Local businesses on Fogo Island and Change Island impacted by ferry schedule

Tensions are rising on Fogo Island as almost three weeks have passed since provincial transportation minister John Abbott claimed that the MV Veteran would return from dry dock “within the next 10 to 12 days.”

With tourism season on Fogo Island and Change Islands ramping up, local business owners are already facing increasing challenges due to the ferry system.

“People are frustrated and deserve clear answers. The tourism season is at risk, and the Furey Liberals must be held accountable for failing to deliver a reliable ferry service to the people of Fogo Island and Change Islands," PC Shadow Minister for Transportation Jim McKenna wrote in a prepared release on Monday.

Tough on local business

Madonna Penton is a local business owner in the region. She runs Landwash Lodging, a 100-year-old refurbished tourist home on the Southside of Joe Batt’s Arm on Fogo Island.

She is disappointed in how the situation has been handled. Every year it seems like the island is fighting for the ferry.

“They have let the people down here on Fogo Island and Change Islands, and the tourism industry itself and the fishing industry," said Penton.

Fogo is on the map

As a member of the community, Penton feels that Fogo Island residents have done their part in putting Fogo on the map.

“We’ve been on the map the last number of years and we had a lot of tourism dollars come from Fogo Island to go to the Newfoundland economy," said Penton. "To see the way we’re treated now, with this, it’s a little insane and it’s a little bit of a slap in the face.”

Tourism season has started

The tourism season is only beginning, and yet Penton has already received numerous cancellations from disappointed guests.

“They can’t be in a line-up for five and six hours with small kids and then have to leave again the next morning,” she said. “This is the highlight of their trip to come to Fogo Island and I feel embarrassed to tell people that this is the situation that it is.

"It’s out of our control but I don’t think that our government gives a damn.”

Where is the backup plan?

Now Penton is wondering if there was a back-up plan for the when the ferry was being sidelined.

Penton feels like the decision was made on a whim with little planning.

“You have to plan for those kinds of things," she said. "Things happen that are sometimes out of our control but you have to have a back-up."

Beulah Oake, the owner of Seven Oakes Island Inn on Change Islands, is also quick to emphasize the need for an effective backup plan.

“If one of the boats are breaking down there should be some backups. This is our highway," said Oake.

When it comes to her inn, Oake has also experienced similar challenges with cancellations due to the unreliable ferry schedule.

“I don’t want somebody coming down to Farewell and sitting there on a hot day in a car for four to five hours and still not getting on a boat,” she said.

Businesses are attractions

The local businesses on the islands are a key attraction that helps the economy to continue to thrive year after year.

Maintaining the bustling and vibrant tourism culture is a necessity for this growth to continue.

Additionally, for the residents of Change Islands and Fogo Island, the ferry is their only connection to many essential services. Both Penton and Oake acknowledge that all residents are suffering in varying ways.

"A lot of people are suffering. Not just my business," said Penton.

Anasophie Vallee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram