Richelieu River Boat Trip June 2010

Henry Woodbury, Athens VT and Rebecca Woodbury Tucker (Bucky), Springfield VT

(Text in italics represents Henry’s side of the story; plain text is Bucky’s)

Thursday June 17, 2010

Henry picked me up at about 7:30 in Springfield, stopped for gas for the truck, and we were at McCuen Slang on Lake Champlain at 10:30. Brother Nick and Carol Woodbury were there to meet us.  They took the truck and trailer back to their place in Essex Junction.  We set up the boat on the water and set out at about 11:30.

Us 2 starry-eyed kids at the start of the epic journey

We passed the construction doings for the new Champlain Bridge, just getting started now.  I took a photo of a huge crane on the VT side, nothing apparent on the NY side.  The free ferryboat was operating right nearby.

The “doings” at Champlain Bridge site, Vermont side.

Coming up the lake from Champlain Bridge the water was very choppy, there were many whitecaps and it was windy.  I was glad to be on Otter Creek, which was very calm and quiet.  We saw a couple of osprey nests, and lots of ducks with babies.  We went by Rock Island, which is not all rock.  We saw a heron land here and a tree full of cormorants.  Cole Island had spits on both ends and a large population of gulls, cormorants.  Lots of fishing goes on along the Otter Creek here.  We saw a few ospreys with babies.  Dead Creek, which opens into the Otter, runs parallel to the road to Panton and the museum, as does the Otter Creek.  The distance of the Otter Creek from the lake to Vergennes is about 7 miles.

Arrived at the mouth of the Otter Creek about 2:15 and got to the end of the creek at the power dam in Vergennes about 3:30. Decided to try to make the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on the bicycles, but figured we might not make it in time, so I suggested promising ourselves supper at a restaurant if we missed it.  We left about 4 o’clock after buttoning up the boat at the public dock.  We got to the Museum at 5 just as the lady was locking the door.  She went back in and got us a 20% off coupon for the Red Mill Restaurant, just up the road from there.  The food was good; Henry had pork roast, and I had crab-stuffed sole.

After planting a letterbox (Give and Take in Vermont) among the trees in front of the Maritime Museum, we arrived back in Vergennes at about 7:15.  Henry fished a little.  This is the town where Commodore Thomas MacDonough built his ships, and there is a simple monument for him on the corner of Comfort Hill and MacDonough Street. In the past the bay was wider, probably deeper, as they had steamboats here. Early steamboats did not require a great depth of water; the Otter Creek has a channel at least 7 feet deep from the falls at Vergennes to the main lake. Muscle power & sails, not steam, propelled the ships for the War of 1812 built here by Thomas MacDonough.

The falls here are double, but there are usually three sets of falls, with buildings in between, the third being under some kind of construction, hence blue and orange tarps and barrels all around there.

Henry called Kathie. I called Gail and learned that our long-anticipated blueberry plants had arrived by UPS, one day too late to be planted by the family gardener, me!   Henry was bothered by the noise of the falls all night, but it did not bother me one bit.  The mosquito netting worked very well, not a bug to be heard, seen, or felt!

Friday June 18, 2010

We got up a little after 5 and it was cold.  It was a good idea to bring my warmest bathrobe and I was pretty cozy all night.  The mosquito netting worked well.  There were a few who bit if I went outside the netting, but the night was free of them.  The streetlight was on all night at the MacDonough Street side and the dam noise was like an air conditioner all night, but I did sleep well.

Ear plugs for me, though!

At  7:15, we are slowly moving down the Otter Creek and Henry is fishing, too.  We saw a beaver swimming around, and what was probably an otter.  Yesterday a dead muskrat was about to be devoured by a turkey vulture along the road in Panton.

These are Canada Geese and families.

At 10:00 we are approaching Four Brothers Islands.  The highest to the right was rock with 50 feet of dirt and then trees.  The birds are extremely numerous on the two islands on the left.  White gulls, mostly.  The trees are all leaf-less, and a lot of rock is visible.  Cormorants are using one solitary tree at the right as a roost, and many more of the black birds are all about the edges of the rocks.  It is very noisy with gull sounds.  There are a couple of “observation houses”  for people on one of the islands.  Every upright tree has very few leaves and many birds on them.   They say it is very smelly with bird dung, but I did not notice that.

We passed by Juniper Island, near which there is a green and red buoy in the middle of the lake. (This is not the same one, but shown for anyone wondering what a bifurcation buoy looks like)

The red & green buoy is known as a “bifurcation buoy”, which means a split in the channel. See it on the chart above just north of the “Four Brothers” islands, next to a shallow spot marked as 7 feet deep. The markings RG 70 means red & green with a number 70 marked on it, and the “N “FB”” means it is named FB (Four Brothers). The wide black line marks the actual track of our boat as we wove our way between these islands taking pictures and avoiding the rocks in a pretty stiff wind. The purplish line is the NY/VT border.  Juniper Island is off to the northeast in Vermont. We passed it within 2 miles.

