Our last Quebec stop was for the birds

99536379-4AC6-4E3F-9F66-748B40ECB8BCThis post is quite photo-heavy, because this corner of Canada is quite photo-worthy.  As we noted earlier, Jacques Cartier landed in Gaspé nearly 500 years ago.  Supposedly he erected a cross but nobody knows exactly where.  The huge granite one placed in town to solidify Gaspé’s claim as “The Birthplace of Canada” obviously isn’t the real one but maybe it’s close to the right spot.  Maybe not.

One of the iconic sights in Canada is Rocher Percé, i.e., Pierced Rock.  We knew we’d be cruising past it later but the weather is fickle and we wanted to see it on a clear-ish day.  Doug found a secluded spot from which to chuck up the drone for a few shots.

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Dana took the opportunity to bust out the big lens for Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé.  Boneventure Island is home to the largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world.  There are hundreds of them.  Actually there are thousands of them.  Actually there are some 116,000 of them, according to people who presumably wouldn’t just toss out numbers without counting them one by one.

003a6686Now that’s damn cool.  The island also sported purple something or others.

Yesterday we headed out to Forillon National Park.  The idea was to all hike up to that scenic lighthouse on the cliff and get some epic—albeit perhaps slightly illegal—drone video.  About 200 yards into the steep four mile path, however, one of us decided he’d much rather nap in the car.

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Dana lugged him a bit further and then gave in.  Doug went on up to drone, only to find drone-killing winds that forced the judicious decision to stand down.  So we settled for the same photos that every other schlub up there has on his or her phone.

img_8665We did, however, possibly get to the bottom of those fields of yellow something or others.  Brenda’s Goldenrod.

Then back to Misty Pearl for chores.  When we were in Quebec City a couple of weeks ago, we discovered that some unknown time prior some dirtball snuck onto the boat, went down into the engine room, found where Doug keeps the fresh oil, and stole one of the gallons we needed for an oil change.  That may sound improbable, but it happened just that way.  One of us thinks maybe Doug miscalculated how many gallons he had on board last time he purchased some, but the other one of us is pretty confident we were burgled.  Time to beef up security.  Maybe replace our sleep dog with a guard dog or something.  The point is that there wasn’t a drop of synthetic oil to be found in Quebec City, but the Canadian Tire in Gaspé hooked us up.  So yesterday we changed the oil and cleaned the boat.  

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We finished up the chores just in time to welcome No Drama—Jeff, Ann, and their lutefisk-eating Minnesota friends Mike and Stacy—to our dock.  Big fun aboard their boat, but we stayed up way too late for the early departure we needed this morning.

Off at 6 for the 10-hour trip down to Shippagan.  As we sort of expected, it mostly was a hazy day unfit for scenic photos.  Dana perfectly framed a tour boat as we passed by Pierced Rock, but the haze made our decision to drive down look pretty brilliant.

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Loopers—including us—have a healthy respect bordering on fear about cruising the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay in sketchy weather.  Toss in the Albermarle Sound as well.  Plenty of spots to die or throw up.  The Bay of Chaleur is bigger and arguably more treacherous than all three of those.  Combined.  The books warn that the water can be glassy one minute, then the winds whip up from crazy directions.  Impossible to predict.  But we had no choice other than turn back and run away, which isn’t much of a choice.  Fortunately except for a couple of pitchy hours in the middle, things were pretty calm.

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Still a long day though, and on long days we tend to watch the clock.  In the middle of the Bay, Navionics abruptly changed our Shippagan ETA from 3:37 to 4:47.  What the hell?  Is there a road block or something?  Oh yeah, Atlantic Time now.  That means please no phone calls from Arizona after about noon back there.

So now we’ve left Quebec, which is kind of sad.  We loved Quebec.  New Brunswick welcomed us into Shippagan with a white lighthouse like it was our marina in Marathon.  How do you say Faro Blanco in French?

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Tomorrow the weather stinks again so we’re staying put even though the marina restaurant is closed.

Did we mention that Canada has lighthouses?

Today’s five-hour run to Gaspé started hazy, but it was the first warm day in a while so we didn’t care.

