New crew now settled in, Windleblo set sail for Summerside, PEI’s second city, floating under the Confederation Bridge on the way. Built in the mid-1990’s, this eight-mile-long series of connected concrete arches changed PEI forever, replacing ferries and diminishing isolation from the continent.
Canada Day dawned overcast in Summerside, rain in the forecast. On shore, we toured the visiting Tall Ships, which were open to the public for the county’s 150th birthday. Our favorite was the Bowdoin, a 22-meter gaff schooner out of Castine, Maine, owned and operated as a training vessel by the Maine Maritime Academy. Whilst on board, we chatted with her Skipper, Eric, who educated us about her features and shared a few stories of his voyages to Greenland. The evening was dazzled by an impressive fireworks display.
The forecast was favorable for an overnight passage to Gaspe July 2nd. Fully provisioned, we cast off under clearing skies around Noon. Once we exited the harbor and turned west and north, we enjoyed following breezes throughout a bright day and moon and star lit night, arriving in the Baie de Gaspe 175 nautical miles and 29 hours later.
We were now in Gaspesie, a region of Quebec.
Exhausted from the passage, we spent the first evening in recovery mode, sleeping aboard our vessel anchored just outside the marina entrance. Good holding, calm conditions, solid sleep. Early the next morning as the crew slept in, I rowed the dinghy ashore.
French Canada is different from Maritime Canada. Immediately noticeable once the natives were encountered was the language. I would have a chance to practice my rusty French! Approaching the marina office, I met Beverly as she was arriving for work as the marina receptionist. Thankfully, she spoke flawless English-speaker so no need to practice my French just yet. She introduced me to Doris, the dockmaster. Both were helpful and patient with my questions. Gone, however, was the visceral niceness we perceived in Nova Scotia and PEI.
None-the-less, first impressions of Gaspesie were quite positive. We explored the town and enjoyed a first class rails-to-trails bicycle path to the beach eight kilometers away. That evening, there was a free concert in a public space on the water. We got our first taste of Quebecois lyrics. I bought a Quebec courtesy flag, which we ceremoniously raised, replacing for now Canada’s red Maple Leaf in the right spreader.
We looked at our itinerary and realized we couldn’t dally if we wanted to take in the Saguenay River on the way to be in Quebec City for the amassing of the Tall Ships on the 18th. After a night on the dock in Gaspe, we cast off. Fourteen nautical miles later, we motored around the Cap Gaspe on glassy seas and entered the St. Lawrence Seaway. Seals and seabirds greeted us as we rounded the cape and its impressive lighthouse.
A series of long days in the saddle followed, most remarkably a 100 nautical mile day that started at sunrise and ended as the light faded eighteen hours later. We crept into Matane exhausted and tied up to a free dock among the fishing boats to take a well-deserved rest.
Gaspesie was now behind us.