Friends, Family and Portage

Sat 20 Aug 2005 15:25

20th August 2005. Alive and kicking from Isle aux Morts Harbour,

Dear All,

Believe it or not it had been over nine months since we last wrote one of
these "Dear Alls". And as you all know, a lot can happen in nine months.

Five or six months were spent in England. Seeing Mary married off with
Daniel, Alistair and Mel tying the knot too, and of course having the lovely
Robert David George Ingram joining the immediate family. And now adding him
to Kokiri's crew list.

In all this time since December, Kokiri has been on a longer journey than we
have and has travelled overland across the width of Canada. From Vancouver,
over the Rockies, across the Prairies and finally to the great St. Lawrence
River at Montreal in Quebec.

Our last Dear All found us cruising the Gulf Islands before leaving Kokiri
in the wonderful, safe and friendly hands of the girls at the Silva Bay
Marina. We headed home for Christmas where we indulged in cheese and other
good things that aren't found abroad. Robert was born on 1st March and was
only eleven weeks old when we returned to Kokiri, taking the float plane
that connects directly from Vancouver International Airport to Kokiri's
neighbouring pontoon. Here we found her sitting and waiting patiently for
us. Robert seemed totally unfazed by the change of scene and was perfectly
happy on board. Tearing ourselves away from Silva Bay was much more of a
problem as we had made so many friends and it seemed a shame to just
up-and-leave. We were not really sorry to do a rebuild on the engine's
cylinder head, and wait ten days for parts to be sent from the US.

When we did finally wave goodbye to the lovely Lori and Veronica who run the
marina (who could not have been kinder and more wonderful if they had tried)
we set off for a quick cruise in the Gulf Islands before heading across to
Vancouver to get Kokiri ready for her long trip across Canada. Most of our
cruising involved catching up with our friend Lionel and his six year old
son Obléo on Saltspring Island. We cruised in company with them in Lionel's
boat Pipipluc for some days around the Gulf Islands, all of which was highly
amusing and great fun. We even briefly met up again with Lionel's son Milo
and his girlfriend Lisa, who had taken us diving on the wrecks in Chuuk in
Micronesia and now had their own yacht in Australia.

We left the boat in Vancouver, ready and waiting for the truck to arrive.
She was stripped of everything and looked shorn and bare when we left her.
Everything had to be taken down including all the stanchions, the radar arch
etc. Most things were stashed below, but the spars, pulpit and Twofella
were wrapped in carpet and bubble wrap and left ready to be stowed on the
bed of the truck. We flew home for three weeks for Al and Mel's wedding and
then flew back to Montreal, to find her exactly as we had left her.
Excepting of course the splattered mass of dead insects that plastered every
forward facing surface, and an easily repaired split in the jib foil.

It took us a week at the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club to put her back
together again, unfortunately starting at the same time as a heat wave.
Again people's kindness and generosity were overwhelming and we were even
invited to dinner by the owners of the local chandlery, the Boathouse. When
we left, we were still clasping together the wherewithal for the journey,
and had to get a friend to catch us up with a replacement for our
brand-Faulty-new-Faulty fridge compressor that we'd just installed.

We headed out into the St. Lawrence Seaway on 24th July. The lake at
Dorval, where the St Lawrence Yacht Club is situated, is upstream of the
last two locks taking you down to sea-level, so we took Kokiri down the 53
foot drop to central Montreal. The rapids that drain the Great Lakes into
the lower St. Lawrence River come down with tremendous force, and the last
two miles of the trip into downtown Montreal is a push back up the river
against a 5-6 knot current. Slow progress but well worth it. There is a
marina right in the middle of the Vieux Port and historic centre of
Montreal, and in mid summer it is going off with a bang. We arrived just
before dark, gave Robert a late evening meal and bath and put him to bed in
the push-chair, and set off into town. The streets were filled with people
all enjoying the balmy evening. Street entertainers, portrait painters and
vendors where everywhere, the Quebec Hellenic festival was in full flow,
pumping Greek music over the ambient noise, and the restaurants were all
enticing the passers by to relax and soak up the atmosphere. We did exactly
that with a fabulous meal, the whole experience having a decidedly French
flavour. By day Montreal was also great to explore. The fighting between
the English and French was almost comic in the petty naming of the streets
and buildings. There is a statue of Nelson, put there by the British just
to annoy the French, and one of a French admiral opposite just to answer to
Nelson. New Montreal was shining and modern by contrast and absolutely

