community, dripping with the history and
architecture of the British Loyalists who fled
America and the New England colonies in
1783. It offers the best of both worlds.
Morning could find you launching at the
ramp in St. Andrews’ active harbor and
searching for migrating whales in the Bay of
Fundy. By afternoon, you could glance at the
harbor while playing the back nine of the
Algonquin Golf Course. A spouse might be
touring Kingsbrae Garden, a 27-acre estate
garden considered one of the best in Canada,
or checking out the shops and galleries on
Water Street. At sunset, you might be enjoying drinks at the Algonquin Hotel and studying the menu for a gourmet meal.
UPS AND DOWNS OF THE TRIP
My wife Amy and I and our young son
Zachary have spent a few summers exploring
Passamaquoddy Bay, first in a 16-foot Starcraft
bowrider, and later in a 17-foot Polar Kraft.
These sturdy, aluminum boats are well-suited
for poking around the islands and sheltered
coves. They’re tough enough to drag onto a
rocky beach, and light enough to shove when
outgoing tides threaten to ground us. Size is
a mixed blessing, however. Newcomers to the
area are surprised to arrive at the ramp around
low tide and see the ocean more than a half-mile away. Deep-draft boats will have to wait
until the top of the tide to launch at one of
the area’s few public sites.
During one trip, we launched at a shallow beach used by local fish farmers. Boating
here means making accommodations for
fish farming, which is a multi-million-dollar
industry in New Brunswick. The cold, fast-moving currents of the bay are ideal for
raising Atlantic salmon, and the coastline
is dotted with large, floating pens. We gave
a wide berth to the yellow warning buoys
that mark the perimeter of the pens, and
the underwater anchor lines that hold the
enclosures in place. Our destination was
Hardwood Island at the north end of the bay.
Irish immigrants who came to Canada during
the potato famine in 1850 were forced to live
in quarantine on Hardwood and neighboring
Hospital Island. Many died of hunger and
disease. A Celtic cross on Indian Point in St.
Andrews that commemorates this history
faces the islands. Strong southwest sea breezes are common during summer afternoons.
To move across the bay toward our destination, I had to carefully zigzag into the swells
to avoid taking the sea broadside.
We finally arrived at a sheltered beach
on the north side of Hardwood, out of the
wind. This island, like others in the bay,
features towering red bluffs that drop into
the sea. Wind and weather continually erode
the soft sandstone, creating caves and steep
gullies. We enjoyed a picnic supper while
waiting for the wind to die. The breeze tends
to ease around sunset, but on this day it was
still huffing as the sun began to settle on
the forested hills. I was worried about being
caught in the dark on a falling tide, and not
being able to get back to the ramp. So I set a
course north toward some salmon pens, then
spun the boat south to try to keep the bow
into the wind on the return trip. That made
the ride a little more comfortable.
THE OTHER KEY WEST
A good place to gain local knowledge about
boating in Passamaquoddy is Market Wharf,
the center of activity in St. Andrews’ harbor.
There’s a dinghy dock for the moored fleet,
and commercial boats for whale-watching
and sightseeing. On warm evenings, you’ll
find families strolling the wharf, gripping ice
cream cones and cameras. They’re lining up
to experience a St. Andrews sunset, as the
sky melts orange and red into the water. At
the end of the pier stands a shack that reads
“Wharfinger.” The daily tidal ranges are
posted on the wall.
Chances are you’ll run into B.B.
Chamberlain, the St. Andrews wharfinger,
or harbormaster. The short season, June to
September, and the small population make
it hard to support recreational boating services, Chamberlain says. Sailboats are more
common than powerboats in the harbor, and
trailer boats are few. I asked Chamberlain if
he thought the extreme tidal range was an
obstacle. The tides, he responded, are more