Montreal, then to Ottawa

It’s been awhile since I last wrote. I haven’t been in the mood to write for a variety of reasons. The main one is that, although we have seen and enjoyed some absolutely spectacular sights and places, things have been going fairly smoothly, doggone it. I never wanted this blog to be just an endless litany of our travels, but more of a descriptive, “real” account of our life on the Loop, both good and bad. Unfortunately, not writing for long periods means when I finally do get around to writing, it’s loooooooooong. My bad.

After leaving Quebec City, we slogged upriver on the St Lawrence Seaway to Trois Rivieres to spend the night, and from there proceeded a short ways to a small town called Contreoeur. The “Parc Nautique Contreoueur” was a wonderful little marina–quiet and peaceful, yet close enough to town to explore and stretch our legs a bit. The next morning we traveled 30 miles upriver to the Yacht Club of Montreal. We thought that since we had such a short distance to travel, we’d arrive early–HAH! Have you ever had a stress dream where you were running as fast as you can, but get nowhere? That was us on the last stretch of the St Lawrence before Montreal. I was oblivious–rushing to get fenders and lines ready- heard the engines roaring, saw water rushing past and assumed we were going fast. Then when I glanced at the shoreline going by, I realized that we were nearly standing still! David was running the throttles nearly wide open, which usually gets us to about 15 knots, but Golden was straining to go precisely TWO. The owners of a trawler we met further up the “road” later told us they’d gone ZERO for some stretches, and had to use kayaking skills to advance! There were significant whirlpools, and even some standing waves–what a trip.

We were so happy to finally edge past the breakwater, and spy a gaggle of young, friendly dock hands from the Montreal Yacht Club waiting to help us tie up. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, we were not prepared. To be honest, David and I had been arguing about something silly, and I decided to show my displeasure by going on strike. I very cleverly thought that I would show him how important I am to the docking process, and purposely didn’t call the marina a half hour before arrival like I usually do in order to find out which side I should set up lines and fenders; I decided that this time I’d wait to see if HE would remember in time. Unfortunately for my scheme, David was too busy fighting the current to pay any attention to his punishment. Therefore, when I finally relented and began doing my job, I was WAY behind schedule. I was still madly throwing out lines at random and desperately hanging a few fenders at haphazard levels when we pulled into the marina, and noticed our gaggle waiting to help us dock. In a panic, I tossed one of the lines to a dockhand too soon, it fell in the water, and he almost rolled off the dock trying to retrieve it. Luckily, a few minutes later, we were secured and safe–a good feeling after a wild voyage. I’ll have to be more clever and think of a punishment that doesn’t hurt ME next time.

Once we’d arrived, we quickly realized that we are staying at the nicest marina in the best location we’d experienced so far, and immediately signed up to stay through the entire weekend (3 nights). The location was superb, located right in the middle of the old port of Montreal, within easy walking distance to literally hundreds of great restaurants and within biking distance via paved biking trails to excellent grocery stores, outdoor markets, and even a Costco should we need it! Here’s a picture of the marina from the top of a nearby clock tower:

The Yacht Club also supplied thick cotton towels, soap, and hair dryers–rare and luxurious amenities at a marina.

Our first night, we shared a HUGE seafood dinner (mussels, salmon, scallops, lobster) in one of the squares in the Old City.

Montreal has a vibrant nightlife, and the night was warm. After dinner, we walked to the Norte Dame cathedral (photo taken the next AM)

The next morning, we took a short stroll, and noticed that the yacht club even had amenities for Hunny!

I think that literally means “dog sack”.

Very near our marina was an extraordinary playground, for lack of a better word. It was essentially a three-dimensional obstacle course, extending at least four stories high. We could see what looked like hundreds of kids (and their obviously terrified parents following) walking on swinging logs and tightropes, through tunnels of netting, hopping from one swinging disc to another. Occasionally one could spot someone zip lining above and past the “playground”. Of course everyone always had a safety line connected to a wire above, so it wasn’t as dangerous as it looked, but WOW it looked fun! We, to our ultimate regret did not try it–wish we had.

Our first morning in Montreal, after spending an inordinate amount of time wallowing in the luxury of showering under a warm rain shower, drying off with a fluffy cotton towel rather than the thin squares of polyester we usually use (did I tell you it was the finest marina we’ve ever stayed at?), we gorged on tender, buttery croissants, the best we’ve discovered since arriving into the province of Quebec, washed down with strong espresso and creamy latte. As we waddled back to the marina, we stopped by an Inuit Art Gallery in order to compare Alaskan Inuit artwork to those in the northern Canadian provinces–some beautiful pieces. One of our favorites:

This is a dancing bear, a very common theme in Inuit art that represents reincarnation. You see, in the hierarchy of important animals, the polar bear is at the top of all–he’s the king, the master of the Arctic. So when an animal realizes he’s been reincarnated as a polar bear, he is so incredibly happy, he dances for joy.

Shortly after we returned from our outing, we un-folded our bikes, and rode to the Atwater Market, one of the three outdoor markets in Montreal, where we bought a variety of gourmet supplies, including locally grown asparagus, a crusty baguette, excellent quality olive oil and 9 year old balsamic vinegar. Guess what we had for dinner that night?

We spent the next day hiking from the marina to the top of Mt Royal (which we’d already driven to with Bill the week prior). As we walked back, the skies opened up and we were soon soaked, so we really enjoyed another hot shower at our spa, I mean marina.

