'It's not been easy': Campobello Christmas plans hampered by ferry cancellations

·3 min read

For the past three decades, Ulysses Robichaud has celebrated Christmas with his family on Campobello Island, but this year, he decided to go to a house on the mainland to celebrate.

"It's not been easy, not just for Christmas but since last February," he said.

Since Dec. 16, East Coast Ferries has cancelled at least three full days of service and two half-days of service to Campobello Island due to the weather. The ferry also didn't run from Dec. 24 to 27 for holiday reasons.

East Coast Ferries provides Campobello’s only connection to mainland New Brunswick that doesn't require crossing the U.S. border. The ferry normally only runs in summer but has been extended until Jan. 10 with a subsidy from the province.

In an emailed statement, East Coast Ferries co-operator Velma Lord said cancellation decisions are based on the marine forecast and the amount of wind.

"We are at the mercy of the weather," she said.

In order for East Coast Ferries to run a year-round service, Lord said the ferry would need to be upgraded to a self-propelled vessel. She said it's imperative East Coast Ferries be part of the solution.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is not easy for the residents of Campobello so East Coast Ferries has tried to do the best they can to help out to provide them with an alternative route to make it a little easier for them," she said in the statement.

About 20 vehicles, including some commercial vehicles, use the ferry on average a day, according to Lord.

Since the ferry was unreliable for his three working kids in New Brunswick to get to the island and back to work on time, Robichaud said he and his wife decided to cross two borders to get to their second residence in Saint-Charles.

He said the kids were disappointed they had to break the tradition of escaping to Campobello.

"It was like magic going there all the time."

According to the federal government, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

Daphne Carten, a Campobello resident, had to travel to the mainland for Christmas as well to avoid the unpredictability of the ferry. She said her son and his partner planned to come visit on Campobello, but the ferry's frequent cancellations made crossing too uncertain.

As residents of St. Stephen, Carten said, her son and his partner couldn't cross the U.S. border for leisure purposes either.

"Anytime the wind is blowing or anything, they have to cancel [the service] because it's not safe," she said.

When she travelled up to St. Stephen to visit her son, Ethan, on Christmas, she said her car and luggage was searched, which she said is normal. Still, she said, it would be nice to be able to travel to other parts of New Brunswick without having been searched.

"Nobody else in New Brunswick has to do that."

She said she doesn't blame the ferry operators, who are doing the best job they can, or the border officers, who are just doing their jobs.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal