Wednesday, August 9, 2017
MONTREAL, OTTAWA RIVER, THE GUILLOTINE & CHATEAU MONTEBELLO
Map of our route for this blog post
Thunderstorm approaching at Boucherville Is.
Sunset at Boucherville Islands
Long wait for this freighter to get through the lock
Our turn in the Seaway Lock
In close quarters with another ship
Tug'n tied up in canal at Ste Anne
Lunch at Resto Bar
Manicured property along Ottawa River
Maintenance job in bilge under salon floor
Our first view of Chateau Montabello
G7 Summit at Chateau Montabello
Magnificent rotunda in Chateau
On a trail walk
BBQ dinner in front of Chateau
Parliament Buildings in Ottawa
Fight of 8 locks and Chateau Laurier Hotel
Excess water flowing over lock doors
Monday July 31, 2017: Another beautiful, hot summer day greeted us for our 33 nautical mile cruise up the St. Lawrence to the Boucherville Islands, just east of Montreal. For the first time, we are retracing our steps having covered this section last June, 2016. This time, we took the small craft channel, as recommended by or friend Michel on Tremolo II, as we don’t have to worry about freighter traffic and as an added bonus, the current against us is 0.5 knots less. The current is still a hefty 1.5 to 2 knots as the water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence are still much higher than normal.
The small craft channel turned out to be a very relaxing cruise with easy to follow markers and we highly recommend it for upbound pleasure craft. We saw lots of large fish jumping right out of the water and concluded they were salmon.
Upon arrival in the Boucherville Islands, as expected, the boat traffic was quite light as compared to a weekend. Shortly after anchoring, enormous dark clouds from the east appeared headed towards us, at the same time the Coast Guard issued a squall warning and a check of our weather radar confirmed we were right in its path. Thankfully, we were anchored in a well protected location. Over the course of an hour we experienced high winds, rain, thunder and lightening, together with a sudden drop in temperature.
Afterwards, the wind died, the sun came out and the summer temperatures returned giving us a lovely evening to enjoy. We took a dip, Montreal style, with a long, floating line and life ring out off our stern to be sure we didn’t get swept away by the current.
Tuesday August 1, 2017: Today we had a short, but interesting 8 mile run to the Montreal Yacht Club. When we visited Montreal last year, we had to stay at Marina de la Ronde on Ile Ste Helene as the employees at the Marina at the Old Port of Montreal were on strike and as a result the Montreal Yacht Club was full. So, this time, we are excited to stay at the MYC, which is in the heart of Old Montreal. Luckily, we’d called a couple of days before to make a reservation as visitor space was limited.
We had been warned that for the short stretch of river between Ile Ste Helene and Montreal the current was about 6 knots against us due to high water in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. In anticipation, we hugged the shoreline of Ile Ste Helene as close as we dared to take advantage of the backwash as long as we could. For the last half mile, the current was indeed at least 6 knots and it was quite an unusual ride.
MYC was a terrific place to stay with its first class docking system, its well used boaters patio with numerous BBQ’s, tables and umbrellas, herb garden and its great washrooms and showers, complete with complimentary towels. After getting settled, we were off to Old Montreal for lunch at Jardin Nelson, a restaurant we’d really enjoyed during our stay last year. During the picture perfect weather that afternoon, we enjoyed a walk about the old city.
Later that evening we met a couple from Colorado on a sailboat they’d bought new in Sweden a few years earlier. They’d cruised in Europe for a couple of seasons, followed by an Atlantic Ocean crossing. They then cruised the east coast and were now embarking on a cruise through the Great Lakes before having their boat shipped to the Pacific Northwest. Somehow our adventure seemed a little tame after discussions with these folks.
Wednesday August 2, 2017: We know this summer weather won’t last, but it sure is wonderful while it's here. Our plan for today was to head for Ste Anne de Bellevue at the start of the route up the Ottawa River. This involved going upbound through two St. Lawrence Seaway locks before departing the seaway and heading across Lac Saint Louis for Ste Anne. As we approached the first lock, we could see the doors were open and a large ship was exiting the lock. We also noted a massive pleasure craft named Blue Moon, waiting to enter the lock. We’d seen this same vessel last year in this same section of the seaway.
