Saturday, August 15, 2009

2nd Year: Richeleau Canal to Lake Champlain

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Successfully pulling out of the narrow slip and tight spaces at the Old Port Montreal Marina at 8:30, thanks to Andy’ s acquired skills, we headed to Sorel and into the Richeleau Canal system, the compass finally aimed southbound for the first time since February!

Phew, the current is something to behold around Montreal, churning and swirling and with little whirlpools all over as two channels merge here on the St. Lawrence..  This time it’s in our favor and we were surfing at nearly 14 mph versus the 4 mph coming in here the other day!  A record speed for this boat, which can’t do that on its own!

Again, history finally comes full circle in my head.  After all those history lessons as a kid that talked about the St. Lawrence Seaway, it has been enlightening to learn about it from the Canadian’s perspective.  Once discovered, this river became the major shipping channel, opening up and enabling settlement of the country two centuries ago or more. Pretty impressive – from canoes back then to the enormous ships on it today.  Most interesting is the fact that ice breaker ships work the Seaway, keeping it somewhat clear for most of the winter.  However, for about 2-3 months in the worst of the winter months, no traffic is on the river as the ice is too thick and too dangerous.

Don’t forget also that the Rideau Canal came to pass as an alternate means of a commercial transportation channel because the Canadians were afraid we Americans would invade, given our close proximity to the Seaway  and cut off shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway….we never did.  I guess once we lost the War of 1812, we gave it up and decided it might be best to make friends and not war.

A long travel day today from 8:30 to 6:00 along the 70 miles of the St. Lawrence River to Sorel and the beginning of the Riviere Richelieu (Richelieu River) and on to Lock #1 at Chambly Lock,  Mile 39.6 of the Richelieu Canal.

We are beat after fighting the currents and all the little boats, water skiers, etc. along the way.  It is Saturday and everyone with a boat must be out and zipping around.   A critical observation…..not one boater along this stretch nor any other stretch since entering Canadian waters has ever slowed for us nor for anyone else, including tiny fishing boats and canoes or kayaks.  Boaters speed past with only a few feet between us, narrow channel be damned.  With no room to turn into the wake, we rock and roll.  I spent much time today putting things back in place, including picking up and refiling papers that had been tossed out of the forward cabin closet onto the floor.  I’ve tried not to become an ‘ugly American’ but am so tempted to give it back to them, shoving the throttle forward to see how THEY like our enormous wake!  That or a horn blast and a one finger wave….road rage has become water rage.  There is a God, however, and payback is sweet.  A bunch of little boats buzzed past us, racing for the lock the other day….ie to beat us out.  HA, we are so big, the lockmaster waited for us and then put us in first.  Sweet revenge.

The countryside today as we cruised along is so very pretty.  Farms and homes along the way, many obviously very very old, turned into more modern homes and older cottages as came down the Richelieu Canal. Mountains began appearing in the distance and we wonder if we are looking at Vermont perhaps?  Gotta find a map to figure it out.

We put on an unanticipated show at the lock wall coming into Chambley.  Our guidebook said mooring available on the west wall, so I set up lines and finders for the starboard tie.  Making a hard left turn around a somewhat blind corner, Andy was focused on getting the boat beside the floating dock.  HOWEVER, the book was wrong and this is an EAST wall, therefore making it a port tie.  I’m yelling from below (why don’t we wear those fancy headsets so we can hear each other?!) to WAIT and to give me time to switch all around.  He either (a) doesn’t hear me or (b) chooses to ignore me or (c) thinks I can get it all done in 30 seconds. With only an aft line, and two fenders, we crash into the floating dock with a Frenchman yelling something…obviously along the lines of BACK OFF.  Andy finally did back off and we got set and pulled back in…..can’t imagine what the Frenchmen were saying about the idiot Americans.   When uncertain, I rig BOTH sides of the boat, but given the guidebook description, I did not this time.  Surveying the locks later while walking about, we realized the guidebook has mixed up the walls at Chambley Lock.  Mooring is available on the EAST bank above the lock and on the WEST wall below the lock.   The guidebook has it the other way around.  I will send them a note to correct this as it is impossible to see until the last minute given the turn one must make to get into here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009
It’s me, not the guidebook.  Not one to give in easily to being wrong, however, I still say it is confusing.  The guidebook says, “mooring is available both on the west bank above and on the east bank below these locks”.  Well, since I am coming toward the lock, I figured above was where we were, at the NORTH end and below would be at the DOWN the hill, then it is BELOW-- therefore, tie up is on the east bank side.  Hard to get my head around that quickly especially since I didn’t know til we turned the corner if the lock was an up or down, as I could not even see it.  Bah, ah well, there was a show put on which amused folks.

