Archive for the ‘Saint Lawrence’ Category

Temporary Post

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

– This is Ken, helping out Tommy here on shore.  Sometimes posting at open sea can be a bit of a problem, two-way communication through the geosynchronous Satellite has a 43,000 mile round trip and posting on the web isn’t always friendly. Looks like today Tommy’s blog got garbled on its way to the Internet.   He read all your comments, and his picture came through just fine, but the text got cut off somehow.   He’s long out of cell phone range, so I’ll get him on the Satellite phone tomorrow morning and let him know.   News is his stern light is all fixed.  For now, here’s the latest, somewhere along the Saint Lawrence.

Moored in Sept-Isle QU

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

2000hr position 50 drs 12 min 9 sec North 66 drs 23 min 08 sec West

Moored in Sept-Isle QU to fix stern light.  Couldn’t do it underway.   Made 102 nm in 24 hours including low wind in the night.

Afternoon WX was wind w at 15  with a swell from south at 6-8 ft.

Sea Room

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

July 14, 2009: 2000 position report. Lat 49° 01’ 58” N ~ Long 068° 03’ 36” W course 056°T speed 3.9 kts WX: broken clouds, thunderstorms on horizon, wind W @ 10kts dying traveled 79 nm since 0730.

Sea room! Finally I have sea room to run, tack, hove-to, whatever I need. I feel rich with room. Not an ocean worth mind ya, but room I haven’t had before. Oh the lakes were big enough, but they were crowded too. Here, I’ve passed within a mile of only one vessel, a small sailboat making her way across the bay. The traffic lanes are to the south and my AIS is working great. There are tight spots up ahead but tonight I have sea room.

I saw a minke whale right off the little harbor I anchored in last night. I recognize him from his smallish fin located on his back. I have not seen any more belugas though. There is lots of interesting sea birds. One looked like a swan all white with a long neck and black tips on its wings. It soared dipping close to the water then up high again. Of all things not to have it’s my Audubon bird book.

I’ll stay underway tonight. I’ve got to start getting used to being underway over nights. Oh, I’ll make a few stops along the way but mostly it will be just sail. The wind will drop around midnight and I’ll hove-to then and sleep very lightly…in my clothes.


Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I chided myself for waking late. 0630 is late when there is a change of tide to catch. But the bay that was my home for the evening was so calm and I was tired from a good days sail. I could see by the wet tide line on the boulders on shore I had missed at least two hours of ebb. It’s the ebb tide I need to help the CAP’N LEM make the most of whatever the wind has to offer. But even at that, I still couldn’t get moving. So, I drank coffee, ate cereal, and then made some minor repairs. I just can’t rush away from a place so lovely. There is even a water fall at the end. I think of Yosemite Valley in miniature and it is mine for the anchoring at Latitude 47° 57’ 28”N ~ Longitude 069° 48’ 19”W. How was I to know what unexpected delight waited for the CAP’N LEM just outside, and that the timing was perfect? The timing is always perfect on a voyage such as this.

Finally, my chores done and the morning full on, I upped anchor and felt my way through the shallows of the bay and into the ebbing currents that would carry me toward the Saguenay River. Then it happened. First on the right, the water broke with a whoosh and a blow of air. Then on the left and behind at the same time. They had found us. The white whales had come to us! The Beluga had come to dance with the CAPTIAN. Oh, and dance they did. I ran below for cameras, back on deck and they would disappear. I put the camera down, back they would come. First the biggest and whitest of the males would charge then, as if to inspect the hulls, would dive under and swim the length. Next, the females, a mottled gray to their whiteness, came with their young at their sides swimming in perfect accord. I could sense their pride as they paraded by showing off their babies like proud young mothers strolling a park.

I called to them. I laughed at them. I blew them kisses. I would have sung to them if I had known a song. I remembered a Jacque Cousteau documentary on gray whales in Baja. They took a boat up to them and Cousteau jumped on the back of one and held on for as long as he could then slip free. He said this. “To touch life is to know life and to know life is to love life.” How many years ago was that, 40? I have never forgotten it.

No, I did not touch them, not physically. It would have not been appropriate. But I did touch them with my eyes and with my heart and my voice. And the CAP’N LEM turned this way and that in the tide rip. They left and came back then left again to not come back. I waited, but it was over so I sailed away. But for a long time, off in the distance, I could see them come to the surface to breathe the same air as me.


Google Maps

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Looks like Google Maps does just about everything. I’ve made a rough Chart of the last few stops over on the Chart His Progress page.

Salt Water

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

In the salt and waiting the turn of the tide at Lat. 47° 25’ 00.0”N ~ Long. 070° 24’ 16”W.  The wind is strong for the southwest wrapping itself around the island against the current of 3.8 knots to try and sail the CAP’N LEM against the anchor line.  It gives the illusion of great speed through the water without actually going anywhere.  A lovely little cutter is anchored near using the same tactic to go who knows where. 

