Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Down by the bay

Sea kayaking lets you see Fundy's natural wonders up close

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DEER ISLAND, N.B. -- Slip into the water, paddle soundlessly out of the small harbour at Seascape Kayak Tours and stretching out in front of you is the Bay of Fundy. Just you and the magnificent ocean view. Talk about getting away from it all. Here is a place in the middle of nowhere that feels like exactly where you want to be.

The Bay of Fundy is known for its world-famous tides, which are amazing, yes, but the bay also offers other wonders. And one of the best ways to experience them is right on the water. There is nothing like sitting close to the surface in a kayak, gently buoyed, the horizon endless, adventure just a paddle stroke away.

 

I met Guy Quinn when I was studying at Montreal's Vanier College, where I took up whitewater kayaking. Quinn, a newly retired outdoor education instructor at Vanier, is also a guide at Seascape, which operates in New Brunswick and Costa Rica. Not two places you might at first think have much in common -- but remote beaches and open water are enough.

Quinn invited me down to Deer Island last year for a weeklong employee training course to introduce me to the business. During this training I discovered that while whitewater kayaking is all about adrenalin, sea kayaking is all about acquiescence -- to the force of the tides and to the power of nature.

Seascape is a small company that has been running sea-kayaking tours since 1994. It is based on Deer Island, at the southern tip of New Brunswick. The island -- a nine-hour drive from Montreal -- is halfway between the equator and North Pole, and it's home to about 1,000 residents, a few restaurants and general stores.

No strip malls, no neon, no highways. Just the sounds of the soothing turn of the tide, a place with enough space to take a deep breath and then another. The only thing to worry about is how long to spend on the water today.

This remoteness is one of the area's best features for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the guiding principles of owner Bruce Smith is environmentally sustainable tourism. That means the focus is on small groups, helping local conservation efforts, establishing a connection between visitors and island residents, supporting policies that protect marine and terrestrial ecosystems and finally education, with such programs as free paddling for local school groups willing to contribute to coastal cleanup activities during the trip.

In 2010, Smith was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the New Brunswick Department of Environment. The award recognizes "our focus on providing guests with a sense of place, an awareness and understanding of the Bay of Fundy marine ecosystem," Smith said.

Seascape offers a variety of outings, from sunset tours and day trips to weeklong excursions. You don't need to have experience paddling or to be a super athlete -- you just need to be keen to be on the water.

In the limit of one day, paddlers can see everything from barnacle-covered cliffs and bald eagles fighting over a catch to whales breaching. Seals seem to be especially curious, and one will often break from its pack to follow a pod of kayaks.

The company owns both double kayaks and single kayaks that can cater to all ages. All Seascape guides are experienced sea kayakers who have qualifications in wilderness first aid and have spent plenty of time on the water in the Bay of Fundy. All the tours start with safety procedures, rescue techniques and an overview of all the equipment that will be used -- kayak, paddle, PFD, sprayskirt and other safety gear.

Prices range from $65 per person for a two-hour sunset tour to $150 for a full day, which includes lunch and a short hike on a nearby island.

The company also offers more elaborate trips like the 10-day Newfoundland Bay of Exploits Expedition for $2,350, and a new three-day tour called KaYoga -- kayaking and yoga, "a combination of adventure and spiritual awakening" for $930.

For more information about Deer Island and other points of interest in New Brunswick, go to tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

 

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2013 E10

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