  At 1 o’clock we stopped at Champlain Marina to get gas and then anchored to have some lunch.  The main bay, Mallet’s, is pretty choppy and breezy, and the smaller bay itself is only slightly less so.  We will be ending our journey here on our way home.

After lunch of peanut butter sandwich (Henry) and sardines and crackers (Bucky) we set out north for Valcour Island and/or Crab Island where I hope to find a couple of letter boxes.   Then we went on to Plattsburgh NY to see if they have a public dock.

7:00 p.m.  We were able to find a place to land on Valcour, headed in on a sandy beach near the lighthouse where I did find the Valcour Island letterbox.  I was first finder of this box, which was planted in 2008.  There are obviously not many boaters who also do letter boxing in that area.  We then tried for Crab Island, which also has a monument, a flagpole, an old lighthouse foundation and an unused quarry.  The mosquitoes were so bad; we only grabbed the letterbox, stamped up quickly, and ran for the boat, after taking a few photos.  We then journeyed on to Plattsburgh, found a spot where we could nose in, wade to the bank and tie up for a visit to the MacDonough and Samuel de Champlain monuments.  They have a great park there along the waterfront, but it is not ready for transient boaters to stop and visit, alas. 

I planted A is for Alex letterbox at the Commodore MacDonough monument.   We had Gail’s chicken for supper, it was still cold.  We decided to stay in the bay, here, near a marina for the night.  Henry fished.  Lots of people were fishing, lots of fish were jumping, big ones.  It is pretty here, but Henry detected an odor from the local sewage treatment plant nearby.

 Here’s a blue heron that came and landed on this branch, shooing off a cormorant that had been there.  We ate supper here, and then moved a little closer to shore for the night.

We called home.  Gail had planted 12 of the blueberries, the remaining few she got will go in tomorrow, and the last few are still to arrive.  She is happy with them, being real little growing plants with leaves in pots.  The weather tomorrow promises to be windy and hot with some rain on the weekend.  Tomorrow we will be going to the border!   I am tired.

Saturday June 19, 2010

We got up at 5:30. I slept well and am feeling much better than I did last night.  I was so tired I thought I was going to stay feeling tired.  I ate three boiled eggs, a cup of milk, and a slice of bread with peanut butter and coffee, a lot for me.  Henry had his usual of oatmeal and coffee.

At 7:00 we are off for the border, to get some ice, and to buy a flotation device.  Unbeknownst to us, Kathie’s best life jacket blew out of the boat yesterday, in Mallett's Bay, probably.  We must have one for the St. Lawrence Seaway, so must get one.

By 9:00 we had passed Isle LaMotte lighthouse (abandoned).  It is brick-colored and stands out.  The weather is windy, but from the south, and blowing us north, but there are waves to jump over all the time.   I was yawning a lot from the motion sickness, so took a nap, which fixed it.  Henry is working with his GPS system a lot making it work right.  We are headed for Rouses Point, the border crossing for highway, and water, too, apparently.  A highway bridge crosses the water here, also.  Henry changed gas tanks and we decided to stop at the marina here and get gas before we get to Canada.

At 10:35 we left the Canada customs after a 30-minute wait.  We were moored on the lake side and heavy boats and wind, made the waves toss us all around.  Erp!  We took some photos of Fort Montgomery, just before the Canada douanes (customs).  It has several arches out in the back of the fort.  We are now on the Richelieu River and headed north. 

Fort Montgomery. Also known as Fort Blunder because when the US Government built the original fort on this site in 1816 this was Canadian soil.  In 1842 the border was altered and this fort returned to the USA.

The waves are large and it is not river-like at all, yet.  Boaters go like heck here and don’t care if they swamp you, as they do not slow down one bit on their approach.  This is not to say it is only a Canadian trait, but there seem to be more of them in this section of water.

Soon we stopped at Ile aux Noix for some lunch at the public dock, and then went up to see Fort Lennox.  It cost $8.32 Canadian for two senior citizens.   After we were done, I planted my D is for Douglas letterbox on the Richelieu riverbank, above the high water line, I hope.  Here every boater anchors and the speeders and jet skiers zoom back and forth.  Everybody seemed to be having fun, and there were many girls in skimpy bathing suits strutting around, too.  We saw no one older than forty, at all.

The public dock on Isle au Noix for visiting Fort Lennox, and other uses

At 4 o’clock, we stopped at Iberville Performance Marine, a place said to have gas and dockage, as we figured there’d be no better shelter.  A man met us, one of the marina members, who said there was no gas, “they” were closed and gone for the weekend, and suggested we stay anyway.  He went as far as to give us the combination to the showers and toilet, for which we were very appreciative.  It began to rain, so we stayed.  Several of the speeders have been slowly coming into port.  The wind has died down.  We are just outside of Iberville on the east side of the Richelieu.  St. Jean is on the west side.

