Tuesday, July 12, 2016


As we head further north-east down the south shore of the St. Lawrence, gradually tides will become less of a factor. Related tidal currents are down to about 1 knot and the tidal range is about 7 to 9 feet. We departed from Matane at 0800 heading for Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, about a 46 nautical mile trip. While the wind was a very light 5 to 10 knots, we were immediately surprised by the size of the waves that were hitting the port (left) side of our bow and concluded they were from stronger offshore winds. While the boat handled the waves well, they made for a rather uncomfortable ride for us for the next 6 hours. 

Our main entertainment was watching the shoreline and the various villages and their churches pass us by. As we approached the community of Cap Chat, their enormous wind farm came into view. What is unique about this farm is one extraordinary large, vertical axis turbine. It is the largest of its kind in the world, standing 110 meters tall and its two advantages are:
  • It’s generator and gear boxes are at the base, making it much easier to service & maintain
  • It doesn’t have to point into wind to operate
The reason we don’t see to many of this style of turbine is that the constantly changing force of wind on it’s spinning blades causes poor performance and reliability. As we motored past, this wind turbine stood still….

Verticle Axis Wind Turbine

Arriving at Sainte-Anne-des-Monts was a great relief and we were all anxious to get off the boat and take a walk. Oddly, after so many hours on a boat rolling in the waves, when you get onto solid ground, you still feel the boat motion for some time afterwards.

Sainte-Anne-des-Monts’ economy is primarily driven by tourism and fishing. After we arrived, the girls went grocery shopping at the local Metro while Lee and I took a tour of the “Exploramer” (explore the sea) that is based at the marina. It has a wonderful display of 21 aquarium tanks containing fish and other marine organisms, all from the St. Lawrence River, with bilingual explanations of each. We saw some extremely ugly fish that I’d never want to see on the end of my fishing line. There is also an extensive exhibition on sharks and the related issues of pollution, illegal fishing for the asian market for shark fins and collateral deaths from long line fishing. Later, Lee and I we met up with the girls at Metro to help lug the groceries back to the boat. 

Jan had made a reservation for all of us at a wonderful seafood restaurant that we’d heard was very popular. I’d seen the building and thought it rather nondescript, but when we arrived at 1800 hours, the parking lot was full and the place was packed. We were getting menu explanations from a very helpful waiter when we spotted a terrific looking dish two neighbouring customers were served. It turned out to be a Seafood Gratin containing lobster, shrimp and scallops. That was it - five of us ordered that and the sixth had fresh salmon. What a feast we had at our table - chowder, caesar salad, seafood gratin, sugar pie and coffee. 

After dinner, Lee and I walked out on the pier to check on the more than 40 people fishing off the public / commercial dock. There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy going into the fishing, but we only saw one person who had caught a fish. 

Fishing trawler with its haul of shrimp

Where the real work is done on the trawler

Monday July 11, 2016. We woke to a lovely sunny morning and were off the dock promptly as planned at 0800. In no time, the fog rolled in and while we were all less than a half mile apart, we could only “see” each other on our radar screens. The wind was 18 to 22 knots from the south west and almost directly behind us. As we motored along, the waves gradually got bigger and the boats developed quite a corkscrew motion that was not uncomfortable. The unsung hero of days like today on the water is our autopilot. You set a course and let the autopilot steer the boat. If all is well, your autopilot is a strong member of the crew, tirelessly steering the boat and making corrections with the rudder to keep you on your course. Believe me, on a day like today, the autopilot can steer the boat better than any person could. If you had to hand steer in these conditions for 6 hours, you’d be awfully tired.

The fog finally lifts

Early on in the morning, Fran spotted two whales. The first we believe was a minke whale who surfaced only 50 feet off our port (left) side and dove. The second we believe was a pilot whale who was about 100 feet off our port side and crossing our path, so we immediately stopped the boat to avoid any chance of collision. Once again, what a wonderful treat.

At mid day, we passed a point of land called “Gros-Morne” which happens to be the most northerly part of the Gaspe Peninsula and the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. It is also the most northerly latitude (49 degrees 15 minutes north) that we will reach in our Down East Circle Route. Since the start of our travel down the St. Lawrence River at Kingston, Ontario, we’ve been heading in a north east direction. June 21st is of course the summer solstice marking the longest daylight hours of the year, after which the daylight hours start to get shorter. For us however, the sunrises kept getting earlier and earlier the further north we got. That is, up until tomorrow. This morning at Sainte-Anne-des-Monts sunrise was at 4:34am. Tomorrow morning at Riviere-de-Madeline, sunrise is at 4:32am. After tomorrow, we start to move in a more south east direction and our sun rises will be later and later and hopefully the temperatures will start to get a little warmer. 

Wings in the trough of a wave

Our destination today was a tiny village called Riviere-la-Madeline. It is a small village of 373 people with a beautiful lighthouse, a tiny marina behind a large break wall and a lovely grouping of the most picturesque homes you’d ever want to see. We had called ahead for reservations and a group of six enthusiastic locals met us at the dock and helped us tie up. Three large boats arriving all at once was a big deal and we were sure made to feel welcome. We were “checked in” by the owner of the marina restaurant, who is also a teacher, the mayor of the village and the harbourmaster. The village is a photographers dream with steep hills on the south side and the St. Lawrence on the other. 

We enjoyed a walk along the shore and up a hillside lookout with views of the St. Lawrence, the marina and the village. We had a wonderful dinner of seafood chowder (shrimps, scallops, salmon and more) and a lobster clubhouse sandwich at the marina restaurant which has a great view of the marina and the St. Lawrence. Once again, the end of a magnificent day.

Lighthouse at Riviere-la-Madeline

Crab pots being tended to

Very small fishing boats

Views around Riviere-la-Madeline

The village

Special equipment for Quebec winters

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