|Shades of Gray, Patches of Green|
Part 2: The largest tidal range in the world
Written & Photographed by Capt. Ken Kreisler — August 2002
Funnel-shaped, with its eastern reaches in the Minas Basin and Chignecto Bay, the Bay of Fundy is a remarkable ecosystem that has the largest tidal range in the world, at times exceeding 53 feet. The profusion of plankton in the lower part of the bay around Cape St. Mary and Brier Island has a profound affect on the sea life, as both predator and prey are swept up in the 100 trillion tons of water that flow in and out each day. And that was just where we were headed.
My daughter sighted a seal, then another and then even more. Soon there were many little heads bobbing in the water. But the big show was yet to arrive: whales, humpback and fin, as many as 500 move into the bay each day, searching the rips for krill, tiny crustaceans that swarm in the billions, and herring.
The seals sensed it first, and one by one they disappeared beneath the surface. Next the birds came, seemingly from nowhere, wheeling and diving. Then the first whale was sighted and behind it, another. Two more followed, fin whales, the second largest whales, which can reach 70 feet in length. We watched them roll onto their sides to feed. This went on throughout the morning inrush of water. As the flood tide abated, the whales, seals, and birds headed out to deeper water, where they would wait as the Earth and moon got ready for another astronomical pas de deux.
Later we made our way up along Digby Neck and into the Annapolis Basin and Digby Gut. There we found the town of Digby, tied up the Talaria at the town dock, and went ashore.
Settled in 1783 by United Empire Loyalists, Digby is the home of the world's largest scallop fleet, although most of the boats were out when we were there. As we sat on the deck of the Fundy Restaurant on Water Street and dined on "Digby Chicks" (fried herrings) and scallops, it began to rain, foreshadowing our weather for the rest of our time in Nova Scotia. We spent the night at the Thistle Down Inn, a charming B&B overlooking Digby Gut, and in the morning, sitting out in the backyard garden with rain slickers on, had a splendid view of the tidal surge. "I've been in Nova Scotia for 12 years now, the last six in Digby," says former Vermont teacher Warren Paton, who has joined us for the show. Paton tells me he actually burned all his diplomas and committed himself to doing what he loved to do: "I just followed my own yellow brick road." Paton is Digby's famed Toymaker, and a visit to his shop next to the Inn is a wonderland of hand-carved wooden masterpieces. "You know it usually doesn't rain this much this time of year. Fog, sometimes. But there's a stalled low in from Canada," he says, as we sit in his workshop with the rain pattering off the eaves outside.
We could only stay and visit for a short time. A long day lay ahead for us, what with an almost eight-hour run to the town of Lunenburg.
The seas were gray and tipped with white. Now and then the ghostly apparition of another boat would appear out of the fog and then, in a blink, disappear. Lunenburg Harbour showed up on the radar long before we saw it, and we crept along until we could make out the distinctive red facade of the Fisheries Museum of The Atlantic building. The rain had stopped, and so did the breeze.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.