Later the tide will change once again in our favor and we’ll get underway, sailing for the next waiting anchorage.  The distance given by the tide more than makes up for the time spent waiting.  I fancy the CAP’N LEM sailing the gravitational pull of the moon much the way the lunar space craft’s used it to traverse great distance.  When I anchor, I hold the ground gained and thus progress is made.

I read about this tactic for getting through the Saint Lawrence Bay in a fun little book call The Boat That Wouldn’t Float, by Farley Mowat many years ago when I was in the dreaming stage of my adventure life.  Sailors love books and remember useful little things while forgetting important big things like anniversaries and birthdays. 

The water is colder and still relatively shallow.  Its color is a milky brown from the tide churning up the silt of long gone glaciers. It will deepen later farther east.   The hills have risen to become mountains.  A new chapter in my journey has arrived.   stlawrencesalt

A storm on the river

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

The last 60 miles to Quebec City were hard won against a stiff head wind that follower the contour of the river.  Were it not for the tide behind me, there would have been even less progress.  At the narrows under the Quebec City bridges where all the water of the Saint Lawrence must pass, we came to a complete stand still though motor and sail both pulled hard.  Good tides turn bad.  It was not to be this day to Quebec City.  My anchorage was questionable at best but I had to wait.  At midnight the bad tide turned good again so up and at ‘em.  But this was not the night to be tacking back and forth across the traffic lanes.  My AIS showed large vessels down river heading up, but still far enough away to allow me to get through.  And get through we did.  At the funnel created by the narrows and the bridges the wind was horrific and the waves the largest I’ve ever seen in a river, 10 feet trough to crest or more where the wind stacking them up against the outgoing tide.  The CAP’N LEM proves again she can take a sea even in a river and the only upset is in the pit of my stomach. 

The mile ahead I so often talk of shrunk to the 100 yards ahead.  I woke up Josh by phone to get a clearer idea of where the moorage was located.  The weather there sounded none too good either. He reported seeing a smaller marina between the bridges and the main city.   I watched for it and recognized it on the radar as I approached around the bend in the river, safe haven from what was becoming a very cold and uncomfortable night.  Being cold, wet and miserable even for a few hours proves nothing when there is an alternative, so I took it.  Coming into strange harbor in the dark is always time for heighten awareness.  Winds shift, currents change or stop so it’s dead middle of the channel, dead middle of breakwaters, grab first spot the boat will fit, get tied up, then adjust fenders, job done.  It was then the full force of the storm hit, wind, current, rain, the boat rocks and bangs even at the mooring.    I call Josh, “Go back to sleep, I’m moored.  All is well.”

Was I lucky?  No!  Believe in it if you will but I hate that word, that figment of mankind’s imagination that always fails at the moment it is most needed.  I’ll not trust my good life to luck.  .  No way.  But, I will trust my choices.  I will trust the CAP’T LEM.  I will trust the consequences of my action. 

I weighed the risk of staying in an anchorage I did not like against going with a current in the dark and the wind.   At anchor in a strange place with a storm rolling over is not a good place to be.  But underway though, courses of action can be taken and can be corrected.  .  I made my choices and they were the right ones for the time.  The consequences were good.

Ah, the course correction!  Now there is something I can believe in!  I set a course of action and stayed always ready to make a correction to that action to deal with what was at hand,… the wind, the wave, the current, the ever present unknown; each contributing to that choice of which way to correct.  Over it all, the goal… “Keep the boat safe, Tommy, keep the boat safe”.

So what is “safe’?  Well, safe is this; the time/space relationship.  Time will buy me space and given space, I can then buy time.  Is that circular thinking? No, No and again, No! They are interchangeable.  One becomes the other and together they become my safety.   Time and space.   It is everything!  Forgive me my passion but it is my life on the line… my life!  …for there are some laws God will not tolerate being broken, and one of them is this, “Two objects shall not occupy the same space at the same time.”  For that reason time and space become the price of my safety.  Do I have enough time to get enough space to be well and clear of the ever present dangers of the cold dark waters?  Run short of either one and disaster is as close as the bridge pillar, the rocks on the shore, or the ship around the bend.  I must not allow the current and the wind and the unforeseen and unforeseeable to eat away at my precious time and precious space.  They are as dear as my breath.

Oh my friends, who have stuck with me these 2,138 miles, a cold and stormy midnight on a strange and beautiful river is a good place to be aware of such questions, if one is to sail where one has never been and do things one has never done.


Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

It will be interesting to note when the tide first makes its appearance on the river. Oh the wonders of the tides, the visible manifestation of unseen forces that so mystified the sailors of old.  They knew it had something to do with the moon, but what?  Why were they strong some places and weak others.  Why did the full moon bring such high high tides and such low low tides?  And then again why was it the same when there was no moon at all?  And who could explain the moderation of the tides at quarter moon?  No wonder they were so prone to superstitions.    Could anyone tell them it was merely cause and effect?  I doubt it.  Then Sir Isaac sees an apple fall and the whole paradigm of mankind’s understanding shifts.  Yes, the tides are important to me and I’m reminded how useful they can be and how frightening.   I’m reminded not to take the tide tables for granted and I silently thank everyone whose hard work made them available to me.


