St. Stephen – After months of rumour and conjecture, the Campobello ferry began making runs at the end of June for the first time in nearly two years. After the previous ferry barge sank, Campobello was without a ferry or a direct link to its own country as the new barge was being built on Deer Island by East Coast Ferries Ltd.
There has been a ferry between Deer Island Point and Welshpool, Campobello for over 50 years. Over the past several decades, the ferry has advanced from a 12 car scow pulled by a fishing boat to a more sturdy steel structure. When current ferry owner and operator Stan Lord took over the run with its current company he personally both purchased and built the steel boats to make the ride quicker and safer. The current tug, Hopper II, has been making trips for roughly 18 years.
Over those years, Lord said he’s had both customers and workers travel all across from the furthest reaches of the world to ride the unique ferry. “People come just to see the tug turn from one side to the other,” he laughed. The smiles and surprise from car drivers as the tug did so proved he was correct.
“Those two down there are from Newfoundland. They come down every year,” Lord said, pointing at the two deckhands on duty that day, demonstrating the ferry’s outreach.
The new ferry barge, Hopper III, has been long-awaited and was a tedious process to get in the water for both the company and residents on both islands. Businesses which relied on tourism on Campobello greatly suffered.
“It was not our plan to not have the ferry in service,” said East Coast Ferries representative Leanne Silvaggio.
“Not having the ferry up and running had a huge impact on us, and we realize how it has impacted the local communities.”
Apart from the annual summer season during which the ferry was run as a private toll ferry, the company also used the vessel to accommodate hydro workers, construction crews, and many others throughout the year. Previously the company also substituted for the government ferries which run from Deer Island to L’Etete should one break down.
Jeff Calder, who is a part of the Deer Island Chamber of Commerce and a captain for the government ferries, said, “We saw a drop of 1300 cars last summer.”
“A lot of people only stayed on Deer Island when they realized there was no ferry to Campobello and their plans were suddenly cancelled. The ferry provides a better circuit for the Fog Festival and things like that, and they lost that.”
Calder said he hopes to see an influx of positivity with the new ferry.
The old barge, named Hopper II similarly to the tug, was eventually salvaged, though it sat under water for much longer than the Fundy Trail II, the old Eastport ferry tug which sank along with it. While the barge was not, the Fundy Trail II, along with its own smaller ferry barge of the same name, is operating under contract on the Saint John River as it has since 2015.
“When the contract is up, we might like to run a ferry every half hour to Campobello,” said Lord, as the ferry currently lands every hour on the hour. This is only an idea for the time being, but as of now the current hourly ferry, which will run until the end of September, is allowing residents and tourists alike to catch their breath.
The Hopper III can hold 12 half-tons, which equals out to about 15 cars. Toll rates and the schedule can be found at www.eastcoastferriesltd.com