A boat ride to the Bay of Fundy - July 15
Today broke sunny and clear, and we called to make reservations for a catamaran whale watching tour. The tour started at 2:00 so we relaxed and worked on this journal until 1:00 and then disconnected for a ride into town. I’d been worried about parking a motorhome, but St. Andrews is so relaxed that I found lots of parking a block from the pier (which is right in the heart of downtown St. Andrews) and we only had a short walk to the marina office.
The walk out the pier was longer. Tides here average 23 to 26 feet so the piers have to be very long. Today the tide looked like it was out, but it still had a long way to go. We descended the long ramp to the lower floating pier. Ramps here have two alternatives. You can take the smooth side when it’s not steep, or you can take the side with corrugated steel spikes like a cheese grater if the tide is all the way out and the ramp is very steep. We took the smooth side going down, but had to take the cleated side on our return a few hours later.
The boat was reasonably full and the crowd, speaking several languages, was cheerful. A young woman gave us the safety information and then we cast off. As soon as we left the No Wake zone of the harbor the captain put the pedal down (figuratively of course) and the boat went up on a plane that made the ride very fast and very smooth.
We passed a number of offshore islands, some small, and some like Deer Island quite large. The rocky cliffs were rugged and, as the tide receded, covered with seaweed. Many of the larger islands had lighthouses on them. We passed the Deer Island Ferry and soon we were clear of the islands and were out on the Bay of Fundy. It was a short ride across cold open water to the waters off Campobello Island, and soon we saw the familiar white lighthouse with the red cross that we’d seen last Friday on the way north.
The sailing ship that takes tours was already there and we took that for a good sign that something was going on. Sure enough a moment later a whale arched it’s black back and then dove again. The girl said it was a Minke whale, one of the smaller species of baleen whales. It looked pretty big to us, and we were treated to sights of it a number of times over the next two hours. The girl, who was very knowledgeable, said they usually feed alone because they feed on plankton and krill and there is only enough in an area to support one or two whales. Later we saw another whale with white markings near it’s dorsal so we are sure we saw two. We also saw several porpoises.
A tour that morning saw Fin whales, a very large species next in size only to the giant Blue whales. It is also a baleen whale, taking it’s nourishment from tiny plant and animal specimens that it filters out by forcing seawater through the tough fibers along it’s jaw. These biggest creatures on earth subsist by eating some of the smallest plants and animals on earth, as opposed to the toothed whales like the Orca and the Sperm Whale that eat larger fish and squid. Today we saw only these two Minke whales, but it was enough for us and we were happy.
The trip back was interesting too, as the girl on the crew explained the fishing weirs we were passing, and talked about the tides and some of the creatures that inhabit this unique bay. She had live crabs and stars and urchins to show us, and even a sea cucumber, all taken from around the dock at low tide. We also stopped and drifted off a small island where a large bald eagle was nesting, and then off the tidal rock where the gray and harbor seals haul out to sleep and rest at low tide. She explained that when the rock is submerged (which it is at high tide) even the babies have to know how to swim, which the harbor seal babies can do as soon as they are born. But gray seal babies have to spend several weeks nursing and getting larger before they learn how to swim.
The rest of the trip in was refreshing and enjoyable, but the big surprise was when we docked. We had thought the tide was well out when we left, but now it was nearly at full ebb and at least another five or six feet of the pier pilings was exposed. The ramp up was so steep that you had to take the grated side, and the mud flats between the boat and shore had increased in size a lot.
Back ashore we found a nice restaurant with a good outside view of the harbor, and we dined on Haddock as we watched the tide turn and begin creeping toward shore again. It was interesting to watch the slow transformation of the flats over the period of an hour or so. This place is so nice, and unlike any place we’ve been yet.