Second ferry to ease 'nightmare' lineups for Fogo Island, N.L.
FOGO ISLAND, N.L. -- When she went to Fogo Island this month, Gwyneth Paltrow called it "heaven."
But for many people visiting Fogo, one of Newfoundland's hottest tourist destinations, the commute this summer has been a "nightmare."
Maureen Lynch, a town councillor, said there have been scores of cancellations as passengers waited up to eight hours in lineups for the ferry to Fogo and Change islands.
It didn't help that the well ran dry at the ferry terminal, adding to already intense frustration as easy access to washrooms was cut off, she added in an interview.
"People came here and sat in lineups on both sides that long. They loved our island, were really impressed, the people are friendly, the scenic places ... but the ferry was the big deterrent. Some of them said they'll never come back again.
"It's a total nightmare. It's something you never, ever think could happen -- especially in the year 2016," said Lynch, who heads the local transportation committee.
Growing international success over the last three years of the Fogo Island Inn has drawn guests ranging from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to celebrities such as Paltrow. It has raised traffic volumes and expectations, Lynch said. It's not like provincial officials didn't know what was at stake as high tourism season approached, she stressed.
"We explained to them what we were looking for, that we needed the two-boat system here for the summer," she said of meetings and correspondence since May. "But it was just like talking to a brick wall."
Fogo has two anchor industries: fishing and tourism.
"We're afraid our tourism is going to go down because of this," Lynch said.
The 60-vehicle MV Veteran came back in service this month after repeated mechanical issues, but the latest problem has been longer loading times and a jump in traffic volumes.
Transportation Minister Al Hawkins said a second ferry, the 25-vehicle MV Norcon Galatea, was added Friday. It wasn't available earlier because of maintenance requirements.
"We fully appreciate the fact that these frustrations should not happen," he said in an interview. "But in the real world they do happen."
The province has arranged to truck in water for the Farewell ferry terminal, Hawkins said.
"What we've been doing is scrambling to make sure we've taken all the measures we can to get that service up and running."
Lynch said water was restored at the site Thursday night, until the well pump needed to circulate it conked out Friday.
The governing Liberals inherited long-running ferry problems when it took power last fall after 12 years of Progressive Conservative rule, Hawkins said. He's now planning a review of the entire system.
"Quite often, because of the pressures we have from the islands, we're running our vessels far beyond what would be the regular maintenance period. And then, of course, we get to a situation where we get in a crisis that we have to put them on dry dock to get the repairs done in order for us to be compliant with Transport Canada."
Diane Strickland of Diane's Efficiency Units rents to Fogo Island visitors.
"I had several cancellations of people who just got fed up over there and would not wait for the ferry," she said Friday in an interview.
"This is nothing new to us. Every year they know that we're going to have all this influx of traffic in July and August but they're never prepared.
"The second boat is on today so hopefully that will be all resolved."
Lynch said the ferry is no issue for the many well-heeled guests like Paltrow who stay at the luxury Fogo Island Inn.
"Celebrities are helicoptered in."
By Sue Bailey in St. John's, N.L.