Nfld. & Labrador

Ice-jammed ferry in strait off Newfoundland wears down passenger patience

Passengers who have already waited a week or more to board a ferry between northern Newfoundland and southern Quebec are growing increasingly frustrated, with no progress made by Tuesday evening.
Ice-packed waterway wearing down passenger patience, as shutdown goes into second week 2:08

Passengers who have already waited a week or more to board a ferry between northern Newfoundland and southern Quebec are growing increasingly frustrated by sea ice that has filled the Strait of Belle Isle.

Glynis Penney, who has been anxiously waiting for the ice to clear off St. Barbe on the Newfoundland side of the waterway, told CBC News she is is running out of more than just patience.

This photo, taken from aboard the Strait of Belle Isle ferry Apollo, gives an idea of the ice conditions in the area. (Submitted)
"We left home on the 27th of February for a doctor's appointment, which took about 15 minutes, and we've been here ever since. I was ready to go back [last] Tuesday," she said.

"We've now run out of medication. Both my husband and I are on medication, we're both on blood pressure medication. [It's] stressful, very stressful."

She and her husband are travelling home to Labrador via the ferry terminal at Blanc-Sablon, Que., on the provincial border. It's a distance of about 45 kilometres and takes a little under two hours to complete in good weather.

The ferry MV Apollo has been stuck for over a week in St. Barbe, on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, waiting for a break in the thick sea ice so it can sail across the strait.

The delay bubbled over on Sunday, with about 20 people staging a peaceful protest to voice their frustrations at not being able to get home.

Icebreakers have been unable to get through to assist the Apollo, and further south in the province Marine Atlantic ferries have been delayed due to heavy ice in the Cabot Strait. 

No comfort for stranded passengers

For travellers like Randy Winsor, who has been stuck waiting for the ferry to move for nine days, the reason for the delay is small comfort.

Winsor was on his way to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a job interview, but that prospect is gone.

"I got a call yesterday that my chance for employment is now gone, I have to reapply, which is, don't know if I'm even going to get, but I am going to reapply," said Winsor.

"It's been horrible. I got a lot of money spent, my girlfriend has a lot of money spent — she's stuck in Goose Bay without transportation. It's been a hard struggle."

Thomas Moss travelled across Newfoundland from St. John's to catch the ferry headed to Labrador, but says he and his wife had no warning the ferry was experiencing ice delays.

"They gave her a confirmed reservation and said the boat leaves at 10:30 and we had to be here for 9:30, and there was no indication that the boat hadn't been gone for six or seven days before that," said Moss.

He's been stuck staying at a hotel since Sunday, adding that those added expenses are a strain on many people.

"It is quite expensive. You're staying in a hotel and we got people here now that's after running out of money and stuff like that and sleeping in cars, and it's ridiculous."

Labrador Marine, which operates the Apollo, says it will try to get the Apollo moving Wednesday morning, with new updates at 7:30 a.m.

Worst ice in 10 years

A number of transport trucks are also stuck, including some that are filled with food waiting to be brought to communities throughout Labrador.

The MV Apollo has been stuck in St. Barbe over over a week due to heavy sea ice. (CBC)

One truck driver told CBC's Jeremy Eaton that he was instructed to stop waiting and to turn around and return back to central Newfoundland.

Rebecca Acton-Bond, with the Canadian Coast Guard's ice operations, said the icebreakers will start clearing the way as soon as possible.

"Everybody's working as hard as they can," she said.

"Last year everyone was talking about how much of an exceptional year it is — and right now we're even a little bit above that, so everybody needs to take that into consideration as well." 

The Coast Guard says a larger icebreaker — The Terry Fox — is being dispatched to help ferry passengers stuck in St Barbe.

It's not expected to arrive until Wednesday, however, which means at least one more day of waiting for frustrated passengers.


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