Weekend Update – Wind, Rain and Locks

01 Jun Weekend Update – Wind, Rain and Locks

Here’s a recap from the locks over the past few days.

As we mentioned before, three crew stepped off in Quebec, and we were joined by Arete’s owner, Rick Warner, Tom Gmeiner, a young sailng instructor from the Detroit Yacht Club, and Don Walton, a veteran multihull campaigner. Arete left Quebec at 8:00 pm on the Thursday evening (the 28th,) hoisting the main with a couple of reefs, motorsailing toward the locks. We reached the first lock at St. Catherine’s at 11:00 pm.


Matt Scharl


Blaise Bernos


Tom Gmeiner


The lock system west of Montreal is designed to lift commercial and pleasure craft to the height of Lake Ontario. The system is incredibly impressive – and entire canal running alongside the the St. Mary’s River, lined with what appear to almost be streetlights in some sections, running through good-sized lakes in others.  Each lock seems to lift us about 70 feet.Arete is wide enough so that entering the locks is a challenge – there is only about ten feet on each side, and as light as we are, the power of the wing mast makes her quite skittish as she enters the lock, like a thoroughbread into a starting gate. Once in the lock, workers drop lines to the boat to control her as she rises. Then the enormous lock doors close. and water is pumped into the lock.

We are well-prepared for the transit, with extra fenders and a drape for the hull to protect us. As the water swirls in, the boat bucks and heaves – we raised the daggerboard quickly to limit the effect of the cursing water on the boat. The lock fills quickly, the doors open and it is time to push on to the next lock.  Some of them are close together, others are miles apart.

After the fourth lock, around Saturday afternoon, while transiting one of the lakes, the wind began to build….and then build some more. It was directly on the nose – of course – and in the stronger gusts of 33+ knots, our boat speed would drop, once to just .01 knots. Arete does not like to motor in these conditions, and keeping her heading into the wind was tense. After transiting one lift bridge (impressive structures with twin gantries that lift the entire roadway 121 feet into the air) during which we could not motor over 1.2 knots through the bridge, we took a look at the weather, which predicted even stronger winds, and began considering our options.

Rick Warner

Rick Warner

Matt noticed a small commercial harbor just a few miles ahead, and we headed for it. Approaching it, the harbor appeared perfect for our purposes – empty on a Saturday afternoon, the water was flat an inviting inside.  We headed in and made fast to a dock normally used by cargo ships. It was like someone had shut off the fan – the top of the mast recorded gusts over 40 knots, but all was calm inside.  When the security guard showed up to to ask us what we were here for, Matt not only obtained permission to stay, but ordered three pizzas for lunch!

A huge shout-out to Port Valleyfield, for the hospitality and safe refuge!

By late Saturday night, the worst of the storm had blown through, attended by a soaking rain. We got some rest and pushed off early Sunday morning. We had a better day, getting through the final locks in this system. Now, we are working our way down to Lake Ontario, where we hope to sail a bit before reaching the Welland Canal, where we will bypass Niagara Falls.

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