This was a story written by the 2nd owner of our ketch, Pierre Charbonneau, in the early 70s. He sent it to me as a result of the contact we made through the thread on the Designs page.(It's copyrighted, used by permission.) To recap, it concerns this boat...
Equipped with this provision...
Jacques Cartier sails again.
Act one------scene one.
Date, January 17 ,20:00 hr. Temperature outside, minus 25 C. Man sitting in front of fireplace reading the latest catalogue of International Boating Industries, small puffs of cumulus rising from pipe… Phone rings
-May I speak to Capt. Pierre Please.?
-If you are selling anything but boating electronics we don’t want any.
-Pierre it’s me Jocelyne;
--Oh hello Jocelyne, how are things?
-Good, How would you like to charter your boat for a week with you as Captain?-
-Love to…but there is a small problem;
-Yes it’s covered with 6 feet of snow and I’m number 7 in line for launching.
-Not now nitwit in June.
-Oh…OK, what’s the deal?
-Well, this year Air Canada is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary of the French-Québec liaison and we think the best way to do that is to re-live Jacques Cartier’s voyage from Québec to Montreal, arriving in Montreal to open Man and his World’s new season.
-Sounds like a hell of a good party
-Not so fast, let me finish.
-Oh..there ‘s a catch-
-Well, since Jacques Cartier sailed from St. Malo, we are inviting we are inviting the mayor of St Malo
and his wife as VIP on the cruise.
-Great they are all great sailors in St. Malo.
-I should think so…Then it’s all set with you. I can make final preparations with the Mayor and the Company. We have to be in Québec on the 7 th of June. Will you be ready? When do you want to leave Montreal and how much will it cost ?
-Let’s see now…3 days to Québec, one day there, 3 days back and nothing for the charter.
-Nothing, just expenses. You stock the ship and there should be enough booze left over to last us the rest of the season.
-ALL SEASON…The way the rum flows on that boat of yours Air Canada can’t afford that. How about a flat fee of $ 5000.00 for the week?
-Nonsense, I wouldn’t dream of charging for the charter …Just stock the boat. We’ll keep the left over.
-Oh, all right, let’s not argue…How do you want the rum….bottles or gallons?
April first, 14:00 hr, outside temperature + 15 C, sun shining.
Busy boatyard background noise of paint brushes, can lids, bottles and glasses. Man sitting on deck in paint covered overalls with big grin and glass in hand.
KNOCK-KNOCK …under the hull
-Whatever you’re selling we don’t want any.
-Pierre it’s me Jocelyn…
-Oh Hi..come on up and have a drink..
-Have a drink….Have a drink, is that all you do is have a drink? Don’t you think maybe you should work. Did you forget the first of June ? that’s a month and a half from now. There is nothing done, you’re still number 16 to launch,..No paint no varnish..We don’t want to charter an unpainted , unvarnished barge. We want this boat to look at it’s best . Can’t you get that through your head pp-1
-Relax…Have a rum, you’re paying for it. There’s lots of time.
May 23rd, 15:00 Hr. temperature outside 20C. Sun shining.
Busy ship, background noise of sandwiches, varnish brushes and glasses.
KNOCK…KNOCK- under the hull
-Permission to come aboard Sir ?
-Jocelyne, my love, how are you? Come aboard, have a drink.
-Have a what?…Oh, never mind, give me a rum, I’m paying for it.
-That’s my girl, how are things?
-Well, I’ve got the whole story now, I’ve been on the phone with St Malo all week and guess what?
-Let’s see now… Air Canada has decided to use a 747 instead of La Deferlante…
-Oh be serious…
-OK, let’s have it. (more glass noise)
-To start with, the Mayor of St Malo wants to plant a tree to celebrate the event.
-Not on my boat, he wont …
-Not on your boat, silly, in Quebec
-There are a few things I should mention. First it’s not only going to be the Mayor and his wife… there will be Monsieur Albert, the Editor of West-France, Pedro, a reporter from The Montreal Star who will cover the event and the Mayor’s own Cineastre…
-The Mayor’s own WHO?
