Fundy dream. Getting pushed. Mini epic

Cruise of the Leight, Part eight: I had imagined my summer of cruising as a “sailabout” of sorts, sharing qualities of the aboriginal Australians’ walkabouts. I was seeking the peace of wild places, mysteries of nature, depths of solitude, and the incomprehensible energy of the sea. I wanted to lie in the sun, drink wine, read, write, muse on things – and do nothing at all.

The Bay of Fundy is a stirring place on the best of days, and there I was, a marginally resolute singlehander, setting out for the tumultuous waters in a dungeon of fog. While the threshold of the bay was 25 miles east, the thrum of the world’s highest tides makes an impression far afield.

As Mistake Island disappeared astern, I wondered if I should have laid low in the Mud Hole another day, but coasting pushes me, and I need pushing. Bound for Cutler, there’d be a few hours of fair flow, before doing battle with an ebbing Fundy tide, which is always a lively affair.

The forecast for a freshening breeze had yet to be realized, and the sloop was making but four knots to a timid southerly, which seemed annoyingly anemic to one wanting to beat the ticking Fundy clock. I had plenty of time to think about . . . not thinking about it.

The world was gray, time dragged, and there was a sobering emptiness to my lot. Great swells rose noiselessly and washed under the sloop with a sigh. If it had been a clear day, I would have been able to see the distant loom of Canada’s Grand Manan Island. This is where “the bay,” as locals call it, starts to show its cards in earnest.

The sea state is chronically restless here, and soon a cool breeze was frisking. With main and jib eased, she hurried along, nothing to be seen of the world but an occasional lobster-pot buoy. I wasn’t lonely, as much as profoundly alone, which had a certain abstract quality to it.

Hours on, a shard of man-sound pierced the emptiness. It might have been the horn on Libby Island, or my imagination, but I heard no more. Then, the juggernaut of a tide turned, and the lightness of her way evaporated as the breeze pricked on. Spray pummeled the deck, and there was tension in my legs as I willed her along.

The wind came to a cutting edge, and white-crested seas growled menacingly. Putting her shoulder to it, there seemed a certain tension to Leight’s pace as the 53-foot head of tidal stream in Minas Basin ponderously gathered way. I could feel the throb of it as her lean bow sheered off predatory seas. I imagined running with wolves in a snowstorm.
The 26-foot Folkboat trembled, my pulse quickened, and there was a taut heedfulness to keeping her in the sweet spot with anticipatory strokes of the tiller. Staying a heartbeat ahead of the trendings, she galloped across the bullying waves like a thoroughbred.

The extraordinary energy of tide, wind, and warring seas was quieting, in my face, and possessed of remarkable drama. I thought about reefing, and eased sail a notch, but held on for we had but eight miles to go by then, and she was driving along handsomely.

Afternoon was fading when the Little River foghorn pierced the clammy mists. Soon afterward, the white satin scaled up poetically, a lighthouse evolved, and the mists came aglow, revealing the little fishing village of Cutler, which seemed a century or two removed from the moment.

Sailing through the fleet, I brought up in a knot of a tide pool close by an old lobster pound at the head of navigation and let the CQR go. Other than a moored runabout, I had the place to myself. Sheltered under bold shores, pale sun warming, and flush with having managed reasonably, the sweep of life seemed stirring. There was something of an epic quality to the day by my slack standards. Coasting is a provocative business. It pushes me and I need pushing.

David Buckman’s book, “Bucking the Tide,” is about discovering the New England and Fundy coast in an actual wreck of a $400 sloop. Only a few rocks were harmed in the process. It’s $19, including postage. Send your mailing address to