The long trip down the river to the sea was made very much more manageable
by the strong current pushing us along. We did the 140 miles to Quebec in
just two hops. Taking Kokiri downhill through the Richelieu Rapids must be
more fun than going uphill. Unlike Montreal which has the feeling of a very
busy working city, old Quebec has more the feeling of a city where tourism
has taken over as the major industry. Not withstanding this, the city
walls, old French and English colonial buildings and the citadel itself, are
all very impressive to behold. We had another fantastic meal out, looking
down one of the crooked streets and soaking up the intense feeling of summer
around us. But the enjoyment of sailing away from the historic battlements
as we left the river for the sea was surly the best moment of Kokiri's
continental adventure.

And so we finally began to sail homeward. We only got the sails bent on and
ourselves shipshape at Quebec City, and then moved down to L'Ile aux
Coudres, where with our first tastes of Atlantic saltwater and great fortune
we met up with our friends from the South Pacific, Pierre Bouchard & Janick
Lemieux. We had encountered them in Gizo in the Solomon Islands in November
2003, whilst they were looking for a passage with their bicycles to
Bougainville. We couldn't take them but they did make it across and
continued their epic volcanic Ring of Fire bicycle journey through PNG and
Indonesia. Pierre and Janick, having started cycling south from Canada
through South America, via many of the South Sea Islands to New Zealand and
Melanesia, are presently planning their next leg through the Philippines,
Japan and Siberia to North America. And we caught them at home on the banks
of the St. Lawrence! They joined us for a couple of days to Tadoussac, where
beluga, fin and minke whales abounded, and then we headed off for a brief
stop on the Gaspé Peninsula and across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Iles
de la Madeleine.

By this time we were much more used to having Robert on board whilst
underway. In calm weather or at anchor he is very happy in his bouncer,
jumping up and down in the various different places we can put it; hanging
in the cabin, in the cockpit, or even on the foredeck from the staysail
halyard. When he can't be bouncing then he often sits in his chair and
watches the surroundings, and is very happy in the cockpit, wrapped up
warmly as we sail around, but is just as safe and happy below if it is cold
and wet. Basically, he can hang or sit wherever we are. Going ashore has
even become relatively easy, and we bundle him up in his waterproof outfit
and lifejacket and set off for quite long journeys in Twofella, and then he
is stashed into the backpack carrier and the Ingram family is ready to set
forth. It is great having him here and really no trouble. At the moment he
is quite flexible and so seems quite content to fit into our disorganised
lives. He is making loads more noises and is constantly chatting away,
smiling and laughing.

The Iles de la Madeleine are wonderfully relaxed sandy islets in the middle
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With their partly british Canadian / partly
french Acadian populations they had a very summery feel. We arrived by
chance at the start of the three-day sandcastle building championships, and
were there for the international Acadian Day on the 15th August (equivalent
to Bastille Day), which cumulated in spectacular fireworks and a communal
midnight swim. It is peculiar to think that around March each year the
pack-ice virtually connects these low sand islands to the distant mainland.

And now we have finally made our way across to Newfoundland. Where the
scenery, culture and temperature could not be more different. The water
temperature as changed from an astonishing 27C in Montreal, to 4C in
Tadoussac where a long finger of the Labrador current reaches this deep
fiord, back to 21C at the Magdalens and now down to a North Atlantic 8C. And
having just arrived from an overnight passage and with the fire alight, it
feels as though we are finally back where we belong; cruising the rugged
coastlines of open oceans. Kokiri and all her crew are at last back in
tiptop condition and ready to cross oceans, having crossed over a continent.

Lots and lots of love to all and all of you,

Peter, Katharine and Robert.