Northumberland Ferries cancels ferry crossings to be 'extra cautious' amid high winds

·3 min read
MV Saaremaa 1 began sailing between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S., on Aug. 20 and has since done 73 round trips.  (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)
MV Saaremaa 1 began sailing between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S., on Aug. 20 and has since done 73 round trips. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)

Strong winds across the Northumberland Strait meant another day of ferry cancellations between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia on Friday.

All sailings of the MV Saaremaa were cancelled Thursday and Friday. The MV Confederation crossings were also cancelled on Friday afternoon for the rest of the day due to high winds.

Northumberland Ferries has also cancelled Saaremaa's Saturday crossing that had been scheduled to depart Wood Islands 1:30 p.m., and Saaremaa's 11:30 a.m. sailing from Caribou.

Jeff Joyce, general manager and vice president of marine operations with Northumberland Ferries said they are being extra cautious with MV Saaremaa because it's on loan, and new to staff and crews.

"It's not our vessel so we're being extra cautious with the vessel and the wind speed envelope that she can operate in is less than what the Confederation can operate in," Joyce said.

This is the Saaremaa's first season sailing on the Northumberland Strait. Joyce said the ferry has made 73 round trips in that time. It usually sails on the St. Lawrence River, and is on loan from Quebec to cover the sailings of the Holiday Island, which was heavily damaged by fire in July.

Brittany Spencer/CBC
Brittany Spencer/CBC

"The vessel haul is smaller to begin with, it's more manoeuvrable but it tends to slide sideways a bit in the wind so the trick is to make sure the vessel is tracking appropriately so we can get into and out of the berths safely," Joyce said.

"It's new to the crews as well right so we're still learning and refining our safe habits to make sure we're operating her safely."

Holiday Island unlikely to return 

Joyce said staff and crew went through accelerated training to operate the MV Saareema and have adjusted to the new vessel well, but it won't be operating here for much longer.

The MV Saareema will leave P.E.I. to return to Quebec by Oct. 15. Joyce said no decisions have been made about plans for a second ferry for the 2023 season, but Northumberland Ferries wants to have two vessels in operation.

He said it isn't likely the Holiday Island will be returning to service.

"I do not expect the vessel to be back in operation, certainly not on our routes," Joyce said.

"There's been a lot of damage in the engine room as well as in the various spaces adjacent," he said.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

The Holiday Island remains berthed while the Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation into the cause of the fire.

Joyce said Northumberland Ferries is looking into a variety of other options for a second ferry, both for the long and short term.

"We're not sure yet if we're going to go into another arrangement like this summer or if we're looking for something else, it's still yet to be determined."

Passenger disruption minimal 

Despite the cancellations of the Saareema's crossings on Thursday and Friday, Joyce said the MV Confederation was able to handle the traffic.

He said Thursday saw a 20 per cent increase in passengers on the Confederation. The vessel has been full for most crossings and there were only a few instances where passengers could not board the ship and had to wait for the next crossing, he said.

Any further cancellations or schedule changes can be found on the Northumberland Ferries website.