Friday, 22 July 2016

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick



The Bay of Fundy has the world's largest tide changes!

For example, Burntcoat Head in the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, has the greatest mean spring range with 14.5 metres (47.5 feet) and an extreme range of 16.3 metres (53.5 feet).

What does this mean for you as a paddler???!!!-- it means it is really important that you catch the tides at the right time or you are going to have a hard time! Guess what? Philippe and I screwed that up-- meaning some very long portages. Oh well! It was a learning experience.


Okay to be fair it was not all our fault- but yea basically by running late the first day we made a chill trip quite difficult. Don't forget the Maritimes are on Atlantic time! Also fun fact: The Canadian Tide Charts don't factor in Daylight Savings (Remember to add one hour to the times shown in Canadian Tidal Tables when daylight savings time is in effect). Also packing your boats the first time can take a really long time until you have your system down. By the last day of your trip it will just take a couple of minutes but on day one with a new boat you will need some time to adjust.


It is pretty hard to find information about kayaking the Bay of Fundy unless you want to do it with a kayak guiding company (which we definitely didn't want to do). One of the reasons for this is because it is kind of difficult to do this kind of trip as if you hit the tides wrong there are really, really long portages on mud flats!!

If you want to paddle along the coast, like we did, for easier navigation, you are going to have a harder time finding a camping spot since all the sites are set up for hikers, high up on cliffs rather than for paddlers. We made it work- with some muscle.

Don't get me wrong- this was one of the best weeks of my life. My happy place that I go to in my head whenever I am stressed is remembering the night after our second day of paddling. However, hopefully with these tips you will have an easier time. 



Our Itinerary

On JULY 12, 2015-  We drove to Fundy from Montreal by cutting through Maine. It was one of the funniest experiences I've ever had at the border since the obviously bored border guard asked us so many questions, down to the details of how we chose our dissertation supervisors. We camped at a free camping area (Thanks Maine!) at the Machias River Corridor. There isn't much of a sign and when driving through the fog at night it can be hard to find... but it is beautiful and so worth it!

JULY 13 (Day 1 of paddling)

Due to where we were in the tide cycle, we had to get up really early (this would have been easier if we had gotten to our campsite before 2 am). Seriously just drive to New Brunswick the day before so Day 1 of paddling isn't so stressful. However, work schedules can force some shitty conditions. Actually when making life decisions, chose to be a historian (like me) instead of a scientist/engineer so that you have a more flexible schedule and can leave before rush hour. Just kidding... well kind of.

We had to go back into Canada and at the border crossing there were SO MANY Canadian Geese.  Nice Canada moment! If only we had some Tim Horton's coffee with us. Then we drove up to Dipper Harbour to get our boats from the lovely people at Eastern Outdoors and loaded up the car. 

Our goal was to get to Alma before midday for the tide and to paddle to Martin's Head, which is free to stay at! Thanks to the blogger at Going Out On a Limb for the tip!

So I said getting to Martin's Head was our goal. Well since we were so behind schedule we only made it to about Point Wolfe and then had to paddle against the current. Then we walked our boats through a river for a long time and then came to a big rocky area. I went exploring - looking for a camp spot and realized we had to carry our boats about a kilometer, hide them up in the trees and then hike up the cliff and camp out at the National Park's camping area. This process was exasperating and a bit miserable (plus it was getting cold). 

The ranger at the park was really nice and soon we went about setting up camp. Then Philippe realized he had grabbed the wrong food barrel and had to hike down to the boats. I was alone with the stove and tent and I let the stove go out under my watch. I just felt like the weak link. But then everything was okay after a team hug. After that hard day, we were excited to paddle the next day. 



JULY 14 (paddle day 2)

We then had a long paddling day before us (25 km) since we were already behind. Every bit that had been a rocky shore was now filled with water when we began our paddle. We went all the way to the Salmon River Campground. When we paddled by Martin's Head we both thought "yep that would have been an awesome place to camp!" So go there instead and don't deal with the Wolfe Point madness. 

We also paddled by the Biosphere area and it was very pretty. If we weren't up against so much mileage and the fear of a long portage there were some beaches along the way that would have been awesome to stop at and enjoy. Philippe also likes to tease me that I am not good at maps (despite doing historical geography) but since I am writing the blog, I just want to say here, for the record, that I was the one who correctly identified Long Beach and Salmon River. 

When we got to Salmon River we got to surf some waves into shore. Wheeee!!! Super fun!

There was a funny moment with a couple who had obviously driven to the park and hiked down the kilometer or two to the beach. We asked them some questions- like "where are we?" and without seeing our boats, they must have thought we were a tad bonkers. Oh well! It still makes me laugh when I think of the look that they gave me.

It seemed like we would have an easy night ahead of us without too much portaging. LIES! We had to search for a long time of where to set up camp. After river crossings, scrambling up cliffs, and so forth, we found a cliff to set up on. It was a lot of work and despite delirium from exhaustion and paddling with our glowsticks as the tide came back in and carrying the boats over so many rocks and boulders, this camping spot was worth it.

That night it was THE PERSEOIDS and I have never seen so many shooting stars!!! It was an endless meteor shower! Exhausted we splayed out on the cliff and watched the stars (and the planes headed to Europe). It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced. 



JULY 15 (day 3 of paddling)

Due to the tides we couldn't start paddling until the early afternoon so we got to sleep-in on our cliff. When I returned from walking in the woods to go to the bathroom, Philippe said in a very serious voice, "I'm not sure I should tell you this." Apparently he had seen a seal and was worried I would be very jealous. Well luckily our seal buddy reappeared (and with a friend!). These seals spent their morning hanging out with us. 

Our paddle to St. Martin's didn't take too long-- but it was beautiful (St. Martin's is host to some of the iconic rocks of New Brunswick) and we had fun kayaking into some sea caves! Remember to always enter a cave backwards!!!



I cleaned the boats and waited on the shore for 5 hours while Phi had an adventure trying to secure us passage back to the cars. While on the beach I shared the love of sea kayaking with a lot of curious strangers. I hope a few of those people ended up trying it out. I especially tried to encourage the women who said they were too scared-- SAY YES TO FEMALE EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SPORTS!

I befriended a lovely couple who were worried about my safety on the beach alone at night and they brought me dinner (wonderful, fresh, homemade pie!!!) and offered to let me stay at their house. People are SO NICE! When Philippe returned, they asked their friend if we could camp out on the patio of their friend's restaurant. Philippe got a taxi back to his car and I watched over the stuff. 

JULY 16
We slept a few more hours in the tent after he returned and then drove back to Dipper Harbour. Rather than cutting through Maine since the car was having problems we drove the long way back through Quebec. Philippe was a saint for doing all that driving. 

This was still one of the most amazing weeks of my life- despite all of the pain. With the below tips it can be a bit easier on you. Also we would have been more likely to see whales if we had paddled the islands. Oh well!


TL; DR?? Here's some tips.

TIPS:
DO: Rent kayaks from the wonderful people at Eastern Outdoors
DO: Remember time zones.
DO: Remember to add one hour to the times shown in Canadian Tidal Tables when daylight savings time is in effect
DO: Enjoy paddling the waves! and surfing the waves into shore!
DO: Spend the money on the shuttle back to your car instead of trying to wing it last minute
DO: Learn to enjoy the hardships. They can be the best of learning experiences.  And boy does it help cement friendships!!
DO: Become a historian (this is just a general life tip.) Just kidding!


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