My favorite photo, probably morning at the Performance Marina looking across the Richelieu at St. Jean sur Richelieu.

At about 6:45, the sun having come out, we took our bicycles out for a ride looking for an ATM and better cell phone service.  We found neither, went 8.4 kilometers, and had ice cream cones at “Arrête Papa.”  Iberville has good bike lanes, and quiet side streets, with a farm or two, off route 133.  I took a much-needed shower.  Not a bad place for free.  The two cones cost $6.30.  Tomorrow we will get to Chambly Canal and go through Locks 9 through 1, and there is a fort to go through.

Henry at the ice cream place in Iberville, near Route 133

Bucky at restaurant next to the ice cream place, cute art.

Sunday June 20, 2010

Last night I went to bed about 9, as the bugs were bad, and the mosquito netting would keep them at bay, for the most part.  I guess Henry sat outside on the “porch” for a while.  It rained tiny bit in the night, but not enough to clean the bicycles off from our ride yesterday. We got up at 5 or so, and decided to move on up to St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu about 7 for gas and to learn what time the locks will open. The gas station was closed, so we parked at the public docks and biked around and along the (Chambly) canal.  We eventually found an ATM for Henry so he could have some Canadian cash.

I biked downstream a little over a mile to the lock tender’s little office building. There were 3 young women inside so I opened the door and asked if the canal was yet open, and one of them answered “yes”, so I rode back to the boat and was getting ready to go when I saw the same lock tender walking up to the boat to make sure I knew all the requirements, rules etc. for using the canal. Imagine getting service like that in your travels!

About 9:30 we again went to the gas station and got some.  The boy said they open at 8, but no one was in evidence at that time.  He said that was because he was late getting there.

Here is the bike path along the Chambly Canal Lock 9; that’s Henry going by.  The Richelieu rapids are at left and the canal on the right.

By 10:15 we had been through Lock 9 and it would be 1 and a half hours to the next, at 10 mph (Lock 8).  The houses here seem to all have a brick or stone veneer on the fronts, and regular siding on the sides.  The lock person said she lives in Montreal, at school, most of the year, but her mother lives in St. Jean.  This is a summer job for her.  She told us that the 24th of June (next Thursday) is Quebec’s Fest Nationale and a big day for them all, bigger than the Canada Day on July 1st for the rest of the country.

3:15 We have gone through the Chambly Locks and are parked at the Chambly Basin Marina for the night.  It is just adjacent to the locks 1, 2 & 3, which are like steps right next to each other.  Fort Chambly is off to the left and we will go visit there.  We had a really wild rainstorm after going through Lock 4 and pulled over for a while, lunched and let it come down about noon, then we continued.  The bicyclists got very wet, I am sure, but once the sun came out, they were out in full force again.  Walkers, too, are plentiful all along the canal using the old towpath.  It is very clean, well kept and pleasant. We had to pay a $50 deposit on the toilette and laundry key, and hear the gate combination at this place.  We also felt we should remember the combination for the place at Performance Marine in case we end up staying there on the return trip.

This is Fort Chambly, the sun was going down and a real storm was threatening. The Chambly Rapids are to the left of the fort.

7:45 p.m. we have visited Fort Chambly and listened to a tour guide who talked about the architecture in English.  This seemed like the right subject for us, as many of our questions about the place were answered.   This fort is at the very end, or beginning, of the Chambly Rapids on the Richelieu, one of the stumbling blocks to getting places in the early days of travel on this river.  After that we rode bicycles up the canal to Lock 8 and back and then along the bay some on the other side of the marina for a while.  This place is really wonderfully set up for bicycles and walkers, and is very neat with trash and recycling bins along the trails.   They even have people who come and empty the bins, so they don’t get full.  For supper we had two packages of noodle mix and used up the milk.  Henry asked at the Marina office how to find a library or somewhere to get internet service, so we could get a message home that our cell phones (tracfones) were no danged good here in Canada.  Kathie and Gail already had surmised this fact, I am sure.

8:45 It is raining hard right now, but the sunset is golden and very lovely.  Clouds have been dark blue and ominous; the raindrops are noisy, like hail, but are not.  I got some photos.  We are feeling down a bit for not having any communication with home, but it has been a good day.  Sunset picture below is looking toward the west across the Chambly Basin.

Sunset in the Chambly Basin

Richelieu River Monday June 21, 2010

First day of summer! By 7 a.m. we are up, fed, dressed and Henry has biked upstreet to find the library and learn when they will be open.  I am sitting outside the lovely toilette waiting for our free load of wash to spin, so I can dry it in the free dryer.  Of course, it is not really free, as we paid to stay here last night.  What a strong water flow this shower had, though, it was wonderful!  Wish I could make mine at home do that!