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E85D74BF-126E-47F0-B792-214782DAA6B9It was flybridge-in-short-sleeves kind of warm.  Oscar even dragged up his too-small cat-sized bed to catch some rays through the haze.  The warmth was nice, but mostly the cruise was like traveling through a National Geographic photo shoot.

For example, we passed the famous Cap-de-Rosiers lighthouse, not surprisingly located on Cap-de-Rosiers.  At 34 meters—which is someplace between 10 feet and 500 feet depending on the exchange rate—this is Canada’s tallest lighthouse.  It’s also apparently falling apart, much to the dismay of the locals.  But for now it’s way cool.

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Then along the amazing thousand-foot cliffs of Forillon National Park.  If only it wasn’t too windy to drone.

High atop one of those thousand-foot cliffs sits the Cap Gaspé Lighthouse. We’ve seen roughly a gazillion lighthouses since starting the Loop, but none more scenic than this beauty.

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C5B0ED8D-4E09-40E7-83F1-23F6A86F7CE8But wouldn’t you know, where there’s beauty comes RVers.  Not to be gross, but where does all their poop go?  No way they’re all dragging those suckers to a pumpout station.

Around the peninsula we took the straight line into Gaspé.  We docked, ate nachos too awesome even for Mallory’s old roommate Paige to disrespect, and walked into town.  Yup, this’ll be a great place to hang around for a few days.  Loopers traveling through Ontario quickly learn to find the local LCBO.  Same deal in Quebec, except it’s the SAQ that dispenses the necessary provisions.  We found the one here.  We’ve also found a joint that looked kind of familiar but we couldn’t quite place it, what with the maple leaf and all.

Supposedly some strong winds blow through here on the outside dock where we’re tied up, but we’ve deployed extra lines and fenders and feel pretty snug.  Plus the wind generally will hit us on the nose, and the sailboat behind us also is tied up securely, which may help if we bust loose.

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Right after Doug finished hosing off the boat and Dana and Oscar finished napping, a crew of dressed-up revelers stopped on the dock for a non-Nat Geo photo shoot.

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That’s right.  Our third wedding.  This’s getting weird.  We allow for the possibility that since we’re cruising around picturesque spots on summer weekends it’s all coincidental, but it seems more likely that these couples are stalking us and trying to synchronize their special day with our arrival.  But that’s ok.  We don’t mind.

Our plan is to rent a car and drive around for the next couple of days.  Lots to see.  Plus lots of history.  Gaspé is considered “The Birthplace of Canada,” because it’s where in 1534 Jacques Cartier claimed the land, to the presumed chagrin of the natives.  But he claimed it for France, not Canada, so the whole “birthplace” thing seems fishy.

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This statue is not of Jacques Cartier.  This is William Wakeham, a Gaspé doctor who, in 1887, claimed Labrador and Newfoundland and the entire arctic archipelago for Canada, which really should put him a rung or two above the guy who answered to King Francis I.  Anyway, we looked it up.  It seems at least some of this whole “Our guy claimed it first” thing remains disputed, but it’s so damn cold up there that nobody is interested in really arguing about it.

Hopefully we’ll find some more good stuff before we leave.

Iceland or nah?

Before Quebec we’d never heard of Saint Anne, but now we’ve been past at least two towns named for her.  Anne supposedly was The Blessed Virgin Mary’s mother.  Now this is a revelation that opens a world of possibilities.  If we can reach sainthood based on what our kids accomplish, it’s time for Mallory and Shannon to step up their game.  “Saint Doug of Tennessee” has quite a natural ring to it.   Anyway, we awoke yesterday morning to a cloudless sky, almost no wind, and almost flat water.  The notion of a good cruising day outweighed the need to go back through Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to take photos.  So we left.

This part of the Gaspésie Peninsula is the northern terminus of the continental Appalachian Mountains, which means towering cliffs and such.  Around every bend we found one small fishing village after another tucked into folds in the mountains.

81117FB9-BD7F-411C-A5E2-A870C72C6A59Maybe the fishing villagers realize they share a mountain range with toothless moonshiners and Daisy Duke, but probably not.  Or if they do, they probably don’t care.  What they don’t have in common with southern Appalachia is lighthouses.

The highlight of the day was hitting our farthest point north, right there between L’Anse-Pleureuse and Manche-d’Épée, two of those tiny fishing villages.

