Tag Archives: Quebec

Dive! Dive! A short tour of duty aboard the HMCS Onondaga

24 Dec

“Battlestations!” calls the captain and we scramble for our assigned positions. I quickly race down the hall and through the waterproof door of bulkhead 49. The corridors are narrow, barely wide enough for a single person and every surface has been utilized. There are thousands of manually operated valves and switches and hundreds of gauges throughout the ship, but these are not in my sector. I rush through the deep red light of the command center past the sonar, navigation, attack command boards, and the dive plane operator’s station while dodging both the attack and search periscope that have been raised. I quickly move through another circular bulkhead door and down the narrow catwalk between the two 4,000 horsepower V-16 diesel engines. They’re quiet now. This submarine was propelled by two 3,000 horsepower electric motors. The diesel engines were used only to generate electricity and charge the two 110-ton batteries, but they never propelled the ship. My station is in the stern watertight compartment, behind bulkhead 77. I’m in charge of counter-measures, which means I operate a very ordinary looking bronze, lever-actuated device and will, upon the captain’s command, load and release flares or other elements to confuse enemy radar—at least I would have during those Cold War years when this submarine had enemies.

I park the Street Glide beneath the conning tower on the port side of the HMCS Onondaga. HMCS stands for Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine and the big Harley trike looks pretty diminutive next to this stealthy veteran of the Cold War. This is the last surviving Oberon-class submarine and the pride of Site Historique Maritime de la Pointe-au-Père in Rimouski, Quebec. By day the Onondaga is a museum complete with self-guided audio tours in both French and English. At night it will become Gîte Onondaga, a unique opportunity to experience a tour of duty aboard a military submarine. I’d pulled a few strings to get a berth for the night and had to rearrange a rather complex travel schedule, but here I am, the first journalist to experience one of the most unique B&B inns in North America.Image Continue reading


Dog Sledding and a bit of Algonquin Culture

6 Mar

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Rolled up in buffalo skins I listen to the coyotes sing, their voices echoing between mountains in the crisp night air. This is not the Ritz-Carlton and the only amenity is a homemade stove and an ample supply of split maple to keep me warm.  The wigwam is carpeted in fresh-cut spruce boughs and my bed nothing more than two bison hides, but it’s an authentic Algonquin experience and one of the reasons I came to Centre Kanatha-Aki. Continue reading

Touring the Charlevoix: From Mills to Motorcycles

7 Oct

The wheel turns and gears mesh as the shaft spins and all the components shutter into motion with an agonizing groan. The word “meccanic” wasn’t even in common use at the time this was built in the 1790’s, although this type of “engine” had been in use across Europe for hundreds of years. This original gristmill is a rare gem that still grinds wheat and buckwheat for a local baker.
Located on Route 362 east of Baie-Saint-Paul in the heart of the Charlevoix Region, the Moulin Seigneurial des Éboulements (Banal Mill) is one of those exceedingly rare sites that survived unchanged to the modern era. The seigneurial system was the quasi-feudal system that was instituted for the settlement of New France and that continued under British rule until 1854. This is one of only four seigneurial sites that have survived to the present day. Except for the electrification of the miller’s house, which remains as the private residence of the miller, and the jostle of summer tourists this place exists in a mid-19th-century time warp without the theatrical trappings of a living-history museum. Continue reading

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