Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CTMA Vessel IceBound Between MI/IM and PEI

The normal sail for the car ferry between Souris, PEI and Grindstone, Magdalen Islands is five hours - six hours in icy waters. The Madeleine is normally the ship that makes the sail, although the Voyager sometimes takes the Madeleine’s place when there are mechanical problems or she adds to the Madeleine, when the ship is running with a full load and there are vehicles backed up on the wharf waiting. Yesterday and part of today the ferry took 31 hours. The ship left Grindstone at 1:00 am Tuesday morning and arrived this afternoon at Souris harbour.

The CTMA vessel became imprisoned in an ice pan south of the islands until the light-duty ice breaker, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Sir William Alexander, could come to break the ship free. “The ice was very thick,” recalled one of the attendants aboard the ice breaker. “The vessel was already blocked by the ice before the ice breaker arrived and the (CCGS) Sir William Alexander became caught up in the ice also, after a period of time because the Gulf sea had closed the ice in and around the breaker each time it advanced a little.”

According to Steve Comeau, manager of the rescue, “it was difficult to obtain information from the crew of the ice breaker, because the manoeuver to disengage the CTMA vessel required the attention of the entire Coast Guard crew.”

All I can say is, "What a mess we must have out there. I only hope that merchants got in enough stock for winter, instead of depending on the ships sailing the next two months."

On a brighter side of things, the chances are that we shall be able to watch the seal birthing their pups from the capes this year. Chances are that the tourist industry and motels will do well also with seal watchers coming for an adventure holiday. That is if the economy hasn't got the tourists squeamish about spending lots of money.

On another note, I haven't heard if the Vancancier has been released for the ice near Matane. If not, I imagine the passengers will be either flown to their destinations or go be rail. I can't imagine CTMA keeping the passengers on a ship, when they are so close to land.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Perilous Ice Conditions Continues...

It's All Part Of The Fun!
This is the third day the ship CTMA Vacancier has been stuck in ice, two of those days have been within 100 meters of the wharf at Matane. The ice breaker Terry Fox from the Canadian Coast Guard has been close, trying to make a the ice loose so that the ship can pass. They have not so far, been successful in any way.

The Terry Fox has itself been caught up in the ice bed trying to rescue the Magdalen Islands ship. At 7:30 a fissure broke open in the ice flow, more then five square miles in size, letting the crew and the passengers believe that reaching the wharf would still be possible.

Of the 300 passengers, 150 are participants of the Ski Gaspesia event who are prisoners aboard the ship each paid $1600 to take part in the event. The event was to have one week of skiing. The organizers of the event must now re-adjust the schedules for the event. Nadia Guérette, speaker for the event organization says that traveling by ferry is part of the great adventure of the event and that all types of incidences make up the adventure.

Apparently, being stuck for three days on board a ship that is unable to move is all part of the fun. I've been stuck on board the Madeleine for 12 hours once. It isn't all that fun, but I suppose that there is a grand party going on and the crew are catering left, right and center to the passengers, which is what happens on board ships which can't come into port on time. Still it does become dull.

Also, I've been trying to think of the Vacancier when she first came to the islands late in the last century. It seems to me she was called the Isle of Turkot (Turkot is not spelled correctly) or something similar and I have the idea that she came from the Mediterranean Sea, but that may be wrong. I also had the idea that this ship did not have a strong enough hull to withstand the great impact of crushing ice.... I remember thinking, 'why would they bring a ship without at least the same or better qualities then the Lucy Maud Montcomery', the previous ship that sailed the Souris-Grindstone run. But then they took the Isle of Turkot to a ship yard to upgrade it to standards so I never considered the ship again. I have sailed on the Vacancier and she is a nice, well equipped ship. I remember going downstairs and into the berth area. The corridor down each side looked like it was miles long..., lol! I remember that I didn't like the smell of the Vacancier but then I don't like the smell of the Madeleine either. I do remember I took a hundred and one photos of the ship inside.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Case Of Bad Timing - Perhaps?

Prisoners In Ice
It would appear that the large ferry that services the Magdalen Islands from Matane to Grindstone during the winter is stuck in ice off the port of Matane. She has 300 passengers who were participating in the “Grande TraversĂ©e”, a Gaspesia Ski event this past week. The Groupe CTMA Vacancier has been used as a cruise liner, and sporting event ship for a number of years, bringing people to the islands and supporting the tourist trade extensively.

