111 Lake Champlain to Quebec City

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Cruising guides rate Partridge Harbor as one of the best anchorages on Lake Champlain but caution about overcrowding in the summer. Even though we had the tiny wilderness harbor to ourselves it’s too small and deep to swing comfortably at anchor. A convenient rock made it easy to secure the stern line we’d run ashore to hold Odyssey close to shore. We settled in to enjoy rare seclusion in a picturesque harbor.

Adding shaft zinc in Partridge Harbor

Shifting wind brought a slight swell into the anchorage late on our second day providing a reason to relocate. Making ready to free our line to shore we discovered a dinghy line had worked itself free and now rested forlornly 10 feet below us in the crystal clear water. It made a good excuse to try out my new wet suit in the frigid 50-degree water of Lake Champlain. (Is it any wonder I lust after this guy?) At the same time I’d check prop shaft and rudder zincs. That’s how we found one of the prop protector plates was missing. Cell phone calls from our new anchorage at Kingsland Bay set up a haul out for the repair and to do additional work like painting the bottom after two years afloat. Early June, however, is still the busy launching time for Lake Champlain marinas so we’d have to wait a few days before there’d be room in the yard for us.

Southview High School Band’s opened their jazz session with St James Infirmary. The band was outstanding. Nursery school kids out for a walk with their teachers took over the area in front of the band and caught in the rhythm, twisted, twirled and ran as they enjoyed the music. We joined the large crowd that had gathered in enthusiastic applause when they finished and then settled in to enjoy the rest of their outdoor mall concert. We’d lucked out arriving in Burlington just at the start of their Jazz Festival. Paul and Ginnie, friends we’d met two years ago on the Erie Canal, came by for dinner, and we had a fun evening swapping notes about one of our favorite cities and what we’d been doing since we last met.

A climb up a six-foot stepladder made it a bit of a challenge to board Odyssey during our nine days of living aboard on the hard while Westport Marina completed our expanded list of work. Ruth went to work and waxed the hull while I expanded our green wire bonding to eliminate galvanic corrosion we’d discovered. We both worked on replacing bolts and washers we found with corrosion. Between work efforts we teased out the hidden charms of the tiny town up the hill. The small grocery store had Sunday New York Times, a nice selection of cut to order meats, baked goods and other goodies along with a small inventory of essentials. Amtrak stops twice a day on the Montreal to New York City run at a classic old train station located a pleasant mile walk outside of town. A couple of tiny restaurants provided opportunities to eat out, and Ruth found a unique candlestick and sandstone sphere to add to small collection of art objects from unique places in our travels.

Sunset at Westport Marina

Hospitality at Westport marina was such that we rapidly felt like we were old long time customers and more friends than customers. Larry’s efforts to take care of the tough mechanical items were superb. Dee went out of her way to make us feel welcome. Bob and I went off on search for the odd part we both suspected we’d not find. Lane found a way to fit me in to send e-mail. The marina staff took the time and effort to do a great job of prepping and painting Odyssey’s bottom. The friendliness and outstanding service took some of the pain out of the repair bill we were running up. Westport Marina is now a must stop for us when we return to Lake Champlain.

Mid April, in the Chesapeake, we attended the Tiki Bar’s start of season party. Now in mid June we joined the opening party for Westport Marina as they officially kicked off their summer boating season on a cool, rainy day. Outside Lake Champlain continued to rise with unusual early summer rains. Each day a bit more of one of the fixed docks disappeared. It was completely underwater as we left the marina and started heading north.

It wasn’t until just before we were leaving that we discovered the marina has a web cam. If you’d like to see the view out across Lake Champlain to the Vermont mountains or see if the dock is still underwater go to: http://thecam.westportmarina.com/html_only/default.html

Weather continued to be miserable as we tucked into Smuggler Harbor on Valcour Island. It’s the second top rated anchorage on Lake Champlain and again we had it to ourselves. Extremely muddy trails and a rain shower starting shortly after we went ashore discouraged us from our planned walk in the woods on this beautiful island. The next morning as we left, we discovered we’d pick well, the next harbor on the island had two boats at anchor.

