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24th May, 2019


Sailing from Gaspe yesterday afternoon, we steamed at ‘whale-watch’ speed out of the Gulf before turning into the main shipping lane that takes shipping traffic in and out of the St Lawrence seaway. A pleasant overnight passage saw us raise the seven islands right ahead, the seven islands from which our destination takes its name, Sept-Illes.

Approaching the Pilot station the wind blew around the islands, being amplified by the local topography causing a little concern for the conditions at the berth; having not ordered a Tug. Tugs were reported as not available so it would be an abort if we could not get in. Two Canadian Port aborts inside four days would not be well received! Here’s the odd thing; as we approached the Pilot station, the Pilot boat came into view and, guess what, the Pilot boat was a tug, but it wasn’t available!

Denis, the Staff Captain, drove in this morning and making his approach, bow in, making allowances of the wind and tidal stream, took the ship on a straight line. Didn’t need a Tug anyway. Nice job Denis!

It was a bright and brisk day but, by Jove, it was cold. It was interesting as the Canadian ports unfolded, all our Pilots and authorities were telling us how ‘early’ we were in the season, indeed, the first cruise ship of the season; it was only 5 degrees Celsius embarking the Pilot this morning. A broad offering of Explore-ashore options here and the feedback was of ‘excellent’ tour guides and great content. Indeed, the ‘people’ were lovely. Sept-Illes has a small cruise terminal and the locals had turned out, setting up stalls showing off the local culture and products, really super people.

A stiff breeze from the south had prevailed throughout the day and being bow-in would require a tug for departure. Departure time came around quickly and it was time to leave this fascinating Port of Call.

With the Tug bent-on [meaning attached to the ship], Adam, my 3rd Officer took the ship to sea. With a tug, the manoeuvre is straightforward, however, managing the Pilot and the Tug was another story. Disembarking the Pilot at 1730, we threaded our way through the ’seven-islands’ and out into the St Lawrence seaway. Adopting a South Westerly track we started our passage toward Montreal, a 170 nautical mile passage upstream along the St Lawrence. From a Pilot station called Escoumins we would embark the first of a series of River Pilots, scheduled for 0400 tomorrow morning.

The river pilotage would require a ‘Masters’ certificate presence on the Bridge through the passage. It’s going to be an arduous 36 hours; another early to bed for me then!

Captain Stuart Horne

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