The CTMA Vacancier is not the only ship that is stuck at Matane. Another car ferry, the Camille-Marcoux, which travels between Matane and the North Shore of the Saint Lawrence was immobilized at seven o'clock last evening and just managed to enter the port at 7:30 this morning. The rail and car ferry, George Alexandre Lebel is still at large, off the port of Matane and has been since Sunday afternoon.

To make matters worse, the Terry Fox a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaking ship is also there, not so much stuck but unable to break the ice after five tries.

Is this a bad case of timing? It could be ..., seeing that this is the first year that the ferry, the Madeleine sails from Souris, Prince Edward Island to Grindstone, Magdalen Islands, the entire year. It has been a long, hard struggle for the business commerce of the islands, to attain such a recognized activity. Ferry service to the Magdalen Islands twelve months a year...? In years gone by, many people would have said that it would be impossible..., but here it is, written in the proverbial stone..., and straight from the federal government's mouth.

In all fairness, it has been years since we have had any real ice in the Gulf. Certainly nothing to stop the large routine ferries. So it is quite understandable that the pressure would be strong to keep the Gulf ferry system functioning the whole year. No one last fall could have imagined the cold t
hat we have been having since January 2009 arrived. Record lows all last week only to be broken this week. Only today, the temperature felt like -33C according to the weather network. I'd say the weather man wasn't here, because it felt a whole lot colder. The weather site is calling for warmer temperatures for the rest of the week. Perhaps we will end up with our traditional January thaw in February, which is always the coldest month of the Gulf winters.

Was this just an exceptionally bad winter to try an experiment with the ferry service? Or will the temperatures become more seasonal? Has global warming really screwed with our environment or is it just Mother Nature playing trick on us?

The Satellite Maritime Ice Map
This map was produced by Environment Canada Weather Service on January 26 at eighteen hundred hours (6:00pm). It shows the islands in the center with the yellow to the southeast. The yellow indicates there is light ice skimming Pleasant Bay and the surrounding water. The red colour which dominates the Gulf, indicates ice at a concentration of 9 - 10 out of 10 on a scale of 1 - 10. The white indicates ice free conditions.

The conditions around Matane are also coded red.

An ice warning is in affect.

To find the ice conditions around Canada follow-up on the Canadian Ice Service

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Canadian Coast Guard Reveals New Policy For Small Boats

The Canadian Coast Guard has adopted new regulations concerning the towing of small boats (under 30 meters), in icy conditions. These regulations are creating quite a stir amongst seal hunters and factory workers who transform the seal meat and pelts into usable items. Apparently the Coast Guard will not be towing any more boats, in light of the towing accident last March, where four islanders lost their lives, during the seal hunt.

The only way the Coast Guard will intervene with a boat is if the crew is in danger or a member of the crew is in a life threatening situation. They will then remove the crew from the boat in question and the captain of the distressed must call a privately owned towing company to aide if there is a malfunctioning boat involved. The ice breaker may bring technical crew to aide in getting the boat mobile. However, rescue operations are what the Coast Guard is obligated to do.

For the seal hunters, if the Canadian government truly supported the hunt and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada supervise these activities, then the Coast Guard ice breakers, which are maintained by the ministry, must continue to aide the sealers boats in the case of mechanical distress.

Needless to say, many islanders intend to contest this new policy adopted by the Coast Guard, following the shipwreck of the Adadien II which was a simple towing operation for a mechanical failure, effected by the ice breaker of the Coast Guard, that went all wrong and four Magdalen Islands seal hunters died during the accident. See:

The Vice President of the factory for the treatment of seal pelts Tamasu, Paul Boudreau, compared the role of the Coast Guard to those emergency services during accidents on the highway. “If an ambulance caused an accident on the road, they wouldn't stop all ambulances from rolling just because one ambulance was the problem. I don’t think that the Coast Guard should stop it’s services because there is a problem with ice breaker,” validated Paul Boudreau.

Of the numerous hunters, many are now thinking of abandoning the hunt, particularly if the Coast Guard refuses to tow boats less than 30 meters, except in the case of distress or in life threatening cases. In case of mechanical failure, the captain now must make a call to the private towers. This might not justify the price of going to the hunt.

In light of the new policy, when the captain of a small sealing vessel calls a private towing company, it is he who must 'foot the bill', so to speak. As it was, prior to this year, the Canadian Coast Guard did not charge for the service. Now a sealing captain must re-evaluate the costs of the hunt. The boat he is using is undoubtedly the same he uses during the lobster and crab seasons. Now he must add the extra potential costs of losing his outfit to the sealing season. I'm certain many hunters will think twice before sailing their precious commodity into waters that have ice cakes and bergs floating loosely around.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Annual Telephone Coverage From CTMA

Is This A Joke???

