a point of interest than a problem. All it takes
is a little planning.
Planning led me to carry an extra gas
jug when we trailered the boat to Letete, 25
miles around the bay from St. Andrews. A
provincial car ferry connects the mainland at
Letete with the fishing community of Deer
Island, via an all-tide ramp that’s next to the
ferry terminal. This area, which separates
Passamaquoddy Bay from the larger Bay of
Fundy, is among the most striking destinations a boater could imagine. I almost discovered that the hard way. These waters are a
confusion of spruce-carpeted islands, flanked
by scattered ledges that may be partially
submerged at higher tides. Standing waves
rip through Letete Passage, and funnel those
big tides between Passamaquoddy Bay and
the Bay of Fundy. The combination makes
boating here, well, interesting.
PHOTOS: TUX TURKEL AND AMY SINCLAIR
DoN’t MeSS With the feRRy
I figured it would be smart to get oriented
by following the ferry, which sails every half-hour. We watched the ferry depart. By the
time we put in, all I could see was the ship’s
squared-off loading ramp, far in the distance.
I got busy looking at my compass and chart,
and the next time I looked up, darned if that
ship’s loading ramp didn’t look closer. Too
close. In an instant, both Amy and I realized
the ferry was bearing down on us. I spun
quickly to port and got out of the channel.
Left to Right: tux piloting a 16-foot Starcraft through
Letete Passage in New Brunswick. the wharfinger’s, or
harbormaster’s, shack in St. Andrews helps mariners keep
track of tides. tux’s boat waits on the mudflats of McCann
Cove for the tide to come back in, and he stands with his
boat on Minister’s island in Passamaquoddy Bay.
As it turns out, there are two ferries and they
shuttle back and forth. Being car ferries, they
have loading ramps at both stern and bow.
They look the same, coming and going.
Off Letete, we were thrilled to spot a
school of dolphins surfacing alongside our
boat. And I was encouraged to see some rec-
reational boat traffic, as well as whale-watch-
ing boats from St. Andrews on their way to
the Bay of Fundy. We only just got a taste of
this exciting area when the falling tide and my
ebbing gasoline supply suggested it was time
to head back. Even with more gas, it’s hard
to hit all the highlights in Passamaquoddy
Bay. One way to get a broader experience is
to circumnavigate the bay by car, using the
network of roads and ferries to move from
Maine to New Brunswick’s mainland, then
across Deer Island and Campobello Island,
and back to Maine. This circuit is called the
Quoddy Loop. Don’t forget your passport.
Tux Turkel is a staff writer at the Portland Press
Herald in Portland, Maine. He has been exploring the Maine coast in small boats for 20 years,
from his home base in Casco Bay.
THE WORLD’S HIGHEST TIDES
TWENTY-EIGHT-FOOT TIDES? Passamaquoddy Bay seems dynamic, until you head farther east in the Bay of Fundy, where New Brunswick meets Nova Scotia. There the head of the bay narrows and splits to form the Minas Basin and Chignecto Bay, where the tidal range
can reach an incredible 50 feet. These are the highest tides in the world. Experts explain the
extreme tide by calling the Bay of Fundy, “the world’s largest bathtub.” Two factors are at work
in this 180-mile-long tub. First, the bay gradually tapers and turns shallow, which restricts tidal
flow. Second, the natural rhythm of the bay is such that the time it takes for the water to fill is
roughly the same as it takes for water to flood in from the adjacent Gulf of Maine. The combination of these two rhythms, called resonance, amplifies the tidal range. Scientists compare it to a
child sloshing back and forth in a bathtub. Each wave is higher than the one before it.