We assumed (incorrectly) that we had to follow written procedures and dock at the entrance to the lock, use the phone to announce our presence and buy a ticket from a machine for transiting the lock. We found out later we could have just pulled straight into the lock and paid by cash. The decision cost us a 2 1/2 hour wait due to another down bound freighter and an extremely long freight train passing, both having priority over pleasure craft.
As a result of the delay, we didn’t arrive at Ste Anne de Bellevue until about 1715 hours and by then, all lock tie up spaces were taken. We later learned that due to high water, the lock tie up space all along one side of the entrance channel was still underwater and not useable. In fact, in late April/early May, the water level was so high, the lock was completely submerged and the main street of the town was also flooded (that would amount to water level about 8 feet higher than what we saw).
We made a quick decision to head through the lock and continue out onto Lac des Deux Montagnes to an anchorage the lock master recommended in Baie De Ille Cadieux. This lock is a very busy one and on our lock through, it was absolutely packed with boats rafted three deep. Heading out to anchor turned out to be a good decision where we were able to enjoy a swim to cool down after a rather long, hot day. Later that evening, the sky darkened and once again we were treated to thunderstorms on three sides of us (none directly overhead). We were treated to a great light show, with no wind or rain.
Thursday August 2, 2017: We decided we didn’t want to arrive in Ottawa until Monday August 7th as it was going to be a long weekend and it would be difficult to get a tie up in the canal in downtown Ottawa. So, we chose to backtrack to Ste Anne de Bellevue mid morning in the hopes of getting a spot to tie up there for the day. We locked back through the Ste Anne lock and successfully got a space for both boats on the canal wall. Ste Anne is a suburb of Montreal, located at the western tip of the Island of Montreal. It is the second oldest community on the island, established in 1703 due to its strategic location at the junction of the St. Lawrence River and the Ottawa River.
The name Bellevue came from a fiefdom granted to Louis de Berthe and his brother Gabriel in 1672 by King Louis XIV of France. Later, in 1712, Rene-Charles de Breslay, a local parish priest, got caught in a fierce snowstorm and fell from his horse breaking his leg on the ice. He was allegedly saved through intervention by Saint Anne, after which he built a chapel dedicated to her at the westernmost point of Montreal Island. Two years later, the parish was established and took the name Saint Anne du Bout de Ille.
From the early 1800’s, the town became a place of literary pilgrimage after Thomas Moore, the famous Irish composer, who wrote one of his most celebrated works here, "The Canadian Boat Song". The Sainte-Anne Canal was completed in 1843 increasing the number of travellers and merchants passing through the town. In 1854, the Grand Trunk Railroad was built through the town, followed by the CP Rail in 1887. Ultimately, in 1878, the town was renamed Ste Anne de Bellevue and in 2002, Ste Anne was merged into the City of Montreal. Today its population is just over 5,000.
During the day, the town and its main street seem very relaxed and quiet. The many restaurants seemed rather quiet. But it is at night when this town comes alive. People arrive by boat and car and fill the restaurants and clubs. They walk the canals to look at the boats. They sing and dance at nearby clubs. We really enjoyed the town, shopping at several boutiques, dining out for lunch, walking the waterfront and main street and chatting with other boaters. The noise level really picked up in the evening with music from a local jazz club and restaurants and voices and laughter filled the air. But it was all quiet again by 2230 hours, so we got to enjoy a quiet evening.
Friday August 3, 2017: We awoke to more sunny summer weather and enjoyed some more of Ste Anne de Bellevue through the morning and early afternoon. We were all ready to depart at 1330 hours when a thunderstorm blew through with heavy rain and lots of lightening, shutting down the lock. Regulations require the lock be closed during a thunder storm and it must remain closed for a further 15 minutes after the storm is finished, for safety reasons. So, about 1500 hours, the lock reopened and by then, there was a backlog of boats resulting in a very full lock. Later we would discover that while in the lock, the freight train that passed overhead left an enormous amount of dirty splatters all over our boats from the bridge and train. When we got to our anchorage, back at Baie De Ille Cadieux (where we’d anchored on Wednesday night), we had a major clean up job to complete. This was followed by a swim, dinner and another significant thunderstorm, including winds of 30 knots with gusts to 36 and an enormous amount of rain in the evening and off and on throughout the night.
