Tidal extremes in the Bay of Fundy


By Arnold M. Bucksbaum

Our last stop on a cruise of the states and provinces north of New York City was Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada, on the Bay of Fundy. Although I’ve taken many United States Power Squadrons courses and studied tides in Advanced Piloting, I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered on the Bay of Fundy.

An afternoon bus excursion took us past many well-kept, stately homes as well as landmarks from the city’s early settlement days. At the start of our trip, we observed the mouth of the Saint John River, where water rushed into the bay. About an hour from low tide, white water foamed over the rocks on the river bottom.

We headed northeast to the 200-year-old fishing village of St. Martins. After a lunch of lobster chowder and crackers, we walked to the village’s few stores.

At the dock, no water remained under a 35-foot boat a man had tied to a cradle 30 minutes earlier to unload his catch of scallops. I was observing one of the world’s highest and lowest tides and natural wonders. The man knew what he was doing when he tied his boat to a cradle on legs so the vessel had a place to rest at lowest tide. Timing is critical because the tide moves out rapidly, leaving a mud bottom with seaweed and rocks.

We returned to our earlier observation spot on the Saint John in time to see the tide rising and the water rushing to fill the voids along the coast. Rushing fast, the water now moved in the opposite direction at the mouth of the river. White water appeared over the rocks in the river bed. At high tide the incoming salt water moves as much as 80 miles upstream before reversing again.

Everyone enjoyed the tour and especially our guide’s enthusiasm. It’s not likely that we will forget this afternoon, the last of our cruise.

P/D/C Arnold M. Bucksbaum, SN, of Four Rivers Sail & Power Squadron/30 in east central Iowa enjoys boating on the Mississippi River north of Dubuque. His boat, A-BAUM, has gone aground a few times.

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