For any boat owners and sometime navigators out there, this one’s for you.
I’m sure you’ve had many delightful days on the river and that’s what keeps us coming back, but I’m going to hazard a guess that most of us have had days afloat when everything seemed to go wrong. Whatever the reason, be it motor trouble, weather, a knockdown, man overboard, dog overboard, or stuff getting wet that shouldn’t get wet, I’m betting your worst day wasn’t as bad as these guys’ whole month of December!
Jane and I returned from the west on December 16th fully expecting that the only boats left in the water would be our two faithful ferries, so we were a little surprised to see the Famille Dufour II tied up at the wharf. You’ll remember this craft, a space age looking catamaran that used to do the run between Quebec City and Tadoussac almost daily. I guess that route stopped paying so I heard it was doing a similar run between Montreal and Quebec for a while, and then became a local Montreal tour boat, hence the words “Le Montrealaise” now adorning its upper works.
I dropped down for a look one day but there was no sign of life beyond the distant hum of a generator. Rumors began to fly as rumors do in small towns so I dropped over again a few days after Christmas and got the harrowing tale. Two men were just coming off the gang-plank so I said “Bonjour” in my most convincing Québécois accent and one of them immediately said, “Do you speak English?” Swallowing the insult (one I’m rather used to) I replied, “Yes, rather well, actually.” It turned out he was Australian and wasn’t sure what “bonjour” meant (so it wasn’t my accent after all), and his company was managing the boat. He was not the captain but described himself as the “owner’s representative.” If I were he, by now I think I’d likely be wanting to strangle the owner.
He said the boat had been bought by an outfit that wanted to use it as a passenger ferry between Victoria and Vancouver, B.C.. Plan A had been to motor down the river in November, around the Maritimes and on down the Eastern Seaboard to Panama, and then up the other side. The generators were operating to provide power for the onboard systems that included freezers that contained $7,000 worth of food for the voyage. Trouble was, Transport Canada announced that the motors were not up to the required standard and they were not permitted to proceed under their own power. They tied the boat up in Tadoussac on December 2nd. Then the wait began. This boat, of course, has no insulation in it at all so they were sleeping at Motel Chant-Martin and spending their days on the boat cleaning up condensation and trying to keep the interior both ventilated and warm. One of them had to be aboard around the clock in case of fire or generator trouble. (Some Christmas.)
I dropped back on December 30th and at that point they had decided to be towed to Halifax for the winter. The hope was to fix the engines there, and carry on under their own steam starting in March, but Les (one of the Australians) allowed as how they might also be faced with lifting it onto a freighter for the rest of the trip. Late on the 31st a tug arrived (from Newfoundland) and secured the vessel. However, the insurance people had to inspect the tug, the mooring lines, the mooring bitts, and the boat, to be sure they would maintain their insurance, and they didn’t show up till the late afternoon of January 3rd. And for over a week ice had been forming. Finally cleared to leave the dock after over a month of waiting and wading through paperwork and detail, in rolled a typical January southwest howler filling the big river with waves that they didn’t want to try taking a tow out in. As you can imagine, between two big boats if a tow-line becomes slack as the tow is pushed forward by a wave, it will then snap taut when the wave passes under the tow and slows it down, which eventually could cause dangerous damage.
Today, January 4th, the dock is empty at last. A look on the Live Ships website (www.marinetraffic.com) showed the “Point Vim” (that’s the name of the tug) making 10 knots down off Rimouski so they are finally on their way!
All of which is to say, the next time it rains on your picnic, or you have to bang back to Tad against a northeast chop, or smoke starts coming out of the engine, just say to yourself, “At least I’m not being towed to Halifax in January!”