Irish green. Quiet quarters. A dead-noser.

Cruise of the Leight, Part 11: 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.

I was delighted to wake to find flashes of sunlight dancing about the cabin, and the waters as quiet as a mill pond. It took me a few seconds to compute that I was no longer on the Bay of Fundy, but moored up at the Royal Kennebacisis Yacht Club. It was a relief to have left astern the racing currents, dungeons of fog, and the world’s highest tides for the tranquility of the St. John River.

Taking to the cockpit with a donut and cup of hot chocolate, the waters shimmered with bold brushstrokes of sunlight, only the faintest of zephyrs scrolling the stream. Birds traced sweeping gestures against the sky, a blue heron stalked prayerfully in the muddy shallows, and the air was spiced with the distinct aroma of hay having been cut. The foliage was the vivid Irish green of riverine lowlands, and as leaves gave up their dew it added a rich, tea-like scent to the waterscape.

Taking a cab to a nearby Sobeys, the Leight’s stores were soon replenished and stowed away. It was midday by the time we sailed slowly into the river’s shining reaches. Making three knots, a walking pace, it was a decidedly civil tempo for a singlehander who wanted to savor the St. John’s delights.

A few miles along, I eased sail and struck off northeastward on Long Reach, the broad stream a pastoral panorama of working farms and meadows that looked a century or more removed from the moment. Easing close by cattle grazing at water’s edge, the breeze left us wanting as evening came on, and the anchor went down in a shallow cove west of Catons Island.

We’d made less than 20 miles, but it was particularly genial sailing. Celebrating my second river tour with a glass or five of wine, I could hear sacred choral music coming across the water from a bible camp on the island. Little did they know, there was a sinner amongst them.

River cruising has a particularly organic feel to it. It was about the glow of slow, of quietude, staying up late, sleeping in, big breakfasts, listening to CBC, watching the stars and talking to cows that came down to the water for their evening draught. It took me most of the next day, at little more two knots, to make the 15 miles to Jenkins Cove in Belleisle Bay, and when at last the anchor rattled overboard, cows ashore looked up to see what noisy creature had blown in on the breeze.

The next morning was all but windless, and we motored, motor-sailed, and sailed another 30 miles upstream, past the tidy knots of houses at Wickham and Queenstown. I’d just sailed up to the float at Gagetown and was tying up when another sloop powered by, the skipper inviting me to an evening social at a local street address. As much a social defective as I am, it sounded good, not that my own company wasn’t perfectly scintillating. So it was I fell under the spell of Tony and Janet Ratliffe and their homemade cherry schnapps. We talked most pleasantly of the river, Canada, life and the comely 16-foot Whitehall pulling boat Tony was building.

The cool waters of Grand Lake were my home for the next three nights, the anchor biting into the bottom of Douglas Harbor and Flowers Cove. Friendly yachtsmen from Fredericton were glad to see a “Yank” boat in town. I read, took walks, picked daisies, and bought local sweet corn.

Turning downstream, I was well into “river time.” The warbling cry of loons sounded an exotic accompaniment, and the buzz of wetland life tuned up in the evening. Next I anchored in the narrow fairway of Cowells Creek, close by a lovely old, white-clapboarded farmhouse and barn, surrounded by rolling meadows. In the evening, cows slowly made their way to shore, with much kibitzing. I talked to them, but they were having nothing of it. Smart cows.

Returning downstream to the RKYC the next day was a dead-noser into a frisky southwester, with choppy seas running to all of eight inches. I had all day and purposefully chipped away at it, tacking when the depths declined to 10 feet, and taking a close look at life on the river – its old government landings, car ferries and modest cottages, with the maple leaf flag snapping in the breeze. Canadian patriotism seems soft-spoken.

I was very much looking forward to meeting the mate, who was flying into Saint John on the morrow, for I was no hardened solo sailor by any means. I’d enjoyed my month-long adventure, but had missed Leigh’s company, homeboy that I am.

We New Englanders are extraordinarily fortunate to have such lovely places to discover as the St. John River. The Maritimers are the finest kind. Long live the Queen and hail Canada!

David Buckman’s book, “Bucking the Tide,” is about discovering the New England and Fundy coast in a wreck of a $400 sloop. It’s $19 including shipping. Send your snail-mail address to buckingthetide@gmail.com.

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