Spent an uneventful night on the wall here again this time BELOW the Chambly Canal Locks 1,2,3 after we locked through early in the morning from being ABOVE these three locks.  This is yet another lovely town and one I’m looking forward to spending time in.  We wandered about, did a bit of grocery shopping in the best grocery store I’ve seen in months got Andy his ice cream and in general, just relaxed. We’ll spend about 3 days here, resting up, catching up on chores and walking back to the grocery store to re-provision our nearly bare cupboards

Monday, August 17, 2009
***!!#*#*#*! There are days I HATE this boat.  Here we go again.  We awoke to find that the power from the generator was NOT going to the inverter.  That means, in spite of the noise from the generator, nothing was being powered, which becomes a major serious issue quickly.  Our batteries are not charging via the inverter and soon we would be ‘dead’ on the wall, unable to start our engines.  How one would jump start this boat is beyond my understanding.  I think we would have to stay on the wall forever, with hell freezing over in the winter….  Thanks to Andy’s constant vigilance in surveying all our systems, he caught the problem just in time, ruining my lovely morning and certainly all our plans for a restful stop.  He does get a little excited from time to time and this was certainly one of those times….hurry, hurry, hurry!!!  I quickly got us ready to pull out and off we went, in search of the nearest marina that would have an electrician.

We locked through six more locks and about six bridges, passing  Saint-Jean-de-Richelieu, waving to our friends aboard ‘Side by Side’, walking along the Canal, eating ice cream.  I’m so envious!!
Seaplanes everywhere

Guess what, after a lot of chart checking and phone calls while underway, we learned the nearest marina is in the USA…Clearing US Customs at Rouse Point, NY, at  4:45 PM was an easy task, as there is a floating dock now, equipped with the Customs Officers, who kindly helped us tie up.  They boarded our boat for an inspection while we went inside to fill out the paperwork.  Only comment later was, “You sure do have a lot of liquor on board”.  We explained we had closed out our condo and brought all the remnants of the booze aboard, including such yucky stiff as Melon Liquor from some obscure party long ago.  Andy also quickly volunteered that we had told Canadian officials that we had a bunch of booze on board, ‘ship’s stores’, and that it was all open and explained about the sale of our condo.  Canada said OK.  We were prepared to pour it all overboard because we were not going to pay the Canadian tax on stuff we don’t even drink, (the tax would be as much as the actual COST of the booze!) should Canada have enforced their limit on liquor being brought in.  We keep inviting guests aboard and offering up all this yuck, but no one wants it either….guess one of these days I WILL get the fish below us drunk.

We pulled into Gaines Marina at Rouse’s Point so we could hook into power to charge the batteries and to await the arrival of an electrician the next morning.  I spent my evening cursing the boat and everyone that had anything to do with it.  Thanks to yet another breakdown in this NEW boat, we had to blow off the last 3 days of our trip through Canada and condense those days into one long cruising day..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The electrician arrived about 9:00, not the agreed upon 8:00 and diagnosed the problem as a fried (?) main power switch that allows either generator power or shore power to come through to the things that need power on the boat.  Something is prohibiting the power from coming through the switch to power us. 

Andy then spent the remainder of the day trying to get a part number off the switch as a search revealed that we have no paperwork on this particular part and it is not easily identifiable.   Emails to China, to the boat builder, emails to the guy who commissioned the boat, numerous web site searches of parts and manufacturers, emails to the DeFever Club to see if anyone might have the same switch, and numerous phone calls to manufacturers and distributors were to NO avail.  We got some helpful hints, but nothing definitive.   The builder in China replied, and his information did not match what we were looking at.

We finally determined that although there is the manufacturer name, “Westerbeke” on the switch, the actual switch is NOT from that manufacturer, but is a Kraus & Naimer brand.   Here goes China again, stealing stuff I guess and remaking or some such nonsense.   The builder in China also inadvertently typed the part number with one number incorrect, further complicating & delaying our search for a part.  After spending about 12 hours on this task, Andy drank two glasses of wine and went to bed.  Mr. Always Nice Guy was totally disgusted with it all.  (Good!  Finally!)

Me, I ranted and raved and took my energy out on cleaning the dirty boat.  I must have certainly used up enough water to offset the cost of the marina overnight stay.  I scrubbed til I could hardly walk, including scrubbing all our fenders.  It was slow going to get all the scrapes and slimes off the fenders from all the lock walls we’ve been through for the past six weeks.  It also took forever to get all the bug poop off the boat.   I’m from the South, where bugs were born and I’ve never seen so many tiny gnatty things that leave droppings and dead bodies everywhere on the boat.  I drank my glass of wine and fell into bed, still angry but tired enough to sleep at least.

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