The Digby Saint John ferry will be shut down until almost Valentine’s Day.
The good news is the Princess of Acadia might be back in time to carry the Valentine’s Day lobsters to the States. The bad news is she might not.
Don Cormier, vice president of operations for Bay Ferries says the ferry will be out of service starting Monday, Jan. 14 for just over three weeks.
Right now they are accepting bookings starting with the 4 p.m. crossing from Digby on Sunday, Feb. 10 but that first trip could be moved ahead or back depending on how well the maintenance goes.
The Princess of Acadia’s bow thrusters have been out of commission for several weeks and Bay Ferries has been using tugs to be help manoeuvre the boat out from and into dock.
In some weather conditions, even with the tugs, the captains have cancelled crossings for safety concerns.
Cormier says it was the high cost of using tugs and the unreliability that caused Bay Ferries to schedule the dry-docking for as soon as possible.
Cormier says the boat needs to go into dry dock twice every five years anyway for a “statutory survey.” This is a scheduled maintenance Bay Ferries needs to do to keep the ship’s certification up-to-date.
Jim Thurber, chair of the Bay of Fundy Marine Transportation Association says he had expected that was going to happen later in February but the winter is probably the least hurtful season to be shut down.
“It’s hard to be pick a good time to shut the ferry down,” says Thurber. “The cancellations before Christmas were the worst possible timing. But the Christmas rush is over now, you don’t want it off for Easter or Mother’s Day and certainly not the summer.”
Thurber says he thought Bay Ferries had been hoping to fix the bow thruster problem while the boat was still running.
“So I’d say the problem is under the waterline and the only way they can figure this out is to take her out of the water.”
Cormier says the Princess of Acadia will be headed to a dry dock three days south of Saint John. Charleston, South Carolina is about three days south.
He says she is headed to the dry dock that could take her the soonest.
Cormier is advising customers to monitor Bay Ferries’ website www.nfl-bay.com or to call any of the following numbers.
Digby: (902)245-2116, Saint John: (506)649-7777 or the call center: 1(877)762-7245.