We left the next morning a bit late (we thought) for the opening of one of the last few locks we’d have to traverse on the St Lawrence Seaway. We were a bit nervous because huge container ships use these same locks, and we had no idea what to expect. As we approached the first one, we noticed 3 recreational boats tied up, waiting (at what’s called “the blue line”) for the next opening. We were intending to park there as well, when suddenly the locks’ light turned green. So while the others scrambled to start engines, untie, and cast off, we just sailed right in to the cavernous lock. There were only four pleasure boats total using an area big enough to hold container ships like this “self loader” we passed earlier:

For some unknown reason, the lockmasters directed the four of us to pack ourselves tightly into the forward section like sardines, leaving the rest of the cavern empty. Since we’d come first, we tied up first, thinking there’d be plenty of room for the other three. However, the lockmasters told the 47 foot wooden trawler coming in behind us to raft onto us. Since our boat is only 34 feet long and weighs a third of the trawler, it’s kind of like telling a 100 pound woman to pick up and carry a 200 pound man. Locking can be physically and mentally demanding anyway; we were literally between a rock (the cement lock wall) and a hard place (the heavy trawler) swaying against us in the current. To make it even more stressful, our railings are not particularly beefy, and the captain of the trawler kept using them to push his massive boat away from ours despite my increasingly frantic pleas not to do so. The whole experience was a bit nerve wracking for us all. Fortunately, the lockmasters instructed the trawler to be sure to enter the next lock first and have us raft to THEM, which worked much better.

After safely exiting both locks, we proceeded up the St Lawrence to enter the Ottawa River. After 4 or 5 hours motoring upriver (man, I can’t wait until the current is with us for a change!) we eventually arrived at the small village of Bellevue and the St Anne de Bellevue lock. Looking at all the boats lining both sides of the canal leading to the locks, seeing all the restaurants lining the canal and the number of happy people strolling in the sun on the boardwalk beside them, it looked like a wonderful place to stay. We thought that the other side might be less busy, so decided to lock through and stay on the wall upriver of the lock. Big mistake—not only were we now out of the canal, and thus more exposed to the wind and waves, but the area seemed to be a magnet for young adults and teenagers in their speedboats and personal watercraft. We convinced ourselves that it would quiet down after dinner, so we walked into town along the boardwalk to explore the town and eat dinner. We eventually found and enjoyed a relaxing dinner at a surprisingly good Thai restaurant. Unfortunately, when we returned to Golden, we discovered that while we were gone, two speedboats had tied up just behind us, two more boats were rafted to THEM, and 2 personal watercraft were just angling in to raft onto each boat! There were at least 20 young people milling around on the lock wall and in the boats, and it was very obvious that they were planning to party hard that night. David and I looked at each other and without saying a word, started untying. We left the dock at 6:30, and sped about 25 miles upriver to tie up at the wall of the lock at Carillon, squeaking in just at sunset (instead of after, thank the Lord). There were only two boats tied up with us, captained by old fogies like us, we were next to a huge field for Hunny to play in, there were no lights, no noise, and no teenagers in sight. Heaven.

The next day we locked through Carillon, the tallest lock yet–over 65 feet!

We noticed a hitchhiker in the lock with us:

As we proceeded up the Ottowa, David noticed that our chart plotter no longer was showing us Canadian waterways.

Not helpful. Luckily we have two back-up systems, and will use those.

Six hours after leaving the Carillon lock, as we neared the city of Ottawa, we noticed a gorgeous stone house up on a hill overlooking the river, and found out later it was the home of the Prime Minister of Canada! Of course I did not take a picture. A few minutes later, we approached Ottowa and the famous eight stair-step locks at the entrance to the “Rideau Canal”.

On the left is the Parliament Building, to the right is the cement wall meant for boats waiting to lock through. We tied up there; a few minutes later, a trawler named “Diadema” approached. After helping the owners Jorge and Barbara tie up, introductions were made, we talked for long enough to realize we were compatible, and decided to walk up the hill into downtown Ottawa to eat dinner. It was with kind of a sad relief to realize we could easily communicate with everyone because we had left the French speaking province of Quebec.

The next morning Golden, Diadema, and another trawler who’d joined us at the wall sometime during the night, excitedly prepared for spending the next few hours “climbing” the locks into the heart of Ottowa. There were hordes of tourists gathered around to watch the spectacle of our three boats moving from lock to lock, lockmasters opening and closing all the valves and gates using only their own muscles and the mechanical advantage afforded by gears as has been done for the last couple of hundred years. It was an exhilarating experience.

Here’s a picture from the top (taken the night before):

After finally reaching the top, we exited the locks into a pretty and narrow canal running through the heart of the city. David and I managed to snag a prime parking spot right next to a bike path, which offered power, and was within easy walking distance of shopping malls, hotels, the Parliament Building, museums, and, most important of all, a spot of grass for Hunny to relieve herself!

The picture below shows how crowded the place was even on a weekday!

The lockmaster who came by later to take our money for electricity (princely sum of $10 Canadian/night) told us that beginning the Friday before Canada Day (Sunday, July 1st), boats would be allowed to moor on the other side of the canal too, and those spots would fill up immediately as well. We heard tales of drunkenness and debauchery, and stories of past vandalism. Canada day in Ottowa must be insane. Because we’re not insane, we elected to forgo celebrating Canada Day in Ottowa. During our one day visit, we mostly saw the city from our bicycle seats, and didn’t get a chance to enjoy any of their fine museums. Oh well.

Thus on Thursday morning, we untied Golden, gave our prime spot to “Diadema”, and moved on upstream on the Rideau Canal. To be continued…

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