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This is the grande finale, although you’ll notice I didn’t know when the finalization would  . . . finalize.  Spotters on the bow of the safety boat watch the canoeists through the snow squalls.

And at 31 minutes after the start, the first boat  (Archibald micro brasserie) returning from the Lévis side comes into view,

pursued by two others.

Archibald lands and races home….

 

with the next two running close together.

Three more arrive closely clumped.

 

 

But that’s when I realized I’d missed an important detail:  they make more than one lap!  Notice the Archibald team heading back out!  Later I believe I understood they were disqualified, although I didn’t understand why.

Now I understand that it’s more a marathon than a sprint.

 

 

At this point I head back to point 1 (See yesterday’s map.) to watch from the start/finish line.  Notice the three incoming boats from over by the pine trees where I got the previous photos from.

The two teams push their canoe past the two 8200+ hp behemoths  

to take the checkered flag.  By this time, I’ve lost track of who’s who and in what place.

Here’s a tavern to help you celebrate.  Care for a glass of Caribou?  Click here to learn the secret of the incongruous plastic canes I saw a lot of men carrying.

I headed up the street past the ice taverns so that after tasting something I had to go only downhill to my snowcave.

These ice bars–I was told–go up around Christmas and by March start to melt.  For now, they are exquisite.  And the bottles to the right of Jaegermeister are local spirits:  Quartz, Chic choc rum, Coureur des bois whiskey, and Ungava gin.

As I said, from the ice bars it’s downhill to my snow cave inside the walled city and return to hibernation.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.  For more photos, click here.  For a video clip of the snow bath–I did NOT indulge–click here.

For some photos of a clear winter’s day in Quebec City last year, click here.  For more frozen St. Lawrence riverbanks photographed in 2017, click here.

 

The premier event of Carnaval de Québec has become ice canoeing, a unique sport stemming from early French settlement along the St. Lawrence:  in summer boats connected the opposite sides of the river, and in winter sleds traversed, but during the times between, canoes alone could provide this contact.  The need for treacherous crossings ended after the introduction of steamboats and building of bridges.

Now, hazards are addressed, and a total of 290 canoeists raced this year, 58 canoes.  Rules require that canoes weigh at least 225 pounds and provide a prescribed amount of flotation.

Use the map below to orient yourself.  The top three photos I took standing at point 1 looking toward the river.  Here a crane lowers a canoe onto the frozen portion of outer part of Bassin Louise.

See the pine tree cluster in the photo above?  That’s point 2.  U is upstream (to the right) and D, downstream (to the left).  The race happened on an ebb tide, so ice floes moved at 4 to 5 knots from U to D.  Obviously, since the race is from 1 to 2 to 3 for four crossings, racers leave the bassin and turn upstream, making the course triangular.

 

The rest of these photos I took from point 2, over near the pine trees.  Here the safety tug Ocean Henry Bain departs the bassin to break up ice that’s gathered at the opening over the past hour.

You can barely make out the city of Lévis–marked as 3 on the map–on the other side.

The bonhomme banner flies from the mast.

After the third prolonged blast from Ocean Henry Bain, the first racers–the elite women’s teams– depart, five -person crews wearing spiked crampons push the waxed bottomed canoes to open water.  The technique here is this:  keep two hands and one knee on the boat at all times in case your boot goes through.

Note the crowd;  numbers estimation has become a contentious sport in itself, but I’d guess 10,000 spectators braved the cold to be there.

Here the transition from pushing to rowing–with spiked oars–

begins.

Ten minutes later, other teams head out, again after a third blast from Ocean Henry Bain. 

Only the crew member at the stern has a paddle, rather than an oar.

Recall that at this point, crews turn upstream to contend with the 4 to 5 knot current;  the water flows that fast, and any ice chunks there do too.  So the technique here is to get momentum upstream ASAP.

Or else.  Here the blue canoe–heading for the tug, i.e., the wrong direction, got pushed downstream by that ice floe.  The red canoe also going the wrong way got turned by the blue canoe.  The three teams on the ice need to get to open water upstream ASAP because they are floating downstream.

Click on the photo of Jean Anderson below to get the article I’ve copied it from, but you’ll have to translate it.  Anderson is ice canoeing royalty,  a perennial champion of this event, as well as an innovator of gear for the sport.  Jean and his brother Jacques are mentioned in this article in English.

If you decide you have to witness ice canoeing, four more races are coming up in the next 30 days:  Montreal Feb. 11, Isle -aux-Coudres Feb. 17, Sorel-Tracy Feb. 24, and the grand championship back at Bassin Louise March 3.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who wonders what other unique sports events like this there are . . .  All I can think of right now are woodcutters festival like the one in Tupper Lake and Boonville and the Iditarod.  Surfing maybe?  Schooner racing?  Eleven Cities Tour? Bronc riding?  Help me out here.

To start out, here’s the Groupe Océan dock in the old port of Quebec.   The large tug to the left is Ocean Taiga; its twin Ocean Tundra is to its right.  Here’s my article on the 8200 hp twins (118′ loa x 42′) in February 2018 issue of ProfessionalMariner.

Question:  As the temperature range at this location this past weekend was a high of 12 F to a low of -6 F, is that ice safe to walk on?  Quebec has 12′ tides.

The photo above shows the entrance to Bassin Louise.  Below, Ocean Clovis T enters the bassin from the River after assisting a ship into the commercial port.  Note the straight-line break in the ice and the open water there?  To the left of that line, the ice is still;  to its right, the flood tide moves the ice upstream.  Interestingly, Ocean Clovis T used to be called Stevns Icequeen.

Now I digress, but I’ll get back to the icy river soon.  I went to Quebec for Winter Carnaval– Carnaval de Québec, originally celebrated in 1894 and then annually since 1955.  When you see “-ons” at the end of a French word, often it’s a verb and makes a suggestion.  Dansons means let’s dance.  Carnavalons means let’s carnival . . . sort of like Mardi Gras, that other pre-Lenten festival, just in a different climate.  Allons!

Above and below, the red-hatted guy is the mascot of the Carnaval, aka bonhomme carnaval, and his image is everywhere . . . like Santa Claus but it unrelated to Christmas.  He’s a snowman, i.e., a bonhomme de neige.  The snow sculpture is just called toboggan.   And notice the belt, aka ceinture fléchée, or arrow sash.

Here a sash-wearing inuksuk of ice blocks greets a statue of Champlain.  A variation of the inuksuk was the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But let’s go back to the River, where tugster meets the duchesses of Carnaval.  See the Chateau Frontenac in the distance in the upper city to the right?  We all have warm smiles for 4 degrees F, eh?

The man dressed like a logger . . . he’s the narrator for the events down by the river;  the vuvuzela bearers on either side, their answering his quiz questions, or trying to.  That’s the River behind them.

So the question .  . could you walk over the ice piles here?  They’ve just been broken up by Ocean Clovis T and,

right behind, Ocean Raynald T (ex- Stevns Iceflower ) after they assisted aptly-named Arctic into a berth in the cargo port.  I posted a photo of the spoon-bowed Arctic here (scroll;  it’s almost the last one) in November.  Ask me and I’ll post more photos of her.

Well, the sauvetage nautique  (water rescue) truck is there next to the pilots’ station.

And farther into the bassin, over by the lock, there ARE folks on the ice setting cones.

More tomorrow.  All photos by Will Van Dorp, except the one with the duchesses.  Any misread of the events is my fault alone.

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