The basin here is broad and still this morning.  There are a few boats waiting to go up the canal, whose hours are listed as “sunup to sunset.”  There were few boats down yesterday after we came down, however.  Apparently everyone who begins on the canal must go all the way through at one time.  It appears that the boat that spent the night near the lock was not going up it, but was just staying until morning as it just started down the basin for the lower river.  It takes from 3 to 5 hours to go the whole canal.

There are many restaurants here, and terrasses along here, sunporch-like places where people go to sit, eat, and drink.

8:30 Henry returned to the boat at 7:15, having learned that the bibliotheque would not be open until 1 o’clock, so guess communication will have to wait.  We were off on our way at 8:30 and heading north to Sorel and the St. Lawrence River.

I took this photo from the patio of the Beloeil deli that Henry found and used the Internet connection even though they were closed.  Next town down river also had (twin) church steeples in this shiny metal stuff.  Don’t know if it is aluminum paint or what.

At 10:15 we were leaving Beloeil where we stopped and took our bikes up to the village.  We had some confusion as to the days of the week, which were in French.  Just as we reached the first street, Henry noticed a store window sign that said ”INTERNET” so we were pleased to learn we didn’t have to go far.  The sign said they were “Ferme” on Lundi and Mardi. Not knowing that meant Monday and Tuesday, we tried the door and Henry went in and used the computer.  The people were really upset, but we didn’t understand their language enough to know what they were saying.  Henry wrote an email to Kathie, and then left, after some problem figuring out which word meant “send” on the computer.

They were having a big festival the 23rd through the 27th, according to the signs all over town.  They were setting up a huge stage for a band, and closing off the streets for a big something.

At 12:45 we stopped at St. Antoine’s and had lunch, and were parked so that when another boat went by its waves would rock the boat up and down.  We went up into town for a short bike ride and to take pictures and when we got back the coffee pot had fallen over and spilled the leftover breakfast coffee all over the cooking cabinet and carpet.  Nothing major got wet, just a few of my pills. 

We reached Sorel, and the entrance to the St. Lawrence, a very unremarkable place.  This is probably where those good boots are made.

Here is the first of many ocean-going vessels we encountered, fortunately for us it was peacefully tied up in the mouth of the Richelieu at Sorel waiting for her load.

At 8:30 p.m. we were parked on Prune Island, in the St. Lawrence River where, after consulting the guidebook, we felt there would be shelter from the passing freighters, and also any other disturbances.  We nosed in and set our anchor on shore, a sandy-looking beach.  It was very lovely here, and when a freighter went by on the other side we could just see the tops of the highest parts of the freighter, and hear the rumbling of their engines.  There were many birds here.  I heard a lark type of song, maybe a sandpiper, and some other birds I didn’t recognize.   People had put up little signs around in different spots such as: “R. T. 2010.”  Henry figures they were reserving duck hunting spots for the next season.   We made some supper then went beach walking, after Henry tried the bicycle on the wet beach, with unsatisfactory results.  Clay is the major makeup of this island, with about four feet of dirt on top of it, which supports some grass in the middle and trees on both ends.   We found some rocks with deep holes in them, also some very tiny shells that made Henry talk about periwinkles.   After looking these up in the book, they probably were a kind of periwinkle.  We walked all around the island, and saw many birds that made nests in the bank, and many gulls and cormorants that got bothered by our presence.

This area was about opposite where we were parked on Prune Island, and on the St. Lawrence itself.  That stuff sloughing off is clay, but I do not know whether it is good quality pot making clay, or not.

The sun began to set, so I took a few photos.  During the night, after a freighter went by, the waves apparently washed on the opposite bank beyond the end of the island, and then came back at an angle to our boat and rocked us.  It must have been one big one, for this happened only once, that I remember.  This explains the illusion of a tide, for it appeared that the river level was down from what had been on the shore when we arrived. 

Henry says the tide does not come up as far as Montreal on the St. Lawrence. 

Sunset photo, Henry reviewing his own photos.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Got up early after a bad night filled with mosquitoes that somehow got inside the netting and bothered us both all night.  I tried to cover my face with a towel, and this worked for a while, but it was hard to breathe through it.  Henry broke the stitching on his cot, also adding to his discomfort.  I never had such a bad mosquito night.   Once the sun was up, they stopped biting.  We had breakfast, and boogied out of there, headed for Varennes for some iced tea for Henry, then on to Montreal.  I don’t really know how that is going to go, but Henry has his plans.

The view from the bridge crossing the highway when we had to walk to find a store.  Henry took this picture.

8:a.m. We are headed for Port de Plaisance Real Bouvier, a marina where we can get gas.

Here is a picture of the Port de Plaisance Real Bouvier taken from that same bridge over the Trans- Canada Highway showing part of the city of Montreal in the distance across the St. Lawrence River. Our low cost/no cost pontoon boat is in the far left side of this collection of very pricey vessels, called “cruisers”. These are the boats that apparently do their level best to swamp us when we meet them on the open rivers.

