One of the reasons many of the yachts arriving from the USA tend to bypass Yarmouth is their wish to give the local Cape Horn a wide berth. And with good reason, as Cape Sable is beset by ferocious tides and uneven shoals that can undoubtedly generate some pretty wicked overfalls with wind against tide. Throw in regular doses of dense fog due to a major cold water upwelling close to the Cape, and you’ll need no convincing to avoid this place in bad weather.
Being so close to the Bay of Fundy, the tidal range at Yarmouth is more than six feet greater than on the other side of Cape Sable, a mere 40 nm to the southeast, which means that the tidal streams between the two places can run at 3 knots or more, especially in and around Schooner Passage, through the Tusket Islands, and down towards the Cape.
There’s an additional complication, just to make life a little more entertaining, in that the flood tide starts two hours earlier at Cape Sable than at Yarmouth, so you have only four hours to fly down to round the Cape at slack water before the tide turns against you. Get it wrong with the prevailing southwesterly winds, and you could spend at least six thought-provoking hours being battered in the races off Cape Sable.
Knowing this, and having grown up facing as bad (and often worse) around the various Cape Horns of the British Isles and northern France, I tend to do my homework for any such passage very thoroughly indeed, having suffered the vividly memorable consequences of slack planning on more than a few occasions. Get it right and all will be well, though—it’s not that hard.
To continue reading login (scroll down) or: