Entering the St. Lawrence River

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6 November 2013

After leaving our last anchorage at St. Barbe, Newfoundland, we’re on our way to the entrance of the St. Lawrence River. Conditions are good — north and west winds are less than 50 km/hour. The sun’s been with us so far, even if it’s cloudy at the moment. Quebec is only 400 nautical miles ahead of us.

After St. Barbe, the crew quickly hoisted the sails and we progressed at a quick pace for 24 hours with transverse northerly winds. But as predicted from the weather forecasts, the wind eased up and changed to the west, and we had to start the 2 engines to move forward facing the wind.

At the moment we are still under motor and have entered the Jacques Cartier Strait, between Anticosti Island and Quebec Province. As we continue along these coasts, many names are French: le Havre-Saint Pierre, la Pointe Paradis, la Rivière St. Jean, Sept-Îles (another nod to Brittany).

Only when we’ve passed Anticosti Island will we have truly entered the great river. Following in the footsteps of Jacques Cartier, who first named this great watercourse during his second trip (believing it to be the mouth of a gulf) is quite exhilarating. A dive into our past.

But let’s render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s: it was Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City in 1604, who finally — after “Rivière de Canadas” and then “Grande Rivière de Saint Laurent” — chose the definitive name, “fleuve St. Laurent.” By then the exact topography of the region was known.

Once we’re at the entrance of the river, which leads to the Great Lakes region, we’ll be in a tidal system among the world’s most active, with the Bay of Fundy further south. The tides can exceed 6 meters, the currents are strong and multi-directional, and there are many high sea beds. In winter, there’s even ice mixed into this cocktail.
Navigation is therefore not a simple excursion along the coast. Martin Hertau, our captain, will be accompanied by an obligatory pilot starting next Saturday for the journey to Quebec. 

In the coming hours we’ll perhaps anchor in Saint Pancras Cove, a last stop before our destination. On the way, we’ll be following other aspects of our history, such as Tadoussac ; Jacques Cartier first anchored there in 1535, followed by Champlain in 1603, who briefly dreamed ; of establishing the first colony in “New France”, before finally opting for Quebec. Tadoussac, known as the oldest town in Quebec Province, celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2001.

Vincent Hilaire