Tag Archives: gulf of st lawrence

Wednesday 15th December 2021 – HERE I ALL AM …

… not sitting in a rainbow but sitting in my little room in the Dekenstraat in Leuven. And to my dismay, I haven’t had an upgrade this time.

Still, not that I’ worried too much because apart from the steps up to the second floor here, this little room is much more convenient for me even if it’s smaller.

And there’s still a double bed in here so that if one of the usual suspects from my nocturnal rambles, such as TOTGA, Castor or Zero, puts in an appearance then there will be plenty of room for us to move about

And it won’t be very long before I’m actually in it because I’ve had another difficult day I try my best to have an early night the day before I travel but last night I was chatting to someone on line in what became a very lengthy and involved conversation so i was quite late when I finally crawled into bed

And then, the usual difficulty about going off to sleep meant that whe the alarm went off at 06:00 I was … errr … far from ready.

Preparing to leave was something of a rush as well and I didn’t accomplish anything like as much as I usually do. But I did find out that my icing hasn’t set. Butter (well, vegan margarine) produces a soft icing so I seem to be stuck with that.

What I’ll have to do in the future is to work out how to make hard icing. Like I said, I have a lot to learn aout baking cakes.

Although it was cold and damp this morning, it was better weather than when I was out photographing the Christmas lights and so as it was still dark this morning I re-photographed them. And they do look better in the lighting conditions that we had, as you will find out in due course.

For a change, I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me all the way to Leuven which makes a change.

The train to Paris was on-time and I spent much of the journey sorting out the back-up from the big office computer onto the portable laptop. Having shuffled the music around to shake up the pack, I have to do this on the laptop too.

Having done that, and having had a little doze, I set about doing some work.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I’ve sent in my CV in the hope that it will be picked up by a certain travel company. And in this respect I was collating all of the documents that I’ve collected during my research into the Norse in North America and also the Labrador coast.

Having done that, I’ve started to review the stuff that I have on the Norse and prepare to write a thesis on the subject (as if I don’t have enough to do as it is). I started off by reading the “Flatey Book” and “Hauksbook” – two books from Iceland in the 14th Century that include the earliest written copies of the sagas that recount the Norse voyages to North America.

Following that, I’ll make a start on Carl Rafn’s “Antiquities Americanae”. Written in 1848, it’s the earliest book that takes seriously the Norse Sagas.

Rafn though makes two mistakes in his calculation though.

He puts the Norse settlements in Massachusetts or thereabouts because firstly he works out the sailing distances based on the speed of a Norse longboat. However Leif Ericson didn’t use a longboat. According to the sagas he “bought a boat from a trader” who was freighting goods to Greenland. And it wasn’t until a silted-up river was excavated in Roskilde in 1961 that a Norse freighter, called a knarr was discovered and its sailing characteristics were found to be completely different to a longboat.

Secondly, he calculated the distances based on a day of 24 hours. It seems to me to be totally improbable that the Norse would have been continuing to sail during the hours of darkness in strange waters near an uncharted coast where they wouldn’t know what shoals and other hazards they might encounter.

Another thing that needs to be considered is “what happened when they reached the Gulf of St Lawrence”? With about 200 miles of open sea to cross, they would have been more likely to sail down the St Lawrence keeping the coast to their right where they could see it. In fact, there’s a precedent to this with all of the Basque and Portuguese whalers at the end of the 15th Century who set up their camps along the Labrador coast and then down the Gulf of St Lawrence.

We pulled into Montparnasse 2 minutes early and then I had my delightful stroll down the street to the entrance to the Metro station – much nicer than struggling through the labyrinth down below.

As a result I was early yet again arriving at the Gare du Nord. I reckon that I’m about two metro trains in front of where I would have been.

We left Paris Gare du Nord bang on time but were held up on the way and as a result we were a couple of minutes late arriving at Lille Flandres. Then we had the walk across town to Lille Europe where my train was already in.

At Brussels I had another push-me-pull-you, pushed by an old Class 27 locomotive that took me to Leuven. And I had loads of fun trying to make my phone work to show the nice conductor my e-ticket.

When I alighted at Leuven I nipped to the supermarket at the back of the station for the drink and the bread before making my way down here to my room.

Later on I went down to Delhaize for the shopping and the walk back loaded up was a little easier than it has been of late.

Now that I’ve had my tea I’m off to bed even though it’s early. It’s a tough day travelling all this way and doing all this walking, all 130% of it. And there’s more to do tomorrow with my trip up to the hospital.

Friday 1st September 2017 – STRANGELY ENOUGH …

christie's bed and breakfast nova scotia canada aout august 2017… that was the cheapest place where I’ve spent the night so far. And funnily enough, it was the best night’s sleep that I have had since I’ve been back on the road.

But although it was a better night than just recently, it still wasn’t what I would call ideal. I was still tossing and turning in my bed, although not as much as the last couple of nights.

Liz and Terry came to join me though – or, rather, I went to join them. They were moving house and had a couple of boys to help them – and the had done so well that there was only a couple of things in the garage underneath that needed to go. And I reckoned that if we planned it properly we could fit everything into the two vans and do it in one trip. Just then, as we were sitting thinking about it, some English couple (because we were abroad) were push-starting a car – a white-coloured car something like an ADO16 – down the hill at the side. The woman behind the wheel couldn’t control it on the bed and it came round and collided with the side of Liz and Terry’s house, which was made of metal (well, quite!). This is the kind of thing that would happen just before the new owners were coming to take possession. So Liz went out to attend to them. I went off into town to do something and on the way back the town was thronging with school kids being kicked out of school. There was a loudspeaker announcement about the end-of-year results (hence them hanging around) and they started to announce the names of the pupils who had done exceptionally well and had earned a reward. Back at Liz and Terry’s, it seemed that Liz was disappointed about something. “I bet they’ll argue about the time” she said, presumably referring to the people who had collided with the house. “What time do you say that it happened,” she asked me. “16:15” I said confidently. “Well there you are” replied Liz. “At least you agree with me”.

The alarm went off at 06:00 as usual and so did I. in fact, I awoke again with quite a start at 06:11 and only just made it out of bed before Billy Cotton’s strident summons at 06:15.

I’d organised breakfast for 08:15 so that gave me a couple of hours to catch up with stuff that needed doing, and then off to rejoin the Land of the Living.

The people here – other guests as well as the landlady and her father – were very pleasant and we passed quite an agreeable hour or so chatting.

And I learnt something thing morning. According to the old guy who had worked out in Labrador, it was the berserk behaviour of the compasses of the aeroplanes of the Atlantic Ferry flying over Labrador and Upper Quebec that first alerted people to the presence of the iron ore deposits.

Breakfast was really nice – they respected my diet – and the home fries and fruit was superb. along with toast with vegan margarine (the landlady had some in stock). She even let me check the label on the container.

Orange juice and coffee too, and as soon as you had taken a coupe of sips out of your mug the old guy would totter by and fill it up.

After breakfast I had a shower and started to organise my stuff. I need a blanket and pillow for the boat and not much else so I could go through my rucksack and eliminate what won’t be needed until I dock.

That was my cue to hit the road and having safely and correctly negotiated the roundabout, I eventually arrived in North Sydney.

football ground north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017But I didn’t go very far, because regular readers of this rubbish will recall that amongst our projects that we undertake on our travels is to find the local football ground.

It’s not exactly what I would call a stadium, and I don’t think that a pair of wingers would be of any great advantage on this pitch, given how narrow it is, but it’s a football pitch all the same and that’s a rare thing to see in North America.

marine atlantic vision ferry north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017Ahhhh – so THAT’S what happened to Superfast IX.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a company organised a ferry service from Rosyth in Scotland to Zeebrugge in Belgium.

It picked up two giant ships from the Baltic that had been part of a (failed) project launched by the Swedish government in the early years of the 21st Century to run a ferry across to Rostock.

marine atlantic vision ferry north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017The Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry service didn’t last too long either and the ships were delared surprlus to requirements. I don’t know where one of them went to and I didn’t know about the second – Superfast IX – but I do now!

Here she is, in all her glory, back in service as Atlantic Vision and I’ll be travelling on her this afternoon to Argentia.

Fastest ferry on the North Sea she was in her day, and I hope that she lives up to her reputation across the Gulf of St Lawrence.

atlantic vision blue puttees lief ericson nova scotia canada aout august 2017And while I was taking a photo of Atlantic Vision I was treated to something of a ballet just outside the port.

As the Blue Puttees was reversing out of her berth on her way with the lunchtime sailing to Channel Port aux Basques, Lief Ericson, the truckers’ ferry that runs between North Sydney and Channel Port aux Basques, was pulling in behind her.

I was lucky enough to be treated to a very rhythmical dance as the ferries manoeuvred around each other

marine atlantic ferry lief ericson north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017As for Lief Ericson, what can I say about her?

We all know about her and probably many of us have travelled on her before in her previous existence as Stena Challenger.

Built in 1991, she was named for the lost Space Shuttle and spent the first 10 years of her life operating out of Dover to Calais and occasionally Dunkerque, with a little relief spell on the Holyhead-Ireland route.

marine atlantic ferry blue puttees nova scotia canada aout august 2017As for Blue Puttees, she was one of the two ships that came here a couple of years ago to replace Caribou and Joseph and Clara Smallwood.

Built in 2006, she was formerly the Stena Trader and she and her sister (here as the Highlander) ran the short-lived ferry service from Hoek van Holland to Killingholme in the UK.

She takes her name from the nickname given to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

bad english grammar town council north sydney historical society nova scotia canada aout august 2017Another thing that regular readers of this rubbish will recall is the regret that I have for the decline of educational standards throughout the western world.

It’s not particularly important (but it’s still sad nevertheless) if Joe Public can’t speak English correctly.

But when a body like the North Sydney Historical Society and the North Sydney Town Council don’t understand the basics of English grammar then it really is something that depresses me enormously.

nova scotia canada aout august 2017Mind you, having said that, poor English grammar is one thing. The North Sydney Historical Society’s rewriting of history is something else completely.

