How a Nova Scotia man ended up accidentally camping in the Atlantic Ocean


What began as a road trip to Cape Breton turned into an ocean adventure for a Nova Scotia man after he woke up floating in the Atlantic Ocean.

A few weeks ago, Grant Hatcher took off from Halifax on his motorcycle to visit family in the small fishing village of Neils Harbour, a five-hour drive. He had some errands to run that day and left a bit later than expected — around 7 p.m. He didn’t want to be riding into the night,  so he pulled off in Noel Shore, about 90 minutes into his journey, to find a place to camp.

“I was like, ‘Oh, perfect, it’s right by the ocean there, should be a great place to set up a tent,'” Hatcher told CBC’s Maritime Noon. “And boy, was I wrong.”

There were some red flags, Hatcher acknowledged. While the area was covered in tall grass, it was lying flat on the ground. Red flag No. 2 was the ground felt damp, but Hatcher believed at the time that it was because of the rain — “even though a part of me knew that it was a little too squishy.”

And red flag No. 3 was he touched the grass and licked his finger, and found it tasted salty. But he thought it was due to the ocean spray.

A Halifax man set up camp on the Noel Shore, and woke up floating on the ocean. On the phone in: Cemetery stories. We chat with Craig Ferguson, who runs the Twitter page Dead In Halifax. 53:03

With the night growing darker and rain starting to come down, Hatcher was desperate to find a place to sleep. So against his better judgment, he pitched his waterproof tent and fell asleep.

‘I was clearly floating on water’

He was woken up a few hours later from a dew drop falling on his face. That was normal, he said, as tents tend to collect condensation from people breathing.

But when he turned over on his side, “that was the exact moment I realized something was really, really, really off.”

“The only way I can explain the sensation, is my aunt had a water bed in the 90s or something like that, and that’s literally what it felt like,” Hatcher said. “I was in this tent, but I was clearly floating on water.”

He had pitched his tent next to the Cobequid Bay, an inlet of the Bay of Fundy — which is known worldwide for its extremely high tidal range.

A 2020 file photo of Burntcoat Head Park in Noel, N.S., about 15 minutes from where Hatcher was camping on the Noel Shore. The area is famous for its high tides. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

 

It appeared the tide had come in as Hatcher slept.

“It was kind of pure panic there for a second, because I didn’t peg the tent down, so I was thinking, ‘Am I halfway to P.E.I. right now? Where am I?'” said Hatcher.

As he moved around, he could feel himself bouncing on the ocean floor, which indicated he was only in about two feet of water. He could also hear crickets chirping. His panic began to subside.

“I knew I was going to live, but I was still in a predicament here,” he said.

‘It was just a complete mess’

Complicating matters was the fact Hatcher sleeps in the nude and all of his clothes were in his backpack.

But where it was pitch black and there was nobody else around, he decided to exit the tent.

“The moment I move to go close to the entrance of the door, the door dips below the level of the sea and instantly, the Cobequid Bay fills my entire tent with ocean water,” he said.

“My sleeping bag was floating, my pillow was floating, my backpack was floating. I tripped over my backpack, dropped my boots into the water — it was just a complete mess.”

Grant Hatcher on the day of his ill-fated camping trip. (Submitted by Grant Hatcher)

 

Naked, Hatcher waded back to land, dragging his tent behind him. Once he was on relatively dry ground, he put his damp clothes back on. With still a few hours left in the night, he decided to head to Truro to try to find a warm place to rest.

The 45-minute trip “was probably the longest drive of my entire life,” he said.

Hatcher got to a hotel at around 5:30 a.m., and got a hot shower and a couple hours of sleep before he left for Cape Breton later in the morning. 

Initially, he was embarrassed about what happened and only told a couple of people. But he recently decided to share his story on Facebook, in a post that’s since received more than 3,000 likes and 6,000 shares.

“If at least one person gets a smile out of this, then it’ll be worth it,” said Hatcher.

He said the experience taught him to “respect the tides” and be careful when choosing a place to pitch a tent.

Some of his belongings, including his leather jacket and comforter, did not survive the ordeal, but Hatcher said he still has the tent.

“Helluva tent,” he said in the Facebook post.

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