Saturday August 4, 2017: Today we headed a further 20 nautical miles up the Ottawa River. We wanted to anchor close by the famous Chateau Montebello as we’d made a reservation for Sunday to stay at the Yacht Club on the site of the resort. Being close by would ensure we got there in good time to enjoy a full day at the resort..
We had a very windy day on the water with steady 20 knot winds and gusts to 30, but as we were on the winding Ottawa River, the water was relatively calm. Today we went through the second of only two locks on the Ottawa River, at Carillon. This is no ordinary lock site. Carillon, together with the Grenville Canal and the Chute a Blondeau Canal were built to navigate the Long Sault Rapids on the Ottawa River that stretched for 21 kilometres. The impetus for these canals was the War of 1812, during which attacks along the St Lawrence River jeopardized the communication lines between Kingston and Montreal, the two main military positions of Upper and Lower Canada. The Ottawa River Canals and the Rideau Canal were designed as an alternate military supply route in the event of war with the Americans.
Captain Henry Vernet of the Royal Corps of Engineering from England arrived to head construction of the project. Hundreds of Irish immigrants and French Canadians were used to excavate the canals under direction of a hundred British soldiers. In 1833, the Grenville Canal was completed, a length of 5.9 miles and the entire network on the Ottawa River, including all 11 locks was not fully completed until 1843. All specs were designed for military needs: 134’ long, 33 feet wide and 5 feet deep. They were perfect for the military but too small for any commercial use. Logging became a big economic driver in the region and local business people demanded the government carry out improvements as the canal had quickly become outdated. Between 1873 and 1882 improvements were made in the dams, water levels and locks such that the Chute a Blondeau Canal section was no longer needed. Further changes were made in 1963 with the construction of the Carillon hydroelectric dam and now a single lock of 66 feet in height replaced 7 locks. This new waterway flooded the rapids of Long Sault transforming them into calm water.
This new lock is quite an engineering marvel. Normally locks have a pair of upper doors and a pair of lower doors. In the new Carillon lock, while the upper doors are traditional, the lower doors are instead a single 200 ton guillotine style steel door, partially offset by a 150 ton counterweight. Inside the lock is a dock along one side where the lock staff greet boaters, taking their lines and tying up the boats. Often boats are rafted two and three deep to fit them all in. It takes 45 minutes for the lock to fill its 66 feet rise. This lock is truly a marvellous sight to see.
Several times through the afternoon we had horizontal rain rinsing off the boats and we were delighted with the relative calm of the anchorage at Baie des Autocas that had been recommended by a fellow boater we spoke with in Ste Anne.
This afternoon was another boat maintenance time. Earlier, we’d discovered that one of our three bilge pumps near the drive shaft through hull fitting, would automatically come on to get rid of the small accumulation of water, but would not shut off. Its float switch was no longer working properly. I’d found an exact replacement while on the Chambly Canal and today was the day to replace it. While it wasn't a difficult job, the wiring was the time consuming part. Once done, happy hour was the reward, followed by dinner and a Netflix movie.
Sunday August 5, 2017: It was less than a 7 nautical mile run from Baie des Autocas to the Yacht Club at Chateau Montebello but it took us almost 2 hours as we had a brief fuel fill and holding tank pump out en route. As you approach the Chateau Montebello site, this immense, impressive log structure on a well treed property comes into view, captivating one to just stare and try to take it all in. The Yacht Club is in a relatively small basin cut out of the shoreline and it was packed with boats. Clearly our reservation was required.
The Chateau has an interesting history. The resort is located on a property originally know as the Seigneurie de la Petite Nation which belonged to Bishop Montmorency de Laval, a founder of Quebec. In the 19th century the property was passed into the hands of Joseph Papineau, a member of the legislative assembly and then to his son, Louis-Joseph Papineau, who played an important role in the Rebellion of 1837. Louis-Joseph Papineau constructed the Manior Papineau in the mid 1800’s. His home, a highly treasured heritage location on the grounds of the resort, is now a National Historic Site, run by Parks Canada.
