I have used the South East Bight–Petite Forte ferry on many occasions, as my wife is from the community and her family still lives there. We and our two young children visit as often as we can. This has been difficult on occasion due to inclement weather, which I understand is beyond anyone’s control.
Now, there is a new issue which is within someone’s control.
The “new” ferry, Norcon Oceanus, only has seating for 12 passengers at a time. I know South East Bight is not a large community; however, I have visited on numerous occasions over the years when there have been well over 12 passengers on board, especially on holiday weekends and during the summer. Now, people like us driving for 3+ hours with young children may arrive at the dock in Petite Forte, only to be advised we will have to wait an hour and a half or more for the ferry to make its trip and return because it is at capacity.
I would venture to guess that the ferry is going to have to make many extra trips to accommodate the number of passengers. There is one family in South East Bight with five or six children. If they are on the ferry, there is not much space left.
There have been many occasions when the ferry has had to make an extra run. This is an unnecessary inconvenience, especially if someone has an appointment or is on a tight schedule. Some people have resorted to going to the ferry an hour or more before departure to ensure they get on.
This should not be the case and is not reasonable for some people, i.e. those with young children, elderly or sick people, etc. People are calling around the community to find out who is going on the ferry so they know whether they will have an issue getting on. This will only create animosity amongst residents. Some people also use their own boat, which is not always possible due to unpredictable weather.
Also, there are no washroom facilities on either side for those that are forced to wait. Granted, the people of South East Bight and Petite Forte are very accommodating. However, not everyone is comfortable knocking on someone’s door and asking to use their bathroom.
I recently heard of some tourists who were planning to visit for the day, but decided not to once they became aware of the issues with the ferry. Is this how we want to promote our province?
This past weekend was the annual garden party in South East Bight, which always draws a big crowd. We would have loved to make the trip. However, we really did not want to take the chance of being stranded, either going or coming, with our young children. I am sure there are many trips with very few passengers, but to have a limit of 12 passengers is utterly ridiculous.
If everyone in South East Bight took advantage of the government’s new resettlement program, how many million would it cost? It is time for the government to provide an acceptable ferry service for the residents of South East Bight, as well as family, friends and tourists who enjoy visiting the community.