Fish trucks and tourist will have to drive around the Bay of Fundy this weekend instead of riding the ferry to or from Saint John.
The Princess of Acadia will head for Halifax after its last run to Saint John from Digby Saturday morning, June 23 at 8 a.m. The ferry is headed for dry dock after its propulsion system fouled up in rope.
The ferry will be out of service until at least Wednesday, June 27 and possibly longer.
Bay Ferries spent Wednesday night and Thursday calling people booked on the ferry and those people have been calling hotels in Digby to cancel their reservations.
Ian Barnes runs the Admiral Digby Inn with his wife Carole on the Shore Road leading to the ferry.
They had seven cancellations in five hours Thursday morning as the news started leaking out.
“I’d say we’ll lose more than 75% of our bookings for that week,” says Barnes. “But it’s not just us and it’s not just Digby. We’ve had people who are cancelling their trips to Nova Scotia, to the Maritimes – PEI and Cape Breton are going to feel this too.”
Dianne Theriault runs Petite Passage Whale Watch in East Ferry on Digby Neck and says any closure to the ferry this time of year is “detrimental to tourism in the area”.
“What we see from ferry is morning cruises; we see people leaving on the 4 p.m. ferry so they stick around for a morning whale watch, which is good for us,” says Theriault. “If the boat is off four days, certainly it will affect everybody in the area. People who drive around will now choose not to come to this end of the province.”
Theriault says the service needs a long-term plan and a new boat.
“For the last five years, these little bits of money to fix this and fix that isn’t helping.”
Mark Surette, the executive director of the Nova Scotia’s Fish Packers Association says the trip to dry dock is bad timing.
“It’s miserable, there is no other way to say it,” he says. “The haddock fishery is just starting to pick up. We have the scallop fishery going. And the temperatures are soaring.”
Surette says the shippers will adjust but driving around delays the fresh product by several hours and can mean a difference in the price the product gets in New England.
“If you’re in the first lot of fish at the market, there is usually a better price, so getting in at 2 in the afternoon, it can cost you money,” he said. ““And it’s absolutely impossible to drive from Yarmouth to Boston without a second driver, so that add costs. It’s more driving, it’s more fuel. So it’s all kinds of little things.”
“We’ll deal with it same as we do when the boat goes to dry dock every winter, but ideally the ferry provides the best way to get fresh live product to market in New England.”
Don Cormier, vice president at Bay Ferries says the closure comes at a bad time for the ferry as well.
“Obviously we’re getting into the busier part of summer and every week is getting busier,” he said. Thursday. “That’s why we want to do this repair now, so we don’t have a more serious repair later.”
He said the repairs should take less than week, “unless the repair is more than we think it is at this point.”
Cormier suggests travellers check with Bay Ferries to verify when the service is starting up again.
Bay Ferries: http://www.nfl-bay.com/