The Saguenay and the Whales

Posted Aug. 16, 2008 at 02:31

We left Quebec City Aug 12 with Wind Wisper (our companion boat from Port Credit) on an overcast day bound for the Saguenay. Past the Montmorency falls, through the North channel around Ile d'Orleans. The tall, rounded and wooded mountains appeared, the St Lawrence widened and became sea-like as we motored all day (winds light) to Ile aux Codres. We arrived around 10pm, dropped anchor in the dark, slept for a couple of hours and left early next morning just before daybreak (the marked anchorage was calm due to light winds except for the occasional wave train of passing ships).

We arrived to Beluga-land as we entered the Saguenay Marine Park and anchored off Iles du Pot a l'Eau-de-Vie. The anchorages are quite open, but on a calm night they are fine.

As soon as we entered the Park, we got surrounded by seals (they are curious, look at you passing by and their heads remind you of a dogs head (the common seals). We also passed a couple of beluga pods, a beluga followed our transom for a couple of seconds before turning back to rejoin its friends/relatives.

As we crossed the north, main shipping channel the next day, drifting in and out of dense fog, we saw dozens of Minke whales. As the fog cleared, we shut off our engine and started sailing in very light winds. In the quiet, we often heard and saw the blows of more than one whale, almost at the same time. That was a most touching experience.

The appearance of the sunny Saguenay fjord mouth coming out of the fog was breathtaking. Going towards Tadoussac at the mount of the Saguenay, through strong tidal rips, it felt like we're in the Beluga capital of the world - there was a constant procession of Beluga whales leaving the Saguenay - we had to slow down a number of times to reduce the chance of collision. Lots of tour boats of various sizes around watching the same spectacle.

We spent the afternoon sailing up and down the fjord looking for a nook to anchor in. The mountains on both sides channeled the wind and kept it nicely in our back while sailing up. On the way down, we stopped for a swim, found a marginal anchorage (mentioned in the Quebec Nautical Guide), dropped anchor and rafted with Wind Wisper (room for only one boat to anchor). We were surrounded by the steep granite hill-sides with round, wooded tops. Dora and Katia put together a nice dinner with Dennis manning Wind Whispers barbeque. We went to sleep after midnight. Except that Dora and I heard some strange chain noises from the bow, and I went to investigate to discover chain movements that I didn't like. Down on the GPS track it looked like we slipped about 10-15 feet in a direction almost opposite from which we had set the anchor. Its hard to describe it, but there was maybe only a 100ft circle of where the water was about 30ft (10m) deep. Just another 50ft to one side is the shore of the bay, in the other direction, 100ft + depths. And, the tidal range was about 12ft that night. There were small eddies swirling around as the water went up for 6 hours and then back down for another 6... So I stayed up a few more hours on "anchor watch" until the eddies quieted down around 3:30am... Our track showed that we did about two full circles roughly around the anchor in 8 hours or so...

The nice south-westerly winds and being already so late in the season convinced Dora and I to reluctantly leave the Saguenay today with Wind Whisper and continue eastward... The plan is to anchor (in a "real" anchorage) off Ile du Bic Marine Park. Today we barely saw any whales (two minke whales, one dolphin, and a few seals), so we must have been really lucky yesterday to see so many in a few hours.

No wifi, so no pictures yet, but we'll post them later when our photo galleries become operational.