This is dang far north, especially for people who grew up thinking Pennsylvania was dang far north.  How far north?  We were way closer to the Arctic Circle than to Marathon, where we left on February 15.   If we set a northeast course and traveled all day every day for just one week—something Misty Pearl easily could do just with the fuel we have onboard now—we’d be in Reykjavík eating whale blubber or whatever else they eat in Iceland.  Hey there’s an idea!  Except we left our fleece sheets in storage.  And we forgot to pick up eggs—which we now call oeufs—in Matane.  And we don’t eat blubber.   And Iceland isn’t really part of the Down East Circle anyway.  And we’re cowards who were scared of Lake Ontario so no way we’re crossing the Sea of Labrador on a tiny boat with one engine.

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So instead, we figured we’d stick with the plan and duck into Marina Ste-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine—the Madeleine River Marina—although the marina is smaller than the name in French.  All was well as we passed the landmark lighthouse.

Our resources indicated that a private buoy at the marina entrance marked a rock to avoid.  There also were references to katabatic winds that periodically sweep through the marina.  Meh.  We can handle that.  Just as we reached the marina entrance we saw a line of markers.  Yup, there’re the rocks we read about.

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And then Bam!  The wind—katabatic or otherwise—hit us broadside.  We managed to crab-angle into the slip that the helpful French-speaking folks pointed us towards, then spent twenty minutes fighting nature’s forces while trying to wrangle a 28-ton boat close enough to the dock to tie off while Oscar complained.

But we had it easy.  By a huge margin.

Since we left Quebec City we’ve been on the same schedule as Laughter, a Looper boat out of Indiana.  So we’ve been with Tom and Jan for more than several days.  Nice folks, and experienced boaters.  They were coming in behind us.  Bam!  When the wind hit Laughter, it was all over.  Into the rocks on the other side of the narrow channel, with water pouring in from somewhere, and down they went.

img_8620The locals were amazing in support, but this is a very small hamlet with limited resources.  Plus very few people spoke English.  Doug stayed on the radio with Tom, who remained remarkably calm even as water filled the main cabin.  Jan packed what she could.  It took several hours for the fire department RIB—which was brand new and unused to that point—to arrive and get them and Peanut the Cockapoo off the boat and back to shore.

Later the Fisheries and Oceans folks arrived and put containment floats out because of leaking diesel.  They also were kind enough to retrieve all the bags Jan had packed but wouldn’t fit in the RIB.  We welcomed them aboard Misty Pearl for the night.  Oscar shared his supper with Peanut.

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Despite all of the excitement, we still found this little corner of Ste-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine to be charming.

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5F5F4DE5-4561-419A-A159-C7FEA0B08667The only real restaurant around was small and booked, but made room and welcomed us anyway.

Tom and Jan decided to travel to the closest airport by car rather than stay with us to Gaspé and there wasn’t anything more for us to do before they left, so this morning we headed onward.  Destination, Fox River.

Mostly today was more rugged terrain dotted with fishing villages.  Every single one of them is dominated visually by a church.  As we’ve noted before, if the relative size and frequency of churches is a sign of piety, these folks have it in spades.  If the number of lighthouses is a sign of not wanting to be dashed to pieces, this bunch not only is pious to a fault, but damn safety-conscious as well.

Since the major industry up here is fishing, not surprisingly we see a lot of fishing boats.  Rivière-au-Renard is yet another tiny fishing village with a photo-worthy church.  Supposedly the first settlers were Irish survivors who washed up on shore after a shipwreck or something.

Also since Quebec City, a sailboat named Interlude—crewed by a nice couple from Ontario—has been pulling in behind us at most of our various stops.  They’re the ones who snaked our plum face dock in Tadoussac, but we like them anyway.

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Today they were ahead of us entering the approach to Club Nautique Forillon, and then unwittingly participated in a nonsensical docking that first had us stern into a slip with finger piers that seemed shorter than the absurdly short ones that we suffered in Key Largo and dodged in Matane.  But it all worked out.

Yup, this is another fishing village.

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We’re now tired but tied up.

