Another trip! This one started with a couple of days at Ferry Beach, our usual UU retreat center. The kids stayed all week with Valerie and some other friends who were coming to help out, while Ken and I went on an ADVENTURE.
We took The Cat from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was a three-hour drive to get to Bar Harbor (which we did Sunday night), and then a three-hour ferry trip Monday morning. The Cat is a very fast motorized catamaran, that advertises 55mph (but in actual fact only traveled 45). It's so fast that the only place you can be outdoors on deck is at the stern where you are protected from the wind. It was still pretty cool to be on deck.
Ken on the stern
On the trip over, we didn't have very much wind and waves, so it was a very smooth ride; on the trip back, there was more wave action, and you could really tell you were on a boat. Ken did not actually get seasick, but he was concerned that trying to read or watch the movie would make him sick, so it was a bit of a bore for him on the ride home, which was a pity, because we returned to Portland, which was much closer to Ferry Beach, but a 5.5-hour ride. I kept expecting it to be like an airplane, and there to be a big fuss about takeoff and landing, but you could just be walking around, and in fact they had us going back down to get in our cars during the actual docking procedure.
We had a hassle entering Canada; apparently there is some other Judy Anderson who is person non grata, and they had to make sure that I was me and not this other person, so I got the third-degree. Of course, this was after standing in a long line already.
We actually got going around 2 p.m., and headed north along the French Coast, where we stopped at Meteghan, which had been one of our ports in our sailing adventure fourteen years prior. The harbor was substantially similar, but there were a few changes and the actual place we had moored was no longer there. Onward we went, stopping at a beach where we walked on the sand at midtide. It was a pretty long beach, but the tide by then was only about 15 feet, so it wasn't what we were headed for later. Our next stop was Digby, which is famous for its scallops, and our guidebook told us about a scallop boat on exhibit, the Lady Vanessa, so we stopped there. Turned out to be a waste of time, especially since it caused us to be too late for our next attraction, which was to have been the tidal powerstation in Annapolis Royal. Our guidebook told us that the visitor center was located there, and thus it was open until 8 p.m. However, in the event, they closed at 5, and we arrived at 4:57, and they had closed up the exhibits and were only barely willing to let us use the restroom. We were sad. We dithered about changing our trip around in order to be able to come back another day, but decided in the end not to. Since it was just an exhibit hall rather than actually getting to see the working bits. So, onward to our prearranged motel in Kentville, which was the last place we had Internet access.
The next day was "tide day". We started out at The Lookoff, where we had a nice view of Minas Basin at half tide. We continued on up to Blomidon state Park, where we walked on the beach, and watched the tide recede. It doesn't really go all that fast, and neither does the incoming tide; if you're paying any attention at all, the tide can't overwhelm you. But, if the beach access is a staircase down a steep cliff, and the beach is wide and you went all the way to one end and the sand/rocks/mud is slippery so you can't run, then you could get in trouble. Basically, you have to be stupid first.
We drove back down along the coast, going inland as necessary to cross rivers, admiring the tidal basins, heading to Maitland, where the river rafting outfit is located. We saw only one boat high and dry, because Minas Basin is no longer a big shipping area. It used to be, but rail and then trucking supplanted it. I guess people got kind of tired of dealing with the 25 hour day that the tide enforced. We saw a couple of decrepit docks, but mostly there were things called "Harbor Road" that led to a blank cliff or beach.
Dry boat, near Hantsport
We had a lengthy stop at Burntcoat Head, which is where there once was a lighthouse, but it fell into the sea due to erosion. They have built a reproduction further from the cliff, and made a provincial park out of it. Here is a place where they have put in a staircase down to the tidal flats, and we went for a stroll. It was nearly the lowest possible tide, so we could go quite far out. There are interesting rock formations which are kind of mushroom shaped, because below the cap it gets a lot of erosion, and above not so much. Eventually, the overhang will fall, but it takes a little while for that to happen. Average erosion is about a foot a year along the coastline.
A rock formation at Burntcoat, low and high tide.
The view of Burntcoat from the water's edge at low.
The shoreline at Anthony Provincial Park, low and high tide.
At Anthony, they warned us about erosion. At Burntcoat I guess we're on our own.
Finally it was time for the rafting expedition. As usual with organized activities there was a bunch of "hurry up and wait", but we spent our time looking at the sandbars at the end of the basin. It pretty much completely dries out up there, with just ponds and streams remaining. We had our choice of what they called survival suits, but which just seemed like padded rain gear, or regular rain gear. Since it was on towards evening, I chose the warmer option. They divided us into groups of 8 and boarded our 15 foot Zodiacs, and we were off. The river itself was completely calm. We stopped on a sandbar, and all got out to walk around and watched the tide come in. It came in quicker than it had been going out at Blomidon, but still never faster than a stroll. Interestingly, as the water came up the sandbar, air which was trapped in the sand escaped and made little bubbles just like clams make. I commented on this to our guide, but she said no, it was just trapped air and there would be no clam bake.
Back in the boats, now that the tide was getting high enough to do its thing. What happens, is that the river is wide and shallow full of sandbars. As the tide comes in over the sandbar and meets the outgoing river water, it forms rapids. Very very tall rapids. About five foot high waves, not very far apart. So the boat would drive up one, and then slam down into the trough, nosing into the next wave and drenching us. Eventually the boat was entirely full of water and really wallowing, and they would go find a calm patch along the river's edge to let the self-bailer empty the boat and drive back to the beginning of the rapids set. It was hard to hang on! Somehow I think a different boat would have been better, with something like a kayak skirt around each passenger so that the boat did not fill up with water. Also, something better than a rope between you to hang on to would help keep you in the boat. (In fact nobody fell out of any of the boats, but I'm told it does happen.) Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes of actual rapid running, our motor decided it was tired of its gas tank being submerged repeatedly, and decided to quit running. There commenced a bunch of incompetent motor repair attempts, terminating in a cell phone call for help from the originating shop. They should have called earlier; then the rescue boat could have taken us on our last rapid ride or two. Instead we got bit by mosquitoes and by the time the rescue boat arrived, the rapids had faded into a calm river again. At least we got our money back. But it still is a fascinating natural phenomenon. I wonder if Native American children took their dugout canoes up this river hundreds of years ago. Or, if it wasn't happening then, because of the different shape of the river -- a foot a year erosion is a lot!
The next morning we headed back along the coast at high tide to take comparison pictures. Pretty different! And onto Halifax. We had had partly sunny weather for the Fundy part of the trip, but once we got to the other coast, the fog rolled in and stayed with us. So, we couldn't look across the Halifax harbor and see islands and the other shore. We walked along the harbor anyway, and got to see them setting up for a tall ships exposition, which was kind of interesting, even though none of the ships were yet open for touring. We only had about four hours in Halifax, so we just hit a few highlights before we had to head out. We stopped briefly in Mahone Bay and Lunenburg, but these picturesque towns did not show their full glory due to the fog. Mostly the industry is tourism, because of the various problems with the fishing industry (although we did manage to eat fish most nights). Our next day we continued down the coast, and detoured to the southernmost point in Nova Scotia, Clark's Harbor, which still seems to be a fishing port, and had essentially no tourist services. We ate lunch at a takeout fish stand along with some local dock worker types.
Finally we were back in Yarmouth, where we took a quick walk down to the harbor to see if we could see where we had docked on our previous adventure. We hadn't done it the previous time because of the delay at immigration. Once again it seemed like they had reconfigured the docks in the intervening years, but we could sort of tell where it had been. And off we were to stand in line to board The Cat, for our return to the States, after just about 1,000 miles in four days. No hassles at customs or immigration and we were ready to head home.