This has been a pig of a week for getting to the necessary tasks which must be completed before getting the boat into the water. Instead I have been at work (agh!!) imagining sailing – not even second best.
This afternoon I was in the western part of the Island and returning home along the coast I drove with one eye on the water plotting a summer course along the coast. I passed the area at high water and it was easy to picture Ebony poking her bow up the brooks until stopped at the highway bridge. The picture at low water is less appealing with acres of sand and mud flats with small shallow meandering channels containing just a trickle of water being the norm. In general the shore from Charlottetown to Summerside is not a welcoming one. Wharves at Rice Point and Canoe Cove have completely disappeared. Shore access at a couple of other points suggest there may have been others and the whole coast was once dotted with lobster factories supporting small inshore fleets. Today real ports are found today only as dying remnants at Victoria and Borden and most harbours and bays are closed by sandbars. Many sailors transiting the Strait prefer to do so well offshore avoiding Tryon Shoals and other bars. As I drove the coast road I imagined an alternate thin water reality. With Ebony’s 2’8″ depth I really could get into some of those inlets. Years ago I could have gotten into many more. Sailing ships were built and launched along this shore and once well-used harbours which housed fishing fleets have silted up.
At Cape Traverse there was once a wharf extending almost a half-mile into the Strait which was the terminal for the Steamer service for part of the year. R.T. Holman has a warehouse at the head of the wharf Until 1917 it was a station on the PEI railway and part of the link with the mainland before the ferry service was moved to Port Borden In the late 1960s, when I lived for the summer in the hamlet, there was still a lone fisherman tieing his boat to the remains of the jetty and the brook ran through the bars creating a path to the sea. Today the brook is all but gone at low water and the channel fritters itself away among the sandbars.
While Cape Traverse was probably a non-starterfor Ebony the inlet at Tryon still holds some possibilities. There are no aids to navigation and indeed there has probably been no navigation for decades. If there once were wharves they now exist only as stone piles reaching out for the channel and none are evident from the shore. By the 1870s Victoria, with its marked channel and variety of wharves and businesses (one of which was operated by my great-grandfather Wright) offered enough of an alternative so that any use of Tryon was hardly necessary. One area farmer, a friend of my older brother, with his head in the sea and his feet in the fields sailed his home-built yachts from here and he anchored his boat close to his farm near the end of the shore road. What I imagine was his last boat still sits, all but abandoned, at the side of the road.Her name “Dalliance” provides a mocking comment on men and boats. She is a deep water boat of substantial size and there is a sadness in its abandonment. But from this and other clues at least I know there is water enough to float Ebony up to the bridge through a twisty anchorage of marsh grass. The marsh with its easily accessed hay was an attraction for the Acadians in the mid-eighteenth century. It was once dyked and the bridge, still referred to as the abideau bridge is probably on the site of a dyke gate which allowed the area to drain at low tide and held back the water at high.
I stop the car, site for a few minutes and I am suddenly aboard the boat looking back at the shore, watching the depth, finding the channel as it moves close to the bank on one side and then drifts off to the other shore. I can hear the red-wing blackbirds in the bulrushes and the wind rustling the willows at a farm just ahead but on the shallow side of the inlet. On a section of the road not yet paved a car rumbles by with a roostertail of red dust. A rising tide carries me slowly, slowly to the last bend before the bridge. The moment passes. I will come back for the sea-side view later this year. But I have much to do before launch – running new halyards, waxing the hull, bottom painting, and on and on – and all this before launch.