Playpen is cruising again. After accompanying Skooch from the Chesapeake Bay to New Bern for the Rendezvous 2004 in May, Playpen spent a few weeks home and then cast her lines for Nova Scotia.
Whitehall NY to Quebec
7/11/04 Whitehall to Essex NY 50.6nm 7.5hr
Today we entered Lake Champlain. The passage between Whitehall and the beginning of the lake is some of the prettiest scenery we’ve seen. The mountainside farms come down to the water, and the pastoral scenes are right from art studios. Essex, NY is an old hamlet about 4 blocks long with an inn, B&Bs, restaurants, ice cream parlor, etc. We were told all bridges from here on out would be swing or high; so we could raise the mast. The Captain’s new system (after 10 yrs in the design phase) works really well using the davit and a snatch block. Unfortunately while picking up his tools he zigged when he should have zagged and threw his back out. One of these days he’ll have to do something about that.
7/12/04 Essex to Burlington, VT 11.5nm 2hrs
Today was just a quick ride across the lake to Burlington VT–1st time Playpen’s been in VT. It was windy, but the ride was ok. We took on $605.00 worth of diesel @ $1.60/gal (the least expensive in the lake). We opted for a tie-up instead of a mooring because of the Capt’s back and the wind. We trollied and walked through Burlington–a college town with an inside mall and a street mall–typical modern-city type stuff. Before the clouds rolled in, the view across the lake to the NY Adirondacks was beautiful. We had dinner at Roque, a reasonably priced delicious Mexican restaurant, and then we strolled the waterfront. It’s hard to imagine the lake frozen with ice fishing shanties on it. We looked at the chart before bed, and determined that we still have a very long way to go.
7/13/04 Burlington to St. Jean, Quebec 55nm 8 hrs
We exited the 110 mile long Lake Champlain, cleared Canadian customs by cell phone, and cruised under cloudy skies to St Jean, Quebec. We tied along the wall at Lock 9 (the 1st of 10 locks going north to the St Lawrence), strolled through town, and settled down prepared for the Chambly Canal the next day.
7/14/04 St Jean to Chambly, Que 10 nm 4 3/4 hr.
Yikes! We weren’t prepared at all for the Chambly Canal! Had we seen it before we left home, we wouldn’t be doing this trip. Lock 9 was easy: the tenders threw us the lines, and the water lowered quickly and smoothly. Of course the lock is only 22' wide, and we are 16'6" wide. Fortunately, we were the only boat in there. We exited into the Chambly Canal. It was so narrow we couldn’t see water beyond the bends. Our now seemingly huge boat had only 2 ½' on each side between us and the rock ledges. The chart and the actual seaway coincided very little; so we used dead reckoning and crossed fingers to navigate. Captain Fred did a fantastic job of staying in the middle for the 4 3/4 hours it took us to traverse 10nm. Locks 8,7,6,5,4,3,2 and1 are all within the last1 1/4 mile, and all just as small as the 1st. Fred enjoyed watching his French lock women hand operating the locks. This is a National Heritage Canal; so everything is done the old fashioned way (except paying–that’s done by credit card. It costs about $55 US for a pass for the Chambly. The New York canals cost $20.) We tied to the dock at the bottom of Lock 1 and started breathing again–what a harrowing day! We strolled through the town of Chambly and had our 1st French food: fries. Later we had dinner on the lawn of a restaurant converted from an old church. The town of Chambly is dominated by the Fort de Chambly and the locks. We had a quiet, quaint stroll–just what we needed.
7/15/04 Chambly to Sorel, Que 40nm 6 3/4 hr
Our 1st day of rain. Fortunately we were in the river, and even though the chart didn’t match the waterway, it was easy river navigating the 32 nm to our last lock, the St Ours. St Ours lock was wonderful! The lock tenders secured us to a floating dock– no lock wall to contend with, and the dock slid down as we descended 5', and it even stopped raining. The rains returned as Playpen entered the St. Lawrence River, but abated as we secured in Parc Nautique de Sorel. After checking into the marina we strolled into town for the Festival de Gibelotte (essentially the Festival of Vegetable Soup). Fred had his gibelotte au canard, Sharon’s was sans poissons. There were several venues for dancing, bands, medieval street performers, and the runner up from Canadian Idol. We were too tired to sit through the entertainment, and the Capt’s back was hurting; so we sauntered back to Playpen for chart organization and an early bedtime.
7/16/04 Sorel to Trois Rivieres, Que. 33.5nm 4 hrs
We crossed the St. Lawrence and headed east in the company of thousands of little bugs. They didn’t bite, but they swarmed on eyeglasses and in ears. We piloted from the bridge for 360 degree visibility to look out for ships. Three Rivers Marina is behind a brick jetty on the Seaway, and we had a view of passing ships from our deck. We left a pilothouse light on all night to attract all the little bugs to one spot. When we asked about them we were told, “It’s the season.” We were befriended by a Quebecan couple, Lise & Gilles, who own the only 36'Grand Banks in Quebec Province. Gilles offered to come help us off the dock in the morning, and Fred told him that was “awful nice.” Gilles looked perplexed and said, “Awful?” We need to watch our idioms.
7/17/04 3 Rivers to Quebec City 62 nm 6.5hrs
We followed Dame Blanche (Gilles & Lise) through the Richelieu Rapides (we hit 13.3 kn @ 1800rpm Normal speed at 1800 is 8 kn). The rapids had been advertised as treacherous, but with no ships in sight they were a snap. The day was warm and sunny, and the bugs were few. Steeples and silos dotted the shoreline, and we were enjoying a relaxing cruise. Then...as we approached the lock in Quebec the thunder, lightning, 25kt winds with 40kt gusts, and rain hit. Dame Blanche hung out with us at a buoy to await the passing of the storm. When visibility improved, we locked into the Quebec Marina Basin and secured under the shadow of the Chateau Frontenac. Gilles and Lise took us by car to the Montmorency Falls. The falls are 100' higher than Niagara and quite impressive. After the falls we went to a wonderful Italian restaurant with a scrumptious bread bar. The bread in Quebec is enough to make anyone disdain Dr. Adkins!
7/18/04 Lay Day! Quebec
Playpen sounded like the Tower of Babel as Gilles, Lise, and their friend Guy came aboard to advise us on our Gaspe cruise. They spoke to one another in French, and then loosely (we think) interpreted to us. The planning session lasted 2 hrs, and our charts got well noted. We strolled into the old city–what a special place! There were street performers, crowds of interesting people, horses & carriages, quaint shops, and artisan alleys accompanied by a mauve sunset and rainbow. We hiked up the hills to wander the promenade at the Chateau and dine at a wonderful French café. The city will celebrate its 400th birthday in 2007, and the ambiance is magical. Sharon told Gilles it reminded her of Disneyland, and he said, “Yes, but this is real.” There are curved narrow streets lines with old stone buildings, statues, fountains, and a phenomenal frescos depicting Quebec’s history. Sharon’s in love with this place! For the next 2 weeks all of Quebec is on “Construction Holiday.” Anyone working in the construction trade is on vacation. There are festivals and fireworks planned as well as special activities for the vacationers.
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