Sept. 2010

Barnes Island

When Mark and I were considering where we'd like to take a sea kayak trip, he suggested the Bay of Fundy. I thought it a poor idea - tides too big, current too strong, and too little information to help guide us. It was a fearful idea. But it had lodged in my mind, and so I tentatively did some research on prior sea kayak trips to the area. I came up with a reference to an outfitter near St. Andrews - Seascape Outfitters. They offered tours - half-day to multi-day - out of Deer Island, to the West Isles. I figured that if they could take beginners out there, it must be possible for me to paddle it. There were islands. There were whales. Pretty cool! Mark couldn't go, due to work. I decided to do a solo trip.

google map

This part of the Bay of Fundy has tides in the range of 20-25 feet. It's a 7 hour drive from the Boston area. I can tell you that books on tape help.

In preparing for the trip, I called Bruce at Seascape (at the red arrow, on the chart below) to ask for any local knowledge he could offer. He was very forthcoming, willing to help in any way he could. He gave me the names of four islands on which camping was allowed and a landing was possible. He suggested that I stop by when I arrived and we could go over the charts and answer questions.


I drove up on Sunday, Sept 5, and set up camp at Deer Island Point Park, on the southern tip of Deer Island. The Old Sow - the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere - is located just off that tip, at late high tide.

old sow
This is the Old Sow just getting started, still a few hours from peak. Pretty impressive, noisy, a gigantic whirlpool about a quarter-mile across filled with boils and whitewater and currents that go round and round. I would not want to paddle there.

Next I headed to Seascape to meet with Bruce after his tour group was finished. Even though he'd had a long day, he spent about a half hour with me going over a large wall chart of the area. We discussed current direction, landing locations, whale sightings. He made sure I had his phone number in case of emergency. He then handed me a current atlas as well as his own handmade detailed atlas and told me to take them with me. I asked if he had any suggestions for launch sites. Bruce said sure, launch from here! So a plan was in place. I could not have asked for a better beginning than Bruce gave me.

deer island
I went back to my campsite and studied the materials I'd been given, then sat on the rocks and watched the Fundy currents wash through the Western Passage. Seals and harbor porpoises fed just offshore, and a minke whale was blowing on the other side of the passage.

Deer Island sunset
Already it was a magical trip. I couldn't wait to get started tomorrow.

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