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Old 12-22-2013, 03:22 PM   #1
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The "other" loop

There's been a lot written about the "great" loop. I'm not finding much about the "Down East loop". A few books and guides, yes. But not the hundreds of blogs, clubs with burgees, and numerous web sites that the great loop has.

when I first heard of it, as a kid, I thought the great loop included BOTH the St. Lawrence AND the Mississippi. That would be a good trip!

Just wondering if anyone has done the Down East loop, or did the great loop via the St. Lawrence.
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Old 12-22-2013, 03:55 PM   #2
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Bay Pelican and three other Krogens went into Canada and down the St. Lawrence. Bay Pelican entered Canada at Kingston, up the Rideau, down the Ottawa River to Montreal and then out the St. Lawrence. Some of the best cruising we have ever done. Beautiful scenery, great people. Unfortunately, the season is short so that we were always watching the calendar as to when we had to move on. Can't say enough about the trip other than it is worth doing. Only downside, too many whales. Hard to move when the whales circle your boat for fun.

Once you go east of Quebec City the marinas get smaller and have less to offer. It also starts getting cooler (July and August).

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Old 12-22-2013, 04:45 PM   #3
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Thanks Marty!

I read somewhere that the Down East loop would be about a 45-day trip, which seems about right for 2,400 NM. Since it's not fun or safe to have an aggressive schedule, I'm estimating 90 days minimum.

I'm not even sure this is possible, but it looks like I could take the Hudson to the Champlain Canal, and meet up with the St. Lawrence just North of Montreal.

I could start in mid May, and be in the Champlain Canal by the first of June. That gives me June, July and August to go down the St. Lawrence and then back around to Maine. Seems reasonable.

It might even leave a little time for side trips. I'd love to try the run from Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to St. Pierre and Miquelon. Three countries in one trip! I've seen the rest of the coast of Newfoundland by car, but this stretch of coast is only accessible by boat.
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Old 12-22-2013, 05:05 PM   #4
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Read and enjoy Adventures of Tanglewood: The Plan: Complete the Downeast Loop We did the Downeast loop last summer. It's a great trip, but 45 days is too short. We took 10 weeks and often felt like we were rushing it.
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Old 12-22-2013, 05:55 PM   #5
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It might even leave a little time for side trips. I'd love to try the run from Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to St. Pierre and Miquelon. Three countries in one trip! I've seen the rest of the coast of Newfoundland by car, but this stretch of coast is only accessible by boat.
That would be a great trip. Three things to be aware of:

Many American insurance companies do not allow you east of Quebec City without a special waiver. Mine required a history / bio of me as to abilities.

Insurance company's policy was that Newfoundland was a special case only coverage, requiring a decision immediately before leaving to go there, as in within 72 hours. While we were in Nova Scotia the Canadian Coast Guard tried to dissuade a big boat (Nordhavn 62 or Krogen 58 I forget) from going to Newfoundland because it was late August.

St. Pierre and Miquelon are part of France so if you have a pet onboard it could be complicated. We had a pet bird (cockatiel) and could not leave and then reenter Canada within 30 days. Don't know if anyone would have paid attention, but you can make your own decision as to whether to risk it.



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Old 12-22-2013, 06:18 PM   #6
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That's very cool. I never knew that was part of France.
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Old 12-22-2013, 07:57 PM   #7
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Wow!! Went to Wikip. and read the history between the UK and France fighting over those two islands.

I knew they were there, but thought they were part of Newfoundland. . . I had no idea they are a self-governing territory of France. Live and learn. . .
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:06 PM   #8
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No cruiser should visit Newfoundland or St. Pierre and Miquelon without reading The Boat Who Wouldn't Float by Farley Mowat. Very funny story of two guys with the dream of converting a wooden fishing boat into a yacht and running it to Toronto.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:16 PM   #9
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No cruiser should visit Newfoundland or St. Pierre and Miquelon without reading The Boat Who Wouldn't Float by Farley Mowat. Very funny story of two guys with the dream of converting a wooden fishing boat into a yacht and running it to Toronto.
Farley Mowat is the REASON I want to go there! And the reason I did that trip to Newfoundland by car (well, mostly ferry) once.

Sounds like Newfoundland (and France) might be just too much to bite off at this point. The rest of the trip looks quite doable.

Twisted, thanks, looks like I was right to figure 90 days (almost 13 weeks.)
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:12 AM   #10
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The RIGHT loop is quite easy and lots of fun exiting south thru Lake Champlain .

There are loads of free public docks in small French towns.

Bilingual ?, maybe by law but is resisted by most natives.

Good resturants, the abundance of public docks allow stops for baggettes and coffee, or lunch as the mood hits during the days cruise..
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Old 12-23-2013, 07:05 AM   #11
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The RIGHT loop is quite easy and lots of fun exiting south thru Lake Champlain .