-You know the guy who takes pictures, movies and so on.
-OK who else?
-Me, your wife Lise and I guess you need some crew. Chose him carefully, you can only have one.-Only one…for a whole week.
-Not a full week, only three days, the trip from Quebec to Montreal. To go up to Quebec, you do what you want. I’ll meet you in Quebec.
-Hum… three days …OK, I’ll pick Robert, he’s pretty good and he’s been up and down that river many times.
-Something else I almost forgot…None of these people has ever been on as much as a row boat .
-What…we are going to spend three days on dangerous tide-ridden , wind driven high seas navigation with five elephants-land-lubbers who have never set foot on a boat…
-But they are all very exited about the whole thing.
-Very well then…But tell Air Canada to put air sickness bags on the list…lots of them…Remember Lac St. Pierre. ( Big glass noise)
May 31st , 18:00 hours, temperature outside ,54’ F. cloudy, slight east wind, barometer falling steadily trough 29.81 hg.
-Quick…Give me a drink…This thing will never be ready…What have you been doing?
-What do you mean, we are ready…departure at 05:00 hr in the morning as planned. We only have a few things left to do.
Like getting the blankets, sheets, pillows from the house. The food is in the car. We also have to fuel- up,..fix a small problem with the engine, repair the bilge pump, sew a seam in the genny…I forgot last fall. Oh, yes we need a seaway pass and ship’s papers. Buddy and Gerry will be here after their midnight shift.. pp-2
-Give me another drink…
That’s about it, how about you, everything OK. Lise and you sure have prepared a lovely menu for this trip. Now, let’s see …we load all this stuff on board…but let’s have a drink first.
-OH NO WE DON’T…..LOAD
-OK…OK…Sure don’t like the look of that weather. What do you think, Lise, you’re a pretty good forecaster?
-I want a drink too…
-Don’t like the sound of that…
Jocelyne is worried, Jean, her husband is late. He is , after all, the first mate for the trip down
22:00 hr., barometer 29.79 hg and falling, wind east at 15, dirty sunset. Jean is nowhere to be found. The engine is not fixed, the bilge pump is still on the fritz. Lise is gone home to get the last load.
23:30 hr. might as well have a drink.
00:30. Buddy and Gerry arrive with extra rum and a big pot of stew, tomorrow’s dinner.
01:00 hr. pitch dark, no stars, barometer, 29.76 hg , still falling.
01:30 hr, engine fixed, bilge pump fixed. Delicate swaying of the ship, gentle steps on rooftop, bare feet appear in the companionway.
-Jean…here you are…where are your shoes?
-Never wear them…bad for decks-Now there is a man after my own hearth. Have a drink.
In comes Lise with the last load.
-01:35 hr, well that about does it, we’re ready..let’s go to bed, remember, 05:00 hr is pretty early.
Cabin pitch dark…background noise of barometer falling…falling…falling.
03:00 hr…zzzzzzzzzzzz barometer 29.74 hg.
04:00 hr…zzzzzzzzzzzz barometer 29.73 hg.
07:00 hr…zzzzzzzzzzzz barometer 29.71.hg. wind east, north east gusting to 25 knots, light rain.
09:00 hr. zzzz…Ha…He…wake up , it’s 9 o’clock, we’re late…quick somebody put the coffee pot on.
-who said that..we are still at the dock …never mind the funny stuff…we’ll miss the Trois-Rivières tide
-But, but…that’s 2 days away and I’m hungry.
-OK we’ll have breakfast first, I’m the expert at breakfast, I’ll do that. But first, Jean get to work on the genny, we forgot last night.
Lise comes out of the forward cabin looking as fresh as a daisy.
-It’s true, she says, Pierre is an excellent breakfast cook
-How do you like your eggs?
-Light poach, bacon crisp.
-I want mine light and over.
