|Kayaking the beautiful, crystal-clear waters of Grand Manan Island|
After taking the ferry over from Blacks Harbour, NB, I unloaded my kayak and all my gear onto Pettit Cove which is in North Head. It is a picturesque location which even has a view of the famous lighthouse! From here I set forth….
I encountered almost no currents around Swallowtail Light and when I rounded the point, I had a beautiful view of the Seven Days Work Cliffs (great name). Eel Brook Beach is nearby and I landed and hiked! The trail took me to Eel Brook Falls and eventually to a lookout over the cliffs. I would later return to this cove for a smaller trip!
|Rounding the Northernmost point on the island and heading South along the massive sea cliffs|
Continuing south along the cliffs, I eventually ended up in Dark Harbour which is the one harbor on the west side of the island. Dark Harbor isn’t really even a harbor but more of a lake next to the ocean with a small but rapid stream connecting the two. There are perhaps four dozen local “camps” where they come for the weekends. I was able to find a suitable campside upon an old dock that had washed up. There really wasn’t a suitable campsite outside of that…
|Driftwood Campfire in Dark Harbour|
Yesterday I went to sleep with the fog rolling in and it stayed all night. This island is commonly foggy so this was also to be expected. I set forth from Dark Harbour and headed South.
This is the Bay of Fundy which is known for one thing- huge tides. The whole bay empties and fills twice a day with an incredible amount of water. Kayaking in this can be very difficult. No matter how well I planned, there was always going to be a part of the day when I was paddling against the current. Combined with the wind and waves, the second day of kayaking was very intense. Fortunately the sea cliffs and unique formations kept my mind off the currents.
|The rugged western side of the island|
Before me was the South Head of the island and what would be the most difficult kayaking of the trip. Like the North Head, many currents come to a point which makes for a strange interaction. The wind picked up heavily too which made the currents choppy and large. Again, there were a few beaches I could land on in an emergency which was comforting. Rounding the point was a difficult affair nonetheless. It required constant focus, small heading changes with the rudder, and having to be aware of everything around me. A larger wave could easily flip a kayak!
|South Head of the Island, where I hit the worst currents and waves. This picture was taken two days after I rounded the southernmost point.|
As you could imagine, everything was soaked by the time I made it to Seal Cove. I was glad I wore a wetsuit and neoprene gloves… would have been very cold without them! I build a roaring fire and slowly warmed up and dried out. Some kind high-school students were having a giant bonfire down the way and they just gave me a couple of pallets to burn! The more time I spent with the locals of Grand Manan, the more convinced I was that these were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
|The small fishing community of Seal Cove|
Hoping that the fog would burn off eventually, I headed in to town and grabbed a cup of coffee. I struck up a conversation with a couple of fishers to see their take on the weather. They responded, with something to the effect of “Oh yeah, the wind’s hitting Southwest Head at the right speed and direction… fog will be gone by the afternoon”. It turned out to be a completely accurate statement, not surprisingly.
However the fog would be there all morning so I headed off anyways. Once again, I’m having to watch my compass and map intensely to avoid getting lost. On this side of the island I knew I could probably just land and hitchhike back to my car but I was doing fine.
I landed in Grand Harbour right around lunch time and enjoyed watching the fishing ships. The harbours have such a funny design because they have to compensate for very large and rapidly changing tides.
|Heading into one of the tide-dependent channels|
The fog was clearing ever so slowly and I headed off from Grand Harbour bound for Pettit Cove. This is where the kayaking got interesting. There are three islands off of this harbor with very narrow and shallow channels that are completely dry at low tide. I had to hit one of these channels at high tide or face a grueling and exposed trip around White Head Island and back to the other side. It was a tricky crossing. I had to kayak very slowly though one of these channels to avoid hitting the rocky, shallow bottom. The tide was still rising, fortunately and I was able to make it through unscathed.
From here, it was a relatively simple trip hugging some of the smaller island on the eastern side and eventually crossing Long Island Harbour. It was a busier part of the island so I had to watch closely for the ferry and fishing ships that were constantly coming in and going out.
|Successful Circumnavigation of Grand Manan Island by Kayak!|
Next up... mountain biking and hiking the South end of Grand Manan!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!
April 22, 2013 @ 13:12
What at trip! I was googling this morning for ways to get to Grand Manan from Maine when I came across your blog. Awesome! I've been obsessing about kayaking/biking Grand Manan for years now… your trip inspires adventure. You would enjoy the book Commitment and Open Crossings: the First Circumnavigation of Britain & Ireland by Kayak by Bill Taylor.
April 22, 2013 @ 15:21
Thank you so much! Grand Manan was certainly as adventurous as the coast of Maine, an absolute gem for long distance trips. The western side of the island was nothing but 300 foot cliffs too, I couldn't get enough of it. I hope you make it out there sometime!
May 10, 2019 @ 03:12
That looks fun! I live in Seattle, and for the last couple of Sundays, I’ve circumnavigated an island called Bainbridge. Fun, variable conditions, take advantage of tidal currents. Good times. Thing is, I’m thinking about to retiring to Maine–looks even better! Thanks.
August 26, 2020 @ 00:14
Thanks for sharing your adventure. It sounds great! I’m planning to paddle from Lubec to Grand Manan and circumnavigate the island with three friends next summer. Were you able to find charts or did you download your own? Do you know of any current information about the area?
August 29, 2020 @ 15:36
I picked up nautical charts from the West Marine in Portland at the time- I purchased a Canadian Hydrographic Service chart for the whole area which was helpful. I think the CHS is the NOAA-equivalent in Canada. The chart excellent. I don’t think anyone routinely paddles around Grand Manan like I did but there are a few outfitters that run trips out of the Eastern side of the island. Part of the fun doing the circumnavigation for me was that there was not a lot great information beforehand- felt very exploratory! However, let me know if you need more information. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org