The Spinnaker Sheet Blog

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Boundless Atlantic Crossing

Boundless Atlantic Crossing 2018/2019

My cousin Neil is the CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank. In that capacity he deals with the Mayor of Toronto John Tory, who, in a video message wishes us well, and lets Marty and I know, tounge firmly in cheek,  that he would be most understanding if we ditched Neil over the side.



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After breakfast Alan departs for Toronto by bus and Marty and I head to a grocery store to stock up on food. With supplies stowed away we prepare to depart only to discover that the engine stop cable is misbehaving. Half an hour of messing about with the cable we get it working again and we are on our way. With the 5 knot current heading down river is a lot faster then heading up. We stop at a marina down river and top up the diesel tank then head back out into the St. Lawrence. There’s a light wind behind dead behind us and by mid afternoon we’re making 6.5 knots over the ground.


 Leaving Montreal with the wind at our backs

Marty and I sail on as the wind continues to build through the night. The approach to Trois-Rivières includes Lac Saint-Pierre which, in the dark, offers some excitement: the lake is shallow and you have to stay in the seaway channel. We’re sailing under full main and the staysail and are a little overpowered and while most of the markers are lit, one or two are not. It’s a moonless night and the wind and waves continue to build as we head across the lake to Trois-Rivières. Trois-Rivières is frenetic with lots of freighter traffic and a cruise ship all of which is passing under a massive bridge that has multiple lanes. I pick a lane with a green light and press on.
There's lots of freighter traffic as we head to Quebec City 

We sail on through the night and the dawn brings blue skies and a pleasant breeze. There is lots of freighter traffic as we get closer to Quebec City but we’re making good time. All is well until Marty comes down below to make some breakfast. There’s no one in the cockpit as I’d just come off my shift but the auto pilot is performing brilliantly. Five or so minutes later there is a massive bang: while on auto pilot we have collided with marker Q42. We both run up top to discover the pulpit has been bent with its front two stanchions ripped out of the deck. Other then the pulpit there doesn't appear to be any other damage and we’re not taking on water so we carry on to Quebec City.

We arrive at Quebec Yacht Club and after tying up we get to take a closer look at the damage. Not only is the pulpit bent and ripped out of the deck, there’s a massive dent in the bow and another dent on the port side closer to the water line. I'm still in shock and not entirely sure how to proceed: can we continue or should we stop and get the boat repaired? These are questions I grapple with through a rather sleepless night.

The pulpit after our collision with a St. Lawrence Seaway mark
The ding on the port side


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An early start and a day of “hurry up and wait”. The seaway’s season for pleasure craft is ending in a week and we are definitely not a priority. We get through Kahnawake bridge  in the morning and arrive at the final Lock at St Lambert by mid afternoon and are told that we will be waiting for the Empress of Canada. She shows up an hour and a half later and we proceed through the lock together. We’re now almost at old Montreal. We just have to go down the rest of Canal Sud and under the Jacque Cartier bridge. All is fine until we make the turn to go back upriver. The current here is running at 4 to 5 knots and with the engine flat out we’re making 1.2 knots over the ground. The cruising guide says to stay to the north side of the river so I guide Boundless over to the north shore. With the engine flat out I’m looking over at a massive wall that freighters tie up to and we are barely making any progress. But after 10 minutes or so with the engine maxed out our speed starts to pick up slightly .1 of a knot then .2. Marty Cameron is there to greet us when we eventually make it to the marina.


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 Kahnawake bridge


The lift bridges in the Montreal area are a PITA (pain in the ass). They don’t respond to our hails on the radio and the signage regarding the bridge schedule in one case was just plain wrong.


We arrive at Valleyfield bridge just as a freighter has gone through. Half an hour later two commercial boats come upbound but still no green light for us.  I then notice a sign saying that the next lift is at 1600. We decide to anchor as it appears we are going to be waiting all day. An hour later the tug that went upbound earlier comes back through but we can’t get the anchor up in time and miss the lift. So it’s back to waiting at anchor. Then at 1100 a siren goes off, green lights are flashing but we’re still at anchor! We take the anchor chain up as quickly as we can and then race for the bridge and make the lift. We proceed down the seaway through a couple of locks and bridges and arrive at the Kahnawake bridge. What little scheduling information I can find online seems to suggest that bridges don’t lift for pleasure boats during rush hour. There’s no response over the radio so we decide to call it a day and go back up river ½ a mile and tie up to a public dock for the night.

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My friend Alan Dalquen joins us in Cornwall and Ann heads back to Toronto. Alan and I depart Cornwall mid day. What little wind we have is on the nose so it’s an all day motor. After our grounding the previous day I’ve had a “come to Jesus” moment navigationally: I now have a route in the chart plotter. However when I eventually decide to turn on the auto pilot it wants to do a 180 degree turn and head back to the first way point outside the entrance to Cornwall marina. We eventually end up following the route manually by advancing one waypoint at a time. Again not elegant but it works.

Valleyfield Marina
 Valleyfield Marina


We arrive at Valleyfield marina just before 5. The fuel dock is closed so we tie up and wait for them to open in the morning. A very friendly night watchmen comes by later in the evening and we explain that we’re just waiting for fuel. In broken English he tells us that’s fine and would I like some fresh tomatoes? At which point he pulls out a baggy full of fresh cherry tomatoes straight from his garden.  We gladly accept his offer.

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