-Mine sunny side up.
-I don’t like eggs, I want pancakes.
-Scramble for everybody…bacon the way it comes out..
13:00 hr. Temperature outside 49f. Steady downpour, wind east north east 25 to 30 knots, right on the nose…barometer, 29.68 hg, steady at last.
-Cast off bow lines…stern lines, spring lines…Little Bertha (that’s the engine, a little 25 hp inboard gasoline engine) is purring like a kitten. A multitude of foul weather geared crew members are frantically releasing all lines as the engine is smartly put into reverse.
-Captain there is a snake following us…
-A what…Oh NO, shore power cord, must disconnect…quick …too late…our 100 ft extension cord is now 120…140…150…SNAP.
Background noise of cash register in captain’s head .
-Cheer up Captain… it’s bound to get better…How about a drink?
Outside the harbor she’s blowing and pouring hard. Bow into wind all sails are smartly hoisted and “La Déferlante” takes on about 14 degrees of heel on a broad reach for a while and she swiftly accelerates to a comfortable 9 knots. A beautiful, fast, but wet passage directly across from Dorval. There is no need to follow the channel to the seaway, the water is high.
As we turn into the Seaway , of course we have the wind and rain dead-on. Sails are lowered and it’s 6 knots under power to the first bridge…Nice and calm in here
Three blows on the horn for the bridge to open…nothing…three more blows, still nothing. Half an hour later, a locomotive and caboose slowly crawl across the bridge,. The engineer waves at us…
-GO SOAK YOUR HEAD…
Finally we get through and again it’s six knots to the first lock.
We must dock here and report to the lock Master on the pleasure boat phone.
-La Déferlante to go through, Sir.
-You’re 6 hours late… We have been expecting you since 06:30…Where have you been?
-Very rough out there, long difficult crossing, bad weather and all that.
-Eight hours to come from Dorval…OK…One Canada steamship line coming up, you’re next.
A great mass of steel slowly appears out of the lock shining with rain. In goes “La Déferlante”…her crew is splendid…all ready with lines and fenders. She smartly nudges along the great slippery slimy wall.. All is well, we might as well have a drink. The Captain dives into the hatch towards the rum storage…must not loose time, the descent is starting. Faint voice from topside…”I’m seasick”
-Who said that?…How do you expect to get across great Lac St. Pierre if you’re seasick in the locks.
-On Lac St. Pierre you don’t go up and down 80 ft.
Main floor, the doors slowly open and little Bertha pushes gently forward…All is well.
Six knots to the next lock. The rain has stopped and partial clearing is taking place. The barometer is steady. The doors are open and we move right into the locks.. Nice routine descent. We wave at the lock Master and away we go into the channel towards the Montreal harbor.
The sky is now deadly black…There are thunderstorms all around us , lightning flashes blinding us in reduced visibility…This must be the cold front passage. We can expect a severe squall and wind shift anytime now…Here it is the wind shifts to the north west at 20 knots….30…..40….the anemometer is going wild…50…55…the sea is boiling with spray and foam.
-HEY …WATCH OUT FOR THAT RUSSIAN FREIGHTER…
-OK…I see it…
-Not that one…the one behind you. The rain is blinding as I turn around…Sure enough… not one but two Russian freighters…We couldn’t possibly be that far off-course after only a half an hour run…Must be a coincidence. I watch the two monsters go by…One to port, one to starboard. La Deferlante is trying to maintain her heading, little Bertha is giving all she’s got…Good girl.
At last the storm dies and all is quiet again.
-I forgot, I was too excited.
-Let’s have a drink.
The wind is now north west at 20 with gusts. We might as well use it. Up all the sails, little Bertha, very tired goes to sleep. La Déferlante takes on about 25 degrees of heel and smartly reaches eight knots, gliding on the oily water of the Montreal harbor. Pp-4
The 4 knots current is giving us a total of 10 knots groundspeed. Montreal slowly stays behind as we move towards Québec. Life is beautiful and peaceful as we enter the small craft channel below Pointe-aux-Trembles.
