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Experiencing the muddy waters

Posted on August 16, 2011 Tim van der Kooi

The splash of a wave from the Shubenacadie River has a distinct taste of salt and grit that you can’t get anywhere else.
Last Thursday, I was quite familiar with this flavour after rafting on the Shubenacadie River through Tidal Bore Rafting in Urbania.
It was a cold day to be in any body of water. Let alone a river after the many millimetres of rain we received after last week’s thunderstorm. It was a struggle to willingly put on my swim shorts as I changed in the dressing room of the reception cabin.
About 70 people were just as foolish as myself, standing in shorts and t-shirts waiting anxiously in the cabin for our 2:30 p.m. departure into the murky water of the river. Eventually, we made our way outside to grab yellow raingear and lifejackets for our journey. Some men declined the raingear and threw the life jacket over their bare skin.
They’ll learn, I said to myself.
Since I was by myself (most people come in groups), I was sent to a raft on my own. I introduced myself to my tour guide, Cory, who told me he has been working this job for the last five summers. A group of seven joined Cory and I in the boat and we all introduced ourselves while we made our way into the river. I forgot everybody’s name within seconds.
As Cory propelled us down the river, a couple of us were grasping for the side rope on the raft. He assured us that for the next hour or so we could take it easy until the tide started to roll in.
After about 45 minutes, we made it to our temporary destination of a sandbar in the middle of the river. The group hopped out of the raft and stretched our legs, overlooking the long expanse of brown sand with a hilly countryside in the background.
A young boy in the group decided to play in the mud near the sand bar and had happened to sink all the way to his knees in mud. As the child tried to “dance” his way out, his father pulled and tugged for a couple seconds until the boy was set free from the quicksand-like mud. However, he lost his Crocs in the process. One of the guys from the group dug his hand into the mud to search for the missing sandals, but after a few minutes our tour guide hurried us back onto the raft as the tide came in.
The boy told me not to put that in the story, but I’m sure the family will appreciate that I did.
The tidal bore wave was small at first, but as it moved over the more shallow parts of the river, it began to increase in size. Cory motored the raft ahead of the tidal bore and quickly turned around to face our first wave. As we hit, only a small splash of water came in the boat. It didn’t seem to be as bad as I thought.
I was wrong.
The waves just kept coming, and they hit harder and higher each time. I was sitting comfortably in the back watching the two guys in the front get slammed, but even I was significantly wet after only a few minutes of waves. Cory told us that those were probably eight foot waves, but he has seen them top 15 feet before.
As the waves continued, so did the laughter. The young boy who lost his Crocs seemed to forget all about it, cheering for the waves to get higher. We spent about 10 minutes getting our most out of the tidal bore. Within that time, the large expanse of the sand bar had disappeared underwater.
After that, we started to surf some of the waves with the boat. This was one my favourite experiences of the trip because it was bizarre to be up higher than the rest of the river and to be able watch the wave you’re riding.
We hit some more waves and swells over the shallow parts of the river. It was like a rollercoaster ride with plenty of ups and downs, but at a higher frequency. You definitely need to hold on with both hands for this part of the trip, but as long as you’re leaning forward, everything will be alright.
I eventually switched spots with one of the guys up front and it was a totally different experience. This is when I acquired my taste for the Bay of Fundy water. It was hard to keep both eyes open with each wave breaking right on top of you.
That being said, it was the best part of the trip.
Afterwards, all of the tour guides took us to a place to go mud sliding. I decided not to go because I was already cold enough as it was, but most of the people from my group and the other groups went anyway. They all shivered the whole way back while we motored through the cold wind on our trip back to the dock.
They learned. And I learned as well to never underestimate the power and beauty of the Bay of Fundy.

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