The remarkable log chateau was built in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression. The first log was laid on April 7th and the massive structure was completed in only three months. The chateau is shaped as a six point star and it was built out of 10,000 hand cut and set red cedar logs transported by Canadian Pacific Rail from the forests of British Columbia. The project was the dream of Swiss-American H. M. Saddiemire who was inspired by the chateaux of the Swiss alps. A Finnish master builder named Victor Nymark oversaw the work of as many as 3.500 craftsmen. To complete the construction so quickly, work was done around the clock with overlapping shifts, seven days a week, using electric lights at night. The church did no approve of working on the sabbath, but by coincidence, the local head of the church was dispatched on an all expenses paid trip to Rome for two months while the work was completed.
For 40 years, the chateau was a private retreat “The Seignory Club” whose membership included prim ministers, royalty and Canada’s business elite. In 1970 the resort was ought by Canadian Pacific Hotels and opened to the public. It quickly became one of the premier resorts in Eastern Canada. In 1981, the Fairmont Chateau Montebello played host to the leaders attending from the G7 Economic Summit. And in 1983 a NATO conference was held here.
I clearly remember my father and step mother boated the Rideau, Ottawa River, St. Lawrence, Lake Champlain, Eric Canal back to Lake Ontario and they talked fondly of their experience at the Chateau Montebello, so we were naturally very excited at the prospect of a stay at the resort. We were not disappointed. The building itself is a marvel with its enormous 66 foot high rotunda containing a six sided fireplace and soaring rafters made of logs 60 feet long. It contains 211 guest rooms including 14 suites, all organized in four wings fanning out from the rotunda. The two additional wings contain the dining room and ballroom.
The 65,000 acre site is a retreat and forested wildlife sanctuary with 70 lakes. Its amenities included indoor and outdoor swimming
pools, an 18 hole golf course, 26 kilometres of cross-country and/or hiking trails and much more.Fran exploring gardens
We wandered the grounds and marvelled at its magnificent gardens and flowers. The two pools were being well used and the hiking trails through the forests were a delight. While there, we decided to attend their daily evening BBQ dinner on the terrace in front of the Chateau. It was a somewhat overwhelming eating extravaganza that our bodies are thankfully not well equipped for, but we did our best, sampling the extraordinary number of the salads, grilled meats sea foods & vegetables and of course the desserts. We had some limited success in trying to pace ourselves and the dinner stretched out to two hours, followed by a desperately needed walk on the grounds as the sun set over a cloudless night. Needing more time to digest our meal, we sat up and watched a Netflix movie.
Monday August 7, 2017: Mid morning, we bid au revoir to Chateau Montebello and to Quebec as we headed a further 36 nautical miles up the Ottawa River. It was a very pleasant cruise on this winding river passing rural areas and smaller communities before the more populated Gatineau on the Quebec side and then Ottawa on the Ontario side of the river.
It is fair to say arriving at Ottawa by boat is very impressive indeed. You are greeted by many fine homes in the Rockcliffe Park area, followed by the magnificent Rideau Falls and finally, as you pass under the Alexandra Bridge you are greeted by the panoramic sight of Canada’s Parliament Buildings, the flight of Rideau Canal locks 1 through 8 and the magnificent architecture of the Chateau Laurier Hotel. It really is a sight that makes one pause and think how special this city of Ottawa really is.
We tied up at the “blue line” where one waits for their turn to get through the locks. We could see there was a small group of three boats part way up the eight locks. There were crowds of tourists everywhere, watching and picture taking the operations of these magnificent locks. I wandered up to lock number six to speak with the lock master and learned they would manage to fit us in at about 1630 hours for the 90 minute procedure. They had two more boats to “bring down” the locks before it was our turn. Excess water in the system was readily evident as an enormous amount of water was pouring over most of the lock doors all the way down the 8 locks.
We prepared our boats with lines and fenders for the procedure. The lock master warned us that they’d be putting us through quickly and to expect some turbulence in the locks but “your boats are big so you should be able to handle it ok”. Thankful that we were going to get through today and not have to wait for Tuesday, I replied “we will do our best”. We and Bob and Jan on Wings were well prepared, but there was a lot of turbulence and after 90 minutes of holding lines and fending off our boat from the lock walls, we were happy to get docked on the canal wall in downtown Ottawa by 1830 hours. The lock staff did a great job for us. I have no idea how many photos were taken of us, but the sides of the 8 locks were packed with spectators as was the road bridge at the top. While this is the third time for Fran and I to be on the Rideau together and my forth time (once as a child), we’d never transited these 8 iconic locks at Ottawa. It is great to do it, but I don’t think we need a repeat.