COUNTRY HARBOUR – With its navy-blue hull gleaming in the waters of this quiet harbour, Theodore O’Hara is finally here and its skipper couldn’t be happier.
“She’s state of the art,” says James Harpell, captain of the long-awaited cable ferry.
The vessel, which replaces Stormont II at a cost of about $3.6 million, has been under construction at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River since May 2019, when the federal government and the province announced a joint initiative to continue the decades-long service between Country Harbour and Port Bickerton.
Christened in honour of Port Bickerton Lighthouse’s first keeper in the early 19th century, O’Hara is equipped to carry 15 cars, compared with Stormont’s 12. That’s crucial, say community leaders who describe the ferry as a vital link to the Eastern Shore. When fully operational, she will take about seven minutes per crossing, a substantial time-saver for motorists otherwise forced to navigate roads in the vicinity.
Harpell, who is also a councillor for the Municipality of the District of Saint Mary’s (District 8), notes there’s still some last-minute work to be done before the new ferry is ship-shape and Bristol fashion.
“The panels for the hydraulic system where late coming,” he says. “So, when they arrived, they had to take them apart and put them where they were supposed to be. It’s taken up quite a bit of time just wiring them up.”
But, once that job, and crew orientation, is completed, Harpell suggests the O’Hara could be “good to go” within a few days. “We’re going to be doing some tests on the hydraulic system [this week]. And there’s a certain amount of training that we’re doing as we speak.”
The O’Hara is one of only four cable ferries owned and operated by the Department of Transportation and Active Transit. The others are at LaHave (Lunenburg County), Little Narrows (Victoria County) and Englishtown (Victoria County).