I don’t know who it is that they employ as a proof-reader but I wouldn’t pay them in washers because this isn’t the kind of error that would normally sneak by un-noticed.

I just wonder what was going through the minds of the people who wrote the text, the proof-readers who checked it and the printers who printed it.

Having been for a good walk around the town I went back and sorted out Strider. But not before I’d been accosted by a particularly aggressive beggar who became most upset when I told him to clear off.

Thanks to the laundry basket that I bought yesterday, all of the food is now assembled in one place. Everything else is filed away tidily thanks to the cargo net that I bought last year.

It was thus quite easy to locate my blanket (the one that I bought at Dysarts two years ago), my towel and my little pillow and they are now nicely stored in my rucksack ready for the sailing this afternoon. I intend to be as comfortable as I can.

And so I went back to where I’d met the beggar (and photographed the ships) with Strider to make my lunchtime butties and sit in the sun admiring the ships.

If you look at the photograph above which shows the dancing ships, that’s actually the site of the coal staithes and the dock in which the coal ships going out to Newfoundland and the outlying islands would have been moored.

A branch of the railway line came down here bringing the coal from a local mine. But unfortunately there’s not a single trace of anything from that period still remaining.

The interesting thing about it all is that it’s actually an artificial “island” – formed by the rocks brought as ballast by the ships that came here empty for the coal.

At the dock entrance we had a nightmare. I had found the tickets but I needed to produce my passport and my driving licence. And I couldn’t find them anywhere, despite stripping out Strider.

The last time that I had had them was yesterday when I handed them over to the girl who took my booking. And so the girl in the booth telephoned just about everyone to see if I had left them and they had been handed in.

But no such luck. I’m hopeless when it comes to finding things as you know, and so I have to discipline myself to have a proper place for anything. And when they aren’t there I’m cooked.

strider ford ranger marine atlantic vision ferry terminal north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017But luckily I still have my powers of persuasion and I was eventually allowed to join the queue of vehicles heading for the ferry.

In the ferry office I hustled them there but it was to no avail, and so back outside I started to strip out Strider properly. My driving licence I can at a push live without, but my passport is something else and it must be found.

And then after about 30 minutes of sheer panic, the light suddenly went on. The little bag that I wear around my neck where I keep my bank cards and my North American money. Sure enough, in my haste, I’d stuffed them in there, hadn’t I?

So everything is now back in its proper place where it ought to be. I really ought to be much better organised than I am if I’m going to have a seamless, trouble-free trip around the world.

strawberry moose marine atlantic vision north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017We were ushered onto the ferry comparatively early and we were lucky, being one of the first aboard.

I left His Nibs in charge of Strider and composing modern-day sea-shanties for the 21st Century.

I suppose that he has to keep himself entertained until we reach Newfoundland – he’ll have plenty to occupy his mind once he’s there.

marine atlantic ferry terminal north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017The lift was occupied so I had to stagger up several flights of stairs – and steep they were too.

But I managed to grab a good spec on board – right at the bow of the ship with a stunning view out over the ferry terminal.

And next to one of the very few working power points on the ship too. Routine maintenance doesn’t seem to be the strongpoint of Marine Atlantic.

marine atlantic ferry terminal north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017Much to my surprise, because I’m from Europe, we started up bang on the dot of 17:30

We reversed out and this gave an opportunity to have a good view over the town. Not that there’s a great deal of the town to see are there are vacant plots of land all over the place.

This isn’t just an indictment of the collapse of the town’s industry with the end of the mining and railway operations here, but also of the three devastating fires that have destroyed the town.

highlanders marine atlantic north sydney nova scotia canada aout august 2017And we missed the oportunity to have our own ballet just offshore because we hadn’t gone more than 5 minutes out of harbour before we saw Highlanders coming down the inlet.

We know all about her because we’ve sailed on her before. She’s formerly the Stena Traveller and was likewise on the short-lived Hoek van Holland-Killingholme service.

It’s nice to see Marine Atlantic spending money on upgrading the fleet, and with the F A Gauthier in Matane replacing Camille Marcoux, that only leaves poor Apollo as a relic of a bygone age still struggling across the Gulf of St Lawrence.

shipping gulf of st lawrence nova scotia canada aout august 2017But there’s plenty of shipping in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

With the telephoto lens on the new camera I can take pictures miles away but photographing through a double-glazed marine window with a telephoto lens from a moving platform such as a ship means that it’s always going to come out blurred.

But never mind. We’ll have better luck later.

mike averill folk singer atlantic vision nova scotia canada aout august 2017As darkness fell we were treated to a folk singer.

Mike Averill, his name was, and he entertained us for quite a while with his acoustic guitar, his songs and his semi-biographical stories particularly about his father Garry.

And it’s a good job too because catering facilities on this ship are … errr … minimal. There’s an a la carte restaurant and some kind of fast-food place that does hot dogs and sandwiches, but that’s your lot.

There’s nothing here for me to eat, and so I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long voyage for me.

As soon as this folk-singer finishes, I’m going off to look for the reclining seats and bed myself down for the night. But not until he finishes because I’m enjoying his music.

Wednesday 1st March 2017 – THE TROUBLE …

… with having had a really decent sleep during the day is that during the night it’s very difficult to drop off again. And so it was last night. Took me absolute ages.

But having said that, once I’d gone I’d gone, and until about 06:00 too. I had a quick look at the time, and turned over back sleep again until the alarm went off.

Breakfast here is at 07:30 but I still managed to haul myself out of bed early (no cacophony to accompany me, for which I am grateful) and stuck myself under the shower to liven myself up.

First down to breakfast (although I was almost immediately joined by others) and fruit salad, bread roll, orange juice and coffee. One thing about the breakfasts here, leaving aside the choice and the amounts on offer, is that everything is so fresh and tastes delicious.

And so it ought to be, given the price that one has to pay to stay in here. Of course, I’m not paying anything like the price indicated on the door, being stuck in my tiny little room in the garrett, but I’m not complaining for a moment.

What I was complaining about though was the internet. Sometime during the night it had crashed and they hadn’t been able to fix it. That left me hanging out on a limb for a while as I have so much to do here.

By 09:00 nothing had happened and so I decided to go for a walk along the promenade. It was grey and miserable, quite windy too, and there weren’t many people about.

demolition redevelopment promenade strand oostende beach belgium march mars 2017We mentioned yesterday the story about the redevelopment of the promenade. Here, we have yet another old building from the Belle Epoch that has bitten the dust. It wasn’t as spectacular as the Villa Maritza, but there you go.

In fact by now, most of my old haunts from my spells in Oostende in the 1970s and early 80s have disappeared. All of the cheap hotels that used to be here have been swept away and replaced by blocks of holiday flats. One cheap hotel that I’d noted when I was here in 2013 had gone by the time that I came back here last November.

promenade strand oostende beach belgium march mars 2017Not that it’s particularly relevant to this particular part of the discussion , but here’s a view of the corner of the promenade that I took this morning.

You can see another Belle Epoch villa here today, hemmed in by the more modern blocks of flats, and I wonder how long it will be before it’s gone too.

But there’s an exhibition of photos along the promenade showing us how Oostende looked 70 years ago just after the end of World War II and I noticed this photograph on display. It was taken from almost exactly the same spot as my photograph, and you can see how the corner looked back then, and compare the difference.

sculpture seafront strand oostende beach belgium march mars 2017You might have noticed in the previous photograph the orange object on the promenade. There are actually about a dozen of them and they clearly have some kind of significance, although whatever it might be has so far escaped me completely.

It’s not exactly what I would call “artistic” but then what do I know? My idea of a sculpture is the column and statues to the right, a war memorial to the natives of the area who lost their lives at sea. It’s a shame that its site has to be cluttered up with these modern … errr … items.

fish dock fish market oostende belgium march mars 2017I told you yesterday about the fish market here in Oostende. That’s it there, the white building with the blue wavy roof. I went for a look inside but there were only two stalls open and the choice of fish available wasn’t overwhelming. Not really worth photographing.

I reckon that the dock behind it was the old fish dock, but it’s used these days by the Police and the Customs authorities – people like that. It’s where their boats are anchored, or moored, or tied up.

free ferry oostende harbour belgium march mars 2017When I was here in 2014 I stumbled across a ferry that I hadn’t noticed before, in all the years that I’ve been coming to the town. The deep-water port goes deep into the town and there isn’t a pedestrian way across the entrance. It’s a long walk around to the other side.

That’s the reason for the ferry, anyway.It’s only a small ferry, with room for 50 seats on board, and I took a photograph of it from the far side of the port entrance, with the town in the background. And also with the old ramps from the days when there was a ferry service across to the UK.

free ferry oostende harbour belgium march mars 2017It’s always a bad idea for me to see a ferry, because I end up in a bad mood. In fact whenever I see a ferry it makes me cross. Especially when it’s a free ferry, and today is no exception. It always brings out the sailor in me.

Of course, that’s the reason why I was able to take a photograph from the other side of the port entrance – I’d piled on aboard the boat. As indeed you might expect.

You’ll notice by the way the booths on top of the quay to the right. It was some kind of market day going on up there.

It’s been months and months since we’ve had a real “Ship of the Day”, but you can’t go sailing across a port (even if it’s nothing like as busy as it was 50 years ago) without encountering a ship or two.

simon stevin luxembourg oostende belgium march mars 2017We’re in luck today, because here we have the Simon Stevin, registered in … errr … Luxembourg. Just imagine sailing this ship up the Moselle. She displaces 35,000 tonnes and was built in 2010.

She is actually a pipelaying vessel, and that will explain her presence here. With the expansion of the wind farm out on Thornton Bank, they will be needing extra cables laid to the shore.

The Simon Stevin would be the ideal vessel to be involved in a task like this.

willem de vlamingh luxembourg oostende belgium march mars 2017The Simon Stevin isn’t the only big ship in the port either. We also have the Willem de Vlamingh in here too, and she’s likewise registered in Luxembourg.

She is your actual cable-layer and was built in 2011, displacing 6800 tonnes.

