Monday, July 31, 2017


Map of our route for this blog post

Tuesday July 25, 2017: We awoke to a very chilly 15 degrees and overcast morning, shortly after the overnight rain finally stopped. We had a slow morning, having decided we were only going a short distance for one more anchorage on Lake Champlain - Pelots Bay (pronounced pee lots) only 7 miles away at the north end of North Hero Island. We left mid morning and gradually the sun came out while we were underway. The anchorage had been rated high for good weather protection but low for scenery, so we were pleasantly surprised, finding it quite appealing. We arrived at noon and found only one other boat anchored there, but by end of day we had a half dozen more boats to share the anchorage with. 

The rest of the day was spent doing a few minor boat chores, primarily doing engine room checks, including seeing if the generator anode needed replacing (it didn’t - light usage meant minimal wear). We also got organized to re-enter Canada tomorrow morning:
  • Pull out passports and Nexus Cards
  • Obtain phone number for call in to Canada Customs & Immigration
  • Do inventory of liquor, wine and beer (I got scolded one other time on a call in when I did not have this info handy)
The rest of our day was spent reading in the cockpit and relaxing. Fran put on a marvellous dinner of shrimp scampi on pasta.

Wednesday July 26, 2017: Our plan today was to rise and depart early for Rouses Point, NY (15 nautical miles away) to get a holding tank pump out and a water tank fill, then stop at the Canada Customs & Immigration Pier (< 2 miles further north) then start down the Richelieu River for St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which is the start of the Chambly Canal. 

Wings passing under first bridge on Richelieu River

Children from summer camp on Richelieu

The Richelieu River flows north from Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River in the Province of Quebec. It was formerly known as the Iroquois River and the Chambly River and it was a key route of water transportation (for First Nations tribes for thousands of years) and subsequently for cross-boarder trade between Canada and the United States until the arrival of the railroad in the mid 19th century. The area was coveted by both French & British colonial powers in the 17th & 18th centuries and because of the Richelieu River’s strategic position numerous military fortifications were erected on the shores of the river. The river was also a key pathway for several military tours and the scene of several battles between the end of the 17th century and the early 19th century, including:
  • between the French & the Iroquois, then
  • between the French & the English and then
  • between the English and the Americans

In the 19th century, the Richelieu River became an important economic pathway instead of a war path. The 1843 construction of the Chambly Canal was completed, bypassing the rapids, allowing easier transportation of export products such as sawlogs, pulp, hay and coal from Canada to the US. Eventually a network of channels was built which connected Lake Champlain to the Hudson River and the Erie Canal connection to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. This dramatically increased traffic through the Richelieu River. 

By the end of the 19th century, railroads largely replaced the river as a commercial artery. Today, pleasure craft and tourism have contributed to the regional prosperity of this “heritage corridor”. 

So, en route to Rouses Point, we had our call in with Canada Customs and Immigration. Upon arrival at their pier, all they wanted was the reporting number we’d been given over the phone and we were on our way. Heading downstream was quite lovely as we got to enjoy a 1.5 to 2.0 knot current in our favour. The river is lined with trees and homes and it was a delightful cruise to the town of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The lock master advised the best overnight spot was on the lower side of lock 9 (the first lock), so we passed under the swing bridge and tied up about 1330 hours. Bob and Jan on Wings had already scouted out a highly rated restaurant (Pizza Richelieu) for a late lunch where we thoroughly enjoyed their signature pizza. Later, Fran and I walked to a first class Metro grocery store and bought way more supplies than our arms would ever want to carry. 

We enjoyed a lovely happy hour with Bob and Jan in the cockpit of Wings before retiring for a quiet evening.

Colourful street in St Jean sur Richelieu

Thursday July 27 & Friday July 28, 2017: St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the start of the 9 mile Chambly Canal which bypasses the rapids, was built between 1831 and 1843. It has 9 locks, and while there has been some automation applied, the locks look pretty much the same way today as they did when first built. The lock dimensions (110 feet X 21 feet) are quite a bit smaller than most of the locks on the Trent-Severn and Rideau Canals and sections of the canal are so narrow, only one way traffic is allowed. Boat movement through the canals is all controlled by communications between the various lock masters. 

Homes along the Richelieu River

Today, our plan was to go from Lock 9 at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to the top of lock 3 at Chambly.  The lock master had us wait until she had four boats coming down her lock. She radioed us to start through the first section of the canal, just as the four boats exited the lock, so now there were six of us together heading through the narrow canal. Their strategy works well as there certainly wasn't room for boats to pass one another in lengthy sections of the canal. The staff at all the locks were wonderfully friendly, helpful and attentive, always checking to be sure we were ready for the lock to start going down. While six boats started out together, they locked just Tug’n and Wings together as the lock did not have room for more boats. 

Tug'n on Chambly Canal, Richelieu Rapids to the right

Wings passes under bridge

An interesting design feature of the locks was the use of timbers in the lower part of the lock walls with stone blocks on top. I assumed this was to protect the lock walls during the winter freeze, but the lock master told me it was a cost saving measure. None of the Trent-Severn or Rideau Locks use this method and I'm not entirely sure I got the correct information.

