Thursday, June 28, 2012

Through the St Lawrence Seaway

After three days in Montreal, we left yesterday morning from the marina in Old Montreal. The marina is a little more than a mile past the entrance to the seaway so we had to backtrack a little bit. Unlike our arrival, the currents were behind us and we made up to 10 knots over the short distance.

After we turned into the canal that starts the seaway, we could see the first lock only a couple of miles off. The seaway is controled by the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, and they put out a booklet entitled "The St Lawrence Seaway Pleasure Craft Guide". We had downloaded a copy from their web site before leaving home. The book details all the procedures to follow in the seaway.

As we entered the canal a large container ship was just leaving the first lock so we had to move well over to the side while he passed. Just before each lock there is a small floating dock. Pleasure craft are to tie up to this dock and wait for clearance. Priority is always given to commercial shipping through the seaway, so small craft usually have to wait.

At these docks, there is a ticket dispenser where you can buy a lock ticket and a phone with a direct line to the lockmaster. At $25 per lock, they are not cheap. So we bought our ticket and called, and were told the wait would be about 15 mins.

Also at the lock were a couple headng back to Ottawa after a year on their boat in the Carribean. We had a bit of a chat with them since they were quite used to passing through the seaway locks.

Once we got the green light to enter, we followed the other boat into the locks. Once you get to the head of the lock, the staff drop long lines down to you that are tied off at the top of the lock. As the water level rises, you keep tightening the line on your end to hold yourself as stationary as possible. The lock is huge and it rises very quickly - probably 5 mins for millions of gallons of water to move in. The water gets turbulent and buffets the boat a bit. Although we had 5 fenders out, we still had to push away from the wall sometimes because we would twist in the water.

Once we rose to the top, we just handed them our ticket and the line, and away we went.

Then repeated the process three more times. At the second lock, when we arrived the green light ws already on. According to the book we had to stop and buy a ticket, so we did so. But the other boat just went straight in. While we were buying our ticket, they started the raising process so we missed our chance and had to wait over an hour. When we finally got through we asked the staff and they told us they also accept cash directly at the lock. So we would have saved orselves over an hour if we had gone into the lock.

We also had to deal with a three lift bridges yesterday. Unlike the bridges in the Maritimes, we didn't have call to request an opening - they open them automatically for you when they see you coming. The one delay we had was at St Louis, were we arrived at 5:15 pm. I guess they don't open the bridge during rush hour, so we had to wait until 6, when they finally opened for us.

Just after the third bridge, we came to Salaberry de Valleyfield, about a half hour off the main channel. We pulled in there and anchored in the harbour for the night. As we were going around the harbour to find a good spot to anchor, the depth was varying wildly, going from 15 feet down to 5 feet in seconds. The next morning I realized why - there are lot of weeds all over the bottom giving false readings. Our anchor was so caked with mud and weeds, it took almost a half hour to clean it off.

Today we will go through at least two more locks, and hopefully the remaining three locks in the seaway if all goes well.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

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