Whales galore we saw as we motored 30 nautical miles across a glassy gulf between Rimouski and the mouth of the Saguenay River. Mainly beluga and minke whales, we thought, were rising to take in precious oxygen. Once, twice, maybe three times before disappearing back to the depths. We stopped over for one night in Grande Bergerrones where many whale watching boats came and went.
We were now on the north shore of the St. Lawrence.
Our purpose crossing over was to sail up the Saguenay River and take in its marvels. At its mouth is one of Quebec’s favorite summer escapes, Tadoussac, which was settled in 1600 by Francois Grave du Pont as a French colonial trading post.
We cast off the dock at Grande Bergeronnes early to beat the falling tide, seeing as how Windleblo draws more than the charted channel depth at low tide!! A gale warning was on for later in the day making an early start all the more prudent. Indeed, the wind perked up to over 30-knots by the time we tied up at Noon at the Tadoussac marina.
Safely ashore, we explored the town, including the stately Tadoussac Hotel, many historic structures, several beautiful hiking trails, and of course a craft brewery.
But soon enough our real mission began – the ascent of the river and a layover day in the Baie Eternite – the Bay of Eternity.
Many had told us that the Bay of Eternity was a “must see” and it did not disappoint. We anchored on a narrow ledge close to the bay’s only landing dock. We tied a line to shore to prevent any unwanted swing. The forecast was for very settled weather, which suited me as I had heard stories of poor holding and dragging boats at this spot.
The shores of the bay are part of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, one of Canada’s national parks and protected as a national marine conservation area. Magnificent cliffs rim part of the U-shaped bay, carved by glaciers 18,000 years ago.
We spent our layover day hiking well worn trails up and over the cliffs to a statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the river near the bay’s opening. A plaque near the statue told the story of its creation.
During the winter of 1878, Charles Napoleon-Robataille, a Quebec City merchant travelling on the frozen river, went through the ice along with his horse and merchandise. Imploring the Virgin Mary for help, he finally managed to pull himself out of the water. Having become very sick as a result, he again pleaded with the Virgin Mary to let him live.
Wanting to give thanks for twice having her help, Robataille decided to have a statue of the Virgin erected at Cape Trinity. The statue was built and shipped toward the site on a steamer. A handling mistake caused it to fall overboard. Fortunately, being made of pine, it floated! It was then towed by rowboat 10 miles to the foot of the Cape where it was carried up to its mounting pedestal and erected.
Returning from the hike, we settled in for a comfortable evening, watching several Tall Ships join us in the bay to anchor for the night.
Descending was much faster than ascending the river as a two knot current propelled us along, welcome relief after all those miles fighting current and wind.
Another evening in Tadoussac, this time at anchor, and we were ready for our final push to Quebec City. To catch the flood tide just right, we weighed anchor at 1:30 a.m., bound for Cap a l’Aigle refuge harbor and a brief rest. Then, another wee hours departure and a sleigh ride on the flood tide 70 nautical miles to Quebec – top speed over ground 10.5 knots! We arrived perfectly at high tide slack water and entered Bassin Louise and Old Quebec.