21:00, it’s dark and cold, time to lower the anchor for the night. Tomorrow we meet again with the steamer channel. We may as well sleep here and save us the rolling of passing ships. Stew and wine have never tasted so good. The cabin is warm with the glow of the oil lamp. The gas stove maintains a comfortable temperature of 70 degrees. Eyes are slowly getting smaller and conversation is down to an occasional whisper. I guess it’s time to hit the sack.
All of a sudden Buddy is wide awake and excited.
-I’ll take the first anchor watch, he says.
-You’ll what?… there is no anchor watch…go to bed, nothing can happen to us in here. We are protected on all sides from the weather and we have more than 40 fathoms of chain in two fathoms of water and the anchor is holding in solid clay, nothing can happen to us here.
Poor Buddy …he is trying to hold back the tears, he was looking forward to that anchor watch so much. I didn’t know…I should have left him on deck all night, too late now.
07:00, the crew is awake before the captain and put the coffee pot on. When ready, Gerry, very proud of himself wakes up the Captain, presenting him with a nice cup of hot brew-Here you are Sir, hot coffee.
-It’s 07:00 hr Captain, time to go.
-oh…….OK…..Give me a cigarette.
-Here you are Sir.
-WHO THE HELL LEFT THE LIGHT IN THE HEAD ALL NIGHT/
-NOT….ME……..NOT ME…..as he backs off to a safe distance muttering “boy what a grouch”
As we raise the hook at 07:30 hr. the wind is north west at 15 knots. The cold is biting. Why is the barometer not rising?…
08:00 hr. Everybody’s choice of scramble eggs while underway. There is a 10 degrees heel to starboard which keeps the whole mess on the stove.
09:00 hr. The wind is now calm and we are drifting down with the current. The water in this part of the river is dirty, slimy, oily garbage green. An occasional dead rat flows by…There is no sense drifting any more than we have to in this sewer. “Wake up little Bertha”
12:00 hr. the wind has picked up from the north east at fifteen…dead on the nose. This is getting to be a habit. The temperature is forty-six degrees with an overcast cold looking sky of cirrostratus and lower stratus to the west. The barometer has resumed a downward trend. This doesn’t make much sense unless it’s one of those double barrel weather system with several fronts. We may be in for a bad time.
As we approach Sorel the wind has picked up to 30 to 35 knots and the rain has started to fall again. It’s so cold the rum has no effect
With this wind , good old Lac St. Pierre is going to be a mess. The wind and waves will be right on the nose. There is no sense tacking, we will have to motor across. I am thinking to myself “someday I’ll sail across this stupid lake in good weather.
A mess is hardly the word for it. As we round out the last island giving us shelter the wind is now 35 with gusts to 42 , the lake is furious. In spray and foam La Deferlante buries her bow under each wave. Little Bertha , throttle down to cruising revolutions , is doing her best.
Lise pokes her head trough the hatch.
-How long is this nonsense going to last?
-Well with the wind and waves stopping us, we are making about one knot ground speed, we have 35 miles of lake…I would say about 30 hours.
-About WHAT? Pp-5
She’s gone…down below she pours herself a double scotch, takes two valiums and disappears in the forward cabin, shouting “WAKE ME UP IN TROIS RIVIERES.
-It’s going to be a long cold wet crossing so we better organize shifts. Buddy and I will take the first watch. Jean and Gerry go to sleep below, I’ll call you in four hours.
The weather is bloody miserable. The rain is coming down in buckets, most of it is seeping inside our foul weather gear, sending shivers down our spine …Why did I leave home.
Little Bertha is consuming her one gallon of fuel per hour…So are we almost.
Around the bend by the old rock pile, our heading shifts to the east, enough that waves are no longer dead on . Our ground speed improves to 3 knots, that’s good news.
