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Sept Iles, Quebec

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

5th October, 2015

The last (and only) time I had been to Sept Iles was in January 1975, and not on a passenger ship. It was an 84,000 tonne iron ore carrying bulk carrier which took several days to load because the shore side loaders were frozen up, along with the sea by the ship. It seems like a long time ago, but the memories came flooding back as we came round the island and another huge ship was doing exactly the same as we had all those years ago.

Needless to say it wasn’t for the iron ore that we had come to this place. The tours included a Zodiac ‘cruise’ where our slightly more adventurous folk donned Michelin like suits to go racing over to the archipelago to look at, well, islands and the local wildlife. The less adventurous went on the museums tour (in the ubiquitous school buses again), which took in the history and heritage of the Innu people. They lived in tents made from animal skins and, as might be expected, survived by hunting and trapping. The second museum was a replica of an old trading post dating back to the days of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In those days furs, seal oil and salmon traded from the native population were exported over to Europe.

My day was somewhat less exciting, but novel never the less. The boarding pilot was a great hulk of a man wearing a short sleeve shirt; I had to ask him to put his jacket on when we went onto the bridge wing to dock as the passengers looking down would have thought us slightly wimpish being more suitably dressed for the 8 degree temperature. I also had to pop over to the Harbour Master’s office to exchange plaques commemorating our inaugural visit. He was not exactly of diminutive stature either, but with his colleagues made me feel very welcome. Probably not surprising really as they have relatively few cruise ship calls and would love to have more, in fact it was suggested that if we had to call on our way back and stay overnight then they would have a huge bonfire on the quay and a party to go with it, a somewhat unusual suggestion I thought.

The bulker had completed loading by the time we came to sail and we followed her out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, she bound for Rotterdam, the journey I had also taken forty years ago through very uncomfortable north Atlantic seas.

Captain Philip Rentell

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