As I write this, a huge container ship that came in sometime in the night is being unloaded across the harbour. A small fishing boat is passing below my window. Has he been out all night in the cold and rain? I hope not. I watch the water swirling in his wake. The tide is coming in, I think—yep, just checked the charts, high tide is at noon, all 24 feet of it. As you may have guessed, I’m not on Toronto Island this morning. I’m in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Chris and I have driven here in our MG, which I’m pleased and only slightly surprised to say made it the whole way here without a breakdown. But only because Chris can fix anything but a broken heart. (Well, actually, he can fix that, too.) The alternator stopped working a couple days ago, so Chris picked up a battery charger and carried it and the car battery up to our room each night. This morning the car is in the shop. We’re hoping the alternator can be repaired by the time we start the trip home on Friday, but if not, we’ll manage.
We’ve put a lot of hours on the little car. On Wednesday, we set out from Waterloo, travelling northeast on the back roads. Chris is fine with driving a tiny sports car through Toronto traffic, but I’m not. Give me a North Atlantic gale any time. Ten hours later we were just south of Montreal, where we checked into a hotel and fell into bed exhausted.
Next morning, we were back in the car, driving along the south shore of the St. Lawrence to Quebec City. We arrived during evening rush hour (bad planning) and only just managed to find our way across the old bridge and through the construction below the Plains of Abraham to our hotel in the old city. But it was worth the effort. We spent the evening strolling the streets, stopping when necessary for a glass of beer, then enjoyed a quiet night in our favourite little boutique hotel on the waterfront. They put a basket of croissants and butter and jam outside your door in the morning. It just doesn’t get better than that.
Friday we spent a leisurely day driving along the south shore of the river, through beautiful farm country and little towns, every one with a spectacular church (Chris wouldn’t stop at them all) and the most brightly painted houses I’ve ever seen. Amazing. We crossed into New Brunswick then headed south to Perth-Andover where we’d booked a room at an interesting-looking place called The Castle Inn.
As we turned into the driveway, we saw a warning sign: “Kilts Ahead.” What could it mean? The woman at the desk explained that there was a gathering of the Scots there that weekend and warned us that things might get a bit loud. Sure enough, as we relaxed in our little sun porch, the unmistakable skirl of bagpipes filled the air and a full Scottish pipe band paraded onto the grass below our window. It was great. They performed for maybe half an hour before a man with a mace dis-MISSED them. There, we thought. That wasn’t so bad. Then the ceilidh began.
The next morning, a little short on sleep, we drove through the thick forests of New Brunswick on some of the worst roads we’ve ever seen. Seriously. The logging trucks must pound them to pieces. There were so many potholes, it was impossible to avoid them, you just had to drive though them. Slowly. And hope that a logging truck wasn’t coming up behind you. But we rarely saw another vehicle (which should have told us something).
Next stop, Shediac and our first glimpse of the ocean (and first lobster dinner). Then yesterday, we drove through the rain and the fog to Saint John, where we’re spending the week while Chris is at a conference.
This journey has been a sort of dry run for our next sailing adventure. We plan to sail out the St. Lawrence, spend some time sailing around the maritimes before we head out into the ocean. It’s been funny driving along the river, looking out, imagining ourselves out there on Monark. It’s a tricky river, very shallow in places, narrow channels, lots of rocks, big currents, huge tides. Makes Lake Ontario seem like a pond.
But we can do it. We travelled the length of the river a few summers ago in a three-masted schooner we were moving from New Brunswick to Goderich. If we can manage the river in a strange boat (and there’s nothing quite as strange as a 70-foot gaff-rigged schooner) surely we can manage it in our sturdy little sailboat.