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Romantic Canada
Chapter V Low Tide in the Bay of Fundy


OF all the forces of Nature governing human endeavour, none it would seem, are at once more intimate and exacting than Time and Tide.

But, while Time is everywhere, Tide is local. And though by a system of daylight-saving we have sought to get the best of Time. Tide, as wiseacres of old put it, "waits tor no man."

Such a play of thought and words as can scarcely be conceive in surge and race with "tide". "A full tide," "a brimming tide", high ^.de", are synonyms for success in life, for progress, for the acquisition of wealth, for "Bon Chance", as "good luck" is phrased in Quebec. Whereas "Low Tide", "Ebbing Tide", and kindred terms, we all know only too well what they meanódull business and empty pockets. But over-riding all these is the cheerful swing of encouragement in "There's a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to Fortune."

Nowhere does the daily line of a people hang so intimately on tide as down Bay of Fundy way. Tide there plays a titanic scale. It lengthens out the scant octave spanned of other shores to fifty, and in some places it is said, to sixty feet. The people of these parts live "on the landwasb" as it were, with "high tide" and "low", a daily portion. The Bay of Fundy apportions to its people the biggest slice of tide afforded to any people anywhere in the world. And, as it disregards the ordinary laws of all ordinary tides in the matter of ebb and flow, so, strangely enough, its physical "low tide" is more often than not, the "high tide" of business and affairs. It is when the edge of the Fundy Basin is a line of mud from St. John to Parrsboro, around the Minis Basin and back to Digby, that life awakens and things begin to happen. It is as if the old Bay said "Any old place can have a high tide but who can have a 'low' lute mine?"

The Low Tide of Fundy is indeed its most prominent feature, playing an important part in the despatch of passenger and mail steamers from both Saint John and Digby. Indeed, the Bay-steamers actually play a game with the tide. If the steamer is "in" and the tide "out", the steamer must wait for the tide to come "in" before she can go "out", on its brimming fullness through Digby Cut. So, the schooners and square-riggers all come "in" and go "out" when the tide is full but they load the deal in West Bay whichever way the tide "sets" 'round Cape Split. So, too, the stateliest Square-rigger or most sail-crowded schooner going up the bay for a load of plaster has the water out from under her keel when the Mower scythes the waves and sweeps them away to the ocean, leaving all keels, whether great or small, hard and fast in Fundy Sound.

The Bay of Fundy is the greatest natural drydock in the world. And in its day, which began the evening the stately ship of Sieur de Monts first floated in on its flood tide to found a settlement at Annapolis Royal, it has docked thousands of craft of all rigs and sizes. As drydock, as well as sheltering harbour, while it belongs 'n particular to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in a wider sense it belongs to all Canada. So that in the great future in trade now before Canada, it requires no great foreknowledge to venture that the volume of vessels frequenting the Bay in the palmiest days of the past, will soon be eclipsed both in number of ships and in increased displacement. As yet, the Bay of Fundy is like a masterpiece hanging in a gallery, which we have not sat down to look at carefully and appraisingly.

No other country apart from the thought of it as a drydock en;oys such a haven Tor ships as Canada possesses in the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy whose "power" is the tremendous ebb and flow of its tides, has hitherto seemed somet! ing "out cf us", and beyond our power to turn to account,

Bliss Carman, it will be remembered, penned a beautiful lament in "The Ships of Saint John". But we may take it that the condition lamented was but temporary, merely "the ebb tide" in affairs and that when the tide comes again, roaring round Blomidon, the tide of Canadian shipping, it will be such a brimming tide of prosperity as old timers of these parts never even dreamed of The ships of the world will surely dock again in numbers where "The fog still hangs on the long tide-rips." One saw during the years of the war a re-birth of old-time trade around the shore in the large number of square-riggers calling at Bay-ports for deal. You could count them three and four deep in West Bay by Fartridge Island out of Parrsboro. And how all the forests and sawmills around were touched at once into new life by a mere sight of these stately old craft, many, an hundred years or thereabouts :n age, in their turn awakened from graveyards n out of-the-way havens of the Old World by the clash of arms.

To all the people living on the Bay of Fundy shores these old vessels, newly painted, with their "yards" abeam and "figureheads" on the bow refurbished, were happy sights indeed. It was like their own yout come back, in case of the old. To the young "vision". Old ports thought dead awoke to nev/ life. In "trade" around the Bay it was no longer "ebb tide".

One never ceases to marvel at the number of other trades that spring to life in the wake of shipping. Ships and big "water-tramps", such as Canada's are the things to make dreams come true. Shins resemble railroad trains in the matter of faithfulness to prescribed routes having ports for stations. And there's not an ocean wanderer of them ail, or a skipper of importance, but knows the Bay of Fundy and its "tides" Nevertheless, however import ant from the commercial point of view, hard and fast trade is not the only phase of Fundy life. It also has its romantic side.

"Low tide" fills the shoreline with the rich, wet colours which artists love to paint. It builds too, new kinds of wharves, breakers with an upstairs and down, and greeny bronze reeds clinging to water-ranked piles; and "craft" of some kind, schooners, or tropic-bleached and-warped old vessels with rakish yards, looking like pirate craft by reason o£ many trips in the white [suns, leaning against them.

It is a signal when the mud-line begins, to all the clam-diggers of the countryside to come out with shovels, forks, rake-hoes, or any old garden tools that can be used to dig clams. Sometimes one sees here some old woman alone, using a rake-hoe as a staff, her skirts blowing in the wind and a genuine joy in her heart every time an oozy squish is emitted by her old boots. The tide of life has come and gone for her to the accompaniment of the ebb and flow of the waters of Fundv. In them she has found comfort and by them, perhaps, a living. They have been the outlook of a lifetime, companionable whatever their mood.

In the matter of c!am-digging the Bay of Fundv has a decided rival in the long-stretching sandspits or bara-chois of the Madeleine Island, in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, then one sees a one or more of habitant women, their skirts tucked about the middle, wading in the shallow water with their horses and carts and even dog-carts, themselves working for hours the tide to it. But, on the white sand one sees no vessel in friendly fashion as on the soft mud of Fundy.

At another spot the kelp-gatherer is at work. Edible kelp can be bought in many Wolfville and other Bay of Fundy-town grocery shops. And in season the kelp-gatherer, with his sack, is an interesting figure of the Digby and Parrsboro tide-flats and algae covered rocks.

Romantic treasures are uncovered by the low tides, in the amethyst geodes to be picked up along shore. Amethyst outcroppings provide a romantic objective for taking geologist hammer in hand in a jaunt to the cliffs of Blomidon and the jagged, beetling wall presented by Partridge Island on its southern side to the sweep of the Bay. Nor is amethyst alone, here. Other semiprecious crystals abound, making the gamut run by Romance one of great range. For, when the tide is low, over against the fire of the Glooscap jewels, are set the figures of carts going out over the wet mud, scintillating with the colours that artists love, to the amphibious little Bay coasting-schooners, stranded, for the time being, like so many jellyfish.

Then come out the caulkers, caulking-irons in hand, are old seams filled, old leaks and new made tight the caulking mallet in a race against the fast-coming tide. For the caulker knows that with the return of that great force, gathering in strength with every inch of rise, the old plaster-carrier will slowly right herself, lifting, lifting herself out of the mud, "locked" to the higher level, by that greatest of natural forces the flooding tide of Fundy, till, presently sitting like a swan on the water, she declares herself afloat and ready for the race to Boston with her cargo of "Plaster-of-Paris", out of Acadie.


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