Category Archives: Sailing in the St. Lawrence

August 11 – Montreal


Here is a picture of our last lock! We are now free to float out to the Atlantic if we want (maybe next year…).
When we woke up this morning, I checked on the horses and they were still down by the river. They weren’t tied up so who knows why they were still there.
We left at 8:00 and did the last two locks without any problems.

20120811-181114.jpg I thought that I had better include the highway sign as we won’t see that again!
The last 15 kilometres or so to Montreal is actually a canal so that the Lachine rapids can be avoided. You can’t see much though, just glimpses of the skyline so when we rounded the corner and approached Ile Saint-Helene, we got our first good look.


The most exciting part of the day was when we went past the island and went on the other side of it to get to the marina. The current was very strong and our progress slowed considerably. Dennis had the engine almost wide open and we were only doing 2 knots (we would usually be doing 6-7). It seemed like it would take forever to get to the marina! The water was very turbulent and I was worried that we would be pushed around. The Split Crow made it though and as we passed the monument to sailors (of all things!), the current stopped and we eased into old Montreal.

We called Port d’Escale on the radio and the lady told us to put our fenders on our port side. They were already rigged for starboard so Dennis had to go and change them as well as the lines. We spotted the attendant and he pointed out the slip. We could see that we needed to switch everything to the starboard side, so while I did circles in the marina, Dennis switched the fenders and lines again (he was not pleased!).
We eventually got tied up without too much trouble and spent the afternoon wandering around old Montreal. What a difference from Toronto! Lots of shops, restaurants, entertainment, street vendors and horses right at our doorstep. We sampled poutine (ha!) and tonight we are going down rue St. Catherine for supper. So far, so good!


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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence



August 10 – Beauharnois Locks

Before I write about today’s adventure, I would like to point out that Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (besides the long and difficult name) is a great place – one of my favourite stops. First of all, it has an incredible bike path that seems to go from community to community. It is a dedicated path so that you don’t feel like you are going to get run over by a vehicle. Secondly, it has a gigantic public swimming pool and thirdly, it has four public tennis courts. So, I am very impressed with the recreational facilities.

We checked out all the seaway websites and noticed that the backlog of boats had cleared, plus there was a mad dash out of the marina by a bunch of boaters at 7:00 this morning so we assumed that the lock had been fixed. We weren’t in a hurry though and I had a bike ride, Dennis got his haircut (plus he discovered the pastry shop) and we did a load of laundry. At noon though, we set out and our first obstacle was the bridge.

When you arrive at a bridge, you usually call the bridgemaster on the VHF and he lets you know how long you have to wait. Not at this bridge. You just have to wait until the light turns green. So, we waited and waited and waited. After about 45 minutes of going around in circles (or whifferdales as Jim from Somewhere says), we finally got the green light.
We went through and quickly came to the next bridge but this time we didn’t even have to stop. The light turned green and away we went!


We arrived at the Beauharnois Lock and tied up to another sailboat. I went to phone the lockmaster and to pay the $50 fee to access the locks. He said we only had a half hour wait. We talked to another couple from Montreal who gave us some tips for getting into tomorrow’s marina – the current is 6 knots (that will be interesting!).

We got to the wall and the lock hand tossed us down the lines, and then we helped another boat tie up to us. Another boat tied up to the second boat so we had three boats rafted together. They were all depending on us! Two people from the other boats came over onto our boat and helped push us off the wall. I took advantage of this and practiced speaking French to one of them who looked like d’Artagnon. He was very patient with me! (Well, what choice did he have?)
After we finished with the upper lock, we went about half a kilometre and repeated the process with the lower lock. It all went very smoothly.


As we left the lock, the rain really started coming down and the winds started coming up (25 knots!). We crossed Lac St. Louis in some rough weather but luckily the waves did not get a chance to build too much. Poor d’Artagnon in his little boat – he was getting tossed around quite a bit!


We are now anchored out near the canal that was built to bypass the Lachine Rapids. There are a couple of horses eating hay right near the water’s edge. It is pouring rain and I don’t know why they don’t go under a tree for shelter. Oh well… I hope I don’t see them there in the morning!

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence



August 9 – Salaberry-de-Valleyfield

So, we had a tiny little bit of excitement this morning after our perfect anchoring situation last night. The anchor actually held and we had an excellent sleep! No having to move in the middle of the night or sudden problems! Dennis mentioned this morning that a transformer on a hydro pole was arcing (shorting electricity and making a racket with some smoke). We had a good laugh because we wondered if that were us. Maybe we hooked the power cable with the anchor and this has caused the lock to break down.
Well, it turns out that the lock has broken down and we are stuck! Not so funny after all…

We arrived in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (our first Quebec port) and luckily had an easy time docking. The two teenage dock handlers were busy kissing and didn’t seem to notice us (does this happen because we are in Quebec?). We went in the office to register and spoke with a very nice young lady who wanted to practice her English and I wanted to practice my French so we had a good time trying to communicate. Dennis understood about as much as I did!

