Sunday, July 23, 2006

Murphy's Cove 2006

Murphy’s Cove, on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore Route 7 is just one of those places to which you find yourself drawn, year after year. You could spend a lifetime paddling there, and not see all there is to offer a sea kayaker. The private campground on the cove’s most prominent point is a gem for sure, with trailer rentals or tent sites, whichever you prefer. Personally, I loved the trailer. There’s just something about returning from a remote paddle trip to a hot shower, cold beer and CFL game on the tube.
Ship Rock, Little Ship Island and Wolfe’s Island were my targets this year, despite the pea-soup fog and 20 knot winds forecast. I set out from the campground into a dense blanket of moisture that obscured everything but the bow of my boat, but felt comfortable with waypoints and compass headings collected from last year’s trip to the same locale. The fog lifted somewhat at Ship Rock, and I got another look at this breath-taking face, a boulderer’s dream. While I rode the swell and waited, the fog lifted further and exposed Wolfe’s Point 2 km away. After hemming and hawing, and making absolutely sure I could do this crossing safely, I set out for Wolfe’s into the swells. There was no chop to speak of, just a mild clapotis from the omnipresent reefs, islets and shoals in this feature-packed bay. As usual, the sea gods assailed my hubris and played a cruel joke, slowly tightening a foggy garrote around me as I went. Wolfe’s Point became less and less clear the closer I got to it, at times disappearing altogether forcing me to compare GPS and compass readings continuously. The shoreline behind me vanished into the fog also. The lighthouse on Wolfe’s Point is automated now, but was not operating nor was the foghorn. I found it anyway, and looked along the rocky shoreline for a place to exit my boat and explore. Apparently there are ruins of two previous manned lights there, and I wanted to have a look. No luck though, everywhere I looked were gouts of spray bashing into boulders. I stayed in my cockpit and continued along the exposed eastern shore, battling the wind and riding roller-coaster waves that sank me into troughs deeper than I cared for.
Luckily, there are some rocky shoals and the occasional pocket beach to shelter in, and I explored every one. At Long Creek, I snuck behind a granite headland and entered a rocky enclave straight out of a pirate movie. Indeed, the sailing vessel Benneke was hove to, its crew all out on deck in oilskins having a confab. I did not approach, as that is unwise in this part of the world for reasons I’d rather not go into. I was close enough however, to see the surprise registered on the sailors’ faces at the sight of my tiny little craft “way out there”. Long Creek is actually just a deep cleft in Wolfe’s Island, almost bisecting it. The inner reaches are so calm and warm that they harbour sea anemones, which I was lucky enough to see in the crystal-clear depths below me. The silence was like a balm, but I could just make out the angry surf smashing into the island’s opposite shore not far overland.
I turned and headed back out to sea, once again passing the Benneke, with no sign of crew this time. My goal was a sandy crescent beach called Sandy Cove, a rarity in this part of Nova Scotia. Frankly, I admit to being spoiled by my own home paddling turf, where sand beaches are the norm and rocks are rare. The lack of suitable landing spots on the Eastern Shore is always foremost on my list of concerns while paddling this area.
At the Southernmost tip of Wolfe’s, the swells were getting really huge, partly because of the geographical exposure and partly due to the increasing wind. I put ashore on a pristine white sand pocket beach and had lunch, then walked the rocky outcrops scouting the conditions. Without even catching site of my further beach objective, I saw spray spumes and rampant rollers that made my knees a little weak. Far enough, says I, don’t want to leave a widow and two orphans just for the sake of gawping at some god-forsaken sand.
We’ve got loads of that in Pictou County!
The return trip was uneventful save for some slap-braces in the now increased clapotis near Ship Rock. The currents of the incoming tide and the outflow of Ship Harbour were clearly at war, and I was skipping across their battlefield. It was with relief that I put ashore on Little Ship Island for another snack and –well I’ll be darned, there’s a beer behind my seat- a refreshment. I gingerly walked the spine of this razor backed granite outcrop, trying not to step on the orange lichens and stunted crowberry bush that struggled so hard to gain a toehold there. The sheer cliffs dropped dizzyingly on either side, to roaring rocks alive with spray. At the farthest and highest tip, I climbed atop a glacial erratic balanced precariously on the cliff top. From there I had an unobstructed view of Ship Rock face which I had passed earlier, and was startled to see a young girl fishing from one of its spiny ledges. She spied me and whooped faintly, waving her arms over her head. I replied by raising my beer and drinking a toast to her adventurous spirit.
Wanderlust expended, I retreated along the crab shell littered ridge. The shells were left no doubt, by crafty gulls dropping the unlucky crustaceans from great heights onto the unyielding granite. A short paddle back through The Tickle took me to my campsite, where beer, shower and football game awaited.
The heavy rains and thunderstorms arrived on cue, and I briefly (very briefly) spared a thought for my fellow campers in their sodden canvas domiciles. Then I went to the ‘fridge and got another beer….


Blogger John said...


Was stopped by your comment about not approaching vessels. We are seriously considering moving to the Ship Harbour/Murphy's Cove area from Delta BC. You made it sound like this might be a drug smugglers' haven, or something even more ominous. Can you elaborate on the "reasons I'd rather not go into"?

If you want to keep it off the blog, I could be reached at



7:33 p.m.  

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