Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The pull of the moon

Tourist attractions along New Brunswick's Fundy Coastal Trail require a minimum of twelve hours for full appreciation.  Over twelve hours you can witness high tide, low tide, high slack tide and low slack tide. And during those twelve hours, you can watch one of the maritime wonders of the world through  full cycle.
St. John's big attraction is the Reversing Falls.  I watched for a minute and it was a yawn.  Then I paid $2.50 for the movie and saw the full tide cycle in 14 minutes, a fast forward feature that I found worthwhile.  For six hours the Bay of Fundy forces the St. John River back upstream.  Then for six hours, the St. John River has its way.  At low tides, the rapids are exposed.  At slack tide, which I understand as the time when both forces are pushing equally,  the rapids are a flat pool and boats travel through the narrows of the river.  When the tide rises again, whirlpools are created by sea water pushing upstream underneath the downstream fresh water.  All this makes the Reversing Falls on of the seven maritime wonders of the world.

Along the coast are other maritime attractions.  At Hopewell Rocks, visitors walk out on the ocean floor and look up at rocks many times their height.  Then, they wash their shoes, mucky from the red river silt on the beach, and wait for the tides to cover the rocks six hours and thirty nine feet later.

In Moncton, the Peticodiac River's attraction is a tidal bore. Years ago the tidal bore was a very impressive high wall of water that surged in through the narrow river opening, a large wave pushing the river to reverse. However, a causeway built across the river has blocked the bore, and usually the river-wide wave is only a few inches high. Erma Bombeck wrote after seeing the tidal bore: "A trickle of brown water, barely visible, slowly edged its way up the river toward us with all the excitement of a stopped-up toilet."
Most of the tides are more interesting than the Tidal Bore.  Even in the smallest of coves along Fundy Bay, all the boats are stranded at low tide, resting on a cradle of wood so they don't topple over.  The difference between high and low tide on the Bay of Fundy can be as much as 46 feet.  It's not uncommon to see 300 yards of exposed beach when the tide is out.
Last night, camped on Fundy Bay at St. Marten, Daisy and I walked about 50 steep yards down to the water's edge.  A few hours later, we would have drowned standing there.  We might also have gotten lost in the fog, which changed a sunny evening to a seafarer's nightmare in five minutes.
The tides move on schedule; the weather changes on a whim. It's important to ignore the forecast when planning the day's activities.  This morning, the Fundy coast was forecast for rain, but instead it was a magnificent blue day, my reward for slogging along the foggy Fundy Trail yesterday,  and a long blue summer solstice's day, light from 4 am till 10 pm. The light of a summer day in the north is magic.

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