Fed up with ferries

Change Islands residents say more communication necessary

Published on August 14, 2014
The Captain Earl W. Winsor ferry approaches the dock on its run to Change Islands. — TC Media file photo

Carolyn Parsons contacted The Telegram via email saying that the month of August has been particularly brutal for people on Change Islands. Information on the government website and on the information telephone line have been left unchanged while ferry schedules themselves have been constantly readjusted, Parsons said in an email to The Telegram.

“The real problem here is the lack of communication,” Parsons wrote. “The website isn't updated with new information and the people travelling are getting to Farewell after checking all government communication including the telephone line which isn't updated and was left unchanged from Aug. 6-11 in spite of multiple schedule changes.”

Farewell is where people catch the ferry to Change Islands and Fogo.

Donna Stacey lives in Appleton, but has a home on Change Islands. During the first weekend of August she was travelling to her home with her children, 80-year-old mother, and her 89-year-old father who is a diabetic.

She says they were at Farewell on Friday evening in time for the 5:30 p.m. run, but there were too many vehicles ahead of her to get on that ferry. Fifteen cars are alloted for Change Islands and 50 for Fogo. She knew she had to wait for the 7:30 p.m. crossing. She went to a nearby community shop to have a small snack with her family, but when she got back to Farewell she discovered that a last-minute change in the ferry schedule meant she wasn’t going to get on the 7:30 p.m. run either.

“I was like, ‘this is absurd.’ ”

Stacey ended up having to wait to get on at 9:30 p.m. with her diabetic father having to take his insulin with a small snack rather than his supper.

“He wasn’t upset, but he was tired. The man was completely exhausted. We had been down there for all them hours sitting in the car,” she says.

Change Islands resident, Shelley Reid, says such sudden and uncommunicated changes are not rare now that traffic has increased with summer. She says she can list occasions of people missing flights and doctor’s appointments, not because they didn’t plan ahead but because they weren’t able to plan ahead for changes they had no way of knowing had been made.

“It’s crazy. Really, it’s awful,” she says.

An issue that affected her recently and is affecting other residents of Change Islands involves the delivery of certain essential goods.

Houses on the island rely primarily on wood to heat their homes and so people order tractor-trailer loads of wood this time of year. She says the contractor she ordered from didn’t want to come because of the unpredictable ferry service and the risk of getting stuck on the island.

As it turned out, when she and another resident got a truck to come over recently, that’s exactly what nearly happened. Though the driver had made plans for the ferry to come back and pick him up in an hour after he dropped off the wood, it never happened.

“So we spent all Monday afternoon arguing and calling to make arrangements to make sure he wasn’t stuck here,” Reid says.

Reid says the whole system is mind boggling and archaic.

“It’s almost too much to believe that at this day in age they can not seem to figure out a system that will work for both islands.”

The Department of Transportation and Works was contacted but wasn’t able to provide comment by publication time.