So here we are – some of the benefits that the wind farm has brought to the town of Oostende

simon stevin pilot boat oostende belgium march mars 2017As if that wasn’t enough, the harbour pilot boat was setting out of the docks and heading out to sea.

The entrance to the port is somewhat complicated and so a harbour pilot is necessary for certain boats that want to enter here. And so it looks as if there’s one of those standing offshore needing help to come in.

I couldn’t see anything hanging around outside, and nothing had come in by the time that I had left. I’ll have to go round later on this afternoon or maybe early tomorrow morning to see if anyone else has come in to join the party.

atlantic wall world war II oostende belgium march mars 2017We saw in an earlier photograph – the one that I had taken of the Promenade in the 1940s – all of the fortifications that covered the shoreline of this part of the world. All of them built by the Germans in World War II

There are still plenty of them left, dotted all over the coast and we have seen plenty of them in the past. The eastern side of the entrance canal to the deepwater port is still littered with them even today and in all of the time that I’d been coming to Oostende I’d never actually been for a wander around them – until today, that it.

atlantic wall oostende belgium march mars 2017The port of Oostende had been a German submarine base in World War I and had been the subject of what was the precursor of the later commando raids of World War II. Not only that, the beaches here would make an ideal landing for the Allied armies coming to liberate Europe in 1944, what with the major port of Antwerp only just down the road.

Hence the German were quite nervous about the coastline around here and had used labour from the prison camps to construct these massive fortifications, as well as many others of all different types which have long-since disappeared.

atlantic wall oostende belgium march mars 2017What many people don’t realise though, because it was another one of these wartime secrets that wasn’t put into the Public Domain until the great release of wartime records in 1994, was that the Allies knew absolutely everything that there was to know about the Atlantic Wall, and they didn’t even need to send someone to look at it.

The company that had contracted to build it was a Belgian company, from the rue des Atrebates in Brussels. But what the Germans didn’t realise what that the company was actually owned by a Russian emigré called Leopold Trepper. And he had a part-time employment as a spy for the Soviet Union, leading a group called the Rote Kapelle or Red Orchestra

atlantic wall oostende belgium march mars 2017It was one of the greatest triumphs of espionage in World War II but because it was a Soviet triumph, it never received the acclaim that it deserved.

But the work was done thoroughly, and the vestiges are very difficult to remove. We’ve seen when we were in France a few years ago that one of the gun emplacements near the Atlantic Wall suffered a direct hit from a blockbuster bomb, and all that it did was to tilt the concrete.

That’s why many of these places are still here. Explosives are really the only way to remove them and it’s far too dangerous to destroy them in a congested area.

oostende belgium march mars 2017The Atlantic Wall isn’t the only set of fortifications here at Oostende. We have another exciting pile of stuff buried in the sand dunes.

Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to go over to it. It was all fenced off and I couldn’t find an obvious point of entry, and so I can’t tell you exactly what it is.

I shall have to make further inquiries.

new harbour wall hms vindictive oostende belgium march mars 2017We saw the new harbour wall when we were here in November. We walked the whole length of the other side of it in order to have a good look at what they had built, and I was tempted to go for a walk down this side of the harbour wall today, but the weather was conspiring against me.

There were some people out there trying to walk down there, but they weren’t having a great deal of success.

And you might be wandering what that bow of a ship is doing set up on a plinth out there

hms vindictive oostende belgium march mars 2017A closer inspection reveals that it certainly is part of the bow of a ship, and the colour gives you a clue – that it might be something to do with the Royal Navy.

It is in fact part of the bow of HMS Vindictive, a cruiser that has a very important claim to fame in the history of Oostende.

The British were concerned about the U-boats operating out of the port after its capture by the Germans during World War I, and so they launched two raids on the harbour, sinking ships in the entrance canal to the docks.

HMS Vindictive was one of those that was sunk here, in the raid on 10 May 1918, and when it was cut up for scrap, the bow section was preserved as a monument.

ship english channel oostende belgium march mars 2017The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and we have thousands of photographs going back to 1970 of ships sailing up and down here.

As ships have grown larger and larger, there are fewer and fewer of them, but the size means that you can see them easier even when they are away on the horizon, especially if you have a 305mm zoom lens.

I’ve no idea what kind of ship that this might be, but it’s certainly a big one and it seems to have an on-deck cargo. There’s plenty of accommodation on there too, so I’ve no idea what it might be. I know that there’s a car transporter that takes passengers with it and sails from Hamburg to South America, but that is probably not it.

msc container ship english channel oostende belgium march mars 2017No prizes for guessing what this ship might be. The initials of the owner – MSC- painted on the sides gives the clue away, because we have seen dozens of these in the past sailing up the St Lawrence River on the way to Quebec and Montreal.

It’s a container ship of course, and a huge one at that. And it’s empty too. And that’s a symptom of the world’s reliance on China for its manufacturing industry and that the world has nothing to send back in return.

We saw all of this with Japan in the 1970s and how it led to the collapse of manufacturing industry in the UK. Now, the rest of the world is suffering, and this is the Brave New World into which the Brexiters have plunged their country, with no colonies and noallies to back them up.

strand oostende beach belgium march mars 2017With the telephoto lens still on the camera, I could take a photograph all the way down the beach in the direction of Zeebrugge. But you can’t see much down there because of the wind whipping up the sand all the way down the beach.

We were brave, those of us out there, but at least I had done what I had intended to do, which was to have a good visit of this part of Oostende. It’s hard to think that I’ve never been out here, in all the years that I have been visiting the town.

Now I can head back to civilisation.

sailing ship Nele oostende belgium march mars 2017Parked up at a wharf near the ferry is a sailing ship, the Nele.

You might think that she is an ancient ship but she was built as recently as … errr …2005, but to a design of a traditional Oostende masted sailing ship.

It’s possible to go off for a mini-cruise on board and I did admit that I found the idea somewhat tempting. But I imagine without any doubt that I’ll be back here some time or other, and so I can make further enquiries.

undersea electric cable cross section oostende belgium march mars 2017I’ve not quite finished yet over here.

We’ve seen the wind farm out there on Thornton Bank. That’s about 30 kms offshore and in order to bring the power onshore they have a huge submarine cable.

Outside their offices they had a couple of metres of cable on display, and so I went over to take a photograph of it. It’s interesting because NALCOR in Labrador have laid a cable under the Strait of Belle Isle and are planning another one under the Gulf of St Lawrence to Cape Breton, so I was curious to see what a submarine cable looks like.

It will be of interest to the Brits too. Having sold their electricity-generating capacity to the French, one of these will be laid across the Channel sooner or later to run British electricity across to France in the same way that the Compagnie Lyonnais des Eaux runs British water from Kent across to Northern France through the pipeline in the Channel Tunnel in times of drought.

Back on the other side of the canal I went to the Delhaize to buy some stuff for lunch. They had grapes on offer too so that was today’s fruit issue resolved, wasn’t it? And back here, I crashed out for an hour as soon as I got in, which meant that I was rather late for my butty.

This afternoon I had a few things to do, and then went out for a walk. And here I encountered yet more of Belgium’s world-famous customer service. I went into a café for a coffee, and sat and waited for a waiter.

And waited.

And waited.

Eventually, a waiter appeared, and cleared a few empty tables – and then disappeared. Eventually, he came back and I ordered a black coffee.

And waited

And waited.

Eventually I picked up my coat and left, heading for the café next door. I’d beens een by the waiter, placed my order and had it put on the table in front of me long before the other waiter in the other café had brought me the one that I had ordered.

I came back to the hotel for a warm, and then wandered off for tea. I know a nice Italian restaurant here that is cheap but good value, and they served me up a delicious penne all’arrabbiata, nice, hot and spicy.

So I’m going to try for an early night, and see how I am, and how the weather is, tomorrow. I hope that it’s a nice day and that I’m feeling up to some exciting moments.

Thursday 24th November 2016 – YOU’VE PROBABLY SEEN …

… the stuff about Bouillon that I put on line this morning.

no stop cooking closed tuesday bouillon belgium october octobre 2016You won’t have seen this photograph though.

It’s really something special, isn’t it? It’s the kind of thing that could only happen in Belgium, or maybe in Ireland or in Quebec. No restaurant anywhere else in the world would advertise “non-stop cooking” and then go on to inform us that it is closed on Tuesdays.

It was Wednesday too when I was there, remember, and it looked pretty closed to me then.

despite being whacked last night, it took me quite a good while to drop off to sleep last night. But when I was asleep I really was asleep and remember nothing at all.

I do however remember being on my travels though – I was making a film about something or other starring a girl. And while the content might have been inappropriate for audiences in the USA, there was nothing at all that would prevent it from being broadcast in Europe and most other places in the world. However I was having a great deal of trouble convincing the Americans to let me continue with the project.

When the alarm went off I had a huge struggle to leave the bed. But I was second down to breakfast and before the breakfast room was open too.

Later, back in my room, I had a little … errr … relax and then cracked on with Bouillon. Once that was on line, I cracked on with whatever I was doing about Labrador. I went outside for the bread that I bought yesterday and that was about that.

And I’ve made a remarkable discovery – a large document listing all of the ferry operations on the St Lawrence River and the Gulf of St Lawrence for the last 75 years or so. This is a magnificent find to be sure. I can get lost … "we wish you would" – ed … for years in this.

As well as this, I’ve also finally found a downloadable version of the diaries of George Cartwright – the man who opened up Sandwich Bay in Labrador during the period 1770-1785 and who named most of the geographical features in the area.

All in all, a good day.

Mind you, I have crashed out for an hour or so this afternoon after my butties and it was hard to recover from that. Yesterday’s exertions and the difficult night really got to me.

So now, having done some more research, I’m off to bed to catch up with my sleep.

But I’m beginning to have a major quandary.

The web pages that I’m working on were originally meant to be about my return to the Trans-Labrador Highway in 2014 and in 2015 with a little research to give some background information to where I’ve been.