After we finished registering, we wandered downtown. The guidebook said that the town is filled with boutiques. Well, we obviously made a wrong turn because the town looked like the bad side of Sudbury – rundown and derelict. We found the grocery store (Le Metro) and bought a few things. We were hoping for something new but they had the same groceries as we do in Ontario with the exception of beer. We then wandered around some more and did find all the boutiques. The main street is very pretty, especially being so close to the canal. (The town has incorporated the old locks into their plan it is looks great). We also saw the beautiful church that the town is famous for.


We went back to the boat and I decided to go jogging. I didn’t get more than 20 feet and I saw the boater that we had been rafted to in yesterday’s locks. I asked him what he was doing here. He was supposed to be in Montreal already and he told me that the lock was broken and that all the traffic was backed up. Sure enough, when we checked online, we saw that this was true. If you want to see the ships in real time, go to these two websites:
Seaway Map
AIS – LIve Marine Traffic

So, now we are kind of stuck here. Supposedly, the lock was to be fixed by 4:00 pm and that the commercial traffic would be let through. We will have to wait. We aren’t in any hurry anyway and don’t want to leave until tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully the lock will be fixed by then and the traffic will have slowed down to normal.
In the meantime, the town has great bike trails – over 70 km of paved trails as well as good shopping and a huge public pool, so even if we have to wait for a couple of days, we will be fine. Plus, there is a rodeo in town! That might be kind of fun. 🙂

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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 8 – Snell and Eisenhower Locks

We are anchored just outside of Cornwall after going through the Snell and Eisenhower locks today. We left at around 9:30 (I wanted to go jogging before we left) and it is a good thing that we left late. All the keeners that were at the marina with us left at 7:00 and when we arrived at the first lock at around noon (and we stopped and went swimming for half an hour), they were anchored outside of the lock. A couple of freighters went by us and they take precedence over pleasure craft, so everyone else had to wait.
When we stopped to go swimming, we had a great swim. The water was refreshing and the air temperature was hot (what else is new?). When we left though, there was the biggest pile of weeds on the anchor we had ever seen!

Dennis took quite some time getting rid of that! Then, we noticed that the boat wasn’t working too well so he had to dive down on the propeller and get rid of the pile of weeds that had wound their way around the prop. Always something!

Anyway, we arrived at the lock just as a freighter passed us, so we knew that we would have to wait. There was quite a collection of boats waiting with us and when we got into the lock, we were rafted onto another sailboat. Then, another boat rafted onto us and then another boat rafted onto the them. In all, we had four boats all tied together. In the lock, I counted 22 boats.


When we got to the next lock, we had to wait for a freighter to lock up and we had a good laugh when we saw the name of the ship. As Dennis said, “I guess if you own a steamship company, you can name the boat after yourself if you want.”



Once we got into the next lock, we ended up being rafted with five other boats!
It all went smoothly though and we went down another 40 feet without any trouble. Good thing that it wasn't windy out.

By the time we finished with the locks though, we were tired so we just anchored outside of Cornwall and the cook is making one of his specialties – some sort of concoction with sausage, tomatoes and a few veggies. I’m sure Dad, that you remember those dishes from your trip a few years ago!
That’s it for now. We are just killing time now until Montreal on Saturday so tomorrow will be an easy day

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 7 – Upper Canada Village

We decided to take a rest from boating down the St. Lawrence today as it is a very important day – our 26th anniversary! We haven’t even had a major catastrophe or any harsh words on this trip, so we consider ourselves lucky!

Since we took the day off, we went sightseeing. The first stop was the memorial at Crysler Farm. This was the site of an important War of 1812 battle and we fended off the American invaders even though we were outnumbered drastically! We just missed the re-enactment of the battle (thank goodness – it was on Saturday, one of the hottest days of the summer – yuck!). Anyway, here is a picture of the memorial.

After the memorial, we went to Upper Canada Village and because we had already been at Fort Henry in Kingston, we got in for free, so if you decide to tour the region, keep your ticket stubs.

Upper Canada Village was definitely worthwhile as it had many authentic working businesses such as the cheese maker, shoemaker, blacksmith, flour mill, woolen factory and a variety of farms as well as a school, physician’s home, tavern, tinsmith and bakery.

