Tucked deep in the north-east corner of Hillsborough Bay and only a few miles from Charlottetown lies Pownal Bay and the wharf site at Waterside. It receives few visitors today because the closest route to the Bay lies across the very shallow and rocky reef running from Squaw Point rifle range to Governors Island. The reef is particularly dangerous because of the many unmarked rock outcrops which can rise several feet above the bottom. Over the years I have developed a “safe” route which can be negotiated even at low tide although I cannot vouch for any boat drawing more than the Halman 20’s 2’8″. By taking a straight line between the two yellow rifle range marker buoys there is just enough water at low tide to get through. Last weekend I was reminded how precarious this passage was when I tried to pass through at about an hour before low tide. I had approached from the south-west and was about three boat lengths south of my normal route when “bump, bump, scrape, stop”. By throwing my weight to the leeward side I thumped and bumped across several outcrops and was able to get back to where I had started and re-negotiated the passage slightly further north – but not too much further north as the chart shows other outcrops dry at low water. I was also conscious of the “pop, pop” of the militia at rifle drill on the range. Yes it is well backstopped with a high earth berm and yes the yellow cans show a safe distance but still it is a little eerie knowing they are shooting in your direction. Once over the reef it is clear sailing all the way to the Bay.
Of course, the alternate is to round Governor’s Island to the south and keeping clear of the east spit approach the Bay from the south. In the Halman 20 and with light winds this could add a couple of hours to the trip and my practice has been to sail slowly with one eye on the depth gauge and the other peering over the side watching the very visible bottom glide by.
Remarkably for a place that has no resident boats, only the ruin of a wharf, no commercial fishing or aquaculture and few visitors there is a full set of buoys leading to the anchorage at the wharf site. By contrast, Orwell has a very active mussel operation and no buoys. CD3 marks the edge of the spit running east from Crown Point peninsula and from there to the wharf there are both port and starboard markers showing the channel. None are listed in the Coast Guard list of lights and buoys and they don’t all show up on electronic or printed charts The channel has depths near or exceeding 8 feet at low tide but the sand shoals rise steeply and it is east to go from 10 feet to 2 feet within a boat length. I had, on purpose nosed Ebony unto the edge of the sandbar to have lunch but failed to time the still falling tide and by the end of lunch I was hard aground. An extended lunch period curtailed my intention to explore the curving channel leading up to Pownal proper
Now that all wharf timbers have rotted away the abandoned wharf has become a rockpile and a favourite space for seals from Governor’s Island to haul out and bask in the warm sun at low tide . It is perhaps an indicator of how quiet a place this has become because there is a road running down to the head of the wharf and then up to Mt. Mellick. Cars pass within a few hundred yards and the seals seem to be not at all alarmed. Two or three years ago their favoured spot was a drying sandbar just to the west and clearly visible in the Google Earth shot but they seem to have shifted their lounging spot.
Waterside is not really even a hamlet as it has only a handful of farms, some of which have had lots carved off but a new sign board shows that a large area of the shorefront has been subdivided and a road plotted out to service the “desirable estate lots.”