88 Montreal, Quebec to Vergennes, VT

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We answered ‘bonjour’ with ‘hello.’ The Metro ticket agent switched to English with a French accent helped us purchase our tickets. Off we went on the subway to Montreal’s Botanical Garden. It’s size and variety blew us away. Japanese and Chinese gardens, formal gardens, rock gardens, delicate bonsai trees–some hundreds of years old–contrasted nicely with forests filled with shady flowered glens. We spent the day walking paths and enjoying the floral variety of this unique park in the heart of Montreal.

Moasiculture dragon

We continued on the same theme the next day when we visited Mosaiculture–best described as formal plantings on steroids. Huge wire sculptures, intricate in their design, were filled with plants and fun to see.

“Museumed out”, we passed on most of the museums in the area. However, the Museum of Archeology caught our interest. Small on the outside, it seemed huge on the inside as we toured foundations of old Montreal. It took us awhile to realize most of the museum was physically under the streets as it followed the actual foundations of earlier establishments under the roadways above.

On a gray drippy morning, we went off to explore the modern downtown area. As we walked along through concrete canyons, underground passages, and connected malls lined with the usual array of franchised stores. Ruth commented: “we could be anywhere.” There was no uniqueness to make this memorable as Montreal.

A subway ride to an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River brought us to the sight of the ’67 Worlds Fair. The huge geodesic dome skeleton of the Biosphere still stood as a reminder of the event. We enjoyed seeing the structure, but passed on trying the museum it’s now become.

Another icon from the world fair era came into view as we walked back from the island.

Habitat 67

Habitat 67

There was Habitat ’67 still standing and looking exactly like the pictures we remembered of this unique housing complex. It was “state-of-the-art” at the time. Some signs of age were showing on this seemly random stacked pile of housing modules. Stress cracks clearly visible from the road were under repair. However, the building stood proudly as a unique memorable piece of architecture.

Happy hour evaporated into dinner and ongoing conversation late into the evening with Tom and Susan aboard Tobin James. They, too, are long-term live- aboard people who love the life style. We had met them briefly last year on the Tennessee River. Good-byes said, we still felt sad the next morning as we pulled out of our slip at dawn to begin our trip along the St Lawrence to Sorel and the start of the Richelieu Canal.

The Richelieu Canal added yet another dimension to canal life. Extremely narrow in comparison to the other canals we’ve visited, we kept a careful watch at each curve. Our canal view was interesting. We threaded our way through towns and back into a flat countryside accented occasionally with a random solitary mountain rising dramatically from its flat surroundings. One bridge gave us pause. The distance between its supporting columns seemed narrower than the small locks (smallest of all the locks we been through) we’d been entering. We slowed, assessed the swift current and then slipped through with scant feet to spare on either side of Odyssey.

The comfortable bilingual feeling of Montreal disappeared, and we found ourselves encountering both people and signs that were French only. Along the locks, it usually meant the lock tender got help from their bilingual partner if there were questions. Pointing and gestures conveyed our meaning at grocery stores when we ordered from the deli counter. Next trip through we will make an effort to know more French.

Clearing customs at Rouses Point, NY we went off in search of a Lake Champlain cruising guide. A fellow boater noticed us poking through the guides and offered suggestions. Five minutes later we left without a guide, but with enough local knowledge to keep us busy for a week. Early the next morning having listened to weather forecasts we headed out for Kings Bay. A vacant section of shore protected us from the north wind. We spent the weekend enjoying our private anchorage.

Sunday we relocated, sampling Pelots Bay for the evening. A comfortable routine of leisurely enjoying the early morning light, moving to a new anchorage before noon and then enjoying the afternoon and evening reading and checking out our new scenery became our way of life for a week. Anchoring off North Hero late one morning we dinghied ashore for an early lunch, and to pick up a few supplies at the combination post office, gift shop, bait shop, general store and deli. The lady at the cash register was overwhelmed with our purchases commenting that, “No one ever buys this much” as she tried to sort out and record everything we’d stacked on the store’s small counter. Supplies purchased, and trash disposed of, we headed out to find new bays to sample in northern Lake Champlain.

Lazy days of anchoring out, and enjoying the coastline followed. One evening we discovered we anchored just at the end of a slalom water-ski course, and we enjoyed watching young athletics working hard to make all the buoys as Ruth worked on the quilt she was creating, and I did miscellaneous computer work.

We headed for a slip at Burlington, VT to duck the weekend boating traffic. Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, and, for the weekend home to a ‘HOG’ (Harley Owners Group) rally. A lovely mix of old buildings, unique shops and great people watching entertained us. We walked town, exploring people-friendly streets in what seemed to us like a continual uphill walk in this city squeezed between the lakeshore and the mountains of Vermont. Every park and street seemed to have the odd raw, carved, or scrap piece of granite to remind us that Vermont quarries a lot of granite. We found a unique cheese shop and settled on Truck Driver Cheddar as something new. It was quite good.

Sunday morning we headed out onto a wind and wave tossed lake that kept most boats in port. Our destination was two hours further south and 7 miles up Otter Creek to Vergennes. Easily distracted by beautiful bays and tempting anchorages, we ended up taking two days to complete the trip. Chief contributors to our distraction were Paul and Ginnie Smith and their daughter Jennifer. We’d finally met formally after a chance encounter on the Erie Canal months earlier. Casual conservation in the locks lead to e-mail exchanges. Reaching Burlington we invited them for a visit aboard Odyssey. We spent a delightful evening getting acquainted. In addition to a sampler of Vermont goodies they left us a Lake Champlain cruising guide which provided the final incentive to try more anchorages before reaching Vergennes.

Falls at Vergennes

Falls at Vergennes

Rounding a bend in Otter Creek, the waterfalls at Vergennes came into view. We tied up to the free dock complete with electricity and water, then headed uphill to explore the oldest small city in Vermont. It was also the location of Harrison Ford’s movie What Lies Beneath.

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