Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Family Columnist
ALMA, NEW BRUNSWICK — “Wow, we really are kayaking in chocolate milk!” exclaims my daughter, Eve, as we sluice our way through the murky brown waters of the Bay of Fundy. My child isn’t actually all that fond of boats, but coax a kid with chocolate milk and you’ll find quite anything is possible.
Referred to as a giant bathtub, the famous bay sees 160 billion tonnes of chocolate-coloured seawater flow in and out of it each day. That’s more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers, and all during one tide cycle that takes exactly six hours and 13 minutes.
The area is incredibly diverse, brimming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Parks Canada National Historic Sites and preserved parkland. To gain a different perspective of Fundy National Park, we gals have plunged into a half-day kayaking excursion with Fresh Air Adventure.
No Pain, No Gain
After learning how to paddle properly and effectively use our core, we dip into the bay just outside of Alma, New Brunswick. The first few minutes are a breeze. Then gusts of wind punch their way across the bay, and we find ourselves battling against the strong current to keep up with the group. My arms are achingly sore in an embarrassingly short amount of time. Hey, I’m over 40, female and have pathetic upper-body strength. Plus, I live in a prairie province and these are real waves! This isn’t the light paddle on a calm lake I’m used to. I’ve grown accustomed to being the weak link on any team sport, but this time I’ve got to compensate for my nine-year-old, who prefers splashing her mother to carving through the bay.
“How many calories do you burn in a day?” I shout to our (ripped) guide Amanda Reid, as I gratefully accept her offer of a tow.
“Enough to burn off $40 worth of candy every few days!” she replies with a grin.
Now attached to Reid’s kayak with a nylon rope, I’m able to revel in our surroundings. We cruise by towering red sandstone cliffs and stretches of beach with fanciful names such as Squaws Cap and Devil’s Half Acre, strewn with hundreds of menacing-looking boulders. Two bald eagles soar overtop copses of fir and cedar trees that dominate the jagged coastline. We don’t spot any seals as most kayakers do, but we do glide past loons and eider ducks.
Time to Refuel
A little over halfway through the paddle, we stop for a picnic on Hunt’s Hole Beach. Exploring the beach, rescuing periwinkle water snails and sampling fresh dulse (a kind of seaweed) growing on the side of the rocks is equally as fascinating to Eve as being on the water.
Our guides bring out refreshments and snacks, notably sticky buns from Kelly’s Bakery back in Alma. Like cinnamon buns, but without any annoying nuts or raisins, these treats are gooey and caramelized and the perfect pick-me-up for us weary paddlers.
As we devour the baked goods, Reid gets down in the sand to explain the wonders of the Bay of Fundy and its tides. Using rocks to represent the sun, moon and earth, she details this Maritime phenomenon. “I don’t just paid to kayak, I get paid to draw in the sand,” she jokes. The tides rise 15 metres (50 feet) daily and there are a variety of tidal effects a visitor can witness, including whirlpools, tidal bores and rips. After our informative geography and history lesson, we return to our kayaks to make our way back.
Since we’re going with the current this time, Reid assures us we’ll be fine paddling on our own. We are for the most part, but then the wind picks up again and it feels more like we’re whitewater rafting. There’s definitely some white-capping going on and I’m grateful we’re riding with the current, not fighting against it this time.
“Left, right, left, right,” drills Eve, sitting in the front of our tandem kayak and in charge of setting our pace. “Hey, you’re nor keeping up!” my daughter admonishes as we make our way back. Did I mention I have poor upper-body strength?
The vast energy and power of these tides is incredible. Two hours after starting out, we return to see an entirely different beach. Now strewn with thousands of algae-covered rocks, it’s a five-minute walk back to where we first dipped oars.
“Congratulations! This is the lowest tide landing we’ve made yet this year,” says Fresh Air Adventure owner Gina Miller, after successfully coaxing our kayaks back onto the beach. We’ve kayaked during a perigean spring tide. Translation: the earth, moon and the sun are all in alignment (which only happens three or four times a year), making the tides more intense. For us paddlers, it means we have to carefully negotiate our kayaks around a sandbar that wasn’t visible when we first started out. But that’s what makes kayaking on the Bay of Fundy so worthwhile.
It’s a new experience with every tide.
MORE ABOUT FRESH AIR ADVENTURE
Location: 16 Fundy View Drive, Alma, NB (see map below)
Contact: Telephone: 506-887-2249; www.freshairadventure.com
Rates: Half-day adventures are $69/adult, $59/youth under 16 years old; $209/family of four. Full-day adventures cost $117/adult; $95/youth; $375/family of four.
Dates: Half-day and full-day tours run mid-May to mid-September. Children over two years old are welcome. Group tours, sunrise paddles, plus ebb-and-flow paddles are available upon request, as are multi-day adventures.