The Gulf of Saint Lawrence

The Huron Jewel has just sailed 815 nautical miles (938 statue miles or 1509 km) from Quebec City, out the Saint Lawrence Seaway, across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, through the Canso Strait, into the Atlantic Ocean, and down the coast of Nova Scotia to the port of Lunenburg in 7 days and 9 hours — including 3 brief overnight anchorages. Whew! Now, the crew gets a well-deserved rest, and I’ve got wifi so I can post a voyage update. (The two flags above are from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the two provinces where we spent most of our time.)

During this passage, I’ve learned that weather is a major factor at sea. A good captain, like the one we’ve got, knows how to use the good winds and avoid the bad ones. Temperature is also critical. A few hours after we left Quebec City, upwelling ocean currents lowered the water temperature to a frigid 45°F (7°C). I had to use my Covid mask while at the helm one morning to keep my nose from freezing off.

Weather can change quickly. Twenty-four hours later on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the crew enjoyed a balmy breakfast on deck.

From Quebec City to Lunenburg, we sailed or motored almost continuously. To maintain progress 24 hours a day, the crew was divided into three watch teams. We rotated helm and work assignments with a modified Swedish watch schedule like this:

Alpha watch: Palmer and Capt Hugh
Bravo watch: Nick and Thomas

Under this schedule, Thomas and I started with a morning watch from 7am to noon, followed by a midnight watch from 10pm to 3am. On the second day, we stood an afternoon watch from noon until 5pm. On the third day, we were at the helm from 3am until 7am, followed by an evening watch from 5pm to 10pm. After that, the cycle begins again. It was a good way to divide the work and give everyone ten hours of rest between watches.

Charlie watch: Amanda and Matt
First mate and cook: Julie

Julie has the most important job on board! She produces excellent meals three times a day as well as snacks and hot beverages. She hasn’t duplicated a dinner menu yet. Julie is shown here as we pass iconic Percé Rock at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.

Grey seal
White-beaked Dolphin

We’ve enjoyed lots of beautiful scenery along our cruise. We’ve also seen plenty of marine life in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

North Atlantic Right Whale (?)
Northern Gannet

In addition to the pinnipeds and cetaceans, there are thousands of sea birds like the Northern Gannet shown here flying past Prince Edward Island.

Confederation Bridge

Halfway across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, we passed under the curved 8-mile (13km) Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in the world that crosses ice-covered water. This bridge connects Prince Edward Island with mainland Canada.

Lobster fishermen

The next obstacle we encountered were miles and miles of lobster pots in the shallow waters south of Prince Edward Island.

Thousands of buoys

We had to be careful not to run over the buoys tethered to wire-mesh lobster traps on the ocean floor. This required hours of careful steering to avoid fouling our propellers with buoys and lines.

Until now, much of our journey was through the locks and channels of the Saint Lawrence River where we had to use our motors. When we got to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, we were finally able to raise sails and see how fast the Huron Jewel can go.

Huron Jewel gliding along at 10 knots
Sailing on a moonbeam

Thomas and I were lucky enough to have the evening watch on the night of the full moon. Our course that evening was due east. As the moon rose, I had the unforgettable experience of Sailing Along on a Moonbeam.

But this magical tranquility didn’t last. When we came out from behind the wind shadow of Prince Edward Island, we encountered heavy winds and high waves. We took refuge in Ballantynes Cove until daylight. Even the next morning, the going was rough. We were healed over as much as 35° and had water over the toe rails.

Why were the winds so fierce and the seas so high? Ahead of us was a threatening storm that looked like this on Captain Hugh did what any experienced sailor would do: Take shelter until the storm passed. After slipping through the Canso Strait, we anchored for a night among islands in Canso Bay — while winds whistled in the pines.

A quiet anchorage in Canso Bay

The next morning the water in our protected anchorage was like glass — a welcome break from the rough seas we’d sailed through the day before! By noon, the storm broke up and drifted off to the northeast.

This was our opportunity to exit Canso Bay into the Atlantic where the ocean was calm enough to relax on deck with a good book.

That evening, as we cruised down the coast of Nova Scotia, we had a sublime sunset. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.

After a gentle sail through the night and into the next day, we docked in the port of Lunenburg. I’ll say more about this picturesque and historic fishing port in my next — and final — travel blog. Yes, this voyage will end soon. Sometime next week, we’ll reach Camden, Maine where I’ll say a fond farewell to my amiable crewmates and the beautiful Huron Jewel. Stay tuned for one more posting.