Not sure what you mean by the "RIGHT loop"?
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Old 12-23-2013, 07:55 AM   #12
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Having lived in Maine for the last 21 years (at least in the summer since we've been cruising), I've known many people who have done the Downeast Loop. Much of it goes along the coast of Maine. I've never done it myself - not sure that it's on my own radar to try.

It's probably best to do it clockwise - starting at NY heading north on the Hudson River to the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario to the St Lawrence. Then you proceed up and around Nova Scotia to Maine to the Cape Cod Canal, Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island Sound, Long Island Sound, and back to NY. The reason to do it in this direction is that current flows in that direction on the St Lawrence. Timing-wise it's better too because it's easy to be on the Erie Canal in June. You don't want to be in Maine/Nova Scotia in June - you'll experience too much fog.

Past Montreal/Quebec City (been to both) it's pretty desolate and without many services. I think there is one place to get fuel - you'd want to carefully check that out to make sure you have the range. Someone else mentioned insurance for that section - you'd need a special declaration to go through that area.

At a minimum, a month should be spent in Nova Scotia. Some of the best cruising in the world is in the Bras d'Or Lake section and worthy of as much time as possible to spend there. I've been cruising the coast of Maine for 21 years and I still haven't see all of Maine - there's a lot there as well. The coast of Maine is longer than the coast of California because of it's jagged coastline. Taking a month in Maine is pretty reasonable too to get a good experience. It's best to be leaving Maine by mid-September. I've left as late as October 7th from the Penobscot Bay and I wouldn't ever leave later than that (facilities start closing and there can be cold nights). We ran pretty hard that year until we got to Long Island.
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Old 12-23-2013, 08:59 AM   #13
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Two more comments on the St. Lawrence:

Past Quebec City be prepared for using some French when docking and reserving a slip in a marina. If you need help with this there is a book titled French for Cruisers, unfortunately concentrates on French French not Quebecois French. Some differences which are important. (Blame the US they keep adopting English terms). When you are west of Quebec grab a boater who is bilingual and ask for the different terms.

Suggest you do not consider going up river on the St. Lawrence, i.e. do the loop clockwise thus down river. The current is strong everywhere and you might not enjoy it.

Fuel was not a problem for us but then with our tanks we did not fuel in Canada, much higher priced as it was.

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Old 12-23-2013, 09:10 AM   #14
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I can offer up a few additional tips.

First, get Cheryl Barr's Downeast Loop book. It might be out of print, but can be found with a little effort. It's a bit out of date, but still includes important info and is a key element in your library. Of particular value are her tips for planning a few of the more complex legs where you have no stopping point and can only make the leg if you plan the currents. She makes it very easy by giving departure times relative to key tide marks.

Jeff probably already knows this, but ActiveCaptain is a key resource as well. But from Quebec City to around Halifax you will find very few reviews. Mine probably represent 20% of the total which is pretty bad. Regardless, they are another key element of information.

For anyone cruising the US, the Quebec to Halifax part of the trip, which, by the way is approximately 1000mn is very remote. But don't shy away from it. It does require a little planning, but there are plenty of stops and fuel is not a problem - it just requires a little planning. It's not a trip that you can just bumble through, but poses a nice step up in challenge compared to the Great Loop or coastal cruising.

The people aren't French, they are Canadian, but they speak French. If you can learn at least a little bit of French it will serve you well. Even if you can just say that you don't speak French and ask if they can speak English, most happily will and great you with open arms. The people area really great. But if you just plow through in English you will likely offend a few people. You also will find a few places where nobody speaks English, but people still manage just fine. By the way, if you speak French, don't assume you will be able to understand anything the Quebecois say. The pronunciation is quite different. The only time I was able to really understand someone was in a restaurant in Quebec City, and it turns out the lady was Parisian.

Don't miss the Saguenay River and Baie D'Eternite.

We skipped the Bras d'Or lakes, but I gather it's spectacular. We were just tired by then, and it's not to far for us to reach on another trip, so we saved it for another time. If you are not from New England, I would not miss it.

Jeff is right about doing the loop clockwise. Much of the St Lawrence current is ALWAYS flowing outward, so going the other way is much more difficult. Plus, the point about the seasons favoring a clockwise trip are very true.

For the inland part of the trip from Albany to Montreal, there are three different routes you can take. They are:

1) Go north through the Champlain Canal and Lake to Sorrel. From there you can backtrack up the St Lawrence to Montreal, or just turn right and head to Quebec City. But Montreal is really nice, so I'd backtrack.

2) Go west our the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal and into lake Ontario. From there you head up to Kingston ON which is right at the beginning of the St Lawrence. From there, you have another choice.

2a) Go out the St Lawrence through the Thousand Islands region and run through the locks to Montreal (last lock is there). The Thousand Islands are beautiful, but the locks are tedious. Commercial traffic takes priority, and you can sit and wait for hours to get through. It makes trip planning difficult, even if you don't mind waiting.