We got the gas, and asked for directions to a store (I said super marche) and were directed to go across over the highway on a bridge and find the store.  We took our bikes, and parked them before the high bridge.  We walked along awhile, asked directions of a couple of fellows, before we found a gas station and got a few cold drinks and a candy bar.   We tried for service on the telephones, both had a few bars, but calls did not go through.

Here we were in the river very near the city of Montreal.  There were several freighters next to the shore unloading and loading, but we never met one here in the water, passing us.

We went up river slowly and I got a few photos of Montreal and recognized the four-sided building I remember from 1981 when Alex and I were here at the hospital.  By four-sided I mean it would look like a plus sign if you were looking down from the top.  The island where Expo ‘67 was located is also there, and the carnival rides are operating, scary roller coaster, Ferris wheel.  We went toward what is called the Old (Vieux) Port of Montreal, a sort of dead place with many old business fronts on the river, obviously no longer used.  The first lock to the Lachine Canal is located here, under a railroad track, and in between some huge concrete pillars.  I suspect sailboats cannot come up through here without a lot of trouble. 

This is where we waited to enter the Lachine Canal at Montreal.  Railroad above, canal around the corner, center of photo.  Big concrete columns were at left holding up the RR.

11:30 We started at the 1st Lock at Lachine Canal and at 11:50 were at the second.  These are locks where they have docks in the locks to tie up to, so no slimy ropes to hold.

The lock tenders came down stairways to these floating docks and took our dock lines and tied up the boat for us, and when the lock was filled and ready for us to move out on the next level they untied us and handed the coiled ropes back to us. At one lock the young male lock tender casually flipped the line around the dock cleat while standing off 4 or 5 feet away, then even completed the tie-up with the reversed loop, never bending over! The next lock the male lock tender sternly reminded us that the dock lines were OUR responsibility, not theirs. Almost all the other lock tenders in the 3 Canada Park System Canals (Chambly, St. Ours & Lachine) were female.

  At Lock 3 (or is it 4), Atwater Market, there was a toilet and we made some lunch.  I tried to take a nap, but Henry was intent on continuing all the way through before taking a break.  At 3:00 we were finally at Lock 5, 500 (Rue) des Iroquois.  The lock people told us we are the only boat in the canal so far today. Water levels are down in the Great Lakes, and people are not traveling.  We are planning to stay overnight here, more or less turn around, and go on down the St. Lawrence Seaway tomorrow.  I got my nap while Henry went looking for the Internet café.  We will ride bicycles this afternoon and tomorrow morning, as the cycling is super!

We went out for supper after riding up and down Rue Notre Dame trying to read the signs.  Finally saw one where some people were eating at a table in the window, called Toto.  We went in and found it just right.  We both ordered salmon and it came with both rice and potato, a nice bunch of green beans and carrots punctuated with one Brussels sprout, also salad and a roll and coffee.  It seemed like a local place, and very busy, with a harried, but nice, waitress.  It is amazing how people can swap so easily back and forth from French to perfect English.  I wish I could do that!  After that we biked down the peninsula up into Lac St. Louis where we will be going tomorrow, and back around.  There are a lot of art things on the grass here and many people, biking and walking.  In many places there are separate trails for walking and biking. I planted my Bicycle Trails letterbox near Lock 5.  This is where I got a hand painted bicycle bell (ladybug!) for Gail’s gift.  Henry found an Internet cafe and wrote both Gail and Kathie.  We rode 9.5 km today.

There is a lot of this kind of art at Lock 5 in Lachine.  These were huge “legs” filled with boulders. Everything was labeled and the methods described and the artist named and given credit.  The water here is the St. Lawrence River and this was on the long peninsula out into Lac St. Louis.   The approach to the Locks, where we stayed, was on the other side.

There were several groves of these lovely poplars along the bicycle trail at lock 5 in Lachine QC.   Henry is probably that spot of red way down the trail.

Wednesday June 23, 2010

We biked the other end of the canal this morning and by 11:00 were headed from Lachine to Lac St. Louis and the St. Lawrence Seaway.  We woke about 6 after a bug-less night.  Henry slept on his blowup mattress and did not use the bug tent at all.   Looking for something to take home for gifts, we went back down to Atwater Market at Lock 3, but it was all flowers and fresh foods.  Being thirsty, we found a McDonalds and I got a muffin and coffee and Henry got some iced tea.  Later we found a real grocery store and got milk, a 12-pack of tea, a loaf of bread, so we are all set for food.  We rode 22 km on the bikes today.  Grocery store does not give out free bags, but we had our own.  They apparently do not have “gift shops” with all those souvenirs made in foreign lands as we do at home.  Gift shops are called boutiques, and are few in number.  They have trash barrels all around in the parks, and people have been hired to come and dump them, a wonderful thing!  It is really very neat all over.  They have frequent recycling bins, too.  Some of the toilettes, or “La Salles,” as I’ve seen them called, have been closed overnight, a drawback for people living with no running water.

