Here is an update of the last two days. We will stay in Shippagan on Sunday and (weather permitting) move further down the New Brunswick coast on Monday.
Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Friday, 7/19):
We had a very small window of good weather, with impending wind, rain and thunderstorms forecasted for later in the day. With this in mind we left Gaspe at 6:30 in the morning in order to cross the Bay of Chaleur with the calmest possible water. From the start, all was quiet on the water and we had the Baie of Gaspe totally to ourselves.
We headed southeast along the coastline of what was now a changing geography. There were still steep cliffs mixed in with rolling hills covered in green. Some of the cliffs were now a different color including a sandy-brown and Georgia clay-like red. Once again small communities dotted the coastline until we came to Pointe St Pierre.
And then once we rounded this rocky point, with Ile Plate to our left we spotted the famous Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island. It is so huge that you can you see it miles away.
We approached the area, spotting a few small fishing boats on Malbaie to our right.
We approached Percé Rock and hung out around it for about 15 minutes, taking pictures and observing all the different birds which call this place home.
We moved around the back side so we could also get a view from the other side and here we could more clearly see the town of Percé.
Unfortunately the only wharf area in town is for the commercial tour boats and not a place we could go into in our boat. It is suggested that boaters visit one of the neighboring towns (like Gaspé) and rent a car to visit here.
From there we cruised over to the identified anchorage at Bonaventure Island. We were hoping to be able to anchor here, take a dinghy to shore and then go to National Park here. They have a walkway up to the other side of the island and you can go see the gannets in their rookeries up close. But we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat in these conditions. Additionally, it was only 8:15 am and the park did not open until 9:00 am. So we would have had to wait for them to open and then taken too much time away from our crossing the Bay of Chaleur; an area known for kicking up winds and seas as the day unfolds. Instead we opted for a cruise around the island to get a “birds-eye” view from the water. There were literally millions of gannets hiding in all the crevices.
We have never seen so many birds in a single place. It really is fascinating. Gannets are some of the most amazing birds with a wingspan of over 6.5 feet. You can learn more about Perce Rock here, Bonaventure Island here, and about the gannets here.
Once we had completed our cruise around the island, we headed directly across the Bay of Chaleur to our destination in Shippagan, New Brunswick. All morning long we spotted seals and dolphins, which are very small here (2 -4 feet) and difficult to get close to.
The water ended up being very calm and mostly flat for a while so Mark took to checking on the engine and to see if there was any more water residue in the fuel filters; there was not. Despite this we still got the warning light on the engine monitor when we started the engine this morning. He also took to some other boat maintenance issues while Denise was on watch and the boat was driving via the autopilot. About this time is when Denise spotted the whales, first by the spray from their blowhole. They were a ways away and she had time to break out the camera, but it is still so difficult to photograph them. The best part was seeing the “whale tail”; what a thrill!
We continued cruising along and noticed a change in the upcoming water. Sure enough it was a wind line and we were not even halfway across the bay. Fortunately, it was still light and we were able to enjoy a smooth ride. Eventually, we were able to spot the very low lying area of Ile Miscou and the windmills that are all over this part of the New Brunswick coast.
As we got closer the area reminded Denise of the ICW through GA and SC and stated so. We later read this description in a cruising guide and had to chuckle of the similar impression. We also noticed a tremendous difference in water depth; we were now back in 35 feet of water. And with the shallow water came the chop as the wind picked up a bit. We were glad we were now in Shippagan Bay and did not have much further to go.
By 11:30 we were tied up to the dock at the Shippagan Marina; but it was now 12:30 here as we had crossed into the Atlantic Time Zone. We settled the boat, registered for a two-night stay and went back to eat our lunch.
After lunch Denise went for a walk to confirm the 11:00 Sunday mass time at the Catholic Church. The church could not be more convenient as it is only 2 blocks away from the marina. She also walked around the adjacent cemetery and then by some of the buildings that make up the Shippagan campus for the Université de Moncton (largest town in NB). Completing the full circle she walked past the convention center which is actually part of the entire marina, restaurant and aquarium waterfront park.