2b) Go up the Rideau to Ottawa, then take the Ottawa river back down to Montreal where it rejoins the St Lawrence. The Rideau is really cool and I highly recommend it, but you need 5' or less draft. And if you are over 4' you are supposed to tell them ahead of time. We had no trouble with 4'. You will still have two of the big locks to go through to get around Montreal, but you will bypass 5 others, so I think this route is the best. You will, however, go through 45 locks or so on the Rideau, but they are small and very pleasant. Once downside is that you will miss the Thousand Islands, but we solved that by spending two days exploring that area before running up the Rideau.

From Montreal/Sorrel, it's all the same route.

I'm sure there is more, but this should get you started, and hopefully motivated to make the trip.
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Old 12-23-2013, 10:16 AM   #15
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I'm sure there is more, but this should get you started, and hopefully motivated to make the trip.
Yes, this discussion is helping to motivate me a lot! And it will also help avoid an "unhappy misadventure." (Farley Mowat fans know what I mean.)

Jeff, you're too modest. I scanned the whole route in Active Captain just to read the reviews and confirm there were places to stop along the way. I'd be lost without that resource, thanks!!

Good to know about the insurance issues, I figured I'd need to extend my range, but wasn't aware this was an area that gets special attention. I'll look into that this year, since this trip can't start until 2015 at the earliest.

I was figuring on the clockwise direction mostly for weather reasons. Leaving from Maine and going South and then inland early in the year makes the most sense. But I didn't realize the current on the St. Lawrence would be such a big issue. On the chart it looks so wide.

I took three years of French in High School and didn't learn a thing. Guess I'll have to try again.

I think I'm good on fuel. I haven't zeroed in on a firm NMPG number yet, but I'm thinking I have a working range of about 800-1,000 NM, with a reasonable reserve. More if I get a fair current. Part of the attraction of this trip is the remote stretches. The boat is named after the constellation Cygnus, aka the Northern Cross, for a reason. I'm counting on some good star gazing. I'll have to make sure I'm in one of those remote locations for the Perseid meteor shower in August!

I agree with Jeff about spending more time in Nova Scotia. I took my last boat to the Yarmouth to St. Mary's Bay area for a week, and would like to see the rest of the province. Bras d'Or Lake sounds fascinating, I've only been able to drive by it in a car so far.
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Old 12-23-2013, 10:25 AM   #16
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Having lived in the Montreal area for over 20 years and being English speaking, I can assure you that you will have no problem with the language, I'm married to a Quebecois girl and once we get East of Quebec city even she has trouble understanding the locals, but believe me they know what side their bread is buttered, as long as you S.V.P. and Merci, you will get all the assistance you need.
I agree that the clockwise route is the way to go, the St Lawrence is very difficult area to navigate, I believe that all large vessels are required to take on a pilot at Quebec city who stays with the ship right up to Montreal and still they end up stranded on a sand bank.

I can't advise you on the South coast of NL, I'm on the Northern peninsular, it will be a couple of years before I get that far South, just bear in mind that the crossing from Sydney NS to channel Porte aux Basques NL is a good 7 hours of open ocean and yes there are quite a lot of whales.

My insurance limits me to N40 deg to N52 deg, so at least I can come down as far as New Jersey to see how you guys live lol.
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Old 12-23-2013, 11:13 AM   #17
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If you only have a summer to kill, try the little loop consisting of the Hudson, Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, Lake Ontario, Rideau Canal, Ottawa River, Chambly-Richelieu, Lake Champlain, Champlain Canal and back to the top of the Hudson. It takes a relaxing 2 months and any boat can do it.
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Old 12-23-2013, 12:54 PM   #18
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Not sure what you mean by the "RIGHT loop"?

If you put across the lake after leaving the Erie barge canal and turn LEFT in Canada its the bigger loop on to Chicago and the Miss.

If you turn Right , it's on to Ottawa and the choice of returning effortlessly via Lake Champlain , or on to real Blue water , bring the Victory at Sea tape !

The RIGHT loop is a great way to enjoy a summer , and be able to put put back south with no fear of winter.
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Old 12-23-2013, 04:08 PM   #19
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Not sure what you mean by the "RIGHT loop"?

If you put across the lake after leaving the Erie barge canal and turn LEFT in Canada its the bigger loop on to Chicago and the Miss.

If you turn Right , it's on to Ottawa and the choice of returning effortlessly via Lake Champlain , or on to real Blue water , bring the Victory at Sea tape !

The RIGHT loop is a great way to enjoy a summer , and be able to put put back south with no fear of winter.
OK, I think I see what you are saying. I was confused because there are two ways out of the Erie, three different "Right" loops, and two different "left" routes, some of which involve turning right rather than left depending on where you come out of the Erie.
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:01 PM   #20
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Capt Tom

Just a suggestion. Our trip was so jam packed that we regretted not having more time. From where you are in Maine you could make two trips out of the Down East Loop. One up the Rideau, down the Ottawa River to Montreal and Quebec City and then back to the Richelieu, Lake Champlain and then home. The second trip would be up the Richelieu turn east on the St. Lawrence and then out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Maritimes. Both trips would be more than filled with things to see and do.

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