June 20 and 21, 2023
The day to head East to meet Alliance finally arrives! We split into two vehicles. I drove to Port Huron to meet crew member Paul Boyce, and we crossed into Canada without incident. It was a long day of driving, past Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City – watching the St. Lawrence along the highway and seeing the beautiful landscape unfold. The distances are formidable, relieved by the beauty of Quebec and New Brunswick. We just had to stop to eat at a PKF (Poulet Frite Kentucky). Who knew the Colonel spoke French! Along the way on the 21st we received word that Alliance was becalmed in the Atlantic, and would not arrive until the 22nd. Consequently, we slowed down to appreciate the Bay of Fundy as we looped around toward Halifax, then headed to Lunenburg.
June 22, 2023
A beautiful morning in a beautiful town – Lunenburg, NS. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site the North American historic heart of the cod fishing industry. We made contact at the Adams and Knickle dock to find out where Alliance would be tying up, and then explored until the welcome sight of those three masts rounding into the harbor later that morning. Once secured to the dock, the arriving crew made quick use of the showers and laundry. The van soon departed with a few crew for the return trip to Suttons Bay, and the pickup stayed to help reprovision the boat for the next leg. Captain Ben decided that the crew could use a good night’s rest and set an early departure time for the next morning. The people in Lunenburg were fascinated to hear the story of ISEA and Alliance. Even in modern times, the folks are deeply connected to the sea, and supportive of our mission. The welcome they extended was warm and sincere – we could have stayed for days.
June 23, 2023
We began with a crew meeting at 0500, reviewing safety and setting watches. We’re fortunate to have three licensed captains on board, and enough people to set three four-person watches. The watch schedule is comfortable: 4 hours on, 8 hours off, round the clock. A helpful local cast our lines and we headed out into the Atlantic, taking time for man-overboard drills, and breakfast! We learned how to do boat checks and familiarized ourselves with Alliance. At some point, the electronics for the auto-navigation system stopped working, so the helm will be a station on every watch. Nova Scotia is sliding along our port side – sometimes hazy but always visible. We’re motoring in very light wind, if any. The smoke from forest fires that had recently swept Nova Scotia and are still wreaking havoc across much of North America does not seem to be an issue. One thing about traveling by boat, under sail or motoring, at 9 knots, the distant shoreline passes slowly. We spotted Halifax and after I took a long nap and came back on deck for the afternoon watch, Halifax was still there! Sunset at sea was gorgeous, and I was happy to hit my berth as the first stars came out.
June 24, 2023
Cape Breton Island is divided from the rest of Nova Scotia by the Strait of Canso, a fairly narrow waterway connecting the open Atlantic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Some years ago, the government built a rail and highway causeway across the strait, leaving only a canal for boat and aquatic wildlife passage. The highway crosses the canal on a low swing bridge. It is impressive to see the bridge open just in time for us to pass by, and to begin to close before we’re completely clear: a look at lines of traffic waiting to cross shows the importance of quick work. Then a flood gate built to control tidal surge opens and we pass through the first lock of the transit.
Captain Ben has decided that winds favor passing East of Prince Edward Island. As the winds built, we raised the sails for the first time and headed the boat almost due North.
June 25, 2023
This is a dream. The motor is off and we are fizzing along under full sail across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The wind is almost perfect for making good time and Alliance truly feels to be in her element. Skies are clear, waves are 2 – 3 meters from the NNE and the wind is strong and steady. The water passing the hull makes a hissing sound, no pounding, no chop. I wondered if this is due to the salt, but I’m deciding it’s just a function of cutting through smooth swells, something we never really experience in the Great Lakes. When we need to tack, the bowsprit dives completely into the oncoming wave, and I think I’m going to get really wet minding the jib sheets. No, Alliance’s bow splits the waves and tosses them aside and barely a drop comes aboard!We sail completely out of sight of land for hours and eventually raise the Gaspe to port and Anticosti Island to starboard. We’re entering the St. Lawrence.
June 26, 2023
We’re still sailing, but here in the St. Lawrence we are working against the tide, the wind, and the mighty river currents. With help from the motor, our sails are still winning and we are making headway towards Quebec City, though we’re having to work for it. This river is wide! It’s almost the width of Lake Erie, and the water is moving right along. The strong wind from astern is raising chop – it feels like a windy day on Lake Michigan. It’s cloudy, chilly, rainy, and beautiful. The towns on shore dot the rich rolling farmland, rising to the ancient Appalachian mountains and forests beyond. Each town has a tall steeple, each island a small lighthouse, and the radio traffic is all in French. It’s been raining and full foul weather gear feels great. I find that I like the 0400 – 0800 watch: it’s fully dark at the beginning and fully light by breakfast time. Some crew members aren’t crazy about standing bow watch, but I enjoy the quiet peace of it, watching the shore slip by and thinking how lucky I am to be seeing all of this from the water.
June 27, 28, 29, 2023
We pass the beautiful old city of Quebec. Here, the river narrows considerably, and we begin to motor. The land along the river flattens out and the villages all seem more like vacation spots. There are plenty of farms and industrial sites and more and more concentrated marine traffic. It takes a fair bit of attention at the helm to stick to the proper channels and to decipher the lights on shore and the water. After the days under sail, this frankly feels like work. The engine seems to want to overheat a bit, so we are keeping the speed down and watching the gauges.
We make Montreal late at night on the 28th. Montreal is Canada’s major Eastern port, and both shorelines are completely industrialized. The last kilometer is exciting as the river current is extremely strong, and the channel is very narrow. The final kilometer takes Captain Ben almost an hour of skillful driving against the swirling current. Quebec Traffic directs us to a huge dock in a quiet channel near the Old Port and all hands are relieved to tie up for the night.
The next morning, we begin to have a look around the port.
Friendly employees help us refill with potable water, and Captain Ben makes arrangements to refuel. Jeannie arrives in advance of the rest of the crew and begins working with Chef Ben to restock the galley for the remainder of the trip. All of the current crew clear the berths for the incoming crew and disperse across Montreal – we’ll hit the road early tomorrow morning and drive West through smoky skies en route to Suttons Bay.
This blog post was written by ISEA Volunteer Crew Member, Phil Diller about the experiences aboard Schooner Alliance during leg 2 of the transit from Maryland to Suttons Bay. If you would like to contribute a blog post to Inland Seas please contact email@example.com.
This blog is provided on behalf of Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA). ISEA’s mission is to inspire a lifetime of Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship, and passion in people of all ages. We do this through hands-on educational programs based on our schooners or in our local watershed. To learn more about ISEA please visit scholarship.org.