Friday, 28 October 2011

Bay of Fundy - a new wonder of the world

At the beginning of my naval career, when I was a reservist, I was posted to a the Rapid - an ex RCMP vessel.
This was a great little ship, about 80' long with a crew of 15. 
We were tasked to escort a bunch of whalers (15' boats pulled by oars) as they did a race across the Bay of Fundy. It was a beautiful day - light breeze, calm sea, sunny and clear. Away we went across the bay watching the teams of rowers pull their boats with all their might. As it turned out, the team from CFB Cornwallis won that race.
Now we had the somewhat lessor task of towing these whalers back to the other side of the bay. We tied 3 of them astern of us and our sister ship, the Rally, took the other three. It this point it was about 3pm, still a beautiful day, calm sea, light breeze, clear and sunny (cue the theme song for Gilligan's Island)

We were about 1/3 the way across when the weather started turning rough - wind picked up, waves picked up, it got dark and the fog settled over us. The ropes that were used to tie the whalers astern of us decided to snap so we had to stop and retie them. This twice more and the Skipper said enough, secure them with a berthing howser. We had an extra one and there was very little chance that this would break - 3/8 braided nylon is pretty tough stuff. It took an hour to get the whalers re secured. By this point the wind and waves had really picked up and we were being really heavily tossed about, not a lot of fun at all. I was told to go below and put my head down so I could catch a few winks of sleep before I was to take a spell at the helm. Sleep, oh bliss, just what the Dr ordered!
I laid my weary head down and immediatly was out. I was happy, warm and deep in la la land when there was this loud banging against the hull. I stumble out of bed, into my wet weather gear and lifebelt, up to the upper deck just in time to hear the skipper yell "CUT THE ROPE"

Oh shit, as the banging continues I see the three whalers right along side the ship. This is bad, they should be 100' behind us, not right alongside where the towing hawser can get tangled around the .......
A high pitch whine finishes that thought as the starboard engine shuts down. Yes, the towing hawser is now firmly wrapped around the starboard shaft, effectively cutting our available power in half. At that moment we were about 2 hours away from the safety of our harbour. That 2 hours jumped to 6 right there and then. The skipper decided that these whalers were now a serious threat to the safety of his ship and crew so he cut them free and headed for harbour on 1 engine. 

It was very miserable weather wise. 15 foot seas, 40kt winds, rain and fog. It was a very long and cold trip from there. Because of the fog, we needed to have a fog dodger rigged - that means a man right at the front of the ship, looking for things for the ship not to run into. When my turn for the duty came I was really looking forward to seeing the buoy that marked the entrance to Digby harbour. Let me tell you I was looking really intently, whipping the rain off my glasses every second or so.
Oh thank you God, there it is, we are not going to die. We sailed into harbour and pulled up alongside our sister ship. The skipper said "Well done lads, off to bed with you". Really? It was 1am, we had been up and running full bore for the past 16 hours and he thinks we needed to be told to put our heads down?
I was asleep in moments.

The next morning I woke, got myself moving and saw the beautiful sunshine streaming down through the port hole. I dragged myself to the upper deck and then noticed that the tide had gone out, way out, out so far that the jetty was 30' above us. In the Bay of Fundy, when the tide goes out, it does not mess about

The Bay of Fundy, it is a wonder. Have a look see if you have oppertunity, just don't do it for a 3 hours tour

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