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We’ve cruised fairly hard every day since leaving Quebec City, because we hate the thought of wasting decent to great weather what with the icebergs just a few weeks away from closing in on us.  At least tonight we have shore power.  People don’t realize what a hardship it is when one must choose between running the generator or inverter on one hand, or doing without microwave popcorn on the other.  But it’s the life we chose so although we can’t really gripe at least one of us does anyway.

Tomorrow we’ve reserved literally the last spot in Gaspé.  It’s the Construction Holiday here in Quebec and places are jamming up.  But we’re in, and plan to stay there a few days to restore our energy.  We’ll just have to gamble that we still can beat the winter freeze.

Maybe the Saint Lawrence spoiled us

A2F995D2-3295-4BC0-AD86-BD66E2BD7198A day of nothing much sexy enough to document—coupled with no shore power—meant no blog post until today.

Back to Rimouski though, where we had another sunset before we left.

Yesterday the Saint Lawrence was as calm as Mahatma Gandhi.  Smooth all the way to Matane.  Smooth enough for showers and naps.  Nothing much to see or photograph, but easy peasy.

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When we reached the marina in Matane, we found it a bit on the small side for Misty Pearl.  The guy at the dock initially thought he’d squeeze us in between a sailboat and a finger pier that may or may not have been long enough to reach our door, but despite the language barrier and the favorable exchange-rate we weren’t wedging our beam into a fifteen-foot opening.  So we got a new face dock, but no power.

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The slip just opposite our bow in the photo was the intended target.  No chance.

Know how they hold floating docks in place in Matane?  That’s right, with trailer tongues.

But actually the place was quiet, the grocery store was close, and the restaurant across the street at the hotel was awesome.  We’ll happily run the generator for a few minutes in exchange for all that.

Unfortunately, the wind this morning was not awesome.  It was the opposite of awesome.  But the marina we wanted to reach today looked to be very sheltered, and the wind was behind us, and the predicted waves would follow us, so what the hell.

From a cruising perspective, today kind of sucked.  We wallowed around the entire trip, trying to hand-steer in something approximating the right direction but ultimately serpentining like Sheldon Kornpett, DDS, when he had to dodge bullets after getting mixed up with Colombo’s zany caper in the very underrated The In-Laws.

But at least we’re back to a little scenery now that we’ve reached the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  For example, another cool lighthouse, this one at Cap Chat.

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Wind turbines are a lot prettier when set behind more of those fields of yellow something-or-others than those set in the desert just before the obligatory I-10 stop at Hadley’s on the way to L.A.  The wind, however,—while sucky for boaters—isn’t only enjoyed by wind turbines.  Kite-surfers who only have about a three-week window of summer don’t mind at all.  Come to think of it, these are the first kite-surfers we’ve seen since Fort Lauderdale.  Those Florida weenies wouldn’t stand a chance up here in the cold.

FA71BB5E-8A39-45E6-BB1B-8062F532B81FWe gladly ducked out of the crappy waves and into the Havre polyvalent de Sainte-Anne-des-Monts.  Marinas sound so much cooler in French.  The entrance was easy to find since the charts place it just left of the “two spires,” which turned out to be pretty dang obvious.  Yup, there it was.  We walked around a bit, ate at the pub, and settled in.  The thing we didn’t do is take any photos of stuff.  But it looks like more wind tomorrow so we’re planning to stay another day.  Plenty of time to make up for it.

At least Rimouski is forty degrees cooler than Yuma

Seems like ages since we’ve had a day full of blue sky.  Today we got one for the six hours across the mighty Saint Lawrence to Rimouski.  Not much excitement though.  Just set the autopilot on a straight course and sit back.

Although we did have to stop for whales and seals.

We couldn’t tell if the seal was worried about us or worried about having to swim two miles back to shore in water that approached a thousand feet deep, but we agreed that he looked worried about something.

We’re viewing the stop in Rimouski about like we view stopping in Yuma on the way to San Diego.  Necessary, but not necessarily where you’d want to spend a week.  Almost certainly that’s not fair to Rimouski, of course, but we don’t have time to go into town to find out for sure.

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PSA:  Don’t bother watching The Hotel New Hampshire.  It’s a terrible movie, although maybe everything that happens after the first thirty minutes is awesome.  We don’t know, because we switched over to Master Chef.