A Man Walks Into A Tim Horton’s…

Bonjour, Gaspe! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Bonjour, Gaspe! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It sounds like the punchline to a terrible Canadian joke, but I went to Tim Horton’s today in Gaspe, Quebec. Here’s the thing: I don’t even really like Tim Horton’s, yet my Canadian patriotism, enamoured with being on a cruise through my homeland, kicked in and forced me to buy a Petite Vanille Francaise – or a small French Vanilla Latte. This is the same odd patriotism that compels us to say, “I’m Sorry” fifteen hundred times per day and refer to our one and two-dollar coins as “Loonies” and “Toonies.”

Breakfast in the Polaris Restaurant contains just about everything you could possibly want. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Breakfast in the Polaris Restaurant contains just about everything you could possibly want. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

My Petite Vanille Francaise was the highlight of my afternoon in Gaspe, as we head into Day 4 of Adventure Canada’s Mighty Saint Lawrence itinerary aboard Ocean Endeavour. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. While most guests opted to take in a variety of hikes today in nearby Forillon National Park, I chose to explore the small town of Gaspe instead.

Adventure Canada offers an active expedition product, which surprises me. I’d had this preconceived notion it would be more sedate. More lectures, sure. Maybe more Zodiac rafting and so-called “soft” adventuring. Instead, Adventure Canada has impressed me by offering a number of decidedly active adventures – and guests have risen to the challenge.

A great way to start the day! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A great way to start the day! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

On-tap for today, should you choose to accept it: five different hiking options. These range from a gentle stroll and visit to Forillon’s historic General Store; or a strenuous, 12-kilometre hike with an elevation gain in excess of 300 metres.

But I really just wanted to explore Gaspe. I got some looks from some staff and fellow guests that said, “you’re crazy.” But I like small towns – what can I say? Plus, I wasn’t alone – a handful of other guests had the same idea. So, I wandered ashore.

The day started out mired in fog. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The day started out mired in fog. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Gaspe sits on the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River. If you look at a map, it’s at the southern end as the “mouth” of the river seems to curve around and begins to open up. Its distinctive headland, dominated by Perce Rock (where we’ll be tomorrow) is mere kilometres away. Explorer Samuel de Champlain named the rock in 1607, and it’s been a recognizable landmark for mariners ever since.

Gaspe, traditionally, comes from the Mi’kmaq word gespeg, which literally means “land’s end.” But, its etymology could also be traced from the Basque word gerizpe, or shelter. Which is History’s way of shrugging and saying, “Beats me.”

Disembarking the Ocean Endeavour....Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Disembarking the Ocean Endeavour….Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and heading ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and heading ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Shelter, it turns out, is appropriate for Gaspe. The fog rolled in and out all morning as we made our way up the Saint Lawrence. Around 0900 – just as I was treating myself to an hour of well-earned reading time over a cup of tea in the Compass Lounge – whales were sighted off the bow. Rain was also sighted in the sky, which began to pound down with increasing force.

I didn’t move. I looked out the windows, warm and toasty in my Compass Club chair. I flipped the pages of my book, sipped my tea, and proceeded to read through three P.A. announcements and the gentle prodding of my fellow guests and Expedition Team members. And you know what? I had a lovely time sitting there, seeing everything they were seeing – but from my warm perch.

That’s the great thing about Adventure Canada: they gently encourage, but never force, you to take part in anything. They want you to make this expedition cruise yours. And today, I did.

A bus waited to take guests on their excursions...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A bus waited to take guests on their excursions…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...while I made the short walk into town. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…while I made the short walk into town. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The rain continued when I stepped ashore in Gaspe. Like a bad cartoon, it began to rain the second I stepped out of the Zodiac raft and didn’t stop for my entire time ashore. I walked into town from the Zodiac tender pier; a journey of all of five minutes. I had my Tim Horton’s, and walked through one side of town. I turned around and walked through the other side of town. I looked in the supermarket for an English newspaper. No luck. I looked through the local liquor store, but found only imported beers and wines. No dice there. And I didn’t want McDonalds, which was one of the only other stores open.

So – I returned to the tender pier – and came back to the ship.

It turned out to be a great decision. About a dozen of my fellow guests also came back, content to relax in the ship’s public rooms, enjoy a cup of coffee, and be out of the rain.

When in Canada...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

When in Canada…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Gaspe, though small, has considerable charm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Gaspe, though small, has considerable charm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Returning back to the pier...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Returning back to the pier…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and the Ocean Endeavour. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and the Ocean Endeavour. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I, on the other hand, took advantage of the surprise Crew Lifeboat Drill. Around 1500, the crew were mustered at their Muster Stations for their regular lifeboat drill. This was more involved than I’ve seen on other ships, with a full roll call of the crew (in lifejackets). Boats were swung-out and lowered level with Deck 7, at which point the boats were secured and the crew mustered. Roll call was taken. Select crew members then embarked the boats. The boats were then pushed away from the ship and, on command from the bridge, lowered into the water. First Boats 3 and 4 were lowered, followed about 5 minutes later by Boats 1 and 2.

I stood on the top of the Navigation Bridge for nearly an hour watching this; something I greatly enjoyed, as it gave me the opportunity to see how the ship’s Officers and crew worked together on something as critical as this.

This afternoon, I watched the crew of the Ocean Endeavour perform their weekly lifeboat drill. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I watched the crew of the Ocean Endeavour perform their weekly lifeboat drill. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It was handled like the real deal...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It was handled like the real deal…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...with a few people being placed in the boat...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…with a few people being placed in the boat…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and lowered to the water. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and lowered to the water. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Slowly, other guests began to come aboard around 1700. I retreated to the Nautilus Lounge for what is, for better or worse, becoming an afternoon ritual: my pint of beer and an hour or two of writing.

At 1900, The Voice on the P.A. crackled to life and informed guests that dinner was beginning in the Dining Room. Meals are a real event here onboard the Ocean Endeavour, and I’ve been very impressed with the quality of food so far – in particular, the fish.

Dusk falls on Gaspe...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Dusk falls on Gaspe…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and the Ocean Endeavour. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and the Ocean Endeavour. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tonight I saw something wonderful in the Nautilus Lounge. I was getting ready to go to bed – in fact, I’d been thinking about it strongly for about half an hour. I was tired. I decided to pack it in and retire to my admittedly cozy stateroom. But then, an impromptu jam session with four of our Expedition Team members started up. They each brought different instruments: ukuleles, harmonicas, guitars. Even an accordion. And they jammed with each other, creating music – some French-Canadian, some Canadian folk – well into the evening.

They were making up the melodies as they went, and it was spectacular.

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavor continues tomorrow with some scenic cruising in Perce, Quebec! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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