Blooms of shimmering jellyfish as big as your thumbnail rise and fall in dreamy movement a few feet from your paddle. Bubbles from burrowing clams rise in a stream from the ocean floor while hundreds of seabirds explore the exposed flats, feasting on crabs, snails and other creatures.
Yarmouth Harbour at low tide can be a fascinating adventure for kayakers. Long and wide, it's surprisingly shallow for a period of nearly four hours. The narrow boating channel for larger marine traffic runs through the length of it, marked by red and green buoys. There's a 600-foot wide turning basin at the north end that ferries between Yarmouth and Maine have used for close to a century. In many areas at low tide, although hundreds of feet from shore, you would only be standing up to your waist in water should you climb out of your kayak.
My friend Becky Cottreau and I made this interesting discovery on Thanksgiving Monday, a spectacular day in Yarmouth with light winds and balmy temperatures. As low tide was happening around 1p.m, we decided to put in at the Lobster Rock slipway at 11a.m. That gave us until 3p.m. to take advantage of lower water levels. The average tidal range in this area is 14 feet.
Paddling between the giant bows of the fishing boats at the picturesque Yarmouth Bar we felt very Lilliputian. Yarmouth is located in the heart of the world's largest lobster fishing grounds but the majority of vessels used for this fishery are docked during the summer. The season runs from the last Monday in November to May 31. Some lobster fishing boats are modified for other fisheries.
During our excursion, we stopped to chat with crews aboard two scallop fishing boats. Workers were standing by the rail, shucking scallops and tossing the shells overboard. The men had been at sea fishing for six days and were looking forward to a roast turkey dinner. We also saw a herring seiner departing from the harbour carrying its bug boat on the stern.
V-shaped flocks of geese honking their way overhead reminded us that autumn had arrived. Many of these Canada geese will be spending the winter in our county. Cormorants dried their outstretched wings and preened on a tiny island as blue herons moved in stilted slow motion along the shoreline. We chose a rocky ledge with a spectacular view atop a seaweed-draped outcrop for our picnic of chicken wraps, banana bread and hot chocolate from a thermos. Afterwards, we paddled across the channel to Bug Light. Starting in the 1930s, Becky's grandparents tended this beacon, raising six children in the lighthouse which was perched on an iron base at the mouth of the harbour. An automated light now operates there. Along the eastern shore on our way back we saw several battered lobster traps that storm lashed waves likely deposited. Yarmouth is the first Canadian Port of Call coming up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and receives the occasional small cruise ship in addition to dozens of yachts annually. Some of these boats have fascinating stories. As a reporter for the local paper, I've written about many.
In September, the mouth of Yarmouth Harbour was one of the locations used for a world-class kayaking event that drew over a 100 enthusiasts. Although the Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium was based primarily at Ye Olde Argyler Lodge in Argyle, rock hopping sessions took place around Cape Forchu Light and John's Cove Beach in Yarmouth Harbour was the launching point. Participants rode the swell of waves to glide over large rocks. Other sessions included: intro to currents, paddle efficiency, rough water rescues, and surfing in style. The 2014 Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium is scheduled for Sept. 12-15.
For more information about paddling in Yarmouth Harbour, check out the following links:
Port of Yarmouth
General info for marine traffic, links to charts and diagrams
Harbour's Edge Bed and Breakfast webcam
A 24/7 webcam mounted on a B & B property with a spectacular view of Yarmouth harbour