Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lunacy on the St. Lawrence

It's winter in Québec. It's bitterly cold (-30C), grey and overcast, with a biting wind of 40-50 km/hour. The temperature is -42 with the windchill.  We're on a ferry moored on the Quebec shore, ready to watch the annual canoe race that's a highlight of the Québec Winter Carnival. That's the St. Lawrence River, looking across to distant Lévis.

The river is cluttered with floating ice. Doesn't that look inviting for a canoe race?

 Apparently so for 260 lunatics in 52 canoes (4 rowers in each boat plus a paddling coxswain in the rear) who are going to race across the St. Lawrence and back. There is a 'professional' category, regular category(many with mixed boats) and a women's category. The top group will do it twice - yes, you heard that right, they'll cross the river four times. What a way to spend an afternoon! As you can see, the river looks even less inviting up close.

Here's how it goes: you enter the river off to our left, paddle up to the marker buoy hanging off our ferry, continue upstream, then turn to cross the river. You have to paddle upstream because there's a hefty current moving from right to left in that picture.

Oops.  Here's the lead canoe - and they're running into ice.
What do you do now? Well, you just leap out of that canoe onto the ice, and run as fast as you can hauling your canoe, until you hit open water again. Jump in at the last minute, making sure you don't fall in, and start rowing like crazy again.

It was pretty cold just standing on the deck of the ferry. I felt as if I would lose some fingers to frostbite as I took these photos. I can't imagine being out on the river.

Here's a picture of some further pictures of the canoe race.
A couple of boats on the ice

It gets pretty crowded

Sometimes even chaotic

There were some great pictures in the Quebec daily Le Soleil:

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