About 20 nautical miles west of Charlottetown lies the village of Victoria. Like many of the harbors on Northumberland Strait it is fighting a losing battle against the moving sands which threaten to choke out the channel which has become increasingly narrow and shallow. Up until a few years ago there was annual sailing race from Charlottetown to Victoria and from Summerside to Victoria but as boats grew larger many could not enter the harbour except at high tide and the race has not been held.
Even the local fishermen seem to abandoning the port. There are only three boats fishing from the harbour today although there are a couple of locally based sailboats. There are two substantial wharves giving shelter from all but a south-east wind and at low tide the sandbars effectively block the waves. Much of the channel is carved out by the tidal action funneling through the bridge but the opening is too far to the south of the wharves to prevent the harbour from silting up. Dredging is necessary but that harbour authority may lack the resources to do a proper job and so the existence of the port is threatened.
Much of the charm of Victoria is that it has retained much of the appearance of the 18th century village that it was when first laid out in its four-block grid pattern by a Victorian property developer. The old saw that “poverty protects” help keep the village intact as its economic importance declined. The trend was reversed in the 1970s as a number of tourist attractions, led by the Victoria Playhouse made the community a destination and small businesses dependant on the tourism trade – inns, bed and breakfast establishments, craft shops and artists studios were established. I indulged in the complete Victoria experience, a swim in the harbour, dining a the local pub and taking in a play at the theatre the first evening and enjoying a fine meal at the Landmark Cafe the second night. The village thrives in the summer but in winter there are fewer than fifty inhabitants as many of the residents are “from away”. One of the charming aspects of life in the village that many of the residents take advantage of the seaside site to have a daily swim, either at one of three beaches in the village or just off the boat launch slip at the foot of the main street. The seasonal attractiveness of the community also threatens its uniqueness as nearby farmlands have been sub-divided and new development has departed from the grid pattern of the old village.
The channel leading into Victoria is barely 20 feet wide in spots and although well-buoyed there are a number of sharp turns required to avoid the moving sand-bars. The favoured side of the wharf is the east which offers good protection from the prevailing winds. There are a couple of small resident yachts and several fishing boats in either active commercial or recreational use. The wharf has running water and a public washroom is available at the community beach. Wharfage fee is a flat rate of $20.00 per night and the wharfinger offered every assistance.
On the way up to Victoria I left Charlottetown against the tide and southerly wind and motored to St. Peters Island where turning to the west made both the tide and wind favourable. I passed quite close to the St. Peter’s Island light which marks a shoal extending quite far to the west of the Island. Although I had marked a safe passage as a waypoint on my GPS I was still surprised how quickly the bottom rose up. The sail was a very pleasurable beam reach and got me to the village wharf in a little more than six hours which I considered to be excellent time. The wind was forecast to be high the following day and so I decided to stay put and take full advantage of the shelter. During the first night the wind did come up and created a chop in the harbour. It was my first night tied up to a wharf with a riding and falling tide, usually I was at a float or finger pier that floated on the tide, or else I was moored off. My mooring lines would have to allow for the six or more feet of tidefall and could not be tightened or else I would be suspended as the tide fell. Added to that I was uncomfortably close to other boats tied up ahead of and behind me on the wharf. The chop in the harbour overnight meant that my tender was continuously banging against the hull (even with fenders) and at 3:00 am I had had enough and rowed it over to the beach to drag up on the sands. I did not pass a pleasant night.
The wind moderated through the following day and my second night in the port was very calm. I awoke at about 5:00 am and threaded my way out of the harbour to open water as the sun rose. By 8:00 I had motored as far as Canoe Cove in a flat sea. I anchored off and rowed to shore to see if my friends Craig and Kay wanted to go with me to Charlottetown. I am afraid that I disturbed their morning lie-in but after a well-appreciated breakfast we set off to complete the voyage. Unfortunately both the wind direction and force conspired against us and except for about 10 minutes under sail it was a motor trip all the way in. Good company always makes the trip shorter and we were tied up by 2:30 in the afternoon having dined aboard. I was well pleased with both the boat and myself.
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