tA problem with the vessel’s starboard outer main engine – one of the vessel’s four engines – occurred on June 28. The Cat has had to slow the vessel’s normal operating speed from 33-35 knots to 28-30 knots, which makes the crossings an hour longer at six-and-a-half hours.
Because the engine cannot be repaired during the season – and not without putting the vessel into drydock – on July 14 Bay Ferries announced a modification to the balance of its 2017 sailing season.
Under the new schedule The Cat will make five round trips per week until Labour Day – as opposed to the originally scheduled six round trips per week in July and seven round trips per week in August.
The vessel will leave Yarmouth at her normal time at 8:30 a.m. (ATL) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, returning from Portland at 3 p.m. Portland time (4 p.m. Yarmouth time) on those days. On Saturday mornings during July and August the vessel will make a one-way crossing to Portland, leaving Yarmouth at 8:30 a.m. On Sundays, the vessel will make a one-way crossing from Portland, leaving at 11 a.m. Portland time (EST).
This weekend The Cat sails to Portland, leaving Yarmouth at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 15. It sails back to Nova Scotia on Sunday, July 16, leaving Portland at 1 p.m. local time.
"We regret any inconvenience this has caused our customers and our many partners and thank them for their patience," said Mark MacDonald, Chairman and CEO of Bay Ferries Limited in a media release. "The engine manufacturers are standing behind their product and will absorb all repair costs when repairs take place. We thank all technical personnel who have worked around the clock to assess and respond to this problem."
According to the July 14 media release, since June 28 the vessel's engine has been subjected to thorough investigation by the engine manufacturer, MTU, and outside repair contractors.
Heading towards the start of its May 31 season Bay Ferries had said advance bookings were up for the 2017, although there’s been no official word on what numbers have been from Bay Ferries, on Friday, July 14, the City of Portland released passenger numbers. The total number of passengers from May 31 to June 30 was 7,677 passengers (which is more than double the 3,616 passengers during The Cat's two-week June schedule in 2016). Of those total passengers, 4,579 departed from Portland and 3,098 departed from Yarmouth. There were 3,034 vehicles, which includes passenger vehicles, motorcycles and motorhomes. Six tour buses (four departing Portland, two departing Yarmouth) traveled on the ferry.
The 2017 June Cat numbers falls in between the seasons of the Nova Star, which carried 6,768 passengers in 2014 and 8,530 passengers in 2015.
MORE MODIFICATIONS TO SCHEDULE
Due to its engine issue, Bay Ferries Limited says it will also be publishing “modest modifications” to its September and October schedule, which will soon appear on the company's website, www.ferries.ca.
When The Cat had announced its schedule at the start of the season, the ferry was already not traveling seven days a week in September and October to cut down on expenses during non-peak travel times. Bay Ferries had extended it 2017 season by two weeks.
Bay Ferries says despite the engine problem it remains committed to giving passengers a good travel experience.
"Our entire CAT team is dedicated to providing our customers with the best possible travel experience and that commitment remains the same," says Jim Wilson, Vice President and General Manager of Bay Ferries Limited. "Travel on The CAT is a great adventure and we are very pleased with our early season bookings for 2017 travel. We are continuing to add to our slate of onboard entertainment to make that adventure even greater."
Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association (YASTA) is happy to see Bay Ferries is working through its engine issue as best it can.
"We are happy that the service is continuing, although on a reduced schedule. Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism is confident that the team at Bay Ferries is doing everything they can to ensure passengers receive a positive onboard experience," says Neil MacKenzie, YASTA general manager.
"With regards to visitor numbers to our region, our operators are reporting increases over last year," he adds. "Room nights and occupancy rates are also increasing when compared to last year. These are very good indicators that our tourism market is continuing to grow because of the provincial ferry investment."