What’s happening now is that I’m unearthing all kinds of gems that have been lost to history for ages and deliberately “overlooked” by modern politicians and commentators. I’m even amazed to discover that one of my pet “ideas” is far from new, having been proposed as far back as 1966 and deftly swept under the carpet on the grounds of cost, only to be trundled out 50 years later as a “new, revolutionary idea”.

And things like an established ferry company that was refused a licence to operate a boat because of a 25-year time limit (its ferry was 27 years old), and replaced by a new company whose ship was … err … 30 years old and is still going now, aged 46.

There’s tons of stuff like this.

Yes, looks like I’m going to be heading towards yet another major controversy with these pages, and this time on an international stage too.

Still, it keeps me out of mischief.

Saturday 12th November 2016 – I HAD A NICE …

… four hours out with Alison today.

She came round at about 11:00 and we went off to the good cafe down the street for a coffee and a chat. We were there for quite some time too.

Once we’d finished we went for a walk to look at a couple of shops and then went down the road to the ALDI where Alison did some of her shopping. And then over the road to Spit, the huge Charity Shop just there. And there was tons of good stuff in there too, much of which is at a decent price. I could quite happily furnish a small apartment from there.

There’s a Troc in the vicinity too, somewhere in between Leuven and Mechelen. The prices in there though are totally ridiculous, even though the stuff looks really good quality. But here’s something that you can buy me for Christmas if you can’t think of anything better – they had a late Medieval suit of armour in there. Wouldn’t that look nice standing up in the corner of my house? But €895 was a bit ridiculous really, although nothing like as ridiculous as the €12,500 they wanted for a bronze fountain that looked like a good well.

Alison took me later to the English shop. There’s a fish and chips van that parks up there a couple of days a week but that wasn’t what excited me. They had vegan pies which will go down nicely with some new potatoes and vegetables, but the highlight was definitely the vegan mince pies. I’ll be back there a few days before Christmas, that’s for sure.

On the way back I picked up a baguette at the Carrefour by the football ground and had lunch once I returned. following that I did some more research for my web pages on Labrador. I’ve found a couple of really good sites of interest on the internet – one that lists every known community in Labrador in about 1910 and the access port where appropriate (and there’s tons of interesting stuff on there) and secondly, an interactive map that shows the location of almost every known geographical feature in Labrador. I could really lose myself in those sites.

For tea it was pasta with a tin of chick peas and vegetables and tomato sauce. and then a nice relaxing evening.

This afternoon I’d crashed out for an hour or so but that is probably something to do with the disturbed night that I’d had. It took me ages to drop off to sleep and when I finally did, I was up and down several times too.

I’d been on my travels too, out to the Coasts of Labrador where there was a very narrow strip of land in bewteen the cliffs that narrowed even more just where I had to cross over the mouth of a small river. There was a young teenage girl with me too, rather like a girl with whom I’d had a lengthy discussion once when I was out on the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence in May 2012. Although what she was doing suddenly making an appearance I have no idea.

Sunday 23rd October 2016 – IT’S SUNDAY!

And so in consequence I have had a day where I have done badger all of any importance.

Despite the lateness of the night and the fact that I had to leave my comfortable bed once during the night, I had a really good, deep sleep. I’d been on my travels too but as soon as I awoke, everything was wiped immediately from my mind and I remember nothing of it.

And I’ll tell you just how organised I was today – the alarms went off at 07:00 and 07:15 as usual, I was in the kitchen having breakfast by 07:30 and by 08:15 I was back in my room, having during that 45-minute window been out to the boulangerie for my Sunday baguette.

I’ve been sort-of-ish working on my website today. Nothing like as intensely as during the last few days. Following my visit to the north shore of the St Lawrence estuary a few weeks ago, I’ve been updating some of the pages as you know. This page is the one on which I’m working right now, and it will be expanded to two or three pages just as the one that I was working on the last couple of days (and which I mentioned yesterday) was expanded.

But as I say, I’ve not put my heart in it today. I had a little doze, had a chat to Liz, read some stuff on the internet and generally wasted some time.

But it’s not as if I’m worried. It’s Sunday, and I’m allowed to have a day off. I did manage to make it to the pizza place around the corner – after all, Sunday night is pizza night isn’t it?

So tomorrow, if I don’t have a phone call from the people who are doing Caliburn’s wheel bearing, I’ll carry on with the web pages.

Friday 30th September 2016 – THEY CALL ME TRINITY

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Well, Baie Trinité actually, but never mind – it’s near enough.

We’ve been here before – in 2012on our mega-ramble down Highway 138 to be precise, but I’d only driven through the place without having the time to have a real poke around, and so seeing as it’s quite close to where I’m staying (a mere 37 kilometres – which is “right next door” over here on the North Shore of the St Lawrence River) I reckoned that I would come for a nosy around.

lac au rat musque baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016On the way out there, though, I encountered quite a beautiful lake. It’s at round about kilometre 831 and it’s called le Lac au Rat Musqué – Muskrat Lake – and I’d love to know how it is that some of these lakes and other natural landmarks earned their European names.

I didn’t take a photo of it in 2012 and I don’t know why. But there are lakes just about everywhere and I suppose that I was spoiled for choice.

rest area baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016First thing that you notice as you arrive in Baie Trinité is a rest area, right in the centre of what passes for the village and right by the shore. There are all of the usual facilities here, but it goes without saying that they are all closed up for the winter.

But anyway, it’s gone lunchtime, my stomach thinks that my throat has been cut and I have my butties to eat. I’ve run out of hummus but I do have some vegan cheese that I picked up in the Atlantic Superstore in Woodstock.

centre national des naufrages du saint laurent baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Baie Trinité’s claim to fame is that it is the home of the Centre National des Naufrages du Saint Laurent – the National Centre for Shipwrecks on the Saint Lawrence. This is a place that I would love to visit, but as you probably realise, it’s closed now until next season.

But one thing about it is that here you can “experience several major tragedies that have marked the history of Nouvelle France” but if anyone thinks that I’m going to experience a shipwreck at first hand just to satisfy my curiosity they are mistaken.

cannon centre national des naufrages du saint laurent baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016There have been plenty of shipwrecks along the coast as you probably know, and we’ve visited the sites of a few of them. And without any explanatory panel (which wouldn’t do you lot much good anyway because here in Quebec the Tourist Information is written in French only, just to spite the Anglophone tourists), I would say that this cannon is from a real shipwreck.

In 1690 a mariner by the name of Admiral Phips sailed up the St Lawrence in an attempt to capture Quebec from the French. He was unsuccessful, not the least of the reasons being that he lost several ships on the way up. And on Christmas Eve 1994 the remains of one of them – the Elizabeth and Mary – were found just off the headland at Baie Trinité.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016And as you might also expect, just like every other village in Quebec, we have a church here, built in 1939.

I forgot to go over and see to whom it was dedicated (I’m really forgetting myself these days) but as this place is called Baie Trinité, apparently because Jacques Cartier is supposed to have visited the bay on Trinity Sunday in 1536, it’s quite possible that this could be the Church of the Holy Trinity – l’église Sainte-Trinité.

beach fish packing plant baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016As we have said before, the beaches around here are magnificent, with all of the sand that has been deposited by glaciers as they receded at the end of the various ice ages.

I’m not a big fan of the beach here at Baie Trinité though. It’s right by the main highway and while it’s hardly the M25, you’d be surprised at the number of heavy lorries that go past here. It’s too noisy for me.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Instead, I’m going to head up the beach westwards. That’s far more sheltered behind the Tourist Information Centre and the church and where I’m less likely to be disturbed.

Except, it has to be said, by someone on a quad who decides to come for a ride out here as I’m walking along. Still, I do my best to avoid him and think pleasant thoughts instead as I take advantage of the beautiful sunshine.

rocks on beach baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016All of the beaches, shores and river mouths along here are littered with rocks as you have probably noticed, and they too have been brought down here by glaciers (and latterly by rivers) from their places of origin.

Geologists can and do have hours of endless fun tracing rocks back to their original source and thus plotting the paths of glaciers and rivers during prehistory. It’s a fascinating hobby, so I’m told.

iron ore baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But this lump of rock on the beach is quite interesting. It caught my attention because it was glistening in the sunlight so I went over to photograph it. Unfortunately, the glistening hasn’t come out at all.

The rock is totally different from most of the others along here and to me (not that I would know very much about it) it closely resembles a lump of iron ore similar to what we saw when we tracked down the old iron mine at Gagnon last year.

There are many deposits of iron ore in the interior – Gagnon, Fire Lake, Mont Wright, Labrador and Wabush to name just five out of dozens, and it’s interesting to think that this rock might have come all the way down from there.

riviere baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016This river is called, rather unsurprisingly, the rivière Trinité and apparently it’s quite famous for the quality – and quantity – of the salmon that was caught in it.

It was quite popular with some first-Nation Canadians who used to live off the salmon from the river in the summer and off whales and the like from the St Lawrence during the winter. There was no reason for them to live a nomadic lifestyle.

hydro electric barrage baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Like most rivers out here along the North Shore, Quebec Hydro has become involved in it and has installed a little hydro-electric generating plant to serve the town and its neighbourhood.

There wasn’t very much by the way of detail to tell me anything about it but although it’s not a very big drop the force of the water makes it quite powerful so I imagine that there’s enough power here to run the village and its surroundings.

fish ladder riviere baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016“But what about the salmon?” I hear you say. After all, it’s quite a famous salmon fishing river and one time the fishing rights were owned by a club in Quebec, although control was soon wrestled back by the villagers.

In fact, when they built the barrage they also built a kind of fish ladder at the side of it so that the salmon could move upstream and downstream . I haven’t heard whether or not it’s as successful and whether the fish are a snumerous as before.

fish processing plant baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Meanwhile, I’m back on the beach again heading east. Right over there is the fish-processing plant that we visited when we were here in 2012.

Formerly, it was the forest products that provided the major source of employment in the village. It was quite a hive of industry, with a log flume and even a small railway network, but the 1960s put an end to all of that and the economy collapsed.