These last few days have been kind of empty without communications.  Every now and then I check for a “bar” on the tracfone, but there is nothing.  It only says “searching for a network,” which uses up power, so I have been leaving it OFF.  I will be glad to be on our way home and on Lake Champlain again, though I have not been unhappy, or bored at all.

Today’s journey entails navigating across Lac St. Louis to the main shipping channel on the southeast side without going aground on the many shoals & small islands which signal the start of the Lachine Rapids. We also don’t want to get overpowered by the current and get swept down through them. My charts did not cover the entire area of Lac St. Louis that we would be traversing. As they were quite expensive, I didn’t buy that one last sheet. I had searched out a local mariner last night who told me there was a marked channel for crossing the lac that began half a mile beyond a lighthouse on the near bank. This channel proved to be curved toward Toronto more than I suspected, and markers were getting farther apart as we progressed under a heavily overcast sky. I was watching my compass, looking for marker buoys with binoculars, and ever on the lookout for a mammoth sea going ship about to run us down, and of course watching the depth meter for shallow areas that might break our prop and send us downriver in the fast lane. When I stopped to peruse the edge of my last chart to get coordinates for the entrance to the canalized section bypassing the rapids, our boat turned around somewhat, and I realized that we couldn’t see any part of a shore that we could recognize or interpret as a landmark. Trusting in the instruments, (compass & GPS) and the certain knowledge that the Seaway really was there helped, but I think Bucky was getting a tad nervous at this point. Here is a trace of this portion of the trip

Our starting point for the day is in the right side of the picture near the compass symbol. The thick black line represents the path our vessel traced across the treacherous waters of lower Lac St. Louis. If this were the actual “chart”, it would show many islands & rocks scattered about in the area of the rectangular blue lines. I knew the Saint Lawrence Seaway channel was along the southern shore and at a point about the middle of this picture (near “Annabelle Beach”) it ducks behind a levee to prevent the large ships from being washed down over the Lachine rapids, which are already running a good swift current by this time. If we had attempted to cut straight across, we would have suffered that same fate for sure. So it entailed a good 5-mile upstream jaunt before we joined that main channel. We ran up it about a mile before realizing we were surely in that channel, then reversed ourselves and 3 miles later entered the protected canal. This area on the south shore is Kahnawake, the home of Mohawk Indians who are world-renowned steelworkers, famous for many skyscrapers in NY City, the Quebec Bridge, and others throughout the world. Note the map says “RESERVE INDIENNE”.

Around 12:30 we were almost at the St. Lawrence Seaway lock, after stopping for lunch at a dirt road boat launching spot in the woods.  This is said to be Native American territory. There was a lot of activity on the roads beyond the woods, and a nearby bridge was being worked on.  We got slightly lost in the middle of Lake St. Louis, as we went by some buoys that indicated the channel, so we turned around and went the right way.  The lake at the time was very gloomy; the sky was a threatening gray.  The expanse of water was immense; it was like an outer space movie, real creepy.  We will be on Henry’s charts again, soon, and at the St. Catherine, Lock 2. 

Passing under a bridge on our approach to the Seaway lock at St. Catherine.

Quebec experienced an earthquake during this trip. The quake struck at 1:41PM Eastern, June 23, 2010. We would have been afloat in the Seaway canal at this time and of course were blissfully unaware of the damage being done to the west of us nearer to Ottawa.

The lock was 35 feet high and 1000’ long, and it was only us in it.  Am glad we didn’t have to share with a big tanker, though.  At 3:30 we were passing LaPrairie, which is just a whole lot of apartment buildings, a long green bridge and lots of cars and trucks  - which we are not in, thank goodness.   At 3:45 we were entering St. Lambert Lock 1 and were out of it by 4:35.

At one of these 2 St. Lawrence Seaway locks there is a road bridge at each end of the lock. When the upstream gate is to be opened, the road traffic is re-routed to the downstream bridge, then the upstream bridge is opened followed by the lock gate opening for us. We then enter the lock; the gate closes behind us as we tied ourselves up to the immense concrete wall. The bridge is lowered, the road traffic is then returned to that bridge. The lock tender then appears high overhead with a clipboard on a 35-foot long pole for us to put the $25 (cash) fee in. He hauls it up, clips in our change and a receipt and passes it back down. Then the downstream bridge slowly rises, (enough for an ocean going freighter, but we probably could have passed under either bridge in the lowered position) the downstream gate opens and we are off. Seemed like a lot of disruption of the people in one of the largest cities in Canada for our measly twenty-five bucks! But hey! We really do only go this way once.

At 5:00 we stopped again at the port de Plaisance Real Bouvier that I cannot find on the map.  We got ice, gas, and are on our way toward home!

The Port de Plaisance Real Bouvier is in the center of this map. It is right across the Fleuve St. Laurent from the several large wharves, or Quais on the downstream side of Montreal in the village of Longueil. The heavy black line shows the deliberate path through the sandy shoals we learned to take into & out of this otherwise lovely marina. (The first time we visited we got off into some nasty weeds and sand, powering our way out was a risky gamble, but we escaped with only the loss of some paint on the propeller.

