe’s” for a couple of sandwiches that we then took back to Dufferin Terrace and ate on the plaza watching the people go by.
From there we walked along the water and up the 300+ steps to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham. We now know where it is, and saw the stage set for all of the performers.
We walked into the Citadel and after conversing with the docents there, decided we would return in the morning for the changing of the guard ceremony which happens daily at 10 am. The Citadel is still an active military garrison and Headquarters of the Royal 22 E Regiment. Therefore admittance is only with a guided tour, or for the changing of the guard ceremony. You can learn more about this fascinating place here.
We left the Citadel and continued our walk along the city wall, now taking us away from the water and back down the hill to Rue St. Louis and into Esplanade Park. He we discovered several see-saws that play music as you bounce on them. Naturally, we had to try them out. We also found the Churchill & Roosevelt sculptures that were nearby; a tribute to two great leaders that saved the world from Hitler.
From there we walked through the FEQ Family area; a place set up to allow families to participate in the summer fun. It was set up like a carnival with performers and a circus-like tent, as well as booths with kids activities.
It was about that time that an ice cream craving came over us. It was hot and it seemed like the perfect treat. We were able to find a gelato place that was on Rue St. Jean, but this time in the part of the “new” city only and only a quarter of a mile away.
With the heat and spending all day walking, we decided to head back to the boat. We were tired and both wanted to take some time to get caught up on emails and work items. When we returned to the marina we noticed a Looper boat was on the “C” docks and so we went over to talk with them. We met Steve & Sylvie (“Pilgrim”) who were from Quebec, and are doing the Loop in parts over several years. They purchased their boat in Ft. Lauderdale this spring and brought it home to Quebec City. They hope to continue the Loop next year. Also on board their boat were cruising friends Guy & Lise (“Enchanter I”) who spoke little English, but with Steve & Sylvie’s help we were able to converse. We gleaned some information about heading east from these knowledgeable “locals” and we were very appreciative.
We left so they could have dinner and went back to our boat to do the same. After our light dinner of Chicken Caesar salad we walked over to the boat behind us to talk with Patti & Andrew (“Sharki’s Wake”). They came in late on Saturday night and Mark had assisted them with tie-up. We had not had a chance to get together, and they had wanted to talk with us about our boat.
So went over and spent a good time talking with them about their cruising adventures including when they owned a sailboat and went all over the world. They hail from Ontario and were originally intending to cruise further east, but have commitments that were forcing them to cut this trip short and head back home. We had a chance to talk about the St. Lawrence River and shared other life stories, and now we have some new cruising friends. They will be leaving in the morning to head west, so we said good-bye and wished them well on their trip.
Finally, we were back on our boat and had a chance to relax. It had been a fun and jam-packed day of activity and we were tired; our step count for today was nearly 17,000.
Quebec City, Quebec – Canada (Monday, 7/8):
Wanting to make sure we could make the “changing of the guard” ceremonies at The Citadel, we needed to leave in plenty of time to walk there, allowing time to correct mistakes in directions. Fortunately, we found the short route through the old city.
Unfortunately, the Lock was once again closed and that meant we had to walk all the way around the western side of the marina just to get across the main street and up the hill to the old city. (Note: we later learned that the lock is supposed to close periodically for 10 minutes to allow pedestrians to cross there).
So we managed to get to the Citadel right in time to buy tickets and see the start of the “changing of the guard”. While not quite as spectacular as the one at Buckingham Palace in London, it was still filled with ritual and lots of pomp and circumstance. Here are some of the pictures from this outing:
After this we walked back down to Rue St. Jean in search of a lunch spot. Mark was in the mood for fish & chips, so we found a pub that served this and allowed us to sit outside and watch the people go by.
After lunch we walked to the tourism office to get tickets to take a hop-on-hop off bus tour of the city. The entire circuit takes about 1.75 hours to do the whole circuit, but if you want to get off on any of the stops then it will take longer. The next bus was leaving at 1:30 and the buses stop running at 4:30, so we decided it was not worth the price for the short time remaining in the day. In other cities we had visited, a ticket was good for a full 24-hour period, but not here.
Instead we walked a little bit more around the city, and then headed to the supermarket to buy groceries to get us through the next few days. Along our path we encountered the car used to make deliveries from the sandwich shop we ate at yesterday. How cute:
Both the old and new city of Quebec are full of artwork and sculpture wherever you turn. On the way to the supermarket we had to pass underneath the freeway and saw these beautiful pieces of artwork on the support beams.
Once back at the boat we did some work, worked on this blog, and talked with our Looper dock-neighbor Anton (“Dora”), whom we had met the day we arrived in Quebec City. He is from Toronto and is doing the DE Loop backwards. He purchased his boat in Portland, Maine and has been heading back to Toronto. On board he has had his 20-something son, Daniel, and his wife Elena has flown in from Toronto for the Quebec stop. Anton has been a great source of information about the waters we are going to encounter and was kind enough to give us a book “Cruising Guide to the Gulf of St. Lawrence”, for which he had two of. It was very generous of him and we will use it to supplement the guide we already have.
With our big lunch neither one of us were really hungry for dinner out, instead we fixed up a snack of cheese and crackers on the boat. We ended the evening watching the colors of the grain silos, and hearing the heavy metal music from one of the FEQ venues. It was very loud and the colorful language could be heard all through town. We wondered how the people who lived in condos nearby the venue would have liked it. Finally just after 11 pm the concert ended and we could get some rest; we needed it as we had walked another 12,000 steps (and 6 floors in elevation) today.
Quebec City, Quebec – Canada (Tuesday, 7/9):
Today we were supposed to leave and head northeast up the St. Lawrence. Our plan was to make it all the way to Tadoussac on the Saguenay River. But, if we could not then at least get to Cap L’engle about 50 miles from Quebec. However, the area around the marina had a major power outage during the night, and at 6:00 a.m. the workers were in the process of replacing a transformer near the grain silos. While we had power on the docks, the marina office was shut down, and so was the lock. Since we need the lock to be operational to get out to the St. Lawrence, this meant we could not go leave.
All morning long they would estimate how long it would be, and it kept getting pushed back. Finally, we reached the point where we could not leave and expect to make our destination, so we ended up staying an extra night in Quebec. The good news is that marina did not charge us for the extra night stay and it allowed us time to sit tight on the boat and get some things done.
We both did work for our business, and Denise also was able to spend time writing the blog and cataloging pictures; now upwards of 4000. We literally spent the whole day on the boat without going anywhere until dinner.
The Captain was in charge of dinner arrangements for the evening, and found a pizza place (no surprise there) about a half a mile from the marina (long way around). But this was no ordinary pizza place. “Pizzaio” was like a gourmet pizza restaurant. It had all kinds of combinations and only make individual-sized flat bread-like pizzas. They also have a few appetizers and we naturally went for the escargot on the menu. The food was really delicious and unique, but we could have easily split a single pizza if we would have ordered a side salad.
On our way back to the marina, we ran into Anton and his wife, whom we finally had a chance to meet. We stopped and chatted for a while, and then said goodbye as we are going to leave early tomorrow and probably won’t see them again.
Tonight we noticed the grain silos were not lit, and we wondered if it had to do with the power outage earlier in the day. I guess we won’t know as tomorrow we are leaving and heading east.
Here are some other pictures of the area around the marina and of Quebec City:
FYI – “Je me souviens” is the Quebec motto and literally translated it means “I remember”. But it really means “never forget” and that is something we will never do.
Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office.