Adventures In The St. Lawrence Seaway

By Thom Burns

After riding the ebb, fighting the flood and experiencing the rip tide we approached the harbor of Du Loup about one hundred ten nautical miles from Quebec City. Two older French gentlemen were saving us in to the only floating dock next to the ferry dock. When we were tied up Pierre told us that we had plenty of water, 2.5 to 3 meters. “Look at those boats in the small boat harbor,” he pointed as he tried to make sure we understood. “They are floating in mud.” Sure enough, there was a forty footer with a mud waterline. Welcome to a “drying” harbor which had been repeatedly mentioned in the Sailing Directions. Du Loup turned out to be a four star drying harbor, mostly because of the hospitality of Pierre.

Breagan had spent the previous two weeks in an upkeep mode in Quebec City. The transit through the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence was basically uneventful but several items made the fix-it list. I would recommend a final upkeep period near the ultimate departure location.

Pierre drove us all around Du Loup in his mini-van. It is quite beautiful and apparently frequented by tourists although it certainly didn’t seem to be overwhelmed. Ten o’clock was tip over and sleep time for the crew. We needed the six hours sleep for the next transit to Matane. The early departure was once again driven by tides and currents. We wanted to ride the ebb and scoot through the rip tide areas at or near slack. What we didn’t anticipate was the abundance of wildlife. Beluga and Minke whales, dolphins and sea otters greeted us repeatedly. On our second day out of Quebec City we stopped in Matane after another one hundred plus day. The harbor was big, the water was deep and we tied off to a floating dry dock with a dilapidated tugboat on blocks. We took the dinghy ashore for a nice dinner. Since we were through the worst of the river and tidal currents, we backed off and upon the recommendation of Pierre stopped in the charming little harbor of St. Anne Des Monts.
Here we met a charming couple, Mary Lou and Charles Balinger, they do interpreting on the Gaspe Peninsula. The harbor master was exceptional in helping us refuel, top off with water and find things. The airline located my lost antenna and agreed to fly it to the city of Gaspe. This meant a quick change of plans for us since we needed to sail to Gaspe, one hundred forty-five nautical miles away instead of our original destination, Riviera de Fox, which was only ninety-five NM. We walked into St. Anne Des Monts for a shore breakfast. We had a hard time finding the little cantina but it was worth the search. The food was great and the atmosphere was down home provincial French.

We got underway in favorable winds from the west in six foot seas. Sailing with the main double-reefed and we rarely saw hull speed. In fact we averaged 1.2 knots over hull speed for the first ninety miles. What a trip? Gaspe is a beautiful city with great amenities and a real yacht club. We met several cruising sailors who offered us local knowledge of the area and destinations along our route. This is how we decided to breakup the crossing of the Gulf of St. Lawrence by stopping at the Iles De La Madeleine. This is a popular tourist location with over 200 miles of spectacular sand beaches. Some of the Iles looked like they were carpeted with various shades of green. Trees were sparse at best and nonexistent on several islands. This is one of the prettiest archipelagos I’ve seen. And once again the fellow cruisers and the local folks were great.

We are in for quite an adventure which for us has been great with more than a touch of French. Our next stop will be Newfoundland.