Sunday, August 7, 2022

Crossing the 49th

We are underway eastbound in the St. Lawrence River/Gulf. We have three footers on the port quarter in winds of 15-20 knots, which is still more comfortable than the 20-25 knots to which we awoke in this morning's anchorage. We decided we'd be better off under way with the stabilizers working, even though it's a long day under way with a projected 5:30pm arrival.

Church of Sainte Anne des Monts, right on the waterfront.

We seem to be playing leap-frog (or "saute-moutons") with several Quebecois boats along this route; stops are few and far between and we all end up in the same harbors. At one point a trawler with a very similar speed to ours overtook us slowly about a quarter mile distant. He called on the radio because, apparently the constant "hunting" our autopilot was doing in the following current kept setting off his AIS collision alarm. Between my broken French and his broken English I was able to assure him were were going mostly straight, and we were bound for the same harbor.

In the middle of the afternoon we passed Cap Chat and its lighthouse. This is where the Canadians consider the Gulf to begin (along with Pointe-des-Monts on the north shore). I was surprised to see the light shining through a working Fresnel lens. In the hills above is a very large windfarm comprising mostly conventional turbines, but also sporting the world's tallest vertical wind turbine, looking something like a giant eggbeater. It was not turning when we passed as it is now decommissioned.

Cap Chat (Cat Cape) lighthouse, below the hilltop, and the tallest vertical wind turbine in the world.

Around 4pm we arrived to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Rather than turn into the small craft harbor, we proceeded east of the commercial wharf to try our hand at anchoring; there was much less swell here than at Matane, so we set the hook as close to the wharf as we could come (map). I needed to leave space for any fishing vessels that might arrive, but more importantly, the wharf was lined from one end to the other with people fishing, and they were casting their lines a good hundred feet or more. We had to drive around the end of the L-shaped wharf in a wide arc to avoid tangling them.

Once we were settled and convinced we'd be comfortable at anchor, we splashed the tender and headed to the harbor to get ashore. Again I had to swing wide and well clear of the wharf, now shoulder-to-shoulder with fishers. It appears the wharf is disused commercially; the surface was a giant parking lot for folks fishing or, later, viewing the sunset.

Vector at anchor off the commercial wharf in Sainte Anne des Monts.

We tied up in an out-of-the-way spot on the docks, which are secured by locked gates, and made our way to the office to pay for dinghy landing. No fee for that was listed on the web site -- literally no one anchors here -- so we were prepared to pay the $2/ft dockage for our 10' tender. I did my best to explain in French that we had too much draft and displacement for the docks (which appeared to be full anyway) and we were at anchor; once they understood we just wanted to tie up the dinghy they basically waved us through. They told us they locked the gate at 8pm, so that was our deadline.

We walked west along the waterfront to Pub Chez Bass for dinner on the patio. It was in full sun, but low in the sky and actually pleasant with temps in the high 60s. I mustered enough French to order for both of us and we enjoyed a nice meal with some local draft beers. Afterward we walked to the very nice Metro grocery store just behind the church for some provisions, and I stopped at the Irving gas station with my 2-gallon can for tender fuel. The dispenser wanted to sell me either $10 or $20 worth, so I came away with just five liters, which should tide us over for a while.

Sunset over hundreds of people fishing or sunset-gazing, and their cars.

We made it back to the dock with ten minutes to spare, where the dockmaster let us in and then promptly left for the day. We enjoyed a nice sunset on deck, over the heads of everyone fishing and the Gaspesie tourists out for the sunset. In the morning we weighed anchor with the tide.

Yesterday the lowlands and gently rising hills we had been seeing earlier gave way to a steep escarpment punctuated by peaks and the occasional creek valley. The main highway clings to the foot of the cliff on artificial footings, and no longer are the towns regularly spaced, but instead only found where the valleys descend to coves along the shore and create a small fan of lowlands.

Very different coastline along this stretch.

One such cove holds the village of Mont-Saint-Pierre, adjacent to the eponymous mountain which towers some 1,350' above the river. As we passed we spotted three paragliders leave from the mountaintop one after another, circling the valley and landing on the broad beach at the middle of the cove. Too far for a photo, really, but we enjoyed watching the process through our binoculars. We gather that is a tourist activity here along the very popular tourist route around the Gaspé peninsula.

Harbors being few and far between here, yesterday had to be a short day, whereas today will be a long one. It was just 1pm when we arrived to the harbor of Mont-Louis, which is protected at both ends by breakwalls. We found a calm spot behind the east breakwall and dropped the hook (map), providing the campers in the adjacent RV park something to watch.

Mont Saint Pierre, left and its eponymous village. If you zoom all the way in you might see the paragliders near center frame.

The only dock is a mile across the harbor at the west end, and it, in turn, is a mile walk from even the closest restaurant. Between the distance, the language struggle, and it being Saturday night in tourist season, we opted to remain aboard for the evening. It was a beautiful afternoon, with the anchorage becoming glass calm, and live music (of our era, in English) wafting in from some unseen venue ashore. That changed by bed time, as winds out of the south were starting to pick up, as forecast.

In the middle of the night it was blowing so hard that Louise went on deck to turn the anchor day shape over (it imparts less load on the jack staff when it's inverted), and when she came in she reported the outside temperature was 80°. It had been in the 60s in the evening and again this morning; I think the south wind brought with it a slug of warm air that had been sitting over the valley.

Mont-Louis from our anchorage, in calmer seas. Restaurants at left, dock off-frame to the right, church, as usual, center.

The wind built steadily all night, shifting from southerly to westerly mid-blow, and this morning the east end of the harbor was a mess. We briefly contemplated moving to the west end of the harbor and waiting it out, but we'd have to hunt around for holding, it would still be pretty rough, and we'd not likely be able to get ashore. The docks were full -- one of those boats we've been leapfrogging got the last spot and was settled in. Instead we decided to press on and let the stabilizers do their job, although they are struggling.

As I wrap up typing we are now actually heading a bit south of east. We've already passed the northernmost part of our journey and the farthest north that Vector has ever been, at 49° 15.82'N, surpassing our previous record north of Palmers Point, Sugar Island in the Sault Ste. Marie area (46° 32.22'N) back in 2019. We're also farther east than we have ever been, with our previous record at South Caicos Island in the Turks & Caicos, but we have quite a bit more easting yet to do.

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