The Westfield ferry snapped its cable and was floating down the St. John River towards Saint John with eight cars and 12 people on board on Monday morning.
The underwater cable on the F60 ferry between Grand Bay-Westfield and Hardings Point broke at about 10:30 a.m., due to ice buildup on the river, Department of Transportation officials stated in a traffic advisory.
"We got about 50 feet out … and then cable broke and you could feel it underneath the car," passenger Michael Koti told CBC News. "We were all looking around and nobody had a fit," he said.
The two crew members dropped anchor and the ferry was eventually pushed to shore at about 4 p.m.
All 10 passengers are safe after the unexpected adventure that left them stranded in the middle of the river for most of the day.
Norma Nichols and her husband Charles seemed pleased to be rescued and happy with the way the situation was handled.
"We were warm because we had the cabin. They even had pizza delivered," said Nichols. "We're diabetics, and he doesn't normally eat pizza, but he did," she said.
Like a bath toy
The anchored ferry looked like a bath toy being pushed around by the ice, CBC's Rachel Cave reported from the scene.
Transportation officials had originally hoped to have the ferry towed by 2 p.m., but were waiting for the ice to move with the changing tides.
They launched a small boat to see if anyone on board wanted to come ashore, but all of the passengers opted to stay on the ferry with their vehicles.
A second boat arrived at about 2 p.m. and helped pushed the ferry downriver toward the launch.
It was a slow but steady operation in the face of high winds and driving rain.
The ferry crossing, which is about 0.7 kilometres, normally only takes about five minutes.
The 15-car ferry operates 24 hours a day, year-round.
It was expected to return to service once it was retrieved and the cable was reconnected, officials said.