Monday, July 25, 2022

Bienvenue à Montréal

We are underway downbound in the St. Lawrence (St. Laurent) River, bound for Quebec City, which we should reach tomorrow. We are in the middle of Lake Saint-Pierre as I begin typing, and we've already passed six upbound freighters before 10am. I'm not sure why they're all in a conga line like this, but I would guess something to do with the tide.

La Grande Roue de Montréal.

Thursday morning we weighed anchor in Beauharnois for our final stretch on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Having gotten the hang of the lock timing, we arrived at the Côte Sainte-Catherine lock in plenty of time for our scheduled morning lockage, only to find the pleasure craft waiting docks completely full. There might have been room for Vector had one of the three boats already docked chosen to line forward, but they did not, and we instead had to hover in the forebay for a half hour -- a pipeline area prevented us from dropping the hook.

Passing yet another laker close aboard near the locks.

Coming out of the lock I had to make way for ducklings.

Departing the lock we were in the Canal de la Rive Sud (south river canal), which makes a long sweeping turn to the north and deposited us at the final lock of the Seaway, Saint Lambert. Even though we were first through Sainte Catherine, all three of the other boats passed us in the canal, and once again occupied the entire waiting dock. This time I sounded the mighty Kahlenbergs before they finished tying up, and they made room. I attribute the issue to lack of docking skills; they were just agog when we pulled up, slid into a space between two boats just a hair longer than Vector, and tied up unassisted.

Approaching the new cable-stayed Champlain Bridge. In front of it they are dismantling the remains of the old truss bridge; the section over the Seaway is already gone.

The Seaway ends at the tip of Île Notre-Dame, a man-made island constructed for the Expo '67 World's Fair, using excavation spoils from the construction of the underground Metro. Just a half mile beyond the island we made our turn, rounding the tip of Île Sainte-Hélène for the final leg to the marina. The current past the marina exceeds six knots in places, and I used all of my river tactics and lots of engine horsepower to make the final 1.3 nm to the marina entrance. It took twenty minutes, for an average speed of four knots, making turns for nine, burning a full four gallons of diesel.

This buoy to our starboard shows the current we are fighting. The channel is on the other side of the buoy; I'm using river tactics, hugging the shore where the current is a bit lower.

Looking up before boarding the Wheel.

Our elation at making it into the calm, protected basin of the Yacht Club de Montréal marina was short-lived. The marina showed us to our slip (map), which, like most of the slips in the marina, had but a 30' finger pier. Boats are meant to tie stern-in, but we had 20 knots of wind on the nose, and there was no way I was going to be able to back in against that without crushing the very expensive yacht in the adjacent slip -- there are no separating pilings.

Vector secure at Yacht Club de Montreal. Note the finger pier only comes to midships; our anchor is hanging over the dock.

The marina had no other slips for us, so we made do, creating a macrame of lines at odd angles to hold our considerable windage in place, on a dock meant for much lighter and lower vessels. It took us an hour. In almost any other marina, we would have made an about-face and left when confronted with such an inadequate dock, but neither of us had the stomach for going back into the six-knot river current, possibly skipping Montreal altogether.

Terasses Bonsecours and the ice rink from the Wheel.

Bonsecours Market and the festival-like promenade, complete with zip line and ropes course, with downtown beyond.

The marina, which is in the historic Bassin de l'Horloge (Clock Tower Basin), so named for the Sailor's Memorial clock tower at the entrance, is in the Vieux-Port (Old Port) district. This part of the old Montreal is a very popular tourist district, and there was no shortage of restaurants withing walking distance. We ended up at Bevo, just a half block off Rue Saint Paul, the main street of the district. We are again trying to keep to outside dining, particularly in popular areas, and they had a nice patio right on the sidewalk, with good people-watching.

Bassin de l'Horloge and the eponymous clock tower. Vector is center frame.

Sunset is very late this far north, and after dinner we strolled the festival-like Vieux Port promenade looking for ice cream. We instead found caramel corn, and the entrance to La Grande Roue de Montréal, a 200' tall, enclosed-gondola Ferris wheel, offering breathtaking views of the city. Where by "breathtaking," I mean hyperventilating -- heights are not my strong suit. It was spendy, at $50cdn for the two of us, but on a quiet Thursday we got a gondola to ourselves without paying the upcharge assessed at busier times. It was a great way to end our first day.

Home base for Cirque du Soleil.

Basilica of Notre Dame.

I had booked three nights at the marina, and on Friday, when forecast rain never materialized, we took a foot-friendly, English-language motor coach tour of the city. Our driver-guide Norman was excellent, and we enjoyed the tour, at least, once we got to it. I had chosen this tour because they offered hotel pickup, but when I called they gave us static because we were not staying at the hotel (I picked the closest one to us from their own list). They sent a van that was three seats short by the end of the pickup route, and we were glad to have individual seats, and to have worn our N-95 masks.

St. Joseph's Oratory. The wooden steps are being replaced (the concrete is just underlayment), so pilgrims who are wont to climb them on their knees have been waylaid for some time. Our guide claimed this is the sole reason why the Canadiennes are in last place

After the tour, the bus dropped us off at the Champ-de-Mars, a park just a block away from the Vieux Port. We made the short walk over the hill to the Place Jacques-Cartier, the head of old town, and found a nice outside table for a beer at Pub John Michaels to kill some time before dinner. It was a short stroll down the hill to Jacopo for another nice meal al fresco.

