|On my way in the predawn morning|
I was up at 05:00 on the morning of my departure. My boat to Quebec City was slated to leave at 07:30, but I knew I wanted to get there early so as to be one of the first in line. I was concerned about how my bicycle would be handled and I was sure I wanted to get a good seat!
Sheryl got up with me in the early, just-after-dawn darkness, to prepare me a nice breakfast while I got everything ready. I had prepared my gear and packed up my bicycle the day before. After a parting photo out front, I was on my way at 06:00.
I set off in the cool early morning, taking my usual route to the Old Port: Along the deMaisonneuve Bike Trail to Decarie, over to St. Jacques, down the hill to St. Henri, across St. Henri to the Lachine Canal, and finally east along the Canal. When I reached the dock at the Old Port at 06:45, I was the only one there.
|Montreal from the Old Port just after dawn|
The hydrofoil was docked at the quay, but it was quite deserted. The floating dock offered no easy place to park the bike, so I had to carefully lean it up against the chain which served as guardrail near the entrance to the quay. I stood at the entrance and waited impatiently.
|One of the Dauphin hyrdrofoils at dock|
Finally, I decided to use the waiting time to begin unloading my bike and arranging the gear as best I could for carry on. I had no idea what the loading procedure would be, but I felt sure the bike would have to be as empty as possible. I also felt safer with the unloaded bike laying on its side rather than having the loaded one leaning against the chain, where it seemed ready to drop into the water at any moment.
By 07:00, a couple of other passengers had arrived and had taken their place in line being me. I still had no idea how things would go. As soon as some people arrived at the nearby kiosk, I left the line and went over to inquire about the loading procedure. It was a good thing I did so, for I found that despite my reservation and payment by phone, I would still need the ticket and boarding pass that was awaiting me there in an envelope.
Armed with my documentation, I returned to the line, which now had about twenty people in it. Despite some awkward glances, I resumed my original position at the head of the line. Other cyclists had collected by this time as well, and were also waiting near the head of the line with their bicycles.
At length, I saw another hydrofoil coming in to dock. The one which had been docked there all along was just for show. As soon as the new boat was tied up and most of the crew had left to go over to the kiosk, the remaining boat crew came to get our bicycles. I was glad, for I had worried that I would have to wait outside while boarding was proceeding, in order to deal with the bicycle, and thus lose my chance at a good seat. As it was, the crew member just grabbed up my bike, without formality, and secured it with bungee cords to the top deck. Within five minutes he had stowed all ten or so bicycles, and we all remained standing in line. As the line lengthened to hold a hundred or more people, growing ever more impatient, the crew continued to shuffle back and forth between the kiosk and the boat. I saw some bringing a set of large coffee thermoses. I guessed they did not have any coffee-making capability on board.
At length, all was ready, and one of the young crew came to the head of the line to take tickets. I had to move fast to get a choice seat. I took only the most valuable part of my gear, leaving the rest behind on the dock. As it was, although I was the second one into the boat, I still had to race to get one of the two front row seats.
The hydrofoil had two passenger sections. In the back section, where the side entrance was, were a dozen or so rows, with seats on either side of a centre aisle. A small corridor led around the driver's area to a forward section much smaller than the main cabin. There were only three rows, each one with fewer seats than the one behind. The floor sloped up sharply to the front row, which had only two seats on either side of the aisle. There was nothing in front of these forward seats except for a flat space and the front windows.
|Esconced in the very front seat|
I raced up and dumped my things on the right-hand seats. The passengers who had boarded just before me grabbed the other side. I then had to fight my way back through the stream of still-boarding passengers in order to retrieve the rest of my gear, left behind on the quay. I had to make two additional trips, pushing through the crowd, in order to gather everything. It filled the seat next to me, the floor at my feet, and a good part of the open space in front of me. (Thankfully the boat was not full.) Despite the fact that I was taking up two seats, my whole corner was hardly larger than an aircraft washroom.
Once settled, I waited patiently for our departure, which seemed to take a long while. Finally we were off at 07:35. I was excited as we backed away from the dock and swung slowly to leave the protected harbour area. My front seat vantage point provided an absolutely wonderful view! It was well worth all the effort I had expended to make certain I got it.
|On our way: Backing away from the dock||Clock Tower & Jacques Cartier from Inner Harbour|
The first few minutes of the trip mirrored earlier rides I had taken on the Longueuil ferry: We went out of the protected harbour and into the swift and strong St. Mary's current, past the Molson plant, and underneath the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The difference this time was the speed with which we were travelling. By the time we had reached the bridge, the boat was going full throttle and the hull had already left the water. The choppy feeling of the current was replaced by an eerie smoothness, coupled with the jet-engine whine of the engines. As I watched the shoreline, objects seemed to move past as speeds similar to what I would expect when viewing them from a car on the highway.
Very quickly we were past the Longueuil marina, the furthest downriver I had ever traveled by boat. I was seeing all the familiar landmarks, but now from a river vantage point, as I had never seen them before. I saw the upcoming narrows, under which passed the Lafontaine Tunnel. We passed the beginning of the Port of Montreal, located at the foot of St. Jean Baptiste in Pointe-aux- Trembles. I saw the Boucherville Islands from an entirely new angle, and then the Islands were behind us and we came upon the familiar Verchères shoreline.