All it was supposed to be was a stop to pick up mail. However, the innocent looking people lurking at the bar when we stopped in for a single drink turned out to be pirates in disguise. We found ourselves shanghaied and out partying for the evening making the rounds of Rouses Point. They weren’t all bad; however, Todd gave us one of his duplicate copies of the latest cruising guide for area, and it’s been very helpful.

Arriving at the start of the Chambly Canal at 12:40 PM we learned the canal was on restricted operation until mid June. We’d just missed the12:30 PM opening. The next opening wasn’t until 8:45 AM the next day. It was a good excuse to walk around St Jean and find a money exchange. The next day we ran the nine locks to the St Lawrence River and then kept going. A 5 mph boost in boat speed was a welcome assist as we headed for an early evening arrival at Trois Rivieres.

Ah, complications. We attempted to call ahead to a marina in Levis to make a reservation and to confirm their mailing address for a part we were having sent. Reservations were easy; the staff knew enough English to handle that. However, once we started talking about the shipment, our attempts at French and their attempts at English didn’t work. We finally went into the office, found someone more fluent in both French and English and explained to her what we needed. She called and confirmed the address and explained about the shipment.

Thoughts of being the only boat heading out the St Lawrence disappeared our first night at Trois Rivieres. On one side a couple was heading out in their sailboat to spend the summer cruising Prince Edward Island before returning back up the river against its swift current. Sharing our finger dock was a sailboat were three men taking the boat to it’s new home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We spent the evening swapping notes and now have friends to contact when we reach Nova Scotia.

Small well maintained modest homes intermixed with farmhouses and barns line both shores between Trois Rivieres and Quebec City. At regular intervals huge churches usually with twin steeples dominate the shoreline. It seemed as if churches were spaced so there was always a steeple in view somewhere along the river edge.

North wind against the outgoing tide is not fun. It was only blowing about 15 but that was enough to create short random waves of various heights. We’d bump along through a rough patch, have it die out and then build back up again due to some change in conditions. Having had a taste of what north winds cause we are looking forward to moving with the prevailing southwest winds.

Expected freighter traffic passes without concern as we worked our way down the wide well-marked channel. A fast moving hydrofoil passenger boat, a first for us, came flying by. We learned later there of five of them making regular runs between Montreal and Quebec City.

Moving 75 miles along the St Lawrence brought dramatic changes in shoreline terrain and tides. The flat shoreline gradually began to lift until at Quebec City on the north shore and Levis on the south shore bluffs cliffs several hundred feet high drop almost directly into the tidal waters. The St Lawrence is still fresh water but there is a tide. We left Trios Rivieres with a one-foot tide. At Quebec City the average tide is 12 feet and as we arrived with a full moon the tide is 16 feet.

Parc Nautique Levy in Ville de Levis directly across from Quebec City had a spot for us. Quebec City with its marina behind a lock was full because of a Quebec holiday celebration. We’d timed our arrival for low tide to run down river with the ebbing tide. Now secured at the dock we faced the long 16-foot climb up a very steep dock ramp. Inexpensive dock rates, a free daily cab ride to the ferry, historic district, or shopping center and the fourth day free may entice us to do all our exploring of Quebec City from Levis. At high tide the marina has impressive riprap walls providing secure protection from current and passing freighter wakes. As the tide goes out the true extent of these massive piles of rock becomes visible as we drop down into the protection of this rocky fortress against the elements.

Bluff at Levis

Needing exercise we elected to walk the extremely popular rails-to-trail pathway passing directly behind the marina. On a perfect summer Saturday the trail was jammed with bikers, roller bladers and us walking folk. At one entry point bikers were backed up five deep waiting for an opening to get on the trail. Eventually we found a stairway providing a shortcut to the historic area above. Stopping frequently to admire the view while screaming lungs and legs recovered we reached the top and loved the variety of extremely old homes jammed close to narrow sidewalks on narrow streets created before utilities were invented. Utility poles and fire hydrants squeezed on the sidewalk or in the street close to the curb. The view back down the bluff was dramatic. In some areas houses butted directly against the back of the bluff. Some had installed chain link fences to keep falling rocks from bounding in as uninvited houseguests.

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