Nowadays, it’s fishing and the fish processing plant that provide most of the employment opportunities around here.

gas station convenience store baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016One thing that Baie Trinité does have going for it is that it has a fuel station and convenience store, and you can see it peering through the trees over there, left of centre.

I went in there for a wander around and to my great surprise they sold bread. Baguettes too, albeit frozen ones that need to be thawed out before I can use them. But it’s good news for me – it’s a round trip of just 78 kms for the bread instead of 116 kms.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Out on the western side of the village is the Pointe-à-Poulin. I tried to reach there in 2012 as you may remember but was blocked by the snow.

No such problems this year though. In fact I made it all the way down to the Anse de Sable – Sandy Cove – and not only that, I was chased all the way down the road by three Dodge Caravans full of people and that made me wonder what on earth was going on. It seems to be a popular spot this year and so I shall have to make enquiries as to why they are here.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016They all went over there to have a play on that big rock, that looked as if it might have been a plaque of volcanic lava. I went over to have a chat to them to see what was going on.

It appears that they were High-School students who were out on a field trip along the North Shore of the St Lawrence – and that made me wonder whether the young archaeologists whom I had seen at Godbout the other day excavating part of that cache of seashells were from the same group.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But anyway, I left them all to it and went for a wander right out to the farthest extremity of the Point.

Or at least, what I thought was the farthest extremity of the Point because each time that I came to what I thought was the farthest extremity of the Point, there was another Point around the corner. I’d heard of a similar phenomenon in mountaineering when people climbed up to what they considered to be the summit, only to find another summit further on.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016having realised that I was likely to be out here all night at this rate, I turned round and retraced my steps somewhat, turning my attention to the rocks just offshore.

I went for a clamber about and a closer inspection thereof. I noticed that the rocks were not rocks at all but nice, black, smooth and shiny, so it seemed to me that these might also be plaques of lava.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016You might be wondering about the likelihood of volcanic activity around the St Lawrence, but it does appear to be a recorded fact.

The St Lawrence River valley is situated more-or-less along a geological fault line and there is evidence of techtonic plate movement along here as well as some evidence of prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Coming across outcrops of lava, and even lava fused into airgaps in other rocks, is by no means unusual.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But talking of techtonic plate movement, there have been several earthquakes recorded along the St Lawrence in recent years – a score of 5 on the Richter Scale is not unknown. But this pales into insignificance when considered against the events of 1663

Many of you will remember the discussion that we had when we were at Les Eboulements. We mentioned that in that year there had been as many as 33 earthquakes along the St Lawrence, the largest of which caused an entire mountainside to slide into the river.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016So leaving the lava beds for now and greeting the students, who seemed to be having endless amounts of fun, I walked right back around the bay to the other end – the end closest to Baie Trinité.

I was hoping to see a shipwreck or two, or the remains of a shipwreck maybe, but I was completely out of luck.But it really was a beautiful beach and I had quite enjoyed my time out here. Given a few more degrees of temperature and bit less wind, I could quite happily have stretched out on one of the lava beds.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Anyway, I called it a day and leapt into Strider to take me back home.

But halfway down the road before I reached Highway 138, I came to a shuddering halt along the side of the road. That was because the view of the bay that I saw as I rounded a bend was quite stunning. Now this is the kind of beach upon which I could quite happily recline in the evening sun, except of course that the sun is setting behind the trees on the left.
And in any case, I was feeling quite tired by now so I was quite keen to return home to my little room.

I made myself a coffee and retired to my room for a repose and relax before I made tea. Baked potatoes, beans and hotdogs with mustard as usual (it was a good idea to buy that bag of spuds and those tins of beans) was on the menu. And then having done the washing-up, I retired foe the night.

I was pretty exhausted after my long walk around the beach. But at least I have my bread for tomorrow.

And you have 2105 words to read tonight. Serves you all right.

Tuesday 27th September 2016 – NO PRIZES …

f a gauthier st lawrence river ferry quebec canada canada september septembre 2016 … for guessing where I am and what I’m doing today.

Of course, there’s only one reason why I would ever want to come to Matane, apart from meeting the man whose limericks never would scan, and that is for the traversier – the ferry that sets sail out of there across to the north shore of the St Lawrence, either to Baie Comeau or to Godbout. And whenever I seem to be on board it, it always seems to be going to Godbout.


f a gauthier st lawrence river ferry quebec canada canada september septembre 2016And much to my surprise, we have a brand-new ferry. The Camille Marcoux has finally been laid up in the city of Quebec after almost 43 years of service, looking for a new owner.

What we have now is the F A Gauthier and when I say that she is a new ferry, she really is too because, unlike most “new” ferries that have made their appearance in Canadian waters these last few years, she’s not a second-hand boat but brand spanking new, built in 2014.

I was up quite early at the motel – at 06:00 on the dot and at 06:15 I was on my way out ready to put myself in the queue for loading.

And they won’t forget me in a hurry at that motel either. With the kind of presents that I an capable of leaving behind me, I managed to block the toilet and I had to ask for the maintenance crew. That’ll larn ’em.

Now, I have talked in the past … "and at great length too" – ed … about the folly of using steel culverts for streams underneath new road workings and we’ve seen plenty of examples of how they have rotted away and the road has collapsed.

concrete culverts matane st lawrence river ferry quebec canada canada september septembre 2016I’ve often said that despite the costs of transport, the use of concrete culverts would save them a lot of money and inconvenience in the long run.

And clearly they have been reading my notes these days because there were several lorry-loads of concrete culverts parked up in the queue to board the boat. If they really are for replacing some of the rotten steel culverts underneath the highway, that can only be good news for the future.


railway wagon matane st lawrence river ferry quebec canada canada september septembre 2016They weren’t the only exciting things waiting to board the ferry either. This is a railway wagon, presumably for the transport of ore.

There are several lengths of isolated railway line on the north shore of the St Lawrence River and in the past we’ve seen the ones at Baie Comeau, Sept-Iles, Port Cartier and Havre St Pierre. I imagine that this is on its way out to one of those lines – although there are rail ferries over to Baie Comeau and to Sept Iles.


canada steamship lines st lawrence river quebec canada canada september septembre 2016It’s been a good while since we’ve had a Ship of the Day and so I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to photograph this Canada Steamship Lines bulk carrier that was heading upstream, with the village of Godbout in the background.

Unfortunately I couldn’t read her name from here even with magnifying the photo, and without knowing to which port it was heading, I wasn’t able to track it down on one of the ship tracking sites that I know. She will have to remain anonymous.


godbout st lawrence river quebec canada canada september septembre 2016Over there is the village of Godbout. That’s the destination of the ferry and where we will all spill out.

You’ve probably read what I have written about the north shore of the St Lawrence and for me, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I desperately wanted to come here while I still could and I am lucky to have been able to make it while my health is still holding out. It’s important to me.


f a gauthier st lawrence river ferry godbout quebec canada canada september septembre 2016We were heaved out of the F A Gauthier after a crossing of 2 hours and 15 minutes, which cost (for the benefit of UK Channel-hoppers) a mere $45:00 for Strider and me. That gave me an opportunity to drive around to the side of the ship and take a photo of it.

And in cse you are wondering just who F A Gauthier might have been when he was at home (if he ever was), he was a Quebecois who once stood on the toe of an Anglophone tourist.

And for that heroic act of Francophone defiance, the Quebec authorities will ensure that his name will live on for ever (given how often they replace the ferries around here).


L'artisane godbout st lawrence river quebec canada canada september septembre 2016It took me ages to find the place where I had booked to stay. It’s called one name on the internet but there’s another name over the door and that was what confused me.

My arrival was expected but it was quite early – 09:30 in fact – and so the previous tenants were still having breakfast. My room wasn’t ready either and so there was no point in hanging around. I decided to head off to Baie Comeau to do some shopping and to fuel up.

I had a rather depressing incident at Franquelin. Franquelin is a small village in a cove along the coast between Godbout and Baie Comeau, and to reach there, there’s a stunningly steep descent into the village, and right at the bottom is a 50kph speed limit. It’s impossible to slow down to the speed limit by the time you reach the sign.

Just after the speed limit sign is an alley. And in there was a Quebec County Mountie with a radar gun.

Of course he took off after me, but much to my astonishment he overtook me and continued to drive onwards. That took me completely by surprise, I can tell you. I couldn’t be this lucky, could I?

In Baie Comeau, my friendly neighbourhood petrol pump attendant wasn’t on duty at the Ultramar which was a disappointment, and then I went over to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I hadn’t had one since on the boat.

Once I’d organised that, I went to the IGA and did a little shopping. And then I headed back towards Godbout, stopping on the way to eat my butty.

roadworks highway 138 st lawrence river quebec canada canada september septembre 2016Here on Highway 138 – the Route des Baleines – there were several roadworks and it too hours to negotiate them. I could have sat, made my butties and eaten them in the time that it took me to negotiate them.

And that vehicle heading towards us from down at the bottom of the hill is a new Ford Transit. We encountered quite a few of them last year as they are also sold in North America, replacing the old Ford F-250.

Globalisation is, unfortunately, even catching up with White Van-Man.

godbout st lawrence river quebec canada canada september septembre 2016So now I’m installed in my comfy digs, and here’s the view out of my bedroom window – a little canted over to one side as the ferry is directly oppoite which willcome in handy when I’m rushing for the boat.

I have a small double room with a very comfortable bed, and I share a bathroom. I also have use of the kitchen, which is quite useful, because apart from a very ephemeral canteen, there is absolutely nothing whatever in the way of facilities in the village.

And that suits me fine. It’s what I’ve come here to find. I made myself baked potatoes, beans and hot dogs instead.

And we’ve talked about globalisation just now, and how it’s catching up with us. You may or may not believe what I am going to tell you now, and if you don’t believe it I don’t blame you because I didn’t believe it at first.

However truth is far more strange than fiction, and so it is with no qualms at all that I tell you that my co-habitee in the second guest room here is the notaire from Pontaumur, just 30kms away from where I live in France.

You couldn’t make that up either.

