St. Anthony —
The Strait of Belle Isle ferry contingency plan has been reactivated to allow the MV Apollo to undergo final repairs before it resumes full service for the summer.
But the changeover wasn’t without its hiccups.
The Apollo was originally expected to cease service last Wednesday, but a delay in the delivery of replacement parts pushed the changeover back to Sunday, June 12.
Then, last Tuesday, grumbling passengers were forced to wait an hour on the final Blanc Sablon to St. Barbe run of the day when the Apollo’s temporary replacement was moored at the wrong wharf.
Passengers ready to disembark were called back onto deck as the Apollo steamed back out in the harbour to allow the MV Astron to be moved.
The MV Apollo damaged one of its propellers on April 4 when a rope became wrapped around it.
Coupled with poor ice conditions, the subsequent delays enraged passengers on either side of the strait, as well as business owners who were forced to fly in products.
Some businesses were down to just the bare essentials, forcing the provincial government to enact its Air Foodlift Subsidy while they hauled the Apollo out of service and dry-docked her in St. John’s.
There, the propeller was removed and the damage assessed while the smaller MV Astron came onstream.
With the vessel restricted to no more than 12 passengers, drivers were forced to take a bus to either Forteau on the Labrador side or Sandy Cove on the Newfoundland side and fly across.
On their arrival, passengers were met with another bus and ferried back to their vehicles.
It is understood the smaller MV Astron will have to make several more trips across each day to accommodate the expected traffic.
The MV Apollo is expected to be out of service for about a week.
Ticketing and reservations will continue to be processed through Labrador Marine.
Travellers and shippers will be charged the same rates as they would normally be charged if using the MV Apollo.
As for the delay on Tuesday, Labrador Marine’s Dave Leyden said it was caused by a change in the weather while the Apollo was crossing the strait.
“It was a combination of the winds and the tide,” he said.
The Apollo can usually tie up on either side of the dock, but with the MV Astron in St. Barbe in preparation for taking over the run, that made things a little more difficult.
“Usually they determine which side of the dock (the Apollo) will
go to on the way across, but this time something changed when they were coming in, so they backed out again while we moved the Astron,” he said.
“It’s not a big deal. It just means a delay of about an hour or so.”
Southern Labrador business owners contacted last week were resigned to the fact that to get the MV Apollo back in full service they would have to put up with the contingency plans for a little while longer.
The Northern Pen