Nova Scotia

The Cat's long-awaited return has Yarmouth businesses purring

When the Yarmouth-Maine ferry service resumed after four years on May 19, it brought more money and new faces to local businesses. 

'I feel we are in the peak season already,' says local business manager

Staff at Lakelawn B&B Motel and NovaStar Motel are excited and ready for this busy season. (Susanne Giebels)

Workers at Heritage Brewing Company in Yarmouth are used to recognizing customers and remembering their orders. But, thanks to The Cat, that changed recently.

When the Yarmouth-Maine ferry service resumed after four years on May 19, it brought more money and new faces to local businesses. 

"For the first time, like, we don't know these people," said Gabrielle Hurlburt, Heritage Brewing's general manager.

"We're seeing people from all over. We've had people from Australia and Germany and … a lot of people from Maine."

Gabrielle Hurlburt is the general manager of Heritage Brewing Co. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

It's often families on vacation, she said, and the summer break hasn't even begun for school children. 

The ferry didn't sail in 2019 because the terminal in Bar Harbor, Maine, was being renovated. The last two years were lost to pandemic restrictions. 

The Cat ferry enters the harbour in Yarmouth Nova Scotia
The Cat is shown approaching Yarmouth. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The ferry can hold 866 passengers and 200 cars.

Hurlburt said many local businesses put up posters expressing their joy to see tourists and to have full operating hours.

"I really do think it has had a major effect on everybody," she said. "I'm a little nervous.... If it's already like this and we haven't even hit our peak times, I'm definitely looking forward to it."

The ferry began its full summer schedule on June 23. Susanne Giebels, who runs two local hotels, is expecting to have plenty of bookings.

"I feel we are in the peak season already," said Giebels.

Susanne Giebels is ready to welcome guests from all over the world. (CBC)

"July, August, September looks so promising. Lots of walk-in guests. They decide last minute on the boat where they are staying," said Giebels.

She said weekends at Lakelawn B&B Motel, and NovaStar Motel On The Lake are already 70 per cent booked for July to October for family reunions, anniversaries and other events.

It started happening a week after the ferry kicked off. 

"I wake up in the morning and I see bookings already at seven in the morning that were made at five at night," she said.

Now she is seeing American and domestic guests arrive for the night, tour the town, and then hop back on the ferry. 

Hannah Rhyno-Milot, who co-owns Gaia Global Kitchen in Yarmouth with her husband, said the ferry has brought a 50 per cent increase in customers on days it is in town.

To prepare for the coming months, the restaurant has added a breakfast menu, opened its patio and extended its hours. New staff is being added.

"Everybody's excited about it. It's what we've been waiting for for the last couple of years," said Rhyno-Milot.