DAY ONE

At the park service office I found a ranger who spoke good English. He took detailed information: kind of boat, where I'd be on what night, what safety gear I carried, my experience with paddling and navigation. He read the park regulations aloud to me and had me sign them. He told me where I could find fresh water on the islands and gave me a simple park map showing the campsites on each. He explained where I could launch and where to leave my car. Then he went over the currents around the islands and looked up the five-day forecast. I can't imagine anyone being more helpful. The cost for my six days, with all park fees and permits, was $136 CA.

This is the launch site from Havre-St.-Pierre. Dead ahead, Ile du Havre (Harbor Island), my destination for the first night. It's only a quarter mile offshore, although I'd be paddling about 2 miles to my campsite on the far side. I thought it wise to start slowly, as I hadn't known at what hour I'd be launching, and I wanted to get the feel for how the boat handles when it's loaded. It was a good plan.

Almost all of this had to come out of my trunk and into the boat! It seemed impossible. It was very tight! After moving the car back to the park service lot, I was off!

I packed the boat, watching a minke whale pass by in the channel. Setting out from the beach, the boat felt slow and heavy. Rain began peppering the water. I was glad I'd worn the tuilik. It was about 60 degrees out, at midday.

After about an hour of easy paddling on calm seas, I rounded Pointe Enragee and reached my campsite. There in the bay, a grey seal swam with me part of the way to the landing.

Land ho! There are almost no sandy beaches on these islands. Rock slabs serve as landing sites. This was the quiet bay at my first campsite.

The view across to a small bird sanctuary island about a quarter mile away. There is no landing on these islands until after Sept 1 - which was a few days away.

Now the sky is clear. I walked the shore to explore some small monoliths. They weather differently than granite, flaking rather than wearing smooth. The surface looks like daubs of clay.

Some small monoliths at Pointe Enragee, the first I'd seen.

 

My nearest neighbors

 

The view out from Pointe Enragee across Ile aux Goelands (Gull Island) to the lighthouse on Petit Ile au Marteau about 1.5 miles away. I had a hankering to see this lighthouse up close. It was to be an ill-fated choice...

Full ebbtide at sunset. Wind died down, water went still. Skimming the surface, flocks of shorebirds twisted and rose and hurried from one place to another and back again, flashing wings in the setting sun.

Ducks brought their half-grown chicks to water's edge to dive for dinner. In the dark shadowed shallows, floating gulls left silvery lines in their wakes. The seal made a final pass before heading around the point.

Utterly still at dusk, the water mirror-smooth. It felt like the safest campsite in the world.

The campsite, typical of all the sites on the islands. There is a tent platform, a grill, a picnic table, and a supply of firewood (for which I paid whether I used it or not). Generally there were between 3 and 5 campsites per location. Generally I was the only one camping.

There are also outhouses at all camping areas! Ah, toilet paper. I quickly grew to appreciate the sight of the yellow door.

How often do I have the time to stand for a half hour and watch the sun go down? Whatever else this trip comes to, it is worth it for this one evening of quiet serenity.

The amazing colors of the sunset. This is the true color, straight from the camera.

 

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