And later.


I found my tide in the mouth of a little no name river* on a big bend in the big river at Latitude 46° 33’ 05.8”N ~ Longitude 072° 12’ 06.4”W.   I had anchored in 6 feet of water but in the night I was awaken by the unmistakable stillness of a boat aground.  This was not unexpected.  I had raised the dagger board and rudder, made sure there was enough anchor line out that I would not likely rest on my own anchor.  The people in the lovely homes along the north bank must have wondered about the little boat anchored where they had seldom, if ever, seen one anchor before.  The CAP’N LEM doesn’t mind an evening resting in the mud unlike my other boat AVANTI which must fall to her side like a tired horse in a pasture if she is to wait out a tide on the beach.  (Shipmate Kari knows quite well of that which I speak having spent an evening with Capt. Tommy on the beach of Sandy Island BC!)

Ah, but this time, this is opportunity!  So over the side I go into the sand and mud.  If, like me, you’re old and have forgotten the feeling of mud squishing between your toes in a cool river bank, you really should try this.  The joy and the flood of memories of long past of swimming holes, creeks and mud puddles were mine once again!  I hear my mother’s words “Tommy, every time you get near water, you fall in it!” and she was right.  So, for a moment or two, I just wade and remember and chuckle to myself reliving things I had long forgotten.

Then the tools in my hand remind me I’m on a mission. I check the tension on the bobstay.   I tighten some nuts and bolts on the rudder.  I inspect the motor mounts.  I clean slim from the stern and board.  Sitting on the port ama, I slowly wash the mud away from my feet but cling to the memories and wait the incoming tide.


*It wasn’t on the chart anyway.  I’m sure those who live on its banks have a name for it.

AVANTI and the Tides of BC 2008

AVANTI and the Tides of BC 2008


Montreal to Lac Saint Pierre

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I am convinced the Saint Lawrence River is the most consistently beautiful and interesting waterway in the world.  Every river and waterway has its moments but this one is spectacular from start to finish.  It was clean, blue and replete with wildlife.  The homes on its shores were tidy and maintained by people who care.  The towns, friendly and clear of litter.  They always made me feel welcome. 

The CAP’T LEM sailed from Montreal with a southwest wind and following current.  Such fine sailing is always too short.  When the GPS registered my 2000 nm of the trip I pulled over and anchored in a quiet little inlet to a marsh.   In reflecting on the miles traveled, I counted my blessings; the friends whose encouragement made this possible, the good health I’ve vowed to never take for granted, a lifetime spent on and around the water, the very dream of my childhood come true.  Then I took a nap.  What’s the hurry?  The ice is still melting, the wind is still blowing.  To hurry past anything this river has to offer would be a shame.  To sleep when I’m sleepy and travel when I’m rested is the great gift of freedom.  Refreshed, I sail on.

As I make my way down the river.  I chose my anchorages carefully for they are my protectors.  I will not always have the luxury of so many good ones.  The sunset is about me and I see on the chart “abandon lighthouse” in a cove on an island just before entering Loc Saint Pierre. I drift into position on a dying wind and low the anchor.   The moon is waxing full and I can see by it the lighthouse is abandon only by man and not by nature.  On its top is an osprey nest and the mother brooding her eggs.  Such it is at Lat. 46° 05’ 43.6”N ~ Long. 073° 00’ 02.6”W, on the 4th day of July in 2009.abandon-lighthouse-with-osprey

Last Lock

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

45-posit-smallThe milestones come quickly now. On June 30 the CAP’T LEM departed U.S. waters to enter the Canadian Saint Lawrence River. That day also we crossed the 45th parallel at Long 072° 42’ 46.8”W at 0751. It was over 900 miles ago we crossed south of the 45th to make our way through Lake Huron. Milestones help keep track of how far I’ve come without reminding me of how far I have to go. This is in keeping with my idea of the one mile trip and all those miles behind cannot change the fact that it is the mile in front of me that is the most important.
On Lake St. Francis, we buck a head wind for most of the afternoon until a rain storm overtakes us changing the wind a welcome 180 degrees. We lock through at the Beauharnois locks into Lake St Louis and yet another storm. It chases us into the night and we take refuge in a river mouth I do not know the name of at Lat. 45° 23’ 57.8”N ~ Long. 073° 45’ 10.7”W.
We rise early aboard the CAP’N LEM. Underway we’re overtaken by a large out bounder. I pull out of the channel and make circles so as to not cause him any concern, then follow him all the way to the Sainte Catherine Lock.
Once clear there we skirt the Laprairie Basin to the Saint Lambert Lock. This is the fifteenth and last lock of the trip. I asked the lock tender at the Saint Lambert how far above sea level will we be when the gates opened and he replied “6 meters”. Six meters, close to 18’ after having come down from near 600 feet on the beautiful Lake Superior. Now the river will drop us about two feet for every 10 miles traveled on our way to the salt chuck. We can use the push. So the CAP’T LEM enters the lower St. Lawrence River having traveled 1982 nautical miles.