St John New Brunswick
Home Up Portland Maine

New England Home Who Went? 1 Salem Village 2 Martha's Vineyard 3 Bar Harbor Acadia 4 Halifax Nova Scotia
5 St John New Brunswick 6 Portland Maine 7 Day at Sea Curse of the Jewel The Artwork of Jane Wooster Scott


Saint John is the industrial powerhouse of New Brunswick, a maritime province in eastern Canada.  It hosts the greatest concentration of industry on the Atlantic coast north of New York City.  

The power that drives the engine is called Irving.  During our visit, we noticed the name Irving plastered on gas stations and billboards wherever we went.  For example, the paper mill pictured below belongs to the Irving family.  It sits right on the St John River where we had our exciting rapids boat ride.

Wealthy industrialist K.C. Irving and his family built an industrial conglomerate in the city during the 20th century with interests in oil, forestry, shipbuilding, media and transportation.

Today Irving companies remain dominant employers in the region with the most important businesses being eastern North America's first deepwater oil terminal, a pulp mill, a newsprint mill and a tissue paper plant.

Marla and I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to St John. This city wasn't quite as cute as its neighbor Halifax that we had visited the day before.  I had an interesting adventure in that tent you see pictured at the right.  This tent was an area set up to welcome visitors getting off the cruise ship.

Inside the tent, there was a greeting committee of a half dozen friendly, lovely white-haired ladies in red coats.  They couldn't wait to answer every question we could think of.  One lady came over to me and greeted me personally.  Her smile was genuine and she exuded warmth.  We struck up a nice conversation about town.  Eventually the conversation wandered over to where I was from. 

I assumed she knew what country I was from so I answered "Texas".  A frown instantly crossed her face as if she had been slapped. 

"Isn't that the state your president comes from?"  The lady knew the answer.  She immediately called two of her friends over.  The three ladies proceeded to chew me out from head to toe about how mad they were about the war in Iraq, Homeland Security nonsense that made their lives miserable up here in New Brunswick, and his cavalier attitude towards their country. 

I was pretty stunned at the strength of their rant. I had no idea how unpopular America and our president was here in Canada!  I was even more stunned at how uninhibited these ladies were about giving me a piece of their mind.  They obviously were not even slightly afraid of losing their job for voicing their opinions. 

Interestingly, every person I met in this city was equally outgoing.  I didn't get any more political lectures, but I did find each person I met to be very engaging.  I have to say I felt right at home in this place.  Including my tour guide and the crazy man who drove our boat, I met some real characters in St John, New Brunswick. 

St John and Halifax are rivals in the region fighting over control of the shipping industry.  Currently Halifax holds the upper hand.  
During the First World War, St John became a trans-shipment point for the British Empire's war effort.  The Second World War saw the port decline in importance due to the U-boat threat which saw Halifax's protected harbour offer improved convoy marshaling.   Halifax has the better port, but St John is closer to inland manufacturing which can use the St John  River to reach the sea. 

The highlight of the day was our boat ride in the Bay of Fundy.  Due to an odd tidal phenomenon in the area, there is a huge rise and fall of the tides in the Bay of Fundy.  At the point where the St. John River meets the Bay of Fundy, there are powerful water swirls.  See the picture on the right for an idea. 

First however, I will let you see some pictures given to me by Jess and Pat Carnes (thank you very much!) 

I suppose it is obvious there wasn't any Fall color in St. John,
New Brunswick, either.  Looks like summer!

Marla and I were getting teased on a regular basis about our false advertising.  We were just as disappointed as everyone else.

The Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy is known for having the greatest difference in water level between its high and low tides in the world.  As a result, enormous amounts of water leave and return every twelve hours, creating a powerful current.

Factor into this the St John River.  This large river empties its waters into the Bay of Fundy.  At the intersection, you have lots of water going in different directions which explains the
powerful water swirls and eddies.

Twice daily the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy rise faster than the river can empty.  When this happens, the tide attempts to push the river back upstream, then the tide ebbs and the river appears to reverse itself and flow over the rocks, creating the appearance of reversing rapids.  In the top of the picture, look for the difference in color where the two waters are meeting. 

These two pictures give you a pretty good idea what they mean about the difference in water levels.  On the left, you see the effects of low tide.  On the right, you see the effects of high tide.

