Log #50c St Lawrence Seaway, Brockville to Montreal

August 8, 2010 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 50, The Logs

Rimouski, Quebec
Aug. 8, 2010

Hi Folks, we are here in Rimouski for two days before heading on out the St. Lawrence estuary. All is well, although we have had stormy, fog shrouded weather, with high winds, but fortunately in the right direction. Our radar works well, and we have needed it several times. We have WiFi at the marina here and I want to get this log off, as I am never sure when we will next have access to the internet.

We have resupplied here and enjoyed today going through a museum of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland which took place off here in 1914 with a loss of over 1000 lives. In addition we went through the retired Canadian submarine HMCS Onondaga. More about this town in the relevant log.

We will be sailing next to Matane and out past the Gaspe, and over to Port Au Basques in Newfoundland to explore the fiords on the south coast, before crossing over to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and over to the Bras D’or Lakes of Cape Breton. It will be interesting to compare the fiords of Newfoundland with the one we were at in Norway, and the fiord of the Saguenay River which we explored a few days ago.

This log gets us through the St. Lawrence Seaway, and I have included a summary of that waterway, distances, drop of each lock, and costs, at the end of the log.

All the best,


Log #50c St Lawrence Seaway, Brockville to Montreal

Rimouski, Quebec
Aug. 7, 2010

We left the Brockville Yacht Club at 0815, Aug. 26, to motor and motor sail the 17 miles downstream to the first, Canadian, lock at Iroquois. This is a straighter stretch of river with fewer islands as we are now out of the Thousand Islands area.

We were fortunate in not having to wait as the lock was just opening as we arrived, and were ushered to the forward end of this large industrial lock, where we were handed a couple of polypropylene lines, starboard side to the wall. There is a $25.00 fee for this control lock with only an 18 foot drop. The attendants were pleasant but reminded us the lock procedures require wearing lifejackets in the lock. So we donned our inflatable life vests. We had no vessel rafted off us on this first lock, and as we were lowered Judy handled the forward line fending off with a boat hook as necessary, and I did the same from the cockpit. There was little turbulence. It was only 10 minutes from the time we were alongside until we went through at the lower end, clearing the lock at 1140.

We were able to motor sail with our genoa out for most of the next 23 miles until we moored alongside the pleasure craft waiting wall at the Eisenhower Lock at 1440. This stretch passes Morrisburg on the Canadian side, the site of Crysler’s Farm Battlefield site. Upper Canada Village, nearby, is the relocation site for the buildings from towns that were submerged when the Seaway was developed in the 1950’s, and has since become a working recreation of an 1860’s riverfront town. Our pilot (Down East Circle Route, a Yacht Pilot cruising guide) indicated there were a few anchorages along this stretch that could be used overnight, as pleasure craft are not allowed to moor alongside the lock waiting walls overnight. At 1520 we entered the first of two locks at this location, the Eisenhower and 3 miles further down the Snell Lock, paying $60.00 (US) for both.

There was more turbulence in these locks, as the Eisenhower Lock lowered us 39 feet and the Snell Lock 46 feet. Again, nobody was rafted off us although a few other boats were locked through at the same time astern of us. These American locks had floating bollards to which we secured a midships line and fended off fore and aft as we went down. The passage through Eisenhower and Snell Locks, with no wait for the Snell, was only 15 minutes minutes from entry to exit, exiting the Snell Lock at 1630.

We continued on to anchor inside of St. Regis Island 5 miles downstream (45 00.58N, 074 39.28W) at 1745 for a day’s run of 50.5 nautical miles. This is part of the Oka Indian reserve, where there was an armed standoff with the federal government several years ago. This part of the St. Lawrence has a few Indian reserves which extend over parts of Ontario, Quebec, and New York State, creating many jurisdictional complications between federal and provincial domains. I remember many years ago when sailing in this area and around Cornwall there were Notices to Mariners to be aware that there were high speed powerboats running at night with no navigation lights as various band members were running contraband cigarettes across the borders. However, things were quiet while we were there this time.