Monday 26th September 2016 – I MUST HAVE BEEN …

… tired last night. I was in bed at 20:00 and away with the fairies straight away for a good half hour. It didn’t take long. But I couldn’t stay asleep and the next hour or so saw me lying there reading a book. Eventually though, I closed my eyes and there I was, gone. And apart from one trip down the corridor, I remember nothing whatsoever until the alarm went off at 06:00.

It took me quite a while to gather my wits and then I set to and tidied up my things because I’m moving on today. I’m feeling better today so I want to take advantage of it while I can. Rachel and I had breakfast together and then I loaded up Strider and we set off.

A brief stop at the tyre depot for a coffee and chat with everyone there, and then I hit the road northwards. At Grand Sault I stopped for fuel and then headed off cross-country towards the Baie des Chaleurs. At Kedgwick I stopped to buy a baguette and I’m glad that I did because they were at half-price in the sale. I stopped off a little further on at a nice quiet spot off the road, right up in the hills, and ate lunch.

Near Atholville I came out of the mountains and this was where I had to make a decision. I was planning to look for a motel here – it’s been a long drive from Centreville – but as I was still feeling up for continuing so I diverted myself up the Matapedia valley and into Quebec.

One thing about Quebec is that no-one obeys the speed limits. It’s 90kph on the main roads and I had the cruise control set accordingly. And after about 30 miles through the mountains I had a queue of about 20 vehicles – lorries and all sorts – right behind me in a long crocodile. But when I turned off at Amqui to head north, I left them all behind.

Matane was my destination, and how peeved was I when I pulled in there. The ferry across the Gulf of St Lawrence was just pulling out – wouldn’t it have been something had I arrived here an hour earlier? I could have been well and truly gone, and quite by accident too. But never mind, hey?

I had a little errand to do here, and then I went to look for accommodation. My choice of motel – the cheap one on the waterfront, was closed for the season, as you might expect, and so I had to look elsewhere. By now I was feeling rather out of it, having driven about 450 kms today, and so I ended up in somewhere expensive. And expensive it was too, because I have stayed in many better places and for much less money too. And I would even miss breakfast, because that starts at 06:30 and I’ll be gone by then.

There was no microwave in the room either, and so I had to look elsewhere for food. A tour around Matane, which took me past a few motels that would have been much better than where I was staying, found me a pizza place where they did me a pizza – one which was quite expensive but which was one of the best that I have ever eaten.

So now I’m settling down in my room (and I do have to admit that the bed is super-comfortable) ready for my really early start tomorrow.

Tuesday 6th September 2016 – “WELL ON THE WAY …

… to the Land of Nod” I said, didn’t I? And at 21:45 too.

And there I stayed until almost 04:00 before i had to disappear off down the corridor. Over 6 hours of continuous sleep is a miracle these days and I’m well-pleased with that. It’s been ages since I’ve been like that – it just tells you how tired I really was.

And that’s not all either. I got back into bed and I was gone again for another hour or so too – and quite right too if you ask me.

First downstairs for breakfast again, and then back up here to do some work, as well as a long chat with a friend on the laptop. The internet is a marvellous tool for this kind of thing and I wonder however we managed without it.

All of this took me until about 10:40 and I had to finish then because there was a shuttle that someone had ordered to take them back to the airport and I had hitched a ride on it. It wasn’t as if I was working to a timetable and so it wasn’t worth ordering one just for myself, even if it is a free service. And so off we set and it doesn’t take long to reach there from here.

And it looks as if the Societe de Transports de Montreal has been spending its money too. In the past, the 747 – the bus that connects the airport to the city centre – was just an ordinary service bus. But now, we have some big six-wheeled Prevost tour buses doing the runs and that’s certainly progress.

Of a sort anyway, because the legendary 25-minute white knuckle ride into the city is over.

rotten concrete urban motorway environment montreal canada september septembre 2016In the 60s, 70s and 80s there was a massive investment in the infrastructure of Montreal. But the work was blighted by problems of overspending, over-time and, shame as it is to say it, all kinds of corruption. All of the concrete work that was done in those days is falling apart as you can see in this photo and this is by no means the worst example – just one that was clearly visible right by where the bus happened to stop.

As a result, huge sections of the overhead motorway network have been taken out of service to be repaired and in some cases it looks as if some sections have been demolished. And that means that our journey took about three times as long as it would otherwise have done.

I’m glad now that I didn’t rely on public transport to bring me into the city early tomorrow morning. As a long-distance traveller I’ve always believed in being as close to my destination as possible as early as possible, and you can understand why.

So here I am at the bus station, and there’s a left-luggage place here. It’s $10 to leave an item here for 24 hours but I’m not going all around the city lugging the giant suitcase around with me and I certainly don’t want to be staggering around with it at 05:00 tomorrow morning. Here it stays.

I didn’t stay though. I headed off to the Galeries Desjardins in the rue Sainte Catherine – and for several reasons too.

  1. there’s a Subway in the basement and I’m hungry. What with the delay on the bus it’s lunchtime already and my stomach feels as if my throat has been cut. I managed to eat this one too without dropping it on the floor.
  2. it’s steaming hot again and there’s a sorbet store just across the road. The coconut milk sorbet was beautiful although they were a bit stingy with it, but the chocloate sorbet was disgusting and it was all that I could do to finish it. I won’t be having that again.
  3. there’s a metro station down in the bowels of the place and this is where I want. I’m on the move again.

The metro takes me to the terminus right out at Honore-Beaugrand and there I leap aboard a 28 bus that pulls up right on cue. This is going to take me out to the rue Jarry Est and my storage locker. My credit card expired a few weeks ago and a payment has been missed and I don’t want them to foreclose on contents of it.

It’s a nice drive out through the outer suburbs of the city and then round across the motorway to the industrial section of the east end. The friendly driver shows me where my stop is but I recognised it anyway.

And now we have another problem – and that is that my UK credit card – which is in credit as always when I go off on a wander – has been blocked. "Unusual spending patterns" probably, which is just an excuse for saying that they don’t want me to spend any money so that the bank can keep it. I mean – it’s not an unusual spending pattern at all, is it? Every year at this time of the year I come here.

Still, I’ve been expecting this ever since I was stranded in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2002. I make sure that I have other cards with me and I’ve even opened an account in a Canadian bank. We can soon resolve this issue – but it’s darned annoying all the same.

Back outside to the bus stop on the other side of the road and it’s the same driver on the return run. We both recognised each other and we had a little chat. That passes the time of day and we’re soon back at Honore-Beaugrand, just in time to be swamped by schoolchildren. It must be chucking-out time already. But then again, we did go a long way out of the city.

hotel bon accueil 1601 Rue St-Hubert, Montréal, QC H2L 3Z3 canada september septembre 2016I alight at Berri-UQAM and head round to the rue Saint Hubert and the Hotel Bon Accueil.

It’s quite a modern building – dating from the 80s I reckon – but I bet that the rooms haven’t seen a lick of paint since then – it’s quite down-at-heel. But the place is spotlessly clean, there’s air-conditioning, a fridge and the bed feels oh! So comfortable! So much so in fact that I’m well-away with the fairies for an hour or so. And quite right too.

But I can’t stay here for ever no matter how nice it feels. I need to be on my way.

place emilie gamelin montreal canada september septembre 2016Another advantage of the hotel is that right at the end of the street is the Place Emilie Gamelin.

She was a nun who had a convent here but that was demolished to become the site of the Berri-UQAM metro station and underneath all of the grass and greenery is a concrete pad which is actually the roof of the station.

If I do decide to come back to the hotel here, this place would be nice to come to sit to with a book and a cold drink if I don’t feel up to going for a wander around the city. It’s nice to have a garden close by

But I don’t have time to stop here and enjoy the sun this afternoon. We have things to do.

gare viger canadian pacific railway terminus montreal canada september septembre 2016Our next stop is what is for me the most beautiful building in Montreal – the Gare Viger, which was formerly the old Canadian Pacific Railway terminus.

Canadian Pacific abandoned all of its operations east of Montreal back in the 1980s (hence the reason that I’m obliged to leave the city on the coach) and this majestic building was left to decay. At one time there was even talk at one time of demolishing it, but it seems that good aesthetic taste has prevailed and they are actually doing something with it. And just as well too because it would be a disaster if this place fell by the wayside.

Down to the river next to see if there’s anything loading or unloading at the grain terminals. Montreal’s fortunes were built on the grain that was brought in from the Prairies by the railway and shipped out to Europe down the Saint Lawrence.

manitoba great lakes laker port of montreal canada september septembre 2016And we’re in luck. Not the best Ship of the Day but the first one so far. It’s so far away that I can’t read its name from here (yes I can if I enlarge the image – she’s the Manitoba, or Personitoba as I suppose we have to say these days).

She’s an old laker, as you can tell from the bridge that is right on the bows of the ship. These ships sail around the Great Lakes and through the canals as far as here, and the reason that the bridge is so far forward is that the captain can have a good view of the entry to the locks into which the ship must sail.

And I do mean "old", by the way. As in 1967 as it happens and that’s an extraordinary age for a cargo ship. She’s a bulk carrier of 10902 tonnes, registered in Hamilton on the shores of Lake Ontario and, for a period up to 2011, was known as the Maritime Trader.

According to her manifests, she seems to spend a great deal of time travelling between Port Colborne on Lake Erie and Port Cartier down the Gulf of St Lawrence which we visited in 2012. It looks as if she’s in the ore business then.

pont jacques cartier st lawrence river montreal canada september septembre 2016Seeing as how we were talking of bridges just now … "well, one of us was" – ed … how about this for a bridge?

It’s the custom, as we know, for important geographical features to be named after their discoverer, and so I wonder what Jacques Cartier said when he sailed up the St Lawrence to here on 2nd October 1535 and saw this magnificent bridge spanning the river. He must have been so impressed, just as I was the first time that I saw it.

belveders ile sainte helene st lawrence river montreal canada september septembre 2016It’s a beautiful evening and not cooling down very much so I go for another stroll along the riverside.