18:00 hr. the rain is still falling heavily, the wind however has somewhat abated and shifted a few degrees north, not enough to sail, but enough to give us better sea conditions . No more burying the bow or pounding. Thank God my fillings could not take much more of that. Our ground speed is now close to 5 knots .
Jean has been at the helm for 3 hours, clad only in his bathing suit, bare feet, his rain jacket opened at the neck…How can he stand it…46 degrees…
20:00 hr. The rain has stopped, the wind has shifted to full north at 15 knots and the barometer has started to rise …At last.
_All hands on deck, approaching Trois-Rivières .
21:00 hr. all motion has stopped. Little Bertha, exhausted has gone to sleep. Good girl…she’s earned it.
We have a tremendous reception at the yacht club, invitation to a hot shower, sauna, dip in the indoor pool, life is worth living all over again.
22:00 hr, now for a hot spaghetti, piece de résistance prepared by Lise . A word of advice to cruising sailors , if you plan spaghetti on the menu, don’t forget “the passoire”it pours very funny out of a tea kettle …
23:45 hr. …Knock…knock….Anybody home?…
-We are the boat ahead of you on the main dock. We were wondering when you plan to leave for Québec in the morning. We are going to motor up, leaving at 06:00 hr. would you care to join us? We have come all the way from Florida and going home again. Our experience with difficult waters and tides may be of some help to you.
-Thanks just the same. We are leaving at 08:00 hr and plan to sail to Québec. The wind should be favorable. We should hit the Richelieu rapids with the outgoing tide at 16:00 hr.
-You’ll never make it.
-GOOD NIGHT….zzzzz…the very idea….zzzzz..motor to Québec…zzzzz.Why doesn’t he buy a motor boat….zzzzzzzzz.
08:00 hr. The sky is clear, the wind is NW 15 to 20, the temperature and the barometer are rising as La Déferlante is raising sails towards Québec.
All flutters cease as we take a heel angle of about 25 degrees to starboard. With the help of the outgoing tide we make good time past the difficult channel north of the long reef. The wind is now steady force five with higher gusts. La Déferlante is eating knots at the rate of 8 to 9 and occasionally 10 knots
We had decided to ration drinking to one glass of rum every 5 miles…Keep your speed up, Baby, at this rate we shall be all dead drunk by Cap Rouge.
The Richelieu rapid is right on schedule . The tide is going down full bore at 10 knots plus our 8 knots under sail. In case of potential trouble we are keeping Bertha at idle ready to go to work. The shore is going by us at 18 knots plus..WOW what a ride. In a moment it’s all over and we are around the bend in calmer water…but still going like a wild horse, rail under.
Sure enough…our experienced nocturnal visitors are slowly motoring towards Québec .
There is no greater feeling in life than sailing by a motoring sailboat. So we did, real close, so they could see the silly grin in our face.
20:00 hr. The tide is reversing as we approach the Québec bridge . It had been slack since Donacona. Who cares we are still doing 8 knots.
We approach the bridge…half of the lifeline under the green water, 35 degrees of bank to starboard, the whole rigging straining in C minor. What a way to live. They can keep their dirty highways and downtown candlelight restaurants.
21:00 hr. The rail is under right to the entrance of the Québec yacht club …1000 ft to go…
-STAND BY TO LOWER….NOW.
Once again our splendid crew lowers and furls everything in 43 seconds flat.
Into the harbor we come under the amazed eyes of all the shore bystanders. They had supervised the whole operation…They always do, hoping to see the red face of a very experienced , snobbish Sunday sailor make an idiot of himself...It happens...not only to Sunday, snobbish sailors but to the best of us, sometimes.
-Very well done, crew.
On the main dock a well dressed gentleman waves at us frantically , shouting something like “La place d’honneur, Monsieur, la place d’honneur…par ici.
OK, la place d’honneur is as good as any I suppose.
Splendid docking, the crew was magnificent , as La Déferlante reaches her half destination..Québec.
-LET’S HAVE DRINK….
END OF PART ONE.