A Wayfarer on the Saint John River
Naomi  W8328
June 2003
Part 2: Monday to Thursday  - Ram Island to Chipman to Douglas Harbour

Monday began with an easy run down river and into the narrow pasture lined cut leading to the village of Gagetown.  This quiet village has a marina, restaurants and a small grocery/liquor store by the waterfront.  I brought Naomi ashore by a gravel boat launch and picnic park.  I intended to purchase a bottle of Ibuprofen to relieve a nagging ache in my right shoulder joint.

However, I forgot my original intention for going ashore here and ended up having fish and chips at a waterside restaurant and buying a case of beer instead.  A while later I sailed Naomi around the tip of Gagetown Island and into the Jemseg River.

This narrow river is a chore to sail through.  There may be a steady wind aloft in the tree tops but on the water nothing but wayward gusts.  I ended up rowing half way to the mouth of Grand Lake.  As I reached the entrance to Grand Lake, a thunderstorm rolled across the lake.  A mass of short breaking waves covered the shallow water ahead. 

Rather than waiting for the waves to subside and enter the lake during the evening, I anchored Naomi in the shelter of the mosquito infested flood plain for the night.  I got to wear my new matching hooded bug-shirt, pants, and gloves but I still have a nagging thought that West Nile Disease may be a marketing ploy by the manufacturers of outdoor clothing.

Tuesday’s forecast called for southwesterly winds building to 20 knots and stronger gusts later in the day.  Grand Lake is over 20 miles long and I had a fine run up the lake.  By the time I passed Goat Island and entered the Northwest Arm the wind had strengthened. I was relieved to be off Grand Lake.  My goal was the village of Chipman on Salmon River.

Salmon River winds for 6 km through an attractive marsh surrounded by forest before reaching Chipman.  Until recently, massive Irving Oil Company tugs and barges navigated the river to Chipman, so the river still has a deep, well buoyed channel.  On the river, the strong winds became irritating as they changed direction around the compass.  Constant sail-handling of the main and genny was frustrating, so I rowed for a while before I finally hauled Naomi ashore in a small cove.  I bushwhacked to a gravel road and hiked the rest of the way into Chipman.  The idea of once again owning a small outboard motor became attractive.

Chipman seemed to be a large Irving lumber mill bordered by a small village. Logs were continually being unloaded from flatbed trucks and stacked in huge piles along the riverbank.  Steam rose from substantial mills where the lumber is kiln dried.  I bought supplies at the Irving gas station and rested in a small riverside park.  The village has a boat launch and floating wharves for visiting boaters here.  After phoning Gail, I returned to Naomi and anchored her further down river for the night.

Before dawn, I woke to the sound of water splashing and grass rustling over the stern.  Two young moose waded through the marsh grass then swam across the river in their ungainly fashion.  Since the wind was forecast to be southerly 20+ with gusts to 30 knots, I started down river early.  By the time I reached Salmon Bay the wind was already increasing so I found a small sheltered beach where I anchored Naomi just off shore.  I have heard tales about how rough the shallow Grand Lake can become in a blow so I was content to spend a day here.

All the surrounding land had been surface mined for coal.  I followed twisting dirt paths between the low man-made hills and narrow turquoise lakes created from the strip-mining.  The spoil banks are now tree-covered and I enjoyed my walk through this odd but attractive countryside.  From a distance, I watched a massive drag line in operation.  Pure black coal was hauled by the truck load to the generating plant at Newcastle. 

After returning to my beach, I settled in for the day.  I set up my camp chair in a sunny warm spot out of the wind. Then I indulged in an early supper of potatoes, onions, ham, tea and wine. Alex, a man I had met the day before on Salmon River came for a visit in his motor boat.  He was worried I may have attempted to head out into the lake in the strong wind.  We had a long chat about the history of the area.

On Thursday the wind dropped and the sky became overcast.  I had a long drawn-out sail down Grand Lake in a fluky and faltering breeze.  Visions of an outboard motor puttering steadily and pushing Naomi directly towards my destination flitted through my mind. My shoulder continued to ache and I wasn’t eager for a long row.  As I neared Douglas Harbour the breeze departed. Then I rowed Naomi over Grand Point Bar and into Douglas Harbour. 

Here the classic steamer wharf is maintained by the Fredericton Yacht Club.  Most of the club members keep their vessels on mooring buoys in this sheltered harbour during the summer.  This is a popular destination for American yachters to visit also.  I tied Naomi at this wharf and visited the local convenience store, where I stocked up on food supplies and wine.  I phoned Gail before returning to my boat. 

Having anchored Naomi off a nearby beach, I went for a walk to stretch my legs.  It had been a long day on Grand Lake.

A Wayfarer on the Saint John River