Over there is where I should have been yesterday had that music concert not interrupted my plans. That’s the Ile Sainte Helene and that’s the belvedere where there’s an excellent view of the city at night when everywhere is all lit up. I’ll manage without a photo from there though for this year. You never know – I might be back in Montreal yet again if I can continue to fight off this illness.

But just a few words about the island. During World War II it was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp that earned something of an evil reputation due to the severe fashion that the German soldiers were treated in there. It later it became the site of the 1967 World’s Fair – Expo ’67, which, seeing as this was the the period of a considerable amount of major Quebecois terrorism, was known throughout the world as Explo ’67.

grosse ile goelette montreal canada september septembre 2016Further around the waterfront in the old docks is another ship.

Actuallly she’s a goelette, the Grosse Ile and she claims to be the last working goelette on the Saint Lawrence. She was bought as something not too far removed from a rotting hulk in 1992 and it took 20 years to restore.

Her work these days seems to be nothing more than taking tourists for a couple of laps around the harbour, and I could have been tempted, but I didn’t have the Crown Jewels with me so I let the opportunity pass me by.

Now I bet that you are all dying to know what a goelette is, aren’t you? And so you need to cast your minds back 50 years and more. In those days, most of the settlements along the banks of the St Lawrence were either fishing villages or lumber camps, and there was no road connection between them. Instead, there were the goelettes that sailed along the river from a railhead and worked a chain of these isolated communities, dropping off supplies and picking up the fish or whatever.

There are still several isolated communities like that these days and you may remember coming with me in May 2012 on an icebreaker, smashing our way through the pack-ice out to an isolated island down in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

From here I trudged wearily, because I’m in wearily trudging mode by now, to the metro. It’s my last night in Montreal so I’m going to have a big blow-out.

Quite literally too, because there’s a superb Indian restaurant right by the Snowdon metro station and that’s where I’m heading. Vegetable samosas followed by a potato, spinach and mint curry with boiled rice and a naam bread and that was me well-and-truly stuffed. As I have said before, it’s the best Indian meal that I have ever had outside Stoke-on-Trent.

Another one of the advantages of being in a hotel in the city centre is that travelling time is so much less. Instead of 20:45 it was more like 20:15 when I was home. This meant that I was all done and dusted, in and out of the shower and all tucked up in a comfortable bed by 20:45.

And if I’m going to have to be up tomorrow at 05:00, then I need to be, too. I’m not looking forward to this one little bit.

Monday 25th April2016 – NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!

I was in bed at a reasonable time last night, watching a Bulldog Drummond film, when I fell asleep after about 10 minutes or so.

And that was my lot until about 06:30. I slept right through everything and didn’t feel a thing.

Even better, after I’d been for a stroll down the corridor, I went straight back to sleep and that was that until the alarm went off at 08:00. Totally painless, I have to say and I felt so much better after that.

The coffee at breakfast was the best yet and so even though it’s not a Sunday I treated myself to a second mug and took it back to my room. It went down a treat while I was having a play around on the laptop.

I managed to go out to buy my lunch but it was touch and go because we had a rainstorm at lunchtime. It just held off long enough for me to nip out and back – and I forgot to buy any pudding. I fancied one of these sliced spicy cakes the same that I bought at the hospital the other day. But there you go, I suppose. I’ll have to remember for tomorrow. I wonder what it would be like with some vanilla-flavoured soya dessert.

Tonight, though, I wasn’t so lucky and I was caught in a rainstorm. It’s not the first time that it’s rained while I’ve been here, but it’s the first time that I’ve been caught in it. With having no cash handy, I had to go to the bank and on the way back I stopped at the fritkot for a veggieburger and chips. And although it was totally delicious, I didn’t realise that they put tomato sauce on the burger and I hate that. But I’ll remember that, and tell them next time that I go there, because there will indeed be a next time. I certainly had my money’s worth at €5:00.

And so tomorrow, I’m starting house-hunting. I need to find a place to live and to find one quickly. The girl at the Social Services seems to have run aground in her efforts and my communications with her today have been a bit, well, difficult.

It looks like I’m on my own.

But I’m not in a very good humour today. In fact, I’m feeling a little depressed. As I started typing this, it was four years to the very minute that I was landing at Montreal airport on my way to an icebreaker out in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

What has depressed me is that it’s usually about now that I’m planning my autumn adventures in Canada. But God knows when I’m going to get there again.

Thursday 8th October 2015 – THAT WAS ANOTHER …

… sleep of the dead last night. I was watching a film on the laptop but after about 20 minutes I gave it up as a bad job and that was that. I didn’t feel a thing until the morning and I was awake long before the alarm went off.

I’d been on my travels too, and they really were travels. I’d started off back on the buses, doing the regular Friday night run that I used to do for Shearings – up around Central Scotland and that area. Then Cecile and I were living somewhere in Belgium and it was midwinter. We had a day and a half spare and so I suggested that we go off to the Arctic Circle. I had three Cortinas in various conditions (all of them running, after a fashion) and I chose the worst one to do the trip, if I could remember where it was and if the Council hadn’t towed it away. But although it took me about 30 seconds to pack (and I was amazed at how little I needed) it took Cecile almost all of the day and a half to make herself ready.

Finally, I was in Stoke on Trent with someone whom I used to know and we were just stilling around doing very little and talking. And Zero put in an appearance too.

All in all, I’m surprised that my journey through the night hadn’t thoroughly worn me out. And on waking up I noticed that there was no condensation on the roof even though I’d been cooking in here and it had rained during the evening.

sawdust barge gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaThere’s no photo of my spec from last night, because while I was putting away everything into Strider I noticed through the trees some movement in the bay away in the distance, so I shot over to see what it was.

I know that there’s a sawdust barge that works the coast around here collecting the waste products from the sawmills to take to Matane and while I wouldn’t recognise a sawdust barge even if I were to trip over one, this one looks as if it could be something to do with that.

autumn colours cabin in forest gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaI went back on the road, having forgotten about photographing my camp, and instead of going around the coast I ended up in the mountains taking a short cut.

The autumn colours up here really are magnificent. You can understand why it is that I enjoy travelling round the eastern part of Canada at this time of the year. And to live in one of those cabins over there would be superb. If only I could see the sea from there.

riviere au renard gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaI rediscovered the sea at Riviere au Renard and found myself head-on in a howling gale. I parked up and went for a walk around the harbour but the wind blew me back to Strider and so I didn’t get to see too much.

The harbour was however quite full of fishing boats but many of them were up on stocks. The fishing around here these days has been having an enormous struggle since the collapse of the cod industry in 1992

gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaThe north coast of the Gaspé Peninsula – the southern shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence – is really beautiful.

The road along here is something comparatively new. It’s all up steep headland and down into deep inlets, and in almost every inlet there’s a small fishing village with a quay and a church, and is usually called St-Something or Anse (Cove) au Something Else.

Every one of them is extremely photogenic but the difficulty that you have is finding a good uninterrupted view of the place.

gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaPrior to the roads being here along the coast, the only access to these small villages was by sea and you’ll remember when we were in Matane the other day we visited the marine museum that was situated in the old quay from where all of the coastal boats used to depart.

And if you know anything about cloud formations (which you will do if you’ve been reading this rubbish for any reasonable length of time) you won’t need me to tell you where the northern shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence might be.

bulk carrier ship superstructure gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaWhile I was stopped and having my lunch, I noticed this object way out in the gulf. And it was moving too, and so with the telephoto lens I squeezed off a good long-distance shot.

You can’t tell what it is from here, but from the headland at the back it was easy to identify. It’s the superstructure of a large bulk carrier heading down the Gulf of St Lawrence towards the Atlantic. As I said before, it’s hard to understand why so many people were unable to believe that the world was round when you see evidence like this.

maersk container ship gulf of st lawrence gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaTalking of ships, we haven’t had a real ship of the day for a couple of days. And so when I saw this one steaming (or rather dieseling) past the foot of the headland upon which I was standing, I had to take a photo.

She’s too far out for me to be able to identify her name but she’s one of the fleet of Maersk Container Ships and according to the company’s interactive fleet map, 24 hours after I saw this ship, the Maersk Carolina was leaving the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Maersk Palermo was still in the river.

It’s more likely though to be the Maersk Penang that had arrived in Montreal from Antwerp and was now on its way out to Halifax.

From here I went off to find a place to stay. As I said, it’s becoming darker earlier and earlier and I don’t want to be caught out again.

Wednesday 7th October 2015 – I HAD YET ANOTHER …

… really bad night last night. Only on this occasion there wasn’t any particular reason for it. I was still awake at 02:00 this morning, which is not like me over here, is it? And worse still, I had no idea why that might have been.

I crawled under the shower and then made a coffee but I still didn’t feel much better.

grande riviere baie des chaleurs gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaAnyway, to wake myself up, I made myself another mug of coffee and went down to the harbour for a walk around and some fresh air.

And, strangely enough, this would have been quite a good place to have stayed for the night. There was plenty of space here and there were quite a few boats up on stocks. I could have tucked myself in here quite happily in the peace and quiet and been well away.

Still, you live and learn, don’t you?

la roche percée baie des chaleurs gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaHaving fuelled up Strider, I set off again and after a good drive I pulled up on a rest area to admire the view and drink another coffee.

We’ve all seen this rock before haven’t we? It’s La Roche Percée, the Pierced Rock, and we came by here before. It’s said to be one of the hundreds of places where Jacques Cartier made a landing and erected a cross.

If he really did land at all of the places that are claimed as his landing sites, he would probably be still out there now, but this time it’s probably correct because no-one could invent a description of this particular site without having visited it and there isn’t another place that resembles this in the whole of the St Lawrence estuary.

I was away with the fairies for about an hour up here too in the lovely sunny late-morning, and then I set off again to continue my travels.

perce baie des chaleurs gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaWe’ve seen the town of Percé before and so I won’t trouble you with another photo of the town itself. The only thing that you need to remember is that half of the buildings are motels and the other half are tourist attractions.

