Friday, June 20
Sweeping, scrubbing, painting, gluing non-skid tape to the stairs, folding t-shirts, setting up the tent for the Ship's Store, assembling the display panels made especially for the Our Shared Heritage Tour, finding places to stow all those not-period-correct cartons of brochures and cases of soda, making duplicates of all our signs in French, changing the chalkboard from "Welcome" to "Bienvenue."
Once everything was ready for our first public opening of the tour on Saturday, the crew had the rest of the day off. Pierre St. Germaine of the Mont-Saint-Hilaire Historical Society
took some of us on a marvelous tour of the town, including the Nature Center at the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
, the Gault Mansion, and beautiful Lac Hertel
on Mont Saint Hilaire itself. Then he brought us to a beyond-delicious chocolate shop in the village, and on a somber note, to a bridge that was the site of a horrific train wreck in the late 1800's-when a train heading West with hundreds of German immigrants on board ran right across an open section at 1:00 a.m., tumbling train cars onto the barges passing below. We learned that this was one of the worst railroad accidents ever in North America and that, in fact, as a result, major changes were made to the braking systems of trains. We visited the local church, Saint Hilaire sur Richelieu, magnificently decorated with frescoes by Ozias Leduc
, a native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, famous for his work in churches throughout North America, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. We ended the day with our first-ever Crockpot dinner (why did it take us four years to think of THAT?), joined by Chantal Millette and her son, Sasha.
On Tour with Pierre St. Germaine: (left to right) Zach Ralph, Roger Taylor, Pierre St. Germaine, Barbara Batdorf.
We learned more about our host town from Chantal and Pierre, including the fact that apples were (and are) a major export of the region. We even saw a photo of a canal boat filled with barrels of apples-and tied up at the very dock where the Lois McClure was moored.
We awoke Saturday morning both excited and apprehensive. This would be our first official "open to the public" day on the 2008 tour-and the public would be speaking French. Oh la la. Would we, could we, make this work? Would we understand-be understood?
Lucky for us, we did have help-a lot of it. The Historical Society had provided us with two interpreters, Julien and Andrée, both bilingual and both avid history buffs. They arrived at 9:30, changed into Lois McClure
Crew shirts, donned their name tags, and together with Bernard Halle of Parcs Canada and Michelle Pellerusse, met with our own bilingual crewmember, Zach, for a quick briefing in French on the history and important facts about the Lois McClure
. Michelle was a little nervous - unlike the others, she was new to historical interpretation - but they all seemed eager to greet their first guests. They didn't have long to wait. A small group was already gathered at the dock when the gangway opened at 10:00 a.m. All of us had learned at least "bonjour" and "bienvenue"-we tried out our greetings on these first visitors, and before long, there were smiles all around. Julien, Andrée, Zach, Bernard, and Michelle jumped in with great gusto, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. This was going to be fun.
By the end of that first day we had all learned some important phrases: "Attention a la marche" (Watch your step), "La chambre de l'equipage" (fo'c's'le), and "Mille dix-huit soisante-deux" (1862). And we had learned, as Chantal had assured us the night before, that our Quebecquois neighbors were Just Like Us. "I'll bet you thought we had two heads and four arms," she said with a laugh.
Michelle Pellerusse and Bernard Halle
(above right) joined our crew in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, helping us interpret in French.
The devil is in the details, and one little detail slipped through the cracks; port-o-potties that the town had planned to provide never materialized. Pas de probleme. Hervé, proprietor of the Marché Ami grocery store just across the road from our dock graciously allowed our crew to use his "office"-a euphemism we made very good use of!
Hundreds of folks visited the schooner on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We became more confident of our French. Our French interpreters worked hard and long. It was amazing to walk below and hear the boat's familiar story recounted in French. Bernard and Michelle, who stayed on board with us, lent ready hands to cooking and cleaning chores. Bernard filmed EVERYTHING. Michelle found that she loved interpreting and made the cabin her special place. Chantal and André Michel of La Maison Amérindienne
hosted a breakfast for the crew on Monday. Pierre continued giving historic tours of the town, as well as rides wherever we needed them. Clearly, we have made a host of new friends in Mont-Saint-Hilaire.
On Monday, June 23rd, amidst the sounds of celebration and sight of hundreds of Quebec flags and banners, we moved to a new mooring place so that the town could celebrate the eve of Quebec's own provincial holiday with our first fireworks display of the summer. We tied up outside Le Manoir Rouville-Campbell, a lovely historic estate converted into a hotel (where Erick won the lottery and got to spend the night). The fireworks were spectacular, the mooring was peaceful, the night delightfully cool. We went to sleep ready to tackle the Chambly Canal in the morning.