By 7 p.m. we were going by Vercheres, where we are not stopping as the guidebook says the docking is not protected from the waves of passing freighters.  We had some supper and are on again to Contrecouer who have a public dock for the night.  We had our bicycle ride this morning so are pouring on the gas to get closer to home tonight.  We will pass the “lovely” buggy Ile de Prunes on our way, but will not stop even though it is free.  

At 8:20 we stopped at the marina at Contrecouer after a long slow ride into the bay on the other side of a nature study island.  The public dock was cluttered with people, and a band shell was set up over there, promising big noisy deal this evening.  There is no one at the marina to rent us a slip, so we are taking one anyway, and will pay if the owner comes by.  We watched the gate and people are leaving it open for other people, so we will do the same.  Henry went scouting for the marina toilets and discovered them, all locked up tight, so no showers tonight.

Quebec day is tomorrow and we expect meet a lot of fast boats, and damn fools.   Also are anticipating some noise this evening, but feel far enough away from the big festivities here in the marina.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Got up at 6. Yes, there were festivities last night with many boats in the bay back and forth, fireworks at about 9:30, nice ones, on the water.  I took some pictures.  There were three different bands that played over on the main dock, starting at 9, each one for an hour.  Henry figures they stopped at 1.  I was kept awake, but did not consider it bad music.  Bugs were not bad, a few deer flies only.  This place is called the Marina Nautique de Contrecouer.  I took a walk after breakfast, looking for some running water, and after15 minutes, found a Subway!  Washed up, etcetera, got me some more coffee and some chips, and then sent Henry over.  It continues to look like lots of rain so we won’t go for a while; if we are still here at noon, I will get me a big, old Subway sandwich for lunch!

A nighttime picture at the marina in Contrecouer PQ on the St. Lawrence, where we stayed on the 24th of June, for free as it turned out, toilet- and shower-less, however.  They had three bands in succession (more or less in center of photo) and fireworks at 9:30.

Fireworks were pretty good, and set up on the water, or the island across the channel.

There are a predominance of noisy red wing blackbirds here, as well as many herons, geese and ducks along the riverside.  I noticed a lot of beer bottles and other refreshment receptacles all neatly piled on street corners, left over from last night’s doings.

In the morning at Contrecouer, there were several herons fishing on shore at the marina, while people walked back and forth to their boats on these walkways.

We left at about 8:15, as it seemed to be clearing up.  Looked for, and found a place to empty our boat toilet on a sandy island.  Dug a hole and properly disposed of it far inland.  At 10:30 we stopped for gas at Parc Nautique Federal in Sorel-Tracy. At 12:15 we were at St. Ours Canal and going up, only one other boat with us.  We will stop for lunch when through. 

This where a local man took an interest in our boat. He wanted to know if it was for sale. We had quite a conversation, considering neither of us spoke or understood the other’s language. When he caught the price, he went back to fishing.

Took some pictures, as I cannot even remember coming down through here on the way toward Montreal.   After lunch we will get as far toward Chambly Canal as we can before stopping.  If we don’t get there in time to do the canal, will stay the night again in Chambly Basin.   Our plan is to get almost to Plattsburgh tomorrow, so as to have only a half-day’s travel on the water from Plattsburgh to Mallets Bay where Nick will meet us on Saturday.

Here’s the dam at St. Ours that the lock avoids.

At 1:30 we are on our way to Chambly.  By Henry’s calculation we will get there in time to stay over and go up in the morning.  I will list the towns we go by: St. Denis (with twin copper green spires); a small ferry; a co-op with green roofs (chemin pomme d’or); St. Antoine sur le Richelieu on west side across from St. Denis; a very red orange roof (west side); the silos of B. Desrosier.  1:50 thunderclouds forming to the west and south, so we may run into thunderstorms. 

There are very few farms here, mostly homes, maybe once camps, made into year-round homes now.  Can see Mt. St. Hilaire from here.  At 2 p.m. St. Charles coming up on the east bank.  Many of the boaters seem to be males, all macho with no shirt, and tattoos.  Many boats have a scantily dressed female sprawled on the front “hood,” getting a tan, I suppose.  The modern day hood ornament.

3:45 The accumulated dishes are washed up, as we are forced to wait till the rains have stopped for an hour or so.  Henry was about to move upstream a little when it began again, storms are from the east AND west and it doesn’t want to stop.  We are moored near an old barge used to advertise a dinner theatre called L’Escale on the west bank.

6 p.m. We stopped again at Beloeil where they were setting up for a big fest earlier, and Henry found a gift for Kathie.  We visited the deli where we first found the Internet connection and Henry used it. 

We stopped on our return trip at Beloeil and they were cleaning up from the festivale last night.  We used the Internet at the deli where we so rudely used it on their closed day last week, and wandered around.  There were still a couple of bands playing, and lots of white tents with vendors selling stuff.  Here’s where we found a present for Kathie.  Henry tried/sat on the classy tricycle.

