When we booked the ferry service from Rimouski to Blanc-Sablon we had not expected that the boat was a freighter as well as a passenger ferry. The Nordik Express provides both freight services and passenger services to remote villages on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, so more than half the ship is dedicated to containers and a crane.
The boat is relatively small as far as passengers are concerned. There are two small decks of cabins (about 10 cabins on one deck and 2 on the other) and two decks with seating areas. The total capacity of the boat is 283 people. From Rimouski to Sept-Iles there are only 39 people on board, so the boat feels pretty roomy. By the time we get to Natashquan the boat will be much fuller (all the cabins are sold out for the last night).
Upon departure, we participated in the weekly safety drill and debriefing. The crew actually did a drill that involved putting on life jackets. It was unclear what all they were doing, as we were all gathered in the front upper seating area for a debriefing. The debriefing involved a fair bit of laughing; however, we didn?t understand enough of what was being said to really appreciate the humour. The purser did repeat the key points in English, so we didn’t miss that much. We did however find the experience interesting and we figured out what we needed to know to make the trip more enjoyable.
Purser giving the safety briefing.
We decided to try out the ?dinner service? rather than the canteen for supper. The cost was pretty high ($21 each) which made it the most expensive meal we have had so far on this trip. The meal was OK. It provided us an opportunity to meet Roselyne and Manuel – a couple who were on their way to Anticosti Island to visit their daughter and grandchildren. They did not speak much English, so we had a very interesting conversation involving their limited English and our limited French. I think we managed to get most of the concepts across successfully. Roselyne even drew us a map of Port Menier (the village on Anticosti Island) to let us know where we go and what we should see when we arrive on the Island. It was one of the more meaningful interactions we have had with people since we entered Quebec.
On the boat, we have also met the only other English speakers: Dave and Paula, Irene and Owen. They are a family from Michigan (near Detroit) who are doing a circle route involving trains, boats, and rental cars. They are also going to Blanc-Sablon and St. Anthony. ?They have been so nice to us, and have lent us their English magazines to read while onboard. I was not successful in finding English magazines in Rimouski, so it is nice to be able to borrow a couple!
Today does not involve any stops. The boat crosses the Gulf of St. Laurence and takes 11 hours to go to Sept-Iles, where it spends the night and departs early in the morning for Port Menier on Anticosti island. To make the adjustment to the boat easier, we booked a cabin for the first night. They had the extra space, so it was nice to have the room to ourselves. I’m a little nervous about sleeping so low down on the boat. There is a part of me that is still a little frazzled about the Queen of the North sinking a couple years ago. I think being higher up may involve more distractions but
I’ll feel safer. We’ll see.
Dave is reading Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire to Irene and Owen, which Becky managed to identify almost instantly. I still haven’t read the series, but it’s fun listening in. Chatting with them is a huge contrast to our stilted interactions in French, and I’m very much enjoying getting to know them. I suspect this is part of the reason for the “backpacker culture” in so many countries. It’s far easier to bond with other travelers (where you share a language and/or culture) than to interact
with the locals. It will be an interesting challenge for us as we get to Europe and the Middle East to meet and communicate with locals. I hope that being on our bikes, and our Servas connections will help.