A Krogen Experience
Locks in Quebec
The flight of three locks at the northern entrance to the Chambly Canal in Quebec is designed so that when you leave the first lock you enter the second and when you leave the second you enter the third.
We had been cruising the last couple of days in very loose company with Al and Susan on “Twocan” a Krogen 42. The locks were not big enough for both boats so we had to wait until Twocan went through all three locks and the waiting northbound boats were then brought down to the basin.
After about an hour, they were ready for us and we crept into the 22′ wide lock. With our 19′ beam plus fenders, it’s a very tight fit. Staci ran all over the boat spotting our location while I steered from the wing-station. About 50 tourists watched the proceedings from just a few feet away. The water was raised, the front gates were opened and we moved into the next lock. The process was repeated for the third lock.
Just above the third lock, we tied up on the lock wall next to Twocan. We were hot and sweaty and glad we beat the forecasted severe thunderstorms. Of course the next order of business was drinks. The four of us then headed out to dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant that we had been to before. We were not disappointed. The food and company were excellent.
The next morning, Al and Susan took off while we plan on staying another day to visit the hardware and grocery stores. We’ll probably catch up with them in Burlington.
As Twocan departed, one of the employees from Parks Canada came over. It was Benoît, the lockmaster we first met in 2004 and then again in 2007. He always remembers our boat because of the massive size relative to the locks. We talked to him for about 20 minutes and learned that he is in his 32nd year working on the canal. With no plans to retire, we all agreed that we would meet again the next time through. He wants to ride through “his” locks on a big Krogen!
Our second day in Chambly involved walking all over town looking for a hardware store. Sadly, we seemed to be walking in the wrong direction. French had nothing to do with it as we got our directions from Al on Twocan. Apparently when he said “Turn left”, I processed that as “Be sure and go right and don’t even think about going left.” We did get to see a part of town that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Of particular interest was the visit to the funeral home that had a “Chambre de Commerce” sign on the front of the building. The only directions they were serving up were “Get your life in order”.
We left Chambly and made our way down the 10-mile Chambly Canal. With locks spaced every few tenths of a mile, there is really no chance to relax. The locks, combined with the very narrow stretches also mean little chance for sightseeing.
The lockmasters are well aware of the boats in transit and will occasionally ask a northbound boat to wait in a wider spot while a really fat southbound boat (us) eases its way past. That works fine if the northbound captain does what he is told. As we approached a very narrow area, a Sea-Ray was advancing in front of us contrary to instructions from the lock. With rocks lining the channel on both sides, I refused to give up the centerline. The Sea-Ray did make it by with just inches to spare and we discovered that Canadians also use some familiar American hand gestures.
As we approached one of the last bridges on the canal, we got a radio call from Benoît, our lockmaster friend. He was working the bridge that day and told us that he had lost our boat card. He asked if we could we slow down while we transited the bridge and hand him another. This seemed like an incredibly brilliant idea. Still, we thought we’d give it a try.
We watched as he opened the bridge, climbed over the rail, lashed himself to the bridge structure, and leaned way out as we idled by. I have no idea what the occupants of the waiting cars were thinking but I’m sure some surmised that drugs were involved.
We arrived in St. Jean and tied up on the town wall. St. Jean is very different from Chambly. It seems much more industrial and is struggling to keep the downtown area vital. Many stores/restaurant were boarded up. There were some signs of renovation and certainly the town dock is very nice, new and convenient. We hope that their rejuvenation efforts are successful.
From St. Jean we headed for Burlington, VT. The cruise continues up the Richelieu River into the mouth of Lake Champlain. We were held up briefly by maintenance work on one of the cross-river bridges but soon found ourselves back in the U.S. Our first stop was the new U.S. Customs dock near Rouses Point.
It used to be that you would have to go into a marina to clear customs. The marinas typically charged up to $50 even if you were only staying long enough to clear in. Several years ago, Customs built their own dock where check-in is free (unless you are caught smuggling). We tied up and then went up to a “tent” where the paperwork was completed. While we were dealing with that, one heavily armed agent got on the boat and snooped around for a while. Soon we were back underway.
As we were about 10 miles from Burlington, a thunderstorm that we had been tracking on our weather radar caught up with us. With our mast back down on the deck, we had no wind instrument. We guessed it must have blown a sustained 30 knots for about 15 minutes with torrential rain and, fortunately, not too much lightning. At one point, we altered course toward the New York side of the lake so we could get on the backside of the storm cell.
Before long, the clouds were breaking up and we turned toward Burlington.
The Boat House marina is right downtown and an easy (mostly) walk to all kinds of stores and restaurants. Twocan was here, as were Don and Cheryl from Dawn Treader, another Krogen 42.
We explored downtown, had some great and not-so-great meals, went wine shopping, hit a bookstore and were entertained by “O.A.R.”, a popular band from Rockville, MD, that was performing in the park right next to our boat. No $30 tickets for us!
We waited in Lake Champlain for what was forecasted to be a daylong rain event with torrential downpours. Anytime this happens, we get a little nervous about the water levels on the Champlain Canal. We need almost 17 feet of bridge clearance to get through. If the water gets too high…well, we don’t even want to think about that.
Bill & Staci McLauchlan