We received an envelope in the mail recently. It said:

"Because of circumstances beyond the control of the Groupe CTMA, an unexpected error was found in the 2009 telephone book that arrived at every building and residential home on the Magdalen Islands recently. The telephone number is NOT CORRECT for the ferry service for the Magdalen Islands!

A self-adhesive sticker was sent to each mailbox on the islands with the proper means of contacting the company for making reservations or asking various questions."

But, after a quick look in the new telephone book, under Ferries and under Traversiers, the number was shown to be the exact number on the sticker! Has Groupe CTMA made a second mistake to correct a mistake that was never made?

To be fair to the company, it is true that Groupe CTMA is not in the white pages under it's own name. It is under Traversier CTMA and the fax number is nowhere to be found in the telephone book.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The 2008 Operation Red Nose Edition - SUCCESS!!!

Hundreds of island volunteers helped a total of 711 people safely return home after a lively night out, on the Archipelago during the 2008 holiday season. One hundred and nine (109) of those of those accompaniments were on New Years Eve. That was an increase of more then one hundred safe drives, for drivers under the influence of alcohol.

The coordinator of the organization, Operation Red Nose, Jean-Pierre Gaudet, indicated that numerous volunteers have been eagar to participate. He reminded us that the organization is more then just an accompaniment service, Operation Red Nose is a vast awareness campaign.

Jean-Pierre Gaudet also stressed that the young adults are more frequently calling the organization to register as a volunteer.

The funds amassed during the 2008 campaign will be accounted and credited, and in part will go to the Minor Hockey League Association next March.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ghostly Tales From The Lonely Iles

I have heard of the story of the black man found dead upon the shores of Pointe-aux-Loups often enough. You must understand that the man had wash up on shore, only to be found by a culture who had rarely, if ever heard of a black race. To say this body disturbed them would be an understatement.

As the story goes:
"There is a sand hill southwest of Pointe-aux-Loups Island which is called 'Negre'. Here, many years ago, a giant of a man was found dead upon the shore. The color of his skin was black and there were no papers upon his person to tell whom he was or from where he had come from.

How he came to be on the shore was a mystery, as no ship had been reported wrecked at any time upon any of the islands. From the condition of the body, the man had not been dead for any length of time.

The fisher folk of the islands buried the man in the sand dunes on which his body was found. But their native superstition made them shun that lonely part of the bleak shore over which the terrific Atlantic winds blow for weeks without let up.

A few weeks after the man was buried, some men, wandering along the lonely shore looking for driftwood blown up on the beach, to use as fire wood to heat their homes during the long, cold winter, saw the body of a man lying near the spot where the unknown person had been buried and where a wooden cross stuck up out of the sand.

The mystified islanders found that the uncovered body was that of the man they had previously buried. The body was lying near the mound of sand that had been his grave, but which appeared not to be disturbed.

The islanders once again buried the body, this time next to the first grave, since no one would uncover the first mound of sand. They placed another cross in the sand beside the first, and the left him there.

The story spread about the islands that the man had refused to stay buried, and soon there were tales that the dead man trod the shore at midnight, searching the thundering waters in vain for the ship from which he had been tossed into the turbulent seas.

Another few weeks went by, and curiosity took several Magdalen Islanders to the double grave of the unknown man. As they suspected, the dead man was lying uncovered beside the two other graves that had been dug for him. Both of those graves seemed to be intact.

The people were reluctant to have a dead man, or his ghost, haunting their island, so after considerable discussion they decided to bury the man again. This time in a third grave beside the other two previous ones, each of which they had supposed was to be his last resting place.

This time, they buried the man face downward in the belief that he could not dig his way out. This time, the mysterious man stayed buried.

Later, green grass began to appear on the third grave, and to the relief of the men of the Magdalen Islands, there were no more reports of a dead man parading the midnight shore." All was well or so the people thought....

But apparently the story of the dead black man doesn't end there. Some time later, he was once again found upon the sand hill with three undisturbed mounds where he had previously been buried. This scared the people seriously and they decided to send word to the traveling priest, who visited the islands once in a while. Remember, this happened at a time when the islands didn't have a regular live-in priest, because very few people lived here.

To make a long, involved story short..., the priest came right away and the people gave the man a proper Catholic burial in consecrated ground. They didn't have a name for him and the cross that identified the grave has long since rotted away. But the man didn't come unburied after that. The people assumed that somewhere along the man's journey through life, he had been baptized and required a christian burial.