|Additional Hydrofoil in drydock||Montreal Harbourfront from River|
|Approaching Lafontaine Tunnel||Lafontaine Tunnel towers from River|
It was 07:55 when we passed Repentigny, at a reported speed of 60 km/h
|End of Montreal Harbour at St. Jean Baptiste|
in Pointe aux Trembles
|Verchères - on the South Shore|
As I paused from being transfixed by the scenery, I took a moment to check out more closely the boat which would be my home for the next four hours. I saw that all of the fixed markings were in Russian or Ukrainian! Only the more recent, additional signage was in English and French. I took a walk around and got the view out of the open side door, whence I could see the wake thrown up by the bow planes upon which the hydrofoil was riding. There was an opening to the upper, outside deck atop the stairs at the back of the main cabin, but this was roped off so that passengers could not go there.
|Voskhod II: A Russian-built and crewed riverboat||Looking out the side door at the wake|
We overtook a large freighter and I saw the huge bow wave generated by this behemoth. When we hit waves such as these, the hydrofoil would bounce vigourously.
|Passing a freighter on the River|
As we rode along, our young crew made announcements over the PA system, giving us historical vignettes about the St. Lawrence, along with some information on the vessel. I learned that the boats were made in Russia and the model was called the Voskhod II. The Russian crew consisted of driver and the engine-room attendant. These, I would learn, spoke no French and only a smattering of English. Our service crew consisted of two young French-Canadians, a young man and a young girl. The young girl took care of the cabin service. Over the course of my voyage, I would order two coffees at $2 each. I had to abstain from the cookies and other treats they were selling.
We reached the familiar shoreline of Sorel at 08:40, one hour and five minutes into the trip. I caught a quick glimpse up the Richelieu River and saw the Sorel ferry as we passed it by. Then, as we headed out to Lac St. Pierre, the sky began to cloud over.
|Sorel: The Mouth of the Richelieu River|
|Passing the Sorel Ferry|
|Approaching lac St. Pierre|
I had never imagined that the path ships had to follow through Lac St. Pierre was so tortured and convoluted. As we sped along, we turned to and fro along the narrow pathway marked out by buoys and lights. In some cases, we passed by only a few hundred feet rocks that were protruding from the water. I guess the lake is actually quite shallow. At length, off in the distance, I began to see the familiar outline of the bridge at Three Rivers.
|Buoys mark the torturous trail through Lac St. Pierre|
|Appoaching Bridge at Three-Rivers|
We reached Three Rivers at 9:35, where we pulled up and stopped at the Old Waterfront. Since the pier was much higher than the boat, we all had the chance to exit through the back, and out onto the main deck. We were promised half an hour's rest at Three Rivers. Soon a second boat approached, the one heading upriver from Quebec. It tied up alongside out own and passengers exited across the deck of our boat to the dock.
|The Harbour at Three-Rivers|
|Three Rivers: Docking alongside the quai||Three Rivers: The Montreal-bound boat approaches|
|Three Rivers: The Montreal-bound boat approaches||Three Rivers: Docking in tandem|
While we were waiting, I saw the Russian boat crews out on the deck taking a smoke. I approached them to try and strike up a conversation, but I discovered I could speak to them in neither French nor English. There French was zero. In English, they could respond only with a few isolated words. I have no idea how the service crew ever communicated with the boat crew.
|Three Rivers: Russian crew takes a break|
Looking across the river with my field glasses, I explored the shoreline I had cycled in back 1990, on my way to Quebec City. On the way into Three Rivers, just before passing under the bridge, I had noted the mouth of the Nicolet River, which had figured also in that bike trip.
We were all on our way again at 10:00. First the Montreal boat re-boarded, untied, and departed. Then, it was our turn.
Just below Three Rivers we passed by the Gentilly nuclear plant, but the sky was very dark, making it hard to get a photo. At 10:35 we passed Deschaillons, where I had stayed overnight on the second night of my 1990 ride to Quebec. I looked for and finally found the pier to which I had taken my evening walk back then, but it was not possible to get a good photo.
|Passing the Gentilly nuclear site||Passing Deschaillons - where camped in 1990|
We passed a traditional St. Lawrence cruise vessel, one I've seen before and that comes out of Ogdensburg, New York.
|Passing an American river packet|
Turning the corner from Deschaillons, the St. Lawrence opens up into a fairly large basin, just west of the Quebec City Bridge. We reached this point at 11:25 and began to encounter big waves, waves such as one would see on the ocean. At hydrofoil speeds, the front of the boat bounces terribly when hitting waves. All of my gear, stowed up front, began to bounce completely off the counter. Suddenly, the boat slowed to normal speed and settled back down into the water. Now we were chugging along at the still respectable speed of 15-20 knots, but it seemed like a snail's pace. The shoreline objects, which had been moving past as if seen from the highway, were now stationary objects.
I began to worry about just how late we would be. The driver tried several times to ramp up the speed, only to have to slow down again because it was too choppy. Only as we neared the bridge and the river narrowed again was he able to resume normal speed. Mercifully, we would end up arriving only half an hour late, at 12:30 instead of the expected 12:00.
|Trestle on North Shore & Big Waves slow boat|
|Approaching the Bridges at Quebec|
|Approaching the Bridges at Quebec|
Passing under the historic Quebec City Bridge, as well as approaching Cap Diamant from the river, were new and exciting experiences. I had never seen the Citadel before from the vantage point of those it was built to defend against. It made for quite an impressive fortress!
|The Famous Old Quebec Bridge|
|Read Ecotours Vignette about this Bridge|
|Approaching Cap Diamant|
|The Coast Guard Base at Quebec||The Citadel atop Cap Diamant|
|The Citadel atop Cap Diamant|
|The Chateau Frontenac & Old Quebec|
|At the Wharf in Quebec's Outer Bassin St. Louis|
We docked at the Port of Quebec, near the locks leading to the inner harbour. Once my bike was off-loaded, it took me a few minutes to re-pack my gear. I was done at 12:45 and called Sheryl to let her know I had gotten to Quebec safely.Top