We took the tow scow from the beginning of the village down the canal to the top. Our day would not be complete unless we had a boat ride!


If you look closely on the left side of the above picture, you should see the horse pulling the scow.

The most interesting part for me was talking to the schoolteacher. She told me that instruction was totally individualized for each child because you never knew who would show up each day. Sometimes a child would miss six months of school because he or she would be expected to work at home on the farm. I thought that we have gone completely full circle since we individualize instruction for each child too and quite often their attendance is very poor (I doubt that they work on the farm).

The flour mill was also very interesting and the building was amazing.


After the tour of Upper Canada Village, Dennis worked on the boat while I biked into Morrisburg (on the paved shoulder – very nice!) to get a few groceries. We will head out tomorrow but I am not sure where we are stopping or if we have any locks to get through. I guess we had better figure that out before we set off!

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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 6 – Crysler Park Marina

We left Alex Bay at around 7:30 – the winds had died down so it was easy to get off the dock. It was an uneventful trip down the river but we did get to see a few interesting things.
The first photo is of a ship – according to the “captain”, it is built this way because it can unload its own materials. I am not sure, so you’ll have to take the captain’s word. (Ha!)

The second picture is of the Singer Castle – it is not as large as the Boldt Castle but very impressive and it is completely finished. We went by too early to tour it and were in a hurry to get to the first lock.


We got to the Iroquois Lock just after lunch and noticed that the doors were just opening, so we quickly docked the boat and Dennis hurried up to the ticket booth and paid the $25 fee. We got the green light and moved into the lock. It was so uneventful that might I actually say it was kind of boring? No towing boats or engine fires? AND, we only went down 19 cm. I didn’t even realize we had finished when the lock master asked for his line back – we were still at the same height!
Oh well, sometimes boring is a good thing!


The picture above is of the water control area – the lock is in place to help control the current which did pick up considerably once we were clear. It only took an hour and a half to go the last 12 miles.

We are going to stay here tomorrow and visit the Upper Canada Village as well as go bike riding. There is a trail that goes all the way to Cornwall. I have been very impressed with the National Parks system here – it has been top notch. (Our tax dollars at work :))

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 5 – Alexandria Bay, NY – Boldt Castle

After our rude awakening the night before (with the anchor dragging and us having to re-anchor twice), we headed out to Alexandria Bay and the Boldt Castle. We had read that you can bring your own boat, so it is a good thing that we were up so early because we were the first boat to arrive.

It was VERY windy and we were quite worried about docking. Our backup plan was that if docking seemed too challenging, we would not dock and would have to miss the castle tour. Dennis though, managed to get us close enough, even though we hit bottom a couple of times (just mud) and I jumped off the boat to quickly tie up the bow line. Dennis then jumped off to tie up the stern. We then attached two more lines because we were quite concerned with the wind (gusts to 35 knots – yuck!).

We walked over to the American Customs booth and registered in the US very easily and then headed over to the Boldt Castle. Well! If you are ever in Gananoque or Rockport or in Alexandria, NY, you should take the boat tour over. It is well worth the $8 admission!


The castle was modeled after buildings of the 16th century of northern Europe. It is six stories high and has 127 rooms.
“Boldt Castle, on Heart Island, was to be the testimony of the surpassed love of a man for his wife. The magnificence of the structure was to be equalled only by George Boldt’s adoration of Louise, who was the love of his life and reason for the construction of such an elaborate summer home. The finest of artists, craftsmen and materials were sought for the work which was well underway when tragedy struck. Mrs. Boldt was dead, and a telegram arrived ordering all work to stop. Three hundred workmen dropped their tools and left the island, never to return.” (Boldt Castle brochure)

The castle has not been completely restored but the two main floors are complete. The upper floors still have evidence or vandalism and graffiti on the walls but workers and many volunteers are restoring it.

Here are a few more shots of the castle and a couple of goofy people touring it.




We then headed over to Alexandria Bay and were able to dock without too much problem. My jumping off was not very graceful because I caught my foot on a line, but I didn’t fall off the dock and Justin the dock boy, was very helpful.
The marina was very fancy – it is actually a hotel with some docks so although it was expensive ($3 a foot), we thoroughly enjoyed it. We took advantage of all the facilities – exercise room, pools, jacuzzi…
A big storm hit us though at around 4:00, so we ran back to the boat and closed it up. The storm only lasted an hour and then we went out to explore Alex Bay (or A Bay as the locals call it). It is a mixture of shops, taverns and restaurants but most are kind of rundown, but perhaps that is intentional as it boasts of being a pirate town. There is quite a mix of people there from bikers, campers and sailors. Anyway, we had a great time and would go back in the future (but during the pirate festival!).
Today, we are off towards the Iroquois lock and will hopefully be able to go through tonight. It’s an easy one – only a six foot drop.

