Nova Scotia

Dartmouth ferry set to make slow, long journey to Toronto

The Dartmouth III will soon be shuttling passengers in Toronto, but getting there could be 'an adventure or a horrifying experience' depending on the weather encountered, says the man overseeing the repairs for the company that bought the vessel.

Dartmouth III has been sold to private company to run service to Toronto's Centre Island amusement park

The Dartmouth III at the Sambro wharf, where it is being revamped for the trip to Toronto. (Shaina Luck)

A former Halifax Transit ferry is about to make its next stop — in Toronto.

The Dartmouth III has been sold to the Toronto Island Transit Service, a privately-owned company that also runs the amusement park on Toronto's Centre Island.

The decommissioned Dartmouth III made headlines in Dec. 2016 when it went up for sale and was briefly posted on Kijiji. The ferry was sold "as is," for $100,000.

The ferry is currently being retrofitted in Sambro, N.S. The refresh of the boat involves a complete rebuild of the twin engines and generators, a new paint job and recertification. Sea trials will take place next week. 

"We've pretty near got the overhaul complete. Any luck, it might be on its way to Toronto by maybe next Friday, if weather and everything goes fine," said Kendall McCulloch, who works for Toronto Island Transit Service and is overseeing the repair work.

How's the ferry getting to Toronto?

Once the work is complete, the ferry will travel under its own power to Halifax, then northeast to Canso, through the Strait of Canso, around the Northumberland Strait, along the coasts of New Brunswick and Quebec, and then pass through the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario before it reaches Toronto.

McCulloch hasn't quite decided if he wants to go along for the trip.

"I've heard some rumours ferries aren't that great in the open seas, so we'll have to see," he said.

"It could be an adventure or a horrifying experience. One of the two."

Timeline for journey

He estimates the journey could take a minimum of two weeks if the weather co-operates, or as much as a month if the ferry has to stay put at ports along the way.

The ferry's top speed is about 13 km/h.

"It's meant for pretty flat going and pretty smooth water," said McCulloch. "There's no keel on these boats, so they don't handle waves and heavy water.

"So there will be a lot of limitations put on the weather it can travel in. If the weather's bad, it'll have to be in a harbour ... [it] could be a marathon."

Kendall McCulloch says the journey to Toronto could take as little as two weeks, assuming the weather co-operates. (Shaina Luck)

Nick Ritcey, a city spokesperson, said the sale of the 39-year-old ferry went through on June 1.

"The ferry treated the people of Halifax and Dartmouth well for a lot of years, so we're really happy that it found a new home. And hopefully the people of Toronto and that area will have a great time on it as well," he said.

Once in Toronto, the new owners intend to use it to supplement the existing city-run ferry service to Centre Island, said McCulloch. 

"We have about four months where it's very busy over on Toronto Island, and [there's] a little bit of a shortage getting people over there. There's big lineups," he said.

The ferry will also be renamed, although for the journey to Toronto, it will sail one last time as the Dartmouth III. 

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca