Yet another experience added to our repertoire. Night passage. And the weather couldn’t have been more perfect to cross Lake Saint-Pierre. Relatively flat water, light winds and clear skies.
Trois-Rivières at Night
We pulled anchor around 21:30h from our place on the River Saint-Maurice and headed out of Trois-Rivières. The city lights lit our way.
As we reached the Laviolette Bridge the night descended fully. No longer did we have the city lights to see the buoys that marked the Saint-Lawrence Seaway.
Plotting our Course
Francois had, in advance, placed waypoints into the chart plotter and into the iPad just in case and we had of course our paper charts to be able to consult our progress. As it turned out, radar could have been a great tool but we found that when the skies are clear nothing can replace a kean eye on the water. At first, in the dark, all we could see was a sea of green and red buoys all mixed together, port, starboard, to the left and right, like a two dimensional arcade game. It was impossible to tell which was which at first. I felt a bit of panic in the beginning wondering if we had again taken on too much. During all of this there came an emergency call on the VHF about a collsion of two boats in the Port of Montreal so you can imagine what visions were going through my head. Crazy partying boaters heading home in the dark. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Not to mention the container ships that frequently navigate the river at night. On land I have trouble driving at night. My depth percetion isn’t that great, but as time went on it became much easier following the channel markers and when it wasn’t obvious which buoy was next the range lights showed us the way. But as always, François was the voice of calm in my head.
The stars were amazing, like a blanket of sparkling lights they covered the sky. Mars and Jupiter were the most clear planets. And the moon, wow! As it rose, its light on the water was magnificent!
Clair de Lune
We were prepared with cockpit cushions fully intending on taking shifts of two hours on, and two off but there was so much excitement generated with the newness of this experience that neither of us felt like closing our eyes.
A coffee and some snacks were all we needed to keep the vision. The container ships (our BFB’s) were foremost the most concern along the way once we figured the party boats were way past their sleepy time. We passed one at anchor being serviced by a pilot boat and farther on, one heading east. We can keep fairly well off channel if necessary but it was a trick judging in the dark when we would hit their wake but it all went very well. The only other one we met was as we reached our anchorage eight hours later.
Sunrise on the Islands
We dropped the hook securing all, then crashed (sleep-wise that is) just as the sun was rising over the Sorel Archipelago. Now after two days have passed, François commented that it all seems like a dream. I guess it was in a way a dream. A dream with a successful outcome.
This year’s trip aboard R.E.D. has been every bit the adventure we had hoped it would be and so much more. Adventure, in the sense that it has taken us out of our comfort zone in so many ways but as François’ brother said our ‘good planning, training, discipline and courage’ got us through.
The discipline has always been there (almost 40 years of military service for François and my finicky cat nature has seen to that). The courage part is a curious thing. Each time we think, OK , I don’t want to go through THAT again we come out the other side thinking OK, maybe that wasn’t such a big deal. I still remember our first outing four years ago, full sail and heeling at 20 ° and Captain says: ” I’m not comfortable with this!” Or our first ‘severe’ storm this year when I was more than ready to call the Coast Guard. Since then we’ve been at anchor in worse wind conditions rocking and rolling port and starboard at 30 ° and yes, Captain wasn’t comfortable but no, I didn’t make an emergency call. That’s to say, it gets easier.
All of this brings me to the training part. We both have taken courses through Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons and without exception each course has proven valuable but this year because of the nature of the Saint Lawrence environment we felt much better prepared. We credit our instructors, George (Seamanship), Grant (Boat and Engine Maintenance, ROCM), Ed (Fundamentals of Weather) and Richard (Advanced Piloting) for pounding the important stuff into our heads. And probably one of our most valuable assets has been our friend Beth who taught a most excellent women-only course on boating electrical systems in Rhode Isalnd. And her advice on helping us remedy so many of our electrical issues has allowed us to sail along this year off grid stress-free.
One of the most curious situations arose yesterday when our plan after hearing the weather report was to leave the feisty north shore to head to a quieter south shore using the low to high tide for the best push.
So here’s your mental image: this section of the Saint Lawrence runs approximately east/west. We wanted to head almost due south to reach the opposite shore near Kamouraska. East/west river and us heading north to south. Got it?
Kamourska, South Shore
This is how it played out. Our heading was pretty much due west at about 5 knots. After two hours we reached almost the exact point opposite our north shore starting point on the south shore.
Set! Drift! Vectors! It’s just mathematics!
Le Pilier de Pierre Light House
The rest of our day was using the tidal currents to our advantage, at times through one channel the seven knot current gave us a 10 knot push. We were flying!
Set and Drift
Another challenge has been to find suitable anchorages because we wanted to spend as much time off grid as possible, but the following chart shows some of the limitations so frequently found along our route. The example below is an area about 4 nautical miles from shore. The red underlined depths are negative charted depths (above water line, folks)
Today was no exception to challenges on the water. Good weather, not so good weather, rolling swells, a little sailing and a whole lot of motoring and at the end a rainbow.
Rainbow over La Pocatiére
…and after 60 nautical miles and 11 hours we tied the lines for the night, poured a rum and watched the full moon rise.
Full ‘Buck’ Moon
One of the things on our Adventure 2016 wish list was to see Le Grand Rassemblement (The Grand Gathering), creations of artist Marcel Gagnon in Sainte-Flavie. We left the security and warmth of Rimouski Marina and headed farther east past the pretty village of Sainte Luce.
…and there they were, all those strange, and haunting wooden figures along the retreating waters of the Saint Lawrence. The Grand Gathering.
Le Grand Rassemblement
Le Grand Rassemblement
Le Grand Rassemblement
After a night at anchorage at Pointes aux Cenelles we headed back toward Sainte-Flavie again to see if we couldn’t maybe anchor closer and go ashore by dinghy during low tide, but there just wasn’t a secure place to drop our mighty Bruce so continued back a day earlier than planned to Marina Rimouski.
..and cold sail.
Heater jacked up full blast, it took most of the night to dry out our foul weather gear and ourselves.
Now in the calm and warmth we can prepare for friends who are this moment travelling to our great cold north for a visit. Travel safely!