Restless night. Honest work. Rafts of auks.

Cruise of the Leight, Part nine: 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.

There are nights in the life of a singlehander when sleep is elusive and dreams vivid. Anchored near the head of navigation at Cutler, I’d woken several times at o-dark-thirty to see what the weather was up to, for morning would find me knocking on the door of the Bay of Fundy.

As many times as I’ve sailed the waters, it’s always a heady thing. There’s a larger-than-life scale to its cliff-girded shores, the brooding hulk of Canada’s Grand Manan Island, bullying seas – and the tide. There’d be 24-feet of it to deal with by the time I arrived at Campobello Island, to say nothing of a tectonic shift in maritime geography.

I was pleased to wake to a bluebird morning and stainless-steel seas. Though the ebb would be running athwart my interests for a couple of hours, there was not a breath of wind stirring and it was prime motoring conditions. Putt-putting past the lighthouse on Little River Island, I turned northeast and hugged reasonably close alongshore where the tide usually runs a bit easier. They say you can’t buck a Fundy tide, but of course you can if you’ve got the time. And there I was, stealing along at four knots, possessed of the juvenile pleasure of a truant getting away with something.

The U.S. shore was an impenetrable granite fortification against which lazy swells milked and moshed in a continual drum roll. There was not another boat to be seen off to the east, where the 13-mile long western flank of Grand Manan rose 300 feet above the water.

I could feel the shivery energy of the bay through the tiller, and that things, they were a’changing. At length, the tide came fair, the wind foul. A northeasterly breeze of all things. On the bloody nose! Somewhat annoyed, I got the main and jib flying, but it wasn’t until I fell off toward Portugal that they quieted.

With ten or a dozen knots of breeze, it was civil sailing, except that we were headed east, not north. There were compensations. The seascape was imposing, and as I closed on the cliff-girded Canadian island, a bounty of birds worked the roiling waters. Razorbill auks, with their elegant white piping, gathered in rafts; common puffins skimmed low, wings a blur. Arctic terns graced the air on dagger blades of wings, and Wilson’s petrels tirelessly fished the coiling seas.

The flooding tide gained a lively stride as the sloop slanted toward the U.S. shore at more than six knots. Too bad we were heading for Toronto. Gifted as I am at complaining, there was a bracing drama to the scene as Campobello Island loomed a few miles to port, the Wolf Islands gathered on the horizon, and Nova Scotia hovered indistinctly to the east.

Off West Quoddy Head, tide rips danced and spray flew as she bent to it, the sails a lone blaze of white on a Sunday sea. The yawning emptiness energized me. Hauling the traveler to weather and taking a few turns on the jib, the sloop slanted offshore and in. Tacking close under the 500-feet-high palisades at Eastern Head on Campobello Island, it occurred to me that we New Englanders are fabulously lucky to have a primitive wildness of this order reasonably close by.

Tacking, tacking and tacking, it was slow wage work. Keeping the jib telltales streaming, I held her nose to the grindstone, played the shifts, and gained ground. There was a pleasing purposefulness to the bow cutting water, and with near 40 miles under us, it was a pregnant moment when I eased the sheets and made for the slender thread of Head Harbour. The stillness of a spruce-cloistered tarn, echoed with sounds of the sails being struck and the engine idling away. Rafting up to a fishing boat at the Government Wharf, I called Canadian Customs, and soon got a visit by an orange Customs boat with an eager crew-in-training. They were very thorough and discovered 14 bottles of wine in the bilge, which they thought a bit irregular, but as old and pitiful as I was, they let me in anyway.

Head Harbour felt a long way from home, but our Canadian cousins are the finest kind. Much nicer than me, actually, and soon I was soon plowing common ground with folks who’d come down to the harbor in the evening to see what the tide washed in. I was a subject of interest, a rare thing in my travels. There was the faint, almost Hebridean burr, to their words, and sentences often ended in, “eh,” as in, “So you’re sailin’ to Saint John, eh?”

There was a sense of starting a new chapter in my adventure. That’s the thing about coasting, there’s always expectation in the air, and the stirring prospects of this coast are quieting, which is the optimal circumstance for discovery.

David Buckman has sailed as far east as Newfoundland. His book, “Bucking the Tide,” is about discovering the New England and Fundy coast in an actual wreck of a $400 sloop. To get one send your mailing address to buckingthetide@gmail.com. It’s $19, including shipping.

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