This article was taken from the
Times Globe, Thursday, May 21/98
Canada's fastest ferry will soon begin
transporting tourists between Bar Harbour, Maine, and Yarmouth
By MICHAEL TUTTON
Journal staff writer
The cat is
the only high-speed catamaran in Canada that carries both passengers and
vehicles. It can carry 800 passengers and 240 cars.
YARMOUTH, N.S. - The sleek silver nose of The Cat, the
continent's fastest ferry, slid quietly into her Yarmouth berth early
yesterday, amidst hopes that she will usher in a new era in high-speed marine
The six-month-old catamaran, which has travelled
roughly 10,000 nautical miles from her manufacturer in Tasmania, Australia,
will begin a summer of transporting tourists between Bar Harbour, Me., and
Yarmouth on May 28.
She is currently undergoing final
test before the inspections by the U.S. and Canadian Coast
"Nova Scotia and the Maritimes in general is
going to be a hot tourist destination," says Don Cormier, manager of Saint
John-based Bay Ferries.
"We think there's a market to be
exploited here and there will be other markets in the winter
The Cat is the only high-speed Catamaran in
Canada that carries both passengers and vehicles. It can carry 800 passengers
and 240 cars.
(Two larger fast ferries are being built in
"As the technology is proven, there may
be applications elsewhere in the Maritimes," Mr. Cormier
The company has said it will investigate expanding
the service to Digby and Saint John if the Yarmouth-Bar Harbour run is
The passenger area in the 91 metre vessel
contains a mixture of nautical and aircraft
Contoured seats much like those of passenger
seats on a jet airplane are arranged in rows, amidst bar facilities and
The captain and navigator sit in
high-back chairs in a cockpit with a 360-degree view, facing instruments that
include radar screens, a global position system and a television screen capable
of broadcasting a night-time, infra-red view of the sea before
"You can see the amount of precision built in to
this ship," say Mr. Cormier, pointing to the ship's wheel, which is only two
inches in diameter and is operated by the master's
The company says that its navigation systems and
ability to change direction quickly will help it avoid the whales that live in
the Bay of Fundy, particularly the endangered right whale.
"The Cat operates at high speeds (up to 90 kilometres an
hour)," says Mr. Cormier, "but there is less draft in the water. These vessels
have been operating for 35 years and there has never been a whale
Bay Ferries has also hired LGL Consulting
Services of king City, Ont., to come up with suggestions for ways to avoid
But Deborah Tobin, a whale conservationist in
Freeport, N.S., says she continues to worry about whether the high-speed
vessels will be able to avoid the endangered
"Whether or not there is a solution is the
question," she says.
Ms. Tobin says there were only five
new whales calves born in the Bay of Fundy this year.
hope we're not picking up any dead calves this summer," Ms. Tobin
The ferry emerged through a morning mist just after
7 am., as about 75 residents of Yarmouth stood at the Fishermen's Memorial
look-off holding small children and snapping
For some onlookers the boat represents a
chance to revive the tourism industry of southwestern Nova
Nancy Knowles, owner of Designer Tours, a tour
operator in Yarmouth, has ordered two cars and a van to "show the visitors
southwest Nova Scotia.
"We've been working with Bay
Ferries in bar Harbour to do two hour tours out of Yarmouth, for people who
come over in the morning and return in the evening."
Whiting, manager of the Yarmouth Development Corporation, says, "When this
tourism season ends we'll look back and realize we were short on hotel rooms
thanks to this."
There were also some bittersweet memories
for former Marine Atlantic workers who watched the ferry coming
Bernard Melanson, one of the almost 100 Marine
Atlantic workers who weren't rehired by Bay Ferries, says he hopes the new
ferry will benefit his community.
"Still," he adds, "I'm a
litter bitter. I don't get my job back.
president predicted 400 spin-off jobs earlier this year. I'd like to know where
they are, because I need one."
John Pierce, spokesman for
Transport 2,000, a transportation lobby group, says time will tell if the new
ferry is a viable business.
"It's a real experience to
travel on this new, pioneering type of vessel. Whether the interest level
continues depends on the quality of the ride and the noise levels," he
Mr. Pierce says the ferry faces some big financial
challenges, as federal subsidies for the service are scheduled to disappear by
the year 2000.
One of Bay Ferry's immediate business
challenges will be to secure a winter charter in the off-season, to ensure that
monthly payments on its $64-million cost can be met.
Cormier says that so far the company has not a winter operator for the boat in
North America. He says the company has "an option" to lease the ship to
operators in Australia, but says this is not the company's preference.