Today was supposed to be leisurely, at least until we had to start the chores that’ve been backing up on us like a toilet about to explode. We even slept in right up to when Oscar decided it was time to get up.
Yesterday we got our first inkling that this language thing might be more, um, interesting, than we anticipated. When we were in British Columbia, the locals sounded almost like they were from Minnesota. Last year in Ontario, the accents almost were bland. Like everyone was from Kansas. Not so much in Quebec, where French is the official tongue. Unfortunately, Dana—like Sam Cooke—don’t know much about the French she took. Doug knows a bit about a science book but never studied French. Which left us pretty disadvantaged.
On our walk around town this morning we stopped for breakfast. Uh oh. No English subtitles on the menu. Some stuff we sort of could figure out. Some stuff not so much. And the waitress—who was fun and engaging and attentive—couldn’t help. But we’re learning. For example, using our powers of linguistic deduction we now know the French word for “gas.”
Anyway, we walked to the church over which we watched yesterday’s sunset. It was pretty cool today as well.
We also bopped over to Fort Chambly. Which was closed.
We knew it was closed because locked doors speak a universal language.
Right about that time Dana suggested that with the possibility of bad travel days ahead, perhaps we should go part way down—which is up on the map—the Richelieu River. Hey that’s a great idea! Back to the boat, walk Oscar a last time, clean the strainer, fire up the engine. Off the dock at 11:15. Chores can wait.
Although we’re headed due north, the Richelieu flows that direction. We immediately picked up the current. Hey we’re going almost ten knots! We don’t know the exact exchange rate, but we figure that’s at least 13 knots Canadian. Quaint towns dominated by steeples lining the river zipped by one after another.
We’ve passed a bunch of ferries during our journey, but can’t recall another one that just rides back and forth on a cable, almost like the one that Josey Wales shot loose while escaping incompetent bounty hunters. No propellers, just a winch. Today we saw three of them.
There was one and only one troublesome bit about the run up to Saint-Ours. While in Burlington, we met Loopers heading south. They claimed there was a railroad bridge that makes men cry and women faint. The current funnels through an opening just wide enough for one boat, they warned. Companions of theirs were swept into the rocks and it took three boats to pull them out. But we’ve heard horror stories before. Probably nothing to fear at all.
Hmmm. Navionics shows the path through the bridge, but mostly it’s covered with red warning icons. This can’t be good. The comments say lay on your horn and make sure nobody is coming upstream because once you commit there’s no bailing out. But since going downstream in fast current makes a boat difficult to steer, down-streamers have the right-of-way, which we figured was good enough for us.
Ok, the bridge is coming up. What the hell? Why would the river be littered with kids right near a danger zone? Just our luck.
The narrow opening is on the port side, hard against the shore. Which means you fricken can’t see what’s on the other side UNTIL YOU’RE ALREADY IN THE CHUTE. We tried creeping up to the blind corner, but there’s only so much creeping one can do when the current grabs the hull. We laid on the horn. Dana craned her neck. “Nobody’s coming we can go.” Followed almost immediately by “Oh shit there’s a big boat right at the bridge!” It might have been our clean living. It might have been our choice of a good boat. Regardless, we threw the prop into reverse at about 2000 rpms and managed to back up just long enough to let the apparently-hornless bastard get by us. In the panicked moment Dana failed to get a photo of said hornless bastard’s boat, but she recovered nicely in time for one just before we rode through like it was the log ride at Dollywood.
The Navionics screenshot of our path—in yellow—tells the story.
Well that was exciting! How about no more excitement for the day? We’d be fine with that.
A couple of hours later we reached the Saint-Ours Canal. The Saint-Ours Canal is another National Historic Site, which is a tad odd since it takes less time to traverse the canal than it does to say “National Historic Site.” The entire canal is just one lock.
On the side, Parcs Canada rents out oTENTiks at the lock. No joke. That’s what they’re called. But they do look like fun.
Around a couple more bends and we docked at the Parc Bellerive Marina and Campground. The last time we were at one of these marina/motor home joints was in Everglades City. Our inability to read or speak French was an issue—again—at the adjacent restaurant, but it’s actually kind of fun. Our “French” comes out sounding absurdly like something between Inspector Clouseau and Pepé Le Pew. The nice Canadians all try to help us out, of course, although in a tone that Aunt Terri might finish off with a “bless their hearts.” But hey, it’s their beautiful country. We’re just happy to sit back and enjoy passing through.
6 thoughts on “It’s like a different country up here, or “No hablo Français””
We can appreciate your story. Very well written. My husband laughed out loud several times.
Enjoyed your colorful, descriptive writing. Bless your pea-pickin’ hearts!
Haven’t picked peas since leaving Chattanooga in 1989, but thanks!
We are Harbor Hosts for the Richelieu River and I have prepared a document for loopers doing the Richelieu River. We always call a securite when going through even if smaller boats do not have vhf
We called and blasted the horn, but the dude coming upstream from below the bridge ignored us. Must’ve been an American . . .