Monday, October 09, 2006

Kayaking the Fury

Wayne and I had a great excursion out to the wreck of the Fury where she lies shattered atop Steering Reef on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. Our put-in was the wharf at Little Liscomb, and conditions were ideal; sunny skies, no wind to speak of, and a falling tide.
We skirted Redmans Head and crossed Gegogan Harbour to Tobacco Island where we paused briefly to formulate a plan. Since conditions were benign, we decided to head straight across to the Fury, looming large on the horizon. Wayne had twitted me earlier by saying: “That’s a big rock, eh?” When I agreed, he pointed out that the “rock” was actually the hulk of the shipwreck, a breathtaking realization.

The wind came up fairly briskly as we approached the wreck and the following waves got a little unnerving, especially where they collided with the bounceback from the reef. The tide was low enough that we were able to land on the reef and have a quick lunch before exploring the wreck in detail. The Fury ran hard aground here in 1964 during a nighttime winter storm after losing her steering. No lives were lost, and next morning the crew was able to walk ashore along the spit leading out to the reef without wetting their shoes. I spoke to a local fisherman a few weeks ago who remembers the wreck, and he marveled at the number of much deadlier reefs and shoals the Fury had to thread past before settling on the only one with shore access. He also recalled the distress flares fired by the crew that awful night, and how they were ripped from the sky by the shrieking wind and flung horizontally into his grandfather’s farm fields several kilometers away.

The pounding waves have reduced the 300’ bulk of the Fury by half, and the reef is strewn with chunks of plate, fittings and steam gear. We collected a few small souvenirs and took lots of photos, then headed out on the now active whitecaps towards the lee of Tobacco Island. From there we ventured into the teeth of the blow, crossing the 4 kilometers to Crook Point on the eastern tip of Liscomb Island. It was a bit of a slog, but the wind waves and swells made for a really fun hull-slapping trip. Even Wayne’s Ellesmere was getting some air off the wave crests. Waves were breaking on my deck bag and hitting me in the face, and occasionally my paddling arm would be submerged to the elbow as a roller passed me by. I remembered later why this is not so great, when I raised my arms and got sleevesful of cold water down my back.

The north side of Liscomb Island is a jumble of cobbles, boulders and fallen trees with few potential camping sites and fewer landing spots. There is a beautiful pond on the island behind a high cobble barrier, with an island in the middle. We wondered if there was a pond on that island….

Continuing along Liscomb Island to Gravel Point on the eastern tip, we crossed from the abandoned crib work there to Burying Island and Hog Island just off the east end of Hemloe Island. From there we had a short crossing back to our put-in wharf at Little Liscomb, and we dawdled terribly trying to squeeze the juice out of what daylight remained. After bowls of hearty chowder at the historic restaurant in Sherbrooke, we left town in the light of a full moon that allowed us to barely miss a deer crossing the two-lane blacktop. A porcupine was not so lucky a little later, as I dead-centered him with the mighty minivan at warp speed.

For photos of the fun, see