($30,000 CAN)

At nearly 9 o’clock we took a short bike ride up the locks at Chambly Basin. We had arrived in time to try the library and their Internet connection, but it being a holiday, they were closed.  We could hear a band with pounding drums playing in a nearby sports stadium with bright lights.  We rode about 6 km. only, and then settled in for the night.  There were a couple of big tour boats at top of lock 3 right there.

Henry estimates we have about 85 kilometers to Plattsburgh (as the crow flies) so we should make it by evening.  Today (24th) we went 197 km, he figures.  (121 miles)   One more photo below.

The locks 1, 2, and 3 at Chambly are here at left.  We are the blue straight ahead behind the light pole, Bassin Chambly beyond, where we docked instead of at the marina this time, as we arrived too late to get a mooring, so again with no showers, though the toilettes at the lock were huge and clean.

Friday June 25, 2010

At 8 a.m. we were waiting for the lock to open so we can start up the canal, which they tell us, will be at 8:30.  They unlocked the toilettes for us as soon as they got here. 

I went for a walk and met a man with a white dog that was trying to chase squirrels up a tree.  He was talking to it in English, so I struck up a conversation with him.  He said he was from New Jersey, but had lived on his boat for two years now.  He was then on a boat trip which he called an Eastern American Loop from his NJ up the Atlantic, then the Hudson, to Montreal, then the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi, around Florida and then home.  He said there is a club or group of enthusiasts who do this and keep “score.”  I wish I’d thought to ask him what he was using for a boat.

The night was cold, but bug-less.  We talked some of going down through the east side of Lake Champlain today if we can still get home in good time on Saturday.

By 11:15 we were through with Lock 8 and then had to travel at a very slow rate of speed for about an hour and a half at 10 km/h until Lock 9.  This is so the lock people ahead can know when to expect us.  After a while we caught up with a huge blue tour boat, the Moonlight Lady from Burlington Vermont.  We speculated about why the boat should be in Montreal, and Henry figured maybe they needed some engine repairs or the like.  There were crewmembers visible, and a few people who looked more like passengers than crew.

We followed the Moonlight Lady from Burlington VT into one of the locks, and to our surprise we both fit in!  Here she goes by one of the swing bridges along the Chambly Canal.

We eventually were in Lock 9 with this boat, a tight squeeze in my estimation, but we were close enough so I could talk with the crew girls, as we held the ropes.  They said they were on a three-night cruise to Montreal, and they were returning to Burlington.

We gassed up at St. Jean sur Richelieu and had some lunch.  The captain of the Moonlight Lady gave us chocolate chip cookies.

At St. Jean they have festivals on both the 24th of June and the 1st of July, and many of the parking meters were closed for the upcoming 1st.  This is the same place we were in a few days ago where we had to wait around for the gas station to open. 

We are looking forward to the customs and having our telephone service back again.  By 4:00 we were approaching US customs, having passed the Canada Douanes.  The big blue boat got ahead of us when we stopped for gas and lunch, but now we realized we’d better get ahead of them to avoid being held up at customs.

At customs they took our passports, and boat registration, and asked us to leave the boat.  I could see the two young customs men looking sort of sideways at the boat, maybe looking for the hold.  They wanted us to fill out a form for them, and it was all in French, which gave us a bit of trouble, but there were a couple of French-speaking women there with husbands who helped us make it out.  We decided we were not going to explore the east side of North Hero Island, but head straight for Mallett's Bay tomorrow.

At 8:00 p.m. we were anchored in a small cove off Valcour Island, the letter “6” on a tree.  Perhaps this is the cove we were in when we stopped to find the Lighthouse letterbox, but I do not remember a picnic table and a tent and someone had put a flag on the beach there, too.

Turns out we were not in the same place, but in a better-protected cove on the North end of the Island.

 Henry fished and caught a few bass.   Our food is about gone; there is enough for another day, which we will not need.

I feel pretty grimy and am considering jumping into the water to wash up.  Perhaps in the morning.

Sunset on the New York shore off Valcour Island

Saturday June 26, 2010

At 7 a.m. we were headed for Mallett's Bay, and hoping to arrive about 8:00, but water was choppy and wind makes the going slow.  We called Nicky and told him that 8:30 was about right, according to the GPS.  He was just driving up to the marina as we approached.   We decided that the cove last night was not the same as the one we used earlier.   

Nick says he has an open house at his bike shop at ten, but otherwise the time frame will be OK for him. Carol, dog, and Nicky were there at the dock when we pulled in.  They left soon; we unpacked and dismantled, and headed for home via the interstate 89 and 91.  I was home at about 11:45.

Back on Vermont soil again at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday June 26th.

Nick and Carol pose with their dog on the dock at Mallets Bay.  They brought the truck and boat trailer.