Timbers used in lower part of lock walls

Chambly turned out to be a delightful town. It is home to French fortification, Fort Chambly, a national historic site. It also has many fine restaurants, overnight docking for boaters and the final three “flight locks” (three locks all together) in the Chambly Canal. We ended up staying two nights in Chambly where we toured the fort, did lengthy walks about the town and its parks, enjoyed a wonderful lunch at La Cochonne Rit (The Happy Pig), had Happy Hours under the shade of the trees at the lock and dinners in our cockpit. One evening we enjoyed the company of Michel and Diane and their son, daughter-in-law and grand children who were travelling aboard a Monk 36 trawler named Tremolo II. Michel had some recommended stops for us on the remainder or our run down to the St. Lawrence as well as a small craft channel to take for the bulk of the run up to Montreal.

Happy Hour by the Chambly Canal

Cockpit dinner for two

Fort Chambly

Saturday July 29, 2017: Another beautiful, sunny day greeted us for our run from Chambly to St. Ours on the Richelieu. Passing through the three flight locks at Chambly is a slow process. The lock master first took a load of five boats from the lower side, up bound first. It took about one hour to finish bringing them through the locks before it was our turn to head down bound. First, the lock master swung the bridge and then opened the gates to lock #3 for us, Wings and two smaller boats. Then the lock gates were closed, the bridge closed and down we went one level. The lower doors opened and one by one, we entered lock #2 and followed the same process for lock #1. After an hour, we were on our way further down the Richelieu River. 

Locks 3, 2 & 1

One of many churches along the Richelieu

Once again, this section of the river is just lovely with tree lined shores, lovely homes, occasional marinas and more & more boat traffic. We cruised about four hours to cover just over 27 nautical miles of the Richelieu River to a final lock near the village of St. Ours, Quebec. This lock is much large and different than the earlier locks on the Chambly Canal. The original lock at St. Ours was replaced by a larger one (300’ long) to handle demands of the commercial trade later in the 19th century. Today the lock is only used for pleasure craft, so the lock has been adapted to maximize its functionality with the addition of a floating dock along one side of the lock. Boats entering the lock tie up to the dock and if the volume demands, boats will be rafted three deep. While unusual, it actually works extremely well. When we passed through, we had sixteen boats in the lock at once with boats rafted two and three deep. 

St Ours Lock with dock inside

We tied up on the floating docks at the lower side of the lock for the night in a perfectly lovely, park like setting with lots of trees, shade and picnic tables. Parks Canada, who run the lock systems, offer a unique camping experience - a cross between a tend and a rustic cabin, called “oTENTik”. Each unit comes with three beds set up to accommodate up to six people. They have fire pits for each tent and a sheltered set of counters and sinks in a shelter for the renters to use. Its a great way for families or friends to enjoy a camping experience without all the muss and fuss. The St. Ours lock had five oTENTik units on site and all were in use. They looked really great and a superb use of Parks Canada properties. They are also located at selected lock sites on the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal.


Before dinner, we took a walk around the property including a walk across the St. Ours dam to look at the fish latter that has been built to facilitate fish migration up stream. We enjoyed a lovely evening at St. Ours Lock, a highly recommended stop.

Wings & Tug'n at St Ours Lock

Fish Ladder

Sunday July 30, 2017: Our streak of lovely summer weather continues another day. Today we will complete the last section of the Richelieu River and enter the St. Lawrence River at Sorel. While it was much the same as earlier sections, we can’t state often enough how pleasant an experience it is cruising down the Richelieu River. It is so very scenic and relaxing. Today is a Sunday, so boat traffic was plentiful, including some wake boarders and water skiers, but navigation was dead simple. It was less than a two hour run to reach Sorel, where the Richelieu River spills out into the St. Lawrence River. That was the end of the favourable current pushing us along and giving us great mileage on Tug’n. On the St Lawrence we were now heading upstream facing a current of 1 1/2 to 2 nautical miles per hour against us. 

Tug'n & a big ship

Today we went only a short distance up the St. Lawrence to an anchorage recommended by Michel off of Tremolo II which was through a narrow channel to anchor beside Ile au Cochons. It is a rather unique anchorage on the north side of the St. Lawrence, with what looked like a steel plant on the south side of the river. In between us and the river is a low lying grasslands so we had a great view of the ships and other boat traffic going up and down the St. Lawrence, with no waves to disturb us. On our other side, we had the tree lined shore of Ile au Cochons. A one knot current kept all the anchored boats neatly lined up. 

Later, we launched our dinghy and took a tour through part of the local channels around islands in the area, enjoying a very pleasant cruise past homes, small marinas, unoccupied islands, fishermen and lots of bird life, all in protected waters, but with current of the St. Lawrence river. Afterwards, we had a game of Sequence over Happy Hour with Bob and Jan on Wings. That night, we re-watched the movie Lion (Netflix), a wonderfully filmed true story, well worth watching if you’ve not seen it. A great end to a fun and rather exciting day, getting back on the mighty St. Lawrence River.

Ile au Concons anchorage