We left next day, Aug. 27, to motor and motor sail (just with the genoa, as it is easier to furl and unfurl in these restricted waters) down to the Beauharnois Locks. We still had the river flow with us and had our speed boosted by two or three knots. The scenery was not very dramatic, meandering through suburban and industrial areas and native reserves. By 1300 we were 39 miles downstream at the small craft waiting pontoon of the Beauharnois Locks. Judy followed the instructions to go up to the automated kiosk where she registered our presence and paid $50.00 with a VISA card transaction for the two locks. We had a pleasant chat, while waiting, with Fair Wind, a 30 foot sloop from Michigan captained by Ken, a veteran old salt whose boat rafted alongside us. We found out he knew the Max Sea program that was not working for us, and he offered to help get it going. Halleluiah!

We finally entered the first lock after a two hour wait, with Fair Winds rafted alongside us. The first lock dropped us 42 feet, and the second one another 42 feet. Locking through is easier for the boat rafted outside another, as it is easier to just hold the lines or secure them to the inner boat which has to adjust its lines as the water level drops. Going down in locks is easier than going up, as there is much more turbulence while the lock fills, as the water surges upwards and keeping the boat under control alongside is more difficult.

The two locks took only 35 minutes to transit, and we continued to motor and motor sail another 12 miles across the wide flooded Lac St. Louis, where the Ottawa River enters the St. Lawrence, being careful to stay in the buoyed channel as there are many unmarked shoals. We anchored at the east end of the lake in Ile Tekakwitha (45 24.37N, 073 43.02W) Reservation by 1730 for a day’s run of 52.8 miles from 0730 to 1730 including the two locks. This anchorage is just off the main channel, before the 6.5 mile canal going through the Caughnawaga Indian reserve.

We are glad we had the Garmin GPS extra chip (the one we had to drive from Kingston to Oakville for) in as it gave us accurate information about the depths of this and other anchorages en route. As it was I grounded slightly before anchoring, as I was not consulting it at an adequate magnification, but we were OK. Our Max Sea computer charting system was still not working, a serious problem once we leave Canadian and US waters. I hoped we could meet up with Ken on Fair Winds to see if he could get it working for us.

We motored down the canal which cuts through the Caughnawaga Reserve. We had to wait for ten minutes for a railway bridge to open. Further on we had to slow down to less than 3 knots as we were passing the area where there was a major oil spill which closed the Seaway for a couple of days the week previous. By 0830 we were alongside the waiting pontoons of the St. Catharines Lock where we paid another $25.00 at the automated kiosk for this 30 foot drop. After an hour’s wait we entered the lock, rafted alongside a Quebec boat aptly named Pause Cafe (coffee break) and ten minutes later were out and on our way to the St. Lambert’s Lock, the last one of the Seaway in Montreal.

We encountered the same “wait at the pontoon, pay $25.00 at the kiosk, and enter this final lock when opened”. We only had to wait 30 minutes to enter and be lowered the last 18 feet through this control lock.

The canal exits into the St. Lawrence in the harbour area of Montreal, about two miles downstream from the Old Port and its marina. As the current here runs about six knots, and we did not plan to spend time in Montreal on this trip, we turned to starboard, downstream rather than pound two miles upstream to the old port. The wind was picking up and there was a gale forecast, so instead of continuing down river we headed into the marina at Longueuil,a south shore suburb of Montreal, for a short day of 18 nautical miles, from 0643 to 1248.

Summary of the St. Lawrence Seaway from Brockville to Montreal.
1/ Iroquois Lock 18foot drop $25.00

2/ Eisenhower Lock 39 foot drop $30.00 (US) $35.00 (CDN)

3/ Snell Lock 46 foot drop $30.00 (US) $35.00 (CDN)

4/ Beauharnois Locks 42 foot drop $25.00

5/ Beauharnois Lower 42 foot drop $25.00

6/ St. Catharines Lock 30 foot drop $25.00

7/ St. Lamberts Lock 18 foot drop $25.00

TOTAL 235 feet $195.00 (CDN)

Three days transit time and a distance of 121 nautical miles from Brockville to Montreal.