Mark met up with her and they walked over to the aquarium to check out all the activity we had noticed when coming in. We learned that this week has been the Fisheries and Aquaculture week (seafood festival) and the aquarium was a primary hosting venue. We got some information on the activities remaining for Friday and Saturday from locals, but sadly we missed the food tasting and other events that morning at this location. However, they did have several children’s activities going on and there was a country singer playing songs in the pavilion in the park. It was quite something to hear a Johnny Cash country song (“Reign of Fire”) being sung in French.
In the afternoon we did some office work and watched as the wind and clouds came in, and eventually some light rain. We had met several local boaters, all of whom speak an Acadian-dialect French, and some speak English well enough to communicate with us. From their suggestion we went to dinner at “Pinokkio” – an Italian inspired restaurant that was about a mile away. It had stopped raining sufficient for us to walk there, but brought the umbrella just in case. The place was busy and loud, and had great food. But the service was horrible and it took us almost 45 minutes to get our meal, both of which was fish (not a thing that takes long to cook).
Shippagan is a fishing port and everything caters to the large fleet of those who catch lobster and snow crab, as well as those who farm mussels and oysters. Along the path to and from the restaurant we saw all the fishing boats stored on the hard at the wharf. The season here is early April to July (lobster and snow crab), then again in August and September (herring). In the meantime the boats are hauled out of the water and maintenance is done.
On the way back to the boat we stopped into “Entreprises Shippagan” the local ACE Hardware store. This is THE PLACE for all things boating fishing and Mark was seeking a backup set of fuel filters. He had been in contact with our mechanic back home about our issue and he suggested changing out the fuel filters. While we have extras onboard, we truly need to save these for an emergency and if he could pick up extras that would be good. Unfortunately, they were out of the ones needed for our boat.
We walked back to the marina and just in time as the rain started again. It continued to rain almost all night, but this time came lightening and strong winds. We were glad we were tucked into a safe comfortable spot.
Shippagan, New Brunswick – Canada (Saturday, 7/19):
Beautiful skies can be deceiving and today was one of those days. Although sunny and gorgeous out, high winds means it’s a day to stay put and not try to be out on the open water of the St. Lawrence Seaway. We had earmarked the day for one of chores and maintenance. We took advantage of the free laundry and got a few loads done. Mark worked on cleaning the ac/heater filters, running the generator, and other related items. Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the blog.
As part of the seafood festival week, there was a 5k and 10k race this morning. It started and ended at the Aquarium and we got to see runners and their families come out for this event. It was quite small in comparison to the ones back home, but then again so is the population of this area. Of course this was pulling at Denise’s heartstrings to jump into the event, but with her injured leg she really needs the time off to rest.
In the afternoon we planned our next few days. We have a small weather window to move down the coast before crossing the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island (PEI). With this in mind we made reservations for the yacht club in Summerside on PEI for next week; subject to change of course.
We ate dinner on board and then went for a walk on the boardwalk which runs for over 2 km along the Shippagan Bay. It ended up being a pleasant and warm evening with little breeze. We continued on the boardwalk until the bugs almost ate us alive and picked up the pace to head back to the boat.
As we came up to the lighthouse and aquarium we spotted our friends Terry & Francine (“Orca”) whom we met in St. Anne des Mont. They are docked on the northeast side of Shippagan at the commercial wharf because their sailboat could not fit under the lift bridge at the harbor entrance. This required them to sail the long way around Miscou Island and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence before taking the Shippagan Gully into the wharf. This is the path we will take to leave and head down the NB coast. We chatted for a while and they agreed (once again) to send us their contact info so we can see them when we get to Nova Scotia.
We went back to the boat and started to watch the movie “First Man” in honor of the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon. As part of the seafood festival there was a rock concert at the wharf and we considered going. However since we could hear them warming up all afternoon, and since we don’t really know any of their music, we decided to save the money for the tickets and enjoy the music from our boat. Even with the door closed there were times it was hard to hear our movie.
And then at about 10:40 pm we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display, right over the harbor. It was so loud and lasted for about 20 minutes. Since we missed the Independence Day fireworks this year, this was a special treat. We finished watching the movie and when we went to bed (well after 11:30 pm) the music was still going strong!
Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office