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 4 – Grenadier Island

Looks like we made a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Georgian Bay! Very pretty here at the 1000 Islands. Lots of places to anchor and swim. Thank goodness we can swim because it has been so warm – 35 degrees and not much of a breeze!
Along the way, we saw all sorts of interesting things such as several osprey nests.

We also saw some really spectacular homes and cottages – makes Muskoka look shabby! Here is a shot of a home on an island – kind of odd as it was right on the main channel and if you were looking to get away from it all, this would not be the place!

We also spotted the statue of St. Lawrence along the river and if you’re interested in the history behind the statue, click this link.


Of course at 2:00 this morning, the wind came up and by 4:00, we realized that we were dragging into the shoreline, so we had to pull the anchor (which was covered in weeds – again) and motor around for a while until we could figure out what to do. We eventually went back to the same place only to have the anchor drag again, so we moved over to the other side of the river and now are sitting here watching the sun come up.
The temperature should be a bit better today. We are going to Alexandria Bay and will be touring the Boldt Castle. Should be fun!

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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 3 – Gananoque

I think we are either getting way too relaxed or just plain stupid! This morning we set off and didn’t even realize that we had forgotten to pull up the dinghy. That wasn’t so bad but Dennis always ties it off in two places – bow and stern, so we were actually towing it sideways. Good for a laugh, that’s for sure!

We got to Gananoque quite early and had our tanks emptied (holding tanks) and filled (water). We couldn’t get to the shopper’s dock – it was full, so we decided to backtrack, anchor and take the dinghy to town. The trip was uneventful except that it was (is) so hot! We did the grocery shopping (this seems to take up a lot of our time) and staggered back to the dinghy and then to the boat. I did take a few pictures of a girl fiddling (she’s a university student) and of the beautiful churches.




We swam for most of the afternoon and are sitting out now as it is getting dark. Might have one more swim before we turn in. Tomorrow is supposed to be 35 degrees, so we will most likely be doing a lot of swimming further up (or is it down?) the river.

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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence


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August 2 – The St. Lawrence River

Greetings from the St. Lawrence! We have officially reached the end of the Great Lakes and are now heading eastward towards Montreal and Quebec City. Tomorrow is Gananoque.

We are in the official 1000 Islands and if the first day’s anchorage is any indication, we are going to really enjoy the rest of the trip! The water is clean, there are lots of nice anchorages, some even have picnic sites and walking trails and excessive noise as well as running your engine or generator is not allowed. So, this is the place for me!

This morning, since we were about 100 metres away from Fort Henry, we thought we had better check it out. Fort Henry is the main attraction of Kingston so we rowed over to the fort, climbed the hill, paid our admission and wandered around for a couple of hours. It is pretty amazing (as forts go). The stonework is beautiful – the walls are very thick. There is also a moat around the fort (dry now) but I can’t imagine how much work it would have taken to complete the fort – all by hand too.


There were quite a few people in costume, doing some heavy duty marching around in the parade square. They must have been boiling in their red wool uniforms!


The most fun part though was watching the kids take part. Under the direction of a park employee, the kids put on uniforms and learned how to march. It was pretty funny and it looked like they were having a great time!


After our tour of the fort, we headed back down the hill and dinghied back to the boat. We were surrounded by the Royal Military Sailing School (with varying degrees of skill). They looked like they were having fun too with the occasional tipping of boats and near collisions. They all had helmets on though – I guess there must have been one too many whacks in the head with the boom!

On the boat, we discussed where we would go next. We also started the generator and after a few minutes, I noticed a big pool of water on the floor (or should I say deck?). Unfortunately, the generator had malfunctioned so Dennis had to figure out where it needed fixing. He thought it needed a part of some sort and we were quite close to Kingston Marine, so we quickly pulled up the anchor and headed back to Kingston (it was only one bay away but we wanted to catch the 1:00 bridge). We had a good laugh when we saw what the anchor had pulled up.

20120802-201941.jpg A rudder from the sailing school!

We dropped the anchor in the inner harbour of Kingston and Dennis got to work right away. He actually fixed the problem (whatever it was) without having to order parts so by 2:15, we were ready to go. We had to wait until the 3:00 bridge but once it was up, we just sailed on out of Kingston and are here now at the Milton Island anchorage. We hiked around the island and again, were amazed at the facilities available. We are looking forward to the next week or so. After that, Montreal, Trois Rivieres and then Quebec City!

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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Sailing in the St. Lawrence