That boat appears to be twelve feet higher in the picture on the right. 

Nowhere is this effect more dramatic than in St John. 
 First you have the tremendous rise and fall of the tides of the Bay of Fundy, which are the highest in the world.  

At the city of St John, here the crazy rise and fall of the tide meets a powerful river.  The St John River is trying to empty its waters into the Bay only to have the waters of the Bay force it back up the river. 
 This creates a phenomenon known locally as the Reversing Falls.

The citizens of St John have found a curious way to embrace their unusual tidal phenomenon - they send tourists out in boats and dare them to return alive!

One day early on our trip, Marla asked me what I wanted to do in St John.  Since she had the list of excursions, I asked her what caught her eye.  Marla said they take speed boats out into the rapids for a joy ride.  I raised an eyebrow. 

"Are you making this up?"

"No, this is on the level. But there's one thing. There are warnings galore!  If you are old, if you are in poor health,  if you are vulnerable to dizziness, if you have a weak neck or sore back, if you are on medication, if you are susceptible to cold water, if you are pregnant... the guide says don't do this trip."

I thought about it.  They spent more energy 'discouraging' than they did 'encouraging'.  I had never heard of an excursion with this many warnings before.  I am not going to lie - I felt intimidated!  But then I got a grip on my misgivings.  Other than 'old', I didn't have to worry about anything else.  "Well, I'll do it if you want." 

When the big day arrived, I was still worried.  I had no idea how to prepare.  They said to bring a change of clothes.  Was this going to be fun or was it going to be a huge ordeal?  On the surface, it certainly didn't sound like fun.  Risking my life and getting soaking wet in cold Canadian waters wasn't my idea of a good time. 

I pointed out to Marla the guidebook said there was an excellent observation post within walking distance of the ship.  Marla reminded me we had already paid beaucoup bucks for this adventure. I frowned at that.  I forgot I was paying for the chance to be miserable.  I had a bad feeling about this.

Nor did my mood lighten when we got on the bus.  They immediately whipped out legal disclaimers to be signed.  Even if I ended up paralyzed from this event, it would be my own tough luck.  Not only did they make me sign a separate form, they made me sign a group form as well with the tour guide watching my every stroke.  Why were they taking this so seriously?  Was it really that dangerous?  My paranoia level was ratcheted up to one notch below the highest level.  I could not stop worrying and wondering.

The bus took a winding tour around St John on its way to the Reversing Falls.  St John isn't that big. I could have sworn we went down the same road more than once.  To kill some time, the bus even stopped in town to let everyone get off and help improve the local economy.

Everywhere I looked, the name Irving appeared.  And not just on gas stations either.  Irving Nature Park, Irving General Hospital.  This guy was everywhere!    Besides, the name of this place was bugging me.  I went to St Johns School for nine years.  It was killing me that this city was missing an "S" in its name.  Why didn't they just rename the place "Irvington" and get it over with?

Another thing I couldn't figure out is why we needed a bus when it said you could walk there. I never quite understood whether you needed a rid or not.  Dan and Judy Bates made it to the Observation Deck for the Reversing Falls. In fact, they were kind enough to take the pictures that are listed below.  Someday I will have to ask them if they walked or took a cab.

Well, here we are.  As we got out of the bus, a dozen hapless victims wearing huge yellow water gear were lined up waiting for the next available boat.  Some crazy guy was running around screaming about what a stupid mistake these people were making.  This wasn't what I wanted to hear.  I looked at him closely.  He looked like he worked there! 

Sure enough, Dan was handing out the yellow water gear and barking instructions and warnings.  Every chance he got, he would remind these people how much danger they were in, how frightening this experience was, how lucky they would be to come back alive!

Of course you think I exaggerate.  After all, I am notorious for spinning a tale or two.  Guess what?  I am not exaggerating.  This guy was terrorizing people!  And it was working.  I looked at the faces of the people waiting and they were scared out of their wits.  I couldn't help but think, "What have I gotten myself into this time?"

I started to concentrate as if my life depended on it.  This guy's maniacal laughter had gotten under my skin.  I watched carefully as the boat pulled in.  As the people got off the boat, they were laughing their heads off.  I relaxed a little.  This whole thing was an act!  And a good one too - they definitely had gotten me worried.

