poetry and prose about place

crossing the river

with 10 comments

In New Brunswick, the Saint John River watershed accounts for more than one-third of the province.  It is a majestic river, almost 700 kilometers long, beginning in Maine and Quebec as small tributaries and gradually gaining in width and volume as it flows towards the Bay of Fundy. 

One of the best things about living near the Saint John River is its cable ferries. 

There are several bridges, of course, but no means of transport across the Saint John River can compare with the mini-voyage experience of crossing the river on a summer day with the wind in your hair and the dazzle of water in your eyes.  It is always interesting watching the ferryman packing the cars in like sardines on the busy days.  There is usually some interesting local event posted on the bulletin board.  And New Brunswick’s river ferries are free to ride!

In 1978, I made several trips on a ferry that was only in operation for a short time.  This was the car ferry at Cambridge-Narrows on Washademoak Lake, part of Washademoak River, one of the large tributaries to the Saint John River.  It operated for a few months after the covered bridge there was flattened in the Groundhog Gale of February 2, 1976.  The new bridge was built shortly afterward in 1978 and only local people remember the ferry. 

However, I remember the ferry at Cambridge-Narrows very well.  I wrote the poem ‘Lights on the Lake’ one evening as I took the ferry across the Narrows and felt the peacefulness of the small community winding down from the summer season.     

For a short history of Cambridge-Narrows and a photograph of the covered bridge after it was destroyed by the Groundhog Gale, see 


Lights on the Lake





fairy bulbs on masts

sunset on sail

amber to trace

the ferry’s quiet crossing



leaded porch lights

propane glow

twin headlights

joust along the cottage road



strings of lantern

patio voices, clinking and laughter

fires on the beach

sparks stirred toward the sky



waves flirt with stars

Aurora Borealis leaps

fireflies blink

brief messages of love




comes an evening at summer’s end    crowd and fireflies are gone   night storms    shuttered windows 

darkened doors  the charred remains of fires

on the shore


and     through the trees     a ruby gleam

a choir practices its song



© Jane Tims 1978

Written by jane tims

September 10, 2011 at 6:51 am

10 Responses

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  1. Beautiful poem, the words brought back image filled memories of ferries I’ve taken, from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, from New London, Connecticut to Orient Point, New York, from Chester to Hadlyme, Connecticut… I understand there is a ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia – that is one I dream of taking someday! That’s amazing that New Brunswick’s river ferries are free!

    Looked up the Groundhog Gale – apparently it hit New England as well, but I don’t remember it, but perhaps that is because I had caring for my newborn firstborn on my radar screen…


    Barbara Rodgers

    September 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    • Hi Barbara. The ferries you mention include one I want to take, to Martha’s Vineyard. I am a fan of Philip Craig’s mysteries. They all take place on Martha’s Vineyard and he talks about waiting in line for the ferries. Jane


      jane tims

      September 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm

  2. Thanks for visiting over at Crazy as a Loom.
    I, too, love the ferry…..we had one in Ticondergoga, NY, going to Vemont…..I rode it all the time as a child, and in fact, it is still there.
    You’re right, something about the wind, and the sun, and the cars packed on it, there’s nothing quite like it.


    Hilary Cooper-Kenny

    September 10, 2011 at 8:27 am

    • Hi Hilary. Now if you could capture that in a piece of weaving… you have the eye for the colors – blues, white for sails and sparkle, the cars in various reds… Jane


      jane tims

      September 10, 2011 at 8:59 am

  3. Hi Jane,

    What a beautiful Post!

    I love watching the barges on Lake Michigan with their lights on. We leave low-energy lights on all night for the workers to see along the shore, to add to the lights of others in a small way…

    First heard of the Bay of Fundy from Joni Mitchell.

    My husband and I visited Vancouver in 1988 and rode on the ferries. My mom and I visited Stratford in 1972 and saw Shakespeare plays; we also went to Toronto.



    Ellen Grace Olinger

    September 10, 2011 at 8:22 am

    • Hi Ellen. You’ll have to visit New Brunswick some time. Is the Bay of Fundy in a song by Joni Mitchell? Thanks for your comment! jane


      jane tims

      September 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

      • Yes, I just checked her official website and looks like all of her lyrics are on-line now. I enjoy viewing her paintings also. Seems she was ahead of her time!


        Ellen Grace Olinger

        September 10, 2011 at 10:48 am

      • Thanks… I’ll go check it out! jane


        jane tims

        September 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm

  4. I find taking the ferry gives you time to sit back, relax and reflect on the day ahead or behind. Excellent poem Jane.



    September 10, 2011 at 7:10 am

    • Hi. There’ll be more on the ferries later. I wonder if a very regular user of the ferries would like them as well??? jane


      jane tims

      September 10, 2011 at 7:28 am

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