But all of that notwithstanding, we certainly haven’t seen the town and the rock from this angle. And although you can’t see the hole in the rock, this is certainly the most exciting angle to view everything. But itwas quite an effort to take the photo. There’s nowhere to park except at the side of the road and there’s an endless stream of traffic up the hill.

railway locomotive station gaspe baie des chaleurs gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaWe finally solve the mystery of the railway when we arrive at the town of Gaspé. All of the railway installations have been swept away and there’s a huge tourist information building constructed on the site.

And parked out at the back of it is the train here. We’ve seen dozens of locomotives like this and so I think that it might be one of the GP38 family, but I’ll need to check up on that.

railway train locomotive station gaspe baie des chaleurs gaspe peninsula highway 132 quebec canadaThe girl in charge of the tourist information office told me the story of the train, so now I can tell you all.

VIARAIL stopped running the trains to Montreal about 6 years ago and abandoned the line, so she said. It’s now a tourist scenic railway that runs just as far as Percé and back again in the summer months with no connection to the main line at Compbelltown, which should make life interesting if they ever need to replace the loco or send it away for repair.

But that’s not likely to happen as the service didn’t run this year. It seems that important work is needed to be done on the line but the Quebec Government hasn’t done it. “Maybe they’ll do it ready for next year” she said, and I’m not convinced that she believed it either.

The latest update on all of this is that Jean-François Turcotte told me “that was RS-18u 1849; it’s been trucked-out to the active portion of the line and is now used to haul woodchip, cement and windmill parts along with three other RS-18u’s. The carriages for the former l’Amiral tourist train are still in Gaspé, AFAIK.”

And Anthony Bernard Prince said ” A lot of track maintenance work will be carried out on the 3rd section of our railroad between Port-Daniel and Gaspé this year (2021). The majority of the work will be carried out between Chandler and Douglastown. 15,000 ties will be replaced, many crossings will be replaced, and thousands of tons of ballast will be spread.”

The town of Gaspé is a nightmare to negotiate as the whole road system is torn up for repair. I eventually made it to Tim Horton’s but didn’t stay long. Instead, I moved on and I’m now esconced at the site of the old World War II military defences for the bay. It’s a little-known fact that I had the UK fallen to the Germans in World War II, the Royal Navy would have come and set themselves up over here in the Gaspé.

And on the way out of Gaspé on the way to here here I drove past two motels that I hadn’t noticed in 2010. Where were they when I needed them?

Tuesday 22nd September 2015 – HERE IN THE NICE AND QUIET …

canadian national railway locomotives fort beausejour new brunswick canada … isolation of my litle spec on the edge of the marshes I was having the best night’s sleep that I had had for quite some time.

However, as I have said before, one of the things that you need to do when you arrive somewhere to stay for the night in North America is to check the immediate area for railway lines, and I forgot to do that yesterday, didn’t I?

This isn’t the train that woke me up of course, but it is one that is very much like it, shuddering, clanking and blowing just about 100 yards away from my quiet little spec

bay of fundy fort beausejour new brunswick canadaWhen I did finally heave myself out of my stinking pit this morning, this is the beautiful view that greeted me. I’m shrouded in a fog rolling in off the head of the Bay of Fundy, something that many Ancient Mariners would tell you all about.

I’m shrouded in condensation too inside the truck cap – or at least, the truck cap is. I’m going to have to do something about this in the long term because as the weather cools down even more, the condensation will become worse and worse

I’ve had a little play around inside the back of Strider too and I’ve made piles of extra room. I can actually move around in there now, as well as unfold my chair and sit down. What with that and my little fold-up table, I’m really comfortable in there now. Next trick is going to be a solar panel on the roof and a battery inside so that I can run some lights in there and a little inverter to power a couple of things like my slow cooker.

I still have a couple of plans about the bed too and I shall put them into practice given a nice afternoon and a quiet spot in which to work.

bay of fundy fort beausejour new brunswick canadaThat’s Strider way down there, in the spot where I parked for the night. And beyond it is the head of the Bay of Fundy. I’m actually standing on the ramparts of Fort Beausejour and you can see why the French chose this site for the building of their fort.

We’re on the southern shore of the narrowest part of the isthmus of Chignecto, on the edge of the Tantramar Marshes – and you may remember if you were with us on our voyage in October 2010 we went to Fort Gaspereaux, on the northern shore of the isthmus.

fort beausejour new brunswick canadaFort Beausejour was built in 1750 under the orders of the French Governor the Marquis de la Jonquière, and with these two forts, the French could bottle up the isthmus.

Nothing could pass by here without the French knowing about it and so quite naturally they became prime targets for the British Army during the mid-18th Century. The British under Robert Monckton laid seige to Fort Beausejour in June 1755 and it fell after 13 days. Fort Gaspereaux fell a couple of days later and that was the end of French rule in Acadia.

fort beausejour new brunswick viewed from site of fort lawrence nova scotia canadaThe British had built a fort – Fort Lawrence – in Nova Scotia across the marshes from Fort Beausejour in order to put pressure on the French fort.

The fort didn’t last very long – the British preferred to occupy Fort Beausejour once they had captured it – and so there is nothing left of Fort Lawrence. But the site is well-known in the area and so I went for a wander over there for a look. And while there is nothing of the fort left to see, there’s a splendid view across the marshes to Fort Beausejour

fort beausejour new brunswick viewed from nova scotia tourist information board offices canadaBut that’s not the best view of Fort Beausejour by any means. From the offices of the Nova Scotia Tourist Board’s information office, the view of the fort is even more spectacular. You can see its five-star pointed design and it earthen walls quite clearly from here with a good telephoto lens.

In fact, such is the dominance of the site where I am standing over the surrounding area that I’m surprised that the British hadn’t occupied and fortified this point instead. I know that this is the point that I would have chosen.

chignecto ship railway nova scotiak canadaFrom up here on this eminence, there’s another good view – this time of an object that is just as spectacular as the fort, even though it’s much less well-known.

Right in the centre of the image, surrounded by cows, is the dock that was intended to the the entrance to the Chignecto Ship Railway and had this been built, it would have been a really impressive structure.

As I said, this is the narrowest part of the isthmus and if ships could find a way across it, they would save hundred of miles and several days, as well as avoid many of the risks of shipwreck, as they sailed between the Gulf of St Lawrence and the eastern seaboard of North America.

chignecto ship railway nova scotia canadaThe plan was for the ships to sail into the dock, to be raised up by a hydraulic ramp and loaded onto railway wagons, and then transported by train across the isthmus to the other side – to the dock near Tidnish that we visited in October 2010.

Unfortunately the works on the southern side of the isthmus are on private property and not able to be visited, but what we are looking at here are the earthworks that would have carried the track bed of the railway, which were completed for several miles.

Why this all went wrong was that the same technology that enabled the construction of the engineering works of the railway also enabled shipbuilders to build bigger and bigger ships – and so the railway quickly became clear that the railway would be inadequate for the task, and funds could not be raised to rebuild it to larger dimensions.

trans canada highway nova scotia canadaAfter lunch I set off down the Trans-Canada Highway through the mountains towards Antigonish. Hannah is at St F-X University there and I hadn’t seen much of her while I’ve been over here so I went to visst her.

We went out for a meal and a chat for a couple of hours, and then I hit the road again. There’s a big Irvings truck stop down at the Canso Strait and while I’m not a big fan of truck stops these days for sleeping purposes, it’s the nest place that I can think of to settle down for the night.

At least all of the facilities are there.

Sunday 21st September 2014 – WHAT I SAW ON THE LABRADOR COAST

labrador coast lower north shore quebec canada september 2014Not very impressive, is it? In fact, I feel rather cheated after going to all of this trouble to get here in the first place.

However, rolling Newfoundland fogs are a well-known phenomenon in the Gulf of St Lawrence as anyone who remembers my visit to that island in the Gulf of St Lawrence in May 2012 might well remember. And there have been enough marine accidents in the Gulf due to the rolling fog to underline the point, so it’s not really that unexpected.

mv apollo st barbe newfoundland canada september 2014I had a wild night last night anyway, here hemmed in between a couple of vehicles on the quayside in the shadow of the Apollo. It was as if the wind was trying to tear the roof of the Dodge.

I was up too at about 05:50 thanks to the alarm, due to the fact that the shipping company offices open at 06:00. The 08:00 sailing has been cancelled as expected but we had to report back at 09:00 for further news.

At 09:00 we were informed that there would be an unscheduled sailing at 10:30 so we all made our way to the docks where, using a rather large shoehorn, all of the waiting vehicles were squeezed on and off we went.

But the poor Apollo is looking rather worse for wear these days, a lot worse than she did in 2010. A good refit would do her the world of good, or perhaps there’s another redundant cross-channel ferry somewhere that needs a new home. The Apollo could then go to a nice retirement home in the sunshine somewhere in the Aegean, the usual abode of old and tired Ro-Ro ferries.

vieux fort old fort bay labrador coast lower north shore quebec canada september 2014Despite the miserable weather, I made it down to Old Fort, or Vieux Fort as the authorities insist on calling it. This is the far end of Highway 138, and regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we reached the other end of the road
in May 2012.

There’s just this gap of a couple of hundred miles in the road that will never be completed in the lifetime of anyone reading this rubbish.

vieux fort old fort bay labrador coast lower north shore quebec canada september 2014Old Fort was discovered in 1504, officially that is, by Breton whalers who had some kind of whaling plant here similar to the one that we visited in Red Bay in 2010

But I say “officially” because there’s considerable evidence to suggest that places such as this were well-known long before they were officially “discovered”. The whalers and trappers who worked out of these places kept the locations of their enterprises secret so that the competition wouldn’t move in, but with Cabot’s voyage of “discovery” in 1497 (and it’s certain that Cabot knew what he was going to find), there was an impetus for the Breton and Basque whalers and the like to formally “discover” the locations of their enterprises in order to forestall the English.

And with that, I had a slow meander back to the harbour at Brador Bay which will be my location for tonight I reckon. I’m hoping that the weather might improve tomorrow because if we are still having the fog and the rain, I’ll have to postpone my voyage around the Trans-Labrador Highway until next year.