Seasonal ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia will resume for the first time since 2009 by June 26 — or a few weeks earlier, if renovations to a Bar Harbor terminal take less time than expected.
Bay Ferries Ltd. will start sailing The Cat, a high-speed catamaran, from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to Bar Harbor and back again daily starting June 26 until Labor Day. Crossings will then run six days a week — no Wednesdays — until the season ends Oct. 13, Chairman and CEO Mark MacDonald said Friday.
“We are confident that we will be done [upgrading the terminal] by then or we wouldn’t have issued that date to the public,” MacDonald said. “Of course it’s always possible that something unforeseen might arise, but in the best case scenario, it would not be open more than a week or two early.”
Bay Ferries, which budgeted the renovation at $6.5 million, has to finish installing U.S. Customs and Border inspection booths and renovating the interior of the building. The parking lot also needs fencing and paving, MacDonald said.
The ferry terminal is a key part of plans to reduce downtown Bar Harbor traffic by allowing more recreation boats and parking to relocate there from the harbor. Under the town plan, the terminal would become a multiuse marina, with Bay Ferries using approximately half the 7-acre property at 121 Eden St. off Route 3.
Residents voted in June 2018 to buy it for $3.5 million. The town completed the purchase in January 2019 and signed a five-year lease with Atlantic Fleet Services, which will run Bay Ferries’ shoreside operations in Maine, on roughly half of the property. The lease guarantees minimum payments totaling $1 million for the five-year term of the lease, with higher payments possible depending on the volume of passengers and vehicles the ferry carries.
A Canadian firm whose operations are subsidized by the provincial government of Nova Scotia, Bay Ferries returns to Bar Harbor nearly 11 years after it left town. It ran The Cat between Portland and Nova Scotia from 2016 through 2018. Bay Ferries had an option for another year on a lease it held on the Ocean Gateway terminal in Portland but decided not to exercise that option. The company’s lease in Portland expired at the end of December 2018.
Bay Ferries returned to Bar Harbor with the hope of drawing some of Acadia National Park’s visitors into Canada, MacDonald said. In 2018, the most recent year for which such statistics are available, Acadia had 3.53 million visits in 2018, the highest number ever estimated for the park in its 102-year history.