Friday, September 01, 2006

Five Islands NS

Five Islands 2006

Stupid is as stupid does. And we did it. While all turned out well, our excursion on the insane tide rips of Five Islands was almost our undoing. 9 of us had a jaw-dropping day on the 40-foot Fundy tides Saturday, we saw unbelievably gnarled landscape and experienced impossible water conditions. The tiderips that cropped up shortly after the turn of the high tide were like something from another planet. Pamela had warned us about them but conditions were so benign we continued anyway, intent on cramming as much into one paddling day as we could. After a lazy lunch at a spectacular little pocket beach on the furthest of the Five Islands chain, I remarked on how the whitecaps seemed to have multiplied while we dined. Al noticed that the wind had freshened and swung to the east a bit. We set out with some trepidation, but soon forgot our worries as we paddled through the craggy slots that make up the end of Pinnacle Island.
The now rising tide was trying to jam billions of gallons of seawater into the space between the islands, and the countering wind piled the wave trains higher and higher as we plugged along. At the tip of Long Island, we stopped and stared in dismay at the intense rips stretching as far as we could see. Bob noticed that there seemed to be a gap in the rips created by the rocky outcrop at the tip of the island, and volunteered to scout it out. Next thing we knew he was through, and Patrick followed behind. I went next, so that Patrick and I could stand station in case anyone went over. The ride on that rip is one I’ll never forget, as I was forced to execute a “Flintstone brace” for the first time ever. A Flintsone Brace? Oh, that’s when you are pushed so badly out of shape that you stick your free hand in the water to try and gain traction. Not pretty, but it worked, and in burning shame I re-entered the rips for a moment of play while I calmed down. Meanwhile each paddler proceeded when ready, and all made it through ok although Bill spent a fair amount of time underwater in the crazy wash.
The rips pursued us from island to island but we bounced along happily, intent on our return landing at the provincial park where our tents and suppers awaited. The sea caves on the southern shore of Long Island were spectacular, and we were able to paddle inside a few of them. One was so large that Bill was able to paddle right in and turn around, but not without leaving some good Newfoundland gelcoat behind.
The enormous stone arch on the western end of Long Island defies description, but I did manage to get a few photos of it.
On our return to the campground beach Bill, Patrick and Al McNeill remained on the water for another hour, playing in the muddy outlet of the East River until forced ashore by the dramatically falling tide.
We had a slow and relaxing supper at our campsite, then settled in around the fire for some lies and beers. The remaining stories are probably best left untold, but I do recall someone kicking the fire grate uphill. Nearly red hot, it rolled back downhill and into the fire circle, scattering campers. The caliber of the jokes being told deteriorated steadily as the night wore on, and those told near midnight were truly horrendous. Our lone courageous female overnighter told some of the worst stinkers.
For entertainment, we parked a car beside the fire, opened the doors and blared Neil Diamond and Cher recordings until all hours. The next morning at the water tap as I tried to rinse the cobwebs from my head, a slight young gentleman wearing pink Crocs allowed as how: “we really liked your choice of music last night!” Uh-huh, bet he did.
Breakfast the next day was interesting, a veritable food production line. Al M. and Bob functioned like a well-oiled marine, cranking out bacon, eggs, fried potatoes and God knows what else. Some elected not to eat at all, claiming “flu-like symptoms.” Cheerios and blueberries for me, chased with endless cups of real coffee.
A phone call from home ended my pleasant morning reverie as I sat in the sun awaiting the afternoon tide, and I had to finish packing up and head back to domestic duties.
I hope the remaining folks got out to Red Head in search of the waterfall; I’m looking forward to their report.
For pictures of an unforgettable outing, see