June 20-23, 2012
Sorry for the long absence! We continue to have frustrations with internet connections, and sometimes we have enough connection for emails, but not enough for blogging. Today we seem to have a strong connections, so I’m going to try to get off a few quick updates to try to get us up to date.
The last blog, we had just left Montreal and suffered though the six-hour wait for the St-Lambert lock. That night we landed in St-Anne-de-Bellevue, tied up at the lock wall with 20Buck$ and Jackets, and pretty much collapsed.
St-Anne is a small town on the outskirts of Montreal that seems to have set itself up as a restaurant haven on the water. There must have been about 20 small cafes and restaurants, one right after the other, all along the banks of the river and around the bend on the adjoining lake. The lock wall we were tied to was on a small island just across the water from all the action, so we got to enjoy the festivities but in a slightly quieter setting.
We all agreed to stay the next day or two in St-Anne. We were heading into a Quebec province holiday weekend and were concerned about getting docking space further on. So we did some grocery shopping and then spent a very relaxing afternoon just hanging out under the trees next to our boats. The dogs really enjoyed it and so did we!
We enjoyed seeing a big Canadian Coast Guard airboat go by. Because it “floats,” it is able to by-pass the locks and skim right over the shallows. We were told they go out into the Ottawa River once a week to check placement of the navigational buoys.
The next morning, Craig and I made a quick decision to push on, because there was an opportunity for Karen to join us over the Fourth of July if we could get to Kingston, Ontario by then. So we said good-bye to the other two boats and shoved off.
The next event after St-Anne was the Carillon lock, an intimidating lock that lifts boats 65 feet. Unlike most locks whose doors swing open like a gate, the Carillon lock looks sort of like a guillotine, with a huge door that lifts up and down. We were lucky to get into the lock fairly quickly, and we shared the claustrophobic space with seven other boats and three ski-doos. This is another lock that is known to have a lockmaster prone to yelling impatiently in French, but everyone got in and out without incident and we were on our way again.
Not far past the Carillon lock, we arrived at our destination for the night, Martha’s Cove, a very small marina tucked into the trees somewhere in backwoods Quebec. The owner of the marina directed us into a seemingly impossibly cramped corner, but he personally moved some boats around and provided expert help in getting us into the tiny spot.
Once there, we felt like we’d landed in another world, especially after the hustle-bustle of Montreal and even St-Anne. The marina is run by owner Monsieur Lawrence and his lady friend Odette. He is the busiest, spryest 75-year-old I’ve ever met, and Odette keeps up with him, hauling fuel lines and handling docklines and whatever else is needed. At the end of their work day, they joined us at the picnic table next to our boat for a few glasses of wine and wonderful conversation. Both speak excellent English, which of course made conversation possible! It was a classic Looper experience, enjoying an evening with charming people whom we never would have met if we hadn’t been traveling by boat.
The next morning we set off on the glass-like Ottawa River. The river is free of commercial traffic and is pretty and scenic and in most places resembles a lake more than a river. One landmark we passed was the Chateau Montebello, said to be the largest log structure in the world. It was built in 1930 and is currently run as a hotel by the Fairmont hotel group. They have a very nice marina there, but due to the provincial holiday, it was full, so we couldn’t stop.
By mid-afternoon, we reached Ottawa and tied up at the base of the famous staircase locks, a flight of 8 connected locks that run along side the Parliament buildings. We learned we had only a short wait and we’d be able to lock through. This was very lucky, since the 8 locks flow one into the next, and only one set of boats can go up or down at a time, so if your timing is bad you can wait for several hours.
Next up, Ottawa and the staircase locks.