Obligatory photo from the lookout on Mount Royal, the namesake volcano of the city.

Complexe Desjardins, basically an urban shopping mall. Lots of places to sit and watch the dancing fountain, or the occasional live performance.

On Saturday I donned my walking shoes and did my own walking tour of downtown. I really wanted to see the Reso, popularly known as the underground city. While many of the passages are, indeed, subterranean, much of it is actually above ground, through the main levels of numerous buildings. I started at the Complexe Desjardins and made my way clockwise all the way to McGill College, exiting at Cathcart and then closing the loop by walking back to Desjardins along Rue St. Catherine on the surface.

In the Reso I passed through a pair of these 2'-thick heavily reinforced walls, thinking that they had been beefy structural elements. I learned later they had enclosed a bank vault, whose door is now a nearby art installation.

This latter street is the main shopping district, similar to Michigan Avenue in Chicago, or Fifth Avenue in NY. At Desjardins I loaded up my pack with provisions at the very nice IGA market, where for the first time since arriving I had no choice but to draw on the French I took (cue Wonderful World) some four and a half decades ago -- it's very rusty. It was also Parisian and not Quebecois, leaving me deficient in even basic vocabulary for everyday things; in France I would ask the server for l'addition when ready to pay, but here it is la facture.

The Reso took me through the Gare Central (train station). I passed through here in the 80s on a family ski trip to Banff which I remember quite fondly, notwithstanding that the train froze.

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. I wanted to go in, because it is intended to be a miniature replica of St, Peters in the Vatican and I wanted to see how close they came. As you can see, I was thwarted by a large wedding.

In the evening we wandered back to Place Jacques Cartier for our final dinner, at Maggie Oakes. It was a very nice visit, and we could easily have stayed another week, perhaps zipping around on the Metro to take in more of the city. But we need to keep moving, so we settled for coming back some other time, likely by a different mode of travel.

On Rue St. Catherine, but I could just as well have been in Manhattan. I do not know how the Quebecois pronounce this, or how Best Buy evades the language police.

Yesterday morning the marina brought the pumpout cart and we took care of business. Pumpouts are expensive in Canada, at $25 each every place we've looked. We also topped up the water tank before dropping lines, just as the wind was building. We were backing out of the slip at 10 and racing downriver soon after.

This plaza hosts nightly free comedy shows. I can barely order dinner; I don't think I could grok comedy in French right now.

Somewhere in San Francisco there must be a fashion outlet named "Montreal," SF peeps: let me know.

I had set my sights on a nice anchorage near the community of Sorel-Tracy, where the Richelieu River enters the St. Lawrence, bringing with it the Loopers who chose to come up the Champlain route. There are a couple of marinas here, and I figured we could tender ashore, have a look at the town, and get some dinner. Mother nature, however, had other plans for us.

Notre Dame de Bon Secours, also known as the Sailors Church. Vector is just behind it.

The afternoon forecast went from rain, to thunderstorms, to, eventually, a full-on squall warning. With the weather not conducive to going ashore, and reaching the spot by 3pm, we opted just to continue downriver into the "Archipelago of Saint-Pierre Lake," a group of islands at the SW corner of the lake, where we tucked in to a lovely spot between Île de Grâce and Île Plate and dropped the hook (map). It was a lovely spot to spend the night, but we did see steady winds of 39mph, and we were happy to be well-set in thick mud.

Approaching the Laviolette Bridge in Trois-Rivières. This is a pilot boarding point and you can see the pilot boat alongside the upbound ship we are meeting.


This morning we got a fairly early start, with no specific end-point in mind. I'd like to arrive fairly early to Quebec tomorrow, and we'll have to contend with timing the tide, for the first time since leaving the Hudson River in Troy. We've already passed Trois-Rivières, where the tidal influence begins to affect the current. It would have made a nice stop, too, but we would have had to have started a month earlier to make every stop on the route.

Each evening we were treated to a light show from our aft deck every half hour on the Jaques Cartier Bridge.

As I am wrapping up typing we are under another squall warning, and we have our sights set on an anchorage just past Pointe Platon. That means we will run the "Rapides Richelieu" this afternoon, where the chart says we will have 5.5 knots behind us. We've passed three more upbound freighters and are about to be overtaken by our first downbound of the day. I will report in my next post if it turns out to be an e-ticket ride. I expect to post again after we depart Quebec City.


  1. Eeek! Now Dave wants to go on the Ferris Wheel thingy. My vertigo makes that a hard no from me, haha. That current sounds wild! I can't believe they put you on such a tiny finger. Thanks for the last three posts! I am glad you two are figuring all of this stuff out for us. ;)

    1. Maybe we should not tell Dave that there is actually an entire amusement park in Montreal, just across the Jacques Cartier Bridge. It was built as part of the world's fair but is now owned by Six Flags. It's called La Ronde. They have their own Ferris wheel, not so tall though. There is a marina right next to it, no counter-current required as it is right off the Seaway. Had we started a month earlier, I might have done a couple of nights there just to do the rides; seldom are amusement parks so close to docks. Sandusky was a treat in that regard.


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