The Canadian Border to Montreal

We got up bright and early to make our way to the Canadian border. In this one location, the check-in to Canada customs is in person at a building with a dock on the river. In most of Canada, you check in via telephone. But in this one location it’s in person.

Approaching the border. The yellow quarantine flag says you have not yet cleared customs. After clearing in, you take down the yellow flag and fly the courtesy flag of the country you are visiting.

The dock opened at eight and we arrived a few minutes before that. The customs people were very friendly. They had both of us get off the boat although in general, only the captain gets off the boat. We took in our passports and our Nexus cards. They took our Nexus cards and were more interested in them. We specifically asked to have our passport stamped.

All checked in

When you check in via phone, as it done in most most places in Canada, you receive what’s called a reporting number. This number is to be prominently displayed on windows on both sides of your boat so that any law enforcement can see at a glance that you have properly checked into Canada.

Since this location is in person and since it’s Quebec, which does things a little differently, they do not give you a reporting number. This is why we asked to have our passport stamped, in order to prove to any law enforcement that we did in fact check into Canada.

After check-in was done, we made our way 20 miles down the Richelieu river to the beginning of the Chambly Canal. This is a canal that runs right beside the river. The canal is quite historic and narrow and a lot of fun.

The canal runs beside the river

There are nine locks in the canal. The lock masters and bridge tenders are all Parks Canada employees and they monitor channel 14 on the VHF. Their first language, here in Quebec, is French so we generally started a conversation with bonjour, and then started speaking English.

The first lock, lock 9, is in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Then come a number of bridges which must be opened and then from locks eight down to lock one they come in quick succession.

The first bridge to enter the Chambly Canal
There are some narrow places in the canal, especially at the bridges!

Locks 7, 6, 5, and 4 are all about a quarter of a mile apart. About a mile beyond lock 4 is the pool above locks 3/2/1.

The Chambly locks are unique in that the lock attendants hand you a rope that is nice and clean. The rope is attached to a bollard at the top of the wall and you loop it around your cleat to manage it as the lock drops down. In the New York canal systems, the ropes hang into the water all summer, so they get slimy. The Chambly ropes are kept on top of the lock, so they don’t get as wet and disgusting.

This pool has a wall to tie to and electricity for boaters who dock there.

Last winter, when they were on early bird special, we purchased our Parks Canada lockage and moorage passes. These allow us to go through the Parks Canada lock systems and to tie up at the lock walls. Not all lock-stations have electrical hookups, so it is a good day when you find a spot available with electricity.

Electricity (or hydro as they say in Canada) is not part of the moorage pass and costs CDN $10.75 additional, which is a great deal. We were able to buy two power units. That is, we were able to plug into two different 30 amp power plugs to power both sides of our boat. Having power to both electrical inlets means we can run air conditioning.

The pool above lock 3 is in the town of Chambly. It is right in town in a park setting and is very pleasant. There are two ice cream shops within one block. We bought at the first one we came to. We found two grocery stores within several blocks.

Above Lock 3, Chambly, Quebec

The next morning, we walked over to Fort Chambly. It is a fort similar to Fort Ticonderoga and the other forts along this waterway. It was very interesting to see the history from the point of view of the French Canadians. Although the museum information didn’t come right out and say it, there seemed to be some regret that the French surrendered to the British during one of the early wars.

Fort Chambly was built about the same time as what was then called Fort Carillon that later became known as Fort Ticonderoga. These forts were important as supply stations to wage the various wars they were in. So it was a big deal when the British beat the French and took over their forts. It was a big deal when the Americans beat the British and took over their forts. Fort Chambly was never in American hands.

We got ready to traverse locks 3, 2, & 1, which are a stairstep flight of locks. From there, we turned right, into a marina where we had a pump out and took on some fresh water.

Chambly Locks 1,2,3

From there we continued down the Richelieu River . It was another 30 miles to the next lock, which was the last lock on this canal river system. That lock was is called Saint-Ours (pronounced Sant Oars).

All along the river, there are towns every few miles. You can spot the towns because they all have church steeples that are very tall. And silver. This area was colonized by the French and the Roman Catholic Church had a lot of influence in the area.

The land was divided up into seigneuries. The seigneurs had responsibility for dividing the land. They made an effort to have people’s land front on the river, which is the “road that moves”. Consequently the land tracts are very long and narrow. When you look at a satellite view of the area even today it looks very pixelated because of these long, narrow lots.

The Saint-Ours lock wall was nice. There was not any electricity, but it was nice. We were the only ones tied up. There was a concert in the park that night so we went over to listen. It was a woman singing songs in French. Apparently they were either popular songs or songs from musicals as most people really knew them. We didn’t know anything about them, but it was interesting to listen to her. It was a nice nice evening out.

From Saint-Ours, we continued down the Richelieu River which in fact was heading due north.

There were several cable ferries that ran across the river from one side to the other, as there are not very many bridges across the river. One bridge of note had the span that you go under clear over on the west, the left, bank of the river. Most bridges you cross right in the middle but this one was clear over to the left side. It was on a corner so you really couldn’t see if anyone was coming towards you before you enter the channel. There was quite a current there. The books talk about this bridge and tell you to be aware of it, but we did not run into any troubles. There was no one coming toward us. Just before the bridge, though, there was a paddle board club. These paddle boarders are hard core to paddle through that current.

The Richelieu River runs into the Saint Lawrence River at the town of Sorel-Tracy. You can turn right to head to Quebec City and ultimately the Atlantic. We, however, turned left to head to Montreal. Turning left on the St. Lawrence river meant we were going up river against the current. We had been with the current coming down the Richelieu River so we had been making good time. We really noticed a decrease in speed as we turned up the St. Lawrence.

We had identified several anchorages on the river. It was much like on the Hudson, where there are islands in the middle behind which you can anchor. Our navigation software shows us where these anchorages are. We anchored on the side one of the islands. It was very close to shore, but the current kept us in a straight line so we didn’t swing over and run into the shore.

Anchored behind an island in the St Lawrence. Coincidentally, as the crow flies it was very close to St Ours, where we spent the previous night.

The next day we continued up river into the city of Montreal. The current gets even stronger the closer you get to Montreal.

There were huge ships on the St. Lawrence river. We have an AIS or automated identification system, on our chart plotter so we are able to see the big ships on the chart plotter even before we can see them in person.

The day after we arrived in Montreal was forecasted to be a very stormy day. The marina in downtown Montreal did not have room for us for all of the days that we wanted to stay, so we took instead, a marina across the river from Montreal in Longueuil (pronounced something like Long Way).

There is a high-speed ferry that runs from just outside the marina over to old Port Montreal. We took the ferry over and walked around old Montreal and had pizza at an outdoor restaurant and had a crepe with Nutella on it in a pedestrian mall. It was fun to walk around Old Montreal for a few hours.

As forecast, the next day was very stormy so we just hung out at the boat.

The next day was Sunday so we took advantage of being in port to attend church at the tall silver steeple church there in Longueuil. This church turned out to be a cathedral. It was all in French, but was still very interesting to see. We could recognize the Apostles’ Creed, as the cadence was the same as in English.

From the Cathedral, we took an uber into town to buy a part at a hardware store and do a Walmart run.

Recognizable, even with French initials

Sunday afternoon was oil change day. We have a small electric pump to pump oil out of the engine. We have had the pump since last fall and used it for our last oil change. Last fall, we pumped all 13+ quarts per engine out through the dipstick tube and it took forever! When we had our mechanic on the boat over the winter, we asked about installing hoses that would make it easier. He looked and said we already had the hoses! Who knew? So the oil change this time went much, much faster.

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