Day 31 – June 1
After waiting out 3 days of rain in Chambly, we were rewarded with a spectacular day for the trip from Chambly to Sorel and the St. Lawrence River/Seaway – sunny, windless, and warm. However, with Lake Champlain already at flood stage and nearly 2″ of rain over the past 3 days, the current in the Richelieu River was very swift. We were warned both in the literature and by a boater that we met about a very narrow bridge opening with a swift current at Point Beloeil. We planned and prepared carefully ahead of time, strategizing our approach, deploying every fender we have on the port side where we thought the current might take us if we misjudged, and donning life jackets. However, the extra current may have helped us as the high water was funneled between the concrete abutments. In any case, we came through unscathed and had a great run to Sorel.
You can see by the picture below that we display both an American flag and a Canadian “courtesy” flag while in Canada.
I hung the Canadian courtesy flag before we entered the first lock in Canada, knowing that many people would be watching us as we descended each of the 9 locks along the Chambly Canal. Tom usually deals with the flags on board, but he was busy doing something else so I hung it, proud to display our act of courtesy at each lock. When we arrived in Chambly, however, Tom bellowed “You’re fired”, as he pointed to the Canadian flag which I had inadvertently hung upside down.
Below are a few pictures taken in Sorel, the city where the Richelieu River (which you may recall drains Lake Champlain) joins the St. Lawrence. Those of you who were on our bike trip last summer will remember Sorel as the place we took the ferry across the St. Lawrence to continue on the north side of the river. We’re docked a short distance from the ferry dock and see it plying the river back and forth. For anyone who likes biking and is looking for a unique vacation, Quebec has an amazing, well-developed system of bike routes that are well marked and many of which are off-road bike paths for miles and miles. They have also developed an amazing that has maps showing bike routes throughout Quebec, including motels, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and campsites along the way. We used it to plan our week-long trip last year that included 15 family and friends (including my Dad who drove an RV as our support vehicle), in which we biked from near Montreal to Quebec City. We did a mixture of camping, motels, and B&B’s, but you can plan your own itinerary where you can stay in a motel or B&B every night if you wish. The landscape is beautiful, the French villages along the way are quaint and friendly, and most people speak enough English so you can communicate adequately. The website is “routeverde.com”, and you can click on “English” and the entire website is instantly translated into English (it’s like magic). You can use the website to plan a day trip or a week or more itinerary.
Since we had a weather day in Sorel, we went for a bike ride on a portion of the bike trail that we rode last summer. A picture is below. Sorel is an old industrial town with a huge grain elevator where grain is loaded into ships for transport via the St Lawrence Seaway. The city looks like it is trying to make a comeback, and there are some quaint old buildings here.
A few more interesting historical facts: You may recall from your high school history that New France (Quebec) was ceded to Britain as a result of the Battle of Quebec in 1759, in which British General James Wolf defeated French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Although the battle lasted only an hour, both men died of their injuries. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, ending what is known as the French and Indian War in the US and the Seven Years War elsewhere. The treaty was signed not only by Britain and France, but also by Spain and Portugal, all of whom were warring to gain colonial territory. Most disputed territory was returned to the original owner, except that France was the big loser – France ceded to Britain not only all its holdings in Canada, but also the French West Indies and half of French Louisiana (between the Mississippi and the Appalachain Mountains), and Spain ceded Florida to Britain. Thus ended French rule in Canada, and Quebec has been part of English-speaking Canada ever since.
After waiting out a rain day on Friday in Sorel, we headed into the St. Lawrence River on Saturday morning – a beautiful, sunny day with fairly light winds on our stern. The river drains an enormous land area going all the way to the continental divide including all 5 Great Lakes, so the volume of water is stupendous – especially in the Spring. With a late snow and ice melt and heavy Spring rains, the volume and currents on the river are near record highs. We ran up-river (against the current) to Montreal, bucking currents which ranged from 1 1/2 to 3 knots (depending on the width, depth, and configuration of the river) most of the way. However, about 2 miles from Montreal, the river is funneled by a separate shipping channel into a relatively narrow space, so we had to fight a current of 5-6 knots to get to the marina. In addition to the speed of the current, the water swirls and is quite turbulent, pushing the boat around even under full power. It had our complete attention! The river itself is now part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and we passed a parade of large, commercial vessels on our way up the river. These behemouths need a lot of space, so we ran along the edge of the channel whenever one approached, then slowed to absorb the large waves from their wake.
Montreal is an exciting, vibrant city, full of life. We’re docked in the Old Port, right in the heart of the Old City in Montreal, surrounded by pedestrian squares, restaurants with sidewalk dining, street vendors, shops, etc. In addition to being a commercial center and government center, Montreal is a college town, home of McGill University, known as “Harvard of the North”. My daughter Jessie graduated from McGill in 2004, and is now a Lieutenant in the United States Navy JAG Corp (brag, brag). We took a 2 hour bus tour, then had dinner in a sidewalk café in the Old City. Half of the residents of Montreal are of French heritage and half English, although the French culture clearly dominates the Old City. Montreal is reportedly the most bilingual city in North America, with 65% of the residents being bilingual and 25% speaking three or more languages (I struggle with just English). I’m also told that there are 18 miles (yes 18 miles) of shopping underground in Montreal – if you’ve ever been here in the winter, you’ll understand why…. Below are some pictures from our stay here:
Some of Tom’s family will be joining us tonight and crewing through next weekend (YAAYY!) – tomorrow we plan to cast off and head further up the St. Lawrence and into the Ottawa River towards Ottawa.