I walked up to someone who got off the boat and asked for suggestions.  The guy smiled at me.  He said, "You will get wet.  No matter what you do, you will get wet.  Whatever you are wearing will get wet.  And once it gets wet, you will be miserable.  I suggest you wear nothing under your yellow water gear.  One more thing - whenever the boat hits a swell, duck!"

The thought of being naked appealed to me. At least I wouldn't have any wet clothes to haul around.  But I decided to at least wear a bathing suit.  Knowing now what I didn't know then, I would skip the bathing suit.  I will explain in a moment.

So I went in the changing area and donned my water protection.  I was the big jolly yellow giant.  Yellow coat, yellow hood, yellow pants, and yellow gloves.  Deciding it was impossible to look any more ridiculous, I threw my army poncho over my yellow gear.  This army poncho was practically a tent.  If anything could protect me from the water, this could.  I looked around carefully. No cameras!  Thank goodness.

Slowly we trudged into the boat. Along for the ride were Robert and Cher.  Robert wore a smug smile of confidence. I was immediately suspicious.  Cher looked just as terrified as I was.  Marla looked like Robert - bring it on!

Our boat driver was another maniac.  He called himself "Pierre".  Marla whispered that wasn't his real name, but I couldn't have cared less.  He was dressed in pirate gear.  He had on a red bandanna, a mustache, an earring, and a patch over one eye.  He acted like he was on a weekend pass from an insane asylum.  In a word, Pierre was "crazy".  He cackled, he laughed, he screamed, he threatened.

Immediately we discovered the whole point of the trip - get the passengers wet.  Let me amend that... get us SOAKING MISERABLE WET!

Due to the swirling waters, all Pierre had to do was aim his boat directly into a swell and instantly huge volumes of water would cascade over the boat. 

Following directions, I always ducked.  That was valuable advice.  But somehow the water got in anyway.  I couldn't figure it out.  How the heck did that water get in?  Suddenly my bathing suit was soaking wet.  That water was so cold!   I quickly discovered once the water got in, it drained right back out and the rest of my body felt fine.  But that bathing suit absorbed the water and kept it like a bag of ice wrapped around my hips.  I wanted to take my bathing suit off so bad.

Pierre was getting crazier by the moment.  He knocked an enormous spray of water ten feet about the boat.  It hit us like an avalanche.  When we finally got our senses back, Pierre was shaking his head back and forth.  He had caught a fish between his teeth (no, it wasn't real).  He was really enjoying himself.  Later we learned that his real job is computer programming.  Go figure.

Robert appeared to be having the time of his life.  Cher had visibly cheered up, but not me.  I was still gripping the bar in front of me for dear life to brace against the constant jolts of boat hitting water.

Marla was happy and miserable all at the same time.  She had jeans on underneath.  Early in the ride, her hood had fallen off just as a ton of water fell on her head.  Marla was drenched.  She screamed bloody murder!  For the rest of the trip she was soaked to the bone.  But she kept laughing.  Marla had the time of her life.

Late in the ride, Pierre kicked in for the grand finale.  He hit one wave after another.  Huge plumes of water shot in the air like a geyser and crashed down upon us. It felt like a ride under the Niagara Falls.  We were submerged time and again with Pierre screaming like a kamikaze. You know what, the maniac finally got through to me.  I started screaming too!  "C'mon you stupid water!  Hit me!  I can take it!  C'mon, c'mon!"   I went nuts.  When the ride suddenly ended, I was desperate for it to continue.  "No, no, let's keep going!"

When we got to shore, I discovered why Robert was smiling. He had his kayak wet suit on underneath. He was high and dry for the whole trip.   Cheater.

Thanks again to Dan and Judy Bates for taking pictures of the Reversing Falls.  Can you see the cruise ship in the distance? 


Next Page: Portland, Maine and the White Mountains of New Hampshire

New England Home Who Went? 1 Salem Village 2 Martha's Vineyard 3 Bar Harbor Acadia 4 Halifax Nova Scotia
5 St John New Brunswick 6 Portland Maine 7 Day at Sea Curse of the Jewel The Artwork of Jane Wooster Scott
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