Low Tide At Sunrise: Sandy Point Lighthouse

Shelburne, Nova Scotia (Map)

Spring 2014


As my plane landed in Halifax, I was now quite hungry after starving myself so I could fill up on Taco Bell. Picking up the rental car and heading into busy, downtown Halifax, I grew irate at the sight of the dark Quinpool Road Taco Bell closed for renovations. Knowing that both of the mall locations were now closed for the night, I used my phone to find a new-to-me Taco Bell out in Lower Sackville.

Driving north instead of my desired southwest direction, I rolled along a road of fast food outlets for 20 minutes, only to find that the Lower Sackville one had cut out the Taco Bell & reverted back to being only a KFC.

Hungry, tired and frustrated with Atlantic Canada, you can imagine the number I did on my rental car's steering wheel.

There was no way I was driving back into downtown Halifax on a Friday night for more exciting dining options.

The route from Lower Sackville outside Halifax dropped off in development at an incredible rate, leading me to settle on McDonald's since it seemed like it would be the last thing open between here & distant, south shore Shelburne.

After now having dinner at 11:15, the two hours of driving to Shelburne crawled along, as I tried to sing and move enough to keep alert on the dark and empty Highway 103. Head-bobbing as I neared Shelburne, I was elated and relieved to finally enter town and look for somewhere to crash for the night.

Every Shelburne street and business seemed sleepy & quiet enough to park my car for a few hours. Noticing the local arena, I couldn't help but back into one of the last spots with the local rail trail behind the car. Folding down the seats after trying to steady a shot of the Shelburne County Arena, it was time to make a clothes pillow and pay a visit to snoozeland.

I could only sleep for a couple of hours, not because Shelburne would awaken at daybreak, but because low tide was at 5:30 and low tide would help me reach Sandy Point Lighthouse.

Picture from 2007.

Picture from 2007.

I had 'tried' to get out to Sandy Point Lighthouse back in 2007, but didn't realize just how frigid the Atlantic is in May or how much the tides can change the landscape here. Assuming that we could simply wade out to the lighthouse or kill a few hours of high tide at the local pub, I learned that a place like Shelburne - close to the Bay of Fundy's world record 56 foot tides - also has considerable tides of its own.

Unable to get more than calf deep into the frigid ocean to inspect how deep the water would become, there was no way that a Sandy Point Lighthouse visit was happening in 2007.

I hadn't been back to this area of Nova Scotia since.

Seven years later and with a greater amount of preparation and planning, I still didn't make it to the lighthouse until after the tide was coming back in - a product of stopping for coffee and my early morning lack of clear thinking. Regardless, the deepest water was only knee deep by the time I waded off the sandbar, about 30 minutes after low tide.

Unfortunately it gave me pause about how long I could stay out here at Sandy Point. The sandbar was actively disappearing and the water was getting deeper.

Also, yes, the water in June was considerably warmer than early May.

Along with the rising water levels, the daylight was increasing as the sun worked its way over the eastern hills and cloud wisps moved about the sky revealing patches of blue behind them. To be out here by myself, on this quiet morning with only a gentle whisper of wind, meant that the Sandy Point Lighthouse - which might have been special already with these tide instructions - holds an endearing place thinking back to this fine morning.

Slipping over the slimy rocks, I touched the wooden crib and stared up at the carved brackets securing the lighthouse balcony. There was appreciation in me towards the fine structure, but also a bizarre feeling in being so far out in the harbour, standing in a spot that's only revealed maybe 20% of the time.

The first Sandy Point Lighthouse was built on a nearby pier in 1873, but after burning down, a new lighthouse was constructed here on this crib in 1903. There were lightkeepers here who would turn on the light nightly until 1984, after which time the lighthouse was fully automated. It was eventually deemed surplus and given to the local community centre, but a decorative light is still displayed for the surrounding residents who cherish the ever-present pillar of Sandy Point.

In just a few hours I would be riding a boat out of this harbour in search of another lighthouse.

In addition to how special Sandy Point felt at this time of day, it was also something else to stand on the wet rocks and peer out at the island I'd be exploring shortly, but had only previously seen on maps. That dark, flat isle out there under the giant clouds stretching into the Atlantic; I would be there soon enough.

With my shoes and pants now wet I comfortably walked to and fro, snapping pictures from all of the emerging sandbars and of the constantly changing cloud formations. Save for the muck that was attaching itself to my pant bottoms, the walking wasn't that hard, outside of working your foot out of the short, wet depressions.

There was one last thing that made this morning so great - the fact that low tide coincided with sunrise. I have to admit that this visit has me thinking about getting up at sunrise for other lighthouses now.

I could have stayed here all day - especially if I had trunks, a book, a lawn chair and an umbrella - but I had a boat to catch. I needed to go groggily change these wet clothes and grab breakfast/snacks at the local Sobeys.

Continue to Part 2...


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