La Poile residents concerned about replacement ferry

Brodie Thomas
Published on December 23, 2013
Marine Coaster III is serving the community of La Poile, but sailing restrictions make it less than ideal for winter travelling, says the head of the community’s transportation committee. — Photo courtesy of Ray Vautier

The chair of the La Poile Transportation Committee says his community is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to this province’s ferry service.

Ray Vautier said the people of La Poile have been relying on the Marine Coaster III since mid-November.

While the ferry is fairly new and in good mechanical condition, Vautier said it can’t operate in seas with waves above one metre, or in winds above 20 knots.

He said people in the community understand that boats sometimes have to tie up in bad weather, but said this ferry’s restrictions are just too much for the North Atlantic.

“It was built for the Bay of Fundy or somewhere with calm water,” he said. “It’s absolutely no good on this coast this time of year.”

Vautier said the ferry runs slower than the community’s usual ferry, the Challenge I. While that ship can make the run to Rose Blanche in about an hour and a half, it takes the Marine Coaster III 2 1/2  to three hours to go the same distance.

That results in the ferry often making a quick turnaround at Rose Blanche. La Poile residents are often not left with enough time to do their shopping in Port aux Basques without staying for a night.

The Challenge I was sent to relieve the Marine Voyager on the Burgeo-Grey River-Francois run while that ferry went out for refit.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation and Works said since being shifted to the Burgeo-Francois-Grey River run, the Challenge I has also had mechanical problems putting it out of service. It was scheduled to be repaired by Dec. 20 or 21.

The Marine Voyager was schedule to be back in service on its usual run by Dec. 23, and that would free the Challenge I to return to La Poile sometime over Christmas.

Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons said he is often receiving calls about the ferry service in his district, and not just on the La Poile run.

“It comes down to an overall lack of strategy when it relates to the south coast,” said Parsons.

He has been told the people of La Poile should hear more about their planned vessel early in the new year.

However Parsons thinks the province is sending mixed messages to outport residents when it comes to ferry service.

“I think it’s funny when you come one year and talk about designing ferries, and the next year you come and triple the resettlement money,” he said.

Vautier realizes the province has a ferry replacement strategy, but he wants to know when the people of La Poile will see results from it.

He said they are willing to compromise if the means they get results more quickly.

“Nobody here is talking about a new ferry anymore. We just want a good ferry,” he said.