I had not expected 18 foot tides barely past Iles d’Orleans. At high tide, every bit of greenery save the large trees in the middle distance is underwater.
As you might expect, the large tides are accompanied by strong currents. Paddling with the ebb and no wind is a dream. Paddling against the flood is next to impossible. If there is any wind other than the wind at your back kind, the only safe place to be is in the shore. Sadly, however, the shore can be 1 to 3 km away from the river itself as the the ebbs to low water.
Hard lessons are best learned early and mine came on my first full day on the Fleuve de St. Laurent.
At low water, and separated from the river bank itself by 2km of mud, sharp broken rock, and tall weeds, I figured i could make the breakwater I could just make out barely 4 km away. It meant paddling against the flood as the tide turned but the water was flat and the weather settled.
There’s a saying about hell and hand baskets that I know to be true. When things go bad, they tend to do so in a hurry. As in storms and merde if you catch my drift.
Within 10 minutes it was next to impossible to paddle against the wind. Within 15 I was headed straight down wind in very steep chop trying to keep the canoe from swamping in the breaking waves. Within 20 I was high aground in the mud, 1km from shore. Two hours and 9 round trips to the river bank and back later, it was an experience I was determined not to repeat.
My strategy for the rest of the St. Lawrence turned to this: Paddle for all your worth between man-made river-side structures like quias and ferry crossings on favourable tides and near perfect weather only.
Tides on the St Lawrence are semi-diurnal meaning I would have two opportunities every 24 hours to paddle with the ebb. The weather at the time was such that near perfect conditions could be had in the wee hours of the day. Like 0500 wee. And near perfect would mean paddling in pea-soup fog.
Steering compass courses:
Trying to jump the gaps between structure:
Arriving at the low water at the end of the ebb tide of the day, I would portage everything above the high water mark and wait some 6 hours or so for the second ebb to begin and paddle like hell for whatever structure was within reach before dark:
It worked. Not because it was a great plan, but because I had two ebbs in mostly daylight and the weather was good. If you like early morning fog. And after noon panic powered paddling. Neither of which I am a particular fan of, but when in Rome. Or in my particular case, the Fleuve in fall in flurries.