A major transportation link in northern Labrador is expected to be out of service for six weeks, forcing residents of remote communities to rely on more expensive air travel for at least several days.

The Northern Ranger has been docked at Happy Valley-Goose Bay since Monday because of mechanical problems.

The ferry— which can carry a load of 131 passengers and about 100 tonnes of freight— runs from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to such communities as Nain, Natuashish and Makkovik.

About 70 passengers had been stranded, including children returning to school and workers who had been heading back to their jobs.

But on Tuesday night, CAI Nunatsiavut Marine, which operates the vessel for the Newfoundland and Labrador government, chartered three Twin Otter aircraft and flew all of them to their respective communities.

Passenger luggage, however, will travel to the north coast of Labrador on the freight ship Astron.

Elsie Wolfrey was supposed to take the ferry back to Rigolet earlier this week. Their luggage couldn't make it on the flight so it's still in Goose Bay, making the first day of school today difficult for her daughter.

"Her school clothes, her new clothes and her new shoes were left in Goose Bay," said Wolfrey. "She was quite sad this morning because she didn't have anything to put on."

Wolfrey's back to school outfit wasn't the only time sensitive thing that was supposed to come up on The Northern Ragner.

Tom Foss runs an expedition company and has clients coming up next week from all over the world to go out and film caribou. All of his supplies will now come up later, but he's worried about his guests who were planning to spend a week going up to Nain on the Ranger next week.

"They're still faced with the cost of having to spend an entire extra week in a hotel at great expense," said Foss, "and they're not going to be happy about that."

CAI Nunatsiavut is searching for a replacement ship, but that's expected to take more than a week.

"This is an occurrence that no one could predict," said company official Chris Newman.

With the problems affecting the ship's main gearbox, the ferry will need to be out of service for an indefinite period of time.