Caleb Hobbs has been stuck on the northern peninsula for almost three weeks waiting on the MV Qajaq W to cross the Strait of Belle Isle. Hobbs is on his way home to Labrador City for a new job and since he has an 1,100 km drive ahead of him on the other side of the Strait taking a flight across courtesy of the provincial government doesn’t get him much further ahead.
Hobbs has been stay with a friend of his in Cow Head, about a two hour drive from St. Barbe, where the ferry departs.
“Every morning I get up at 4 a.m. and unless the weather is really bad or it was cancelled the night before and drive down to the dock and they tell me its not crossing,” he said. “Then I drive back here, about 200 km away and try again the next day.”
He left Badger, where he was in school, on March 8 and drove up. He was hoping to cross sooner rather than later since he was on a budget, having been in school the last few months upgrading his training as a heavy equipment operator. He has a drug test for his new job on Monday, March 28 and has no choice now but to drive to Port Aux Basques and get the ferry across to Nova Scotia and drive through Quebec to Labrador City. That adds about 2000 km to his drive, plus gas and the cost of the ferry to Sydney, but he doesn’t really have a choice.
“I don’t really have the money but I don’t really have another option the way I see it,” he said. “I have to be there by then and I can’t wait here any longer.”
The ferry did cross one day last week and Hobbs said that morning he just missed it, with the drive from Cow Head having taken longer than normal.
He said its great the government is flying people across the Straits if they’re stuck but for people with vehicles who have to travel beyond Blanc Sablon is doesn’t really help.
Hobbs said he was under the understanding that if the ferry could not make the crossing that it was supposed to be diverted to Corner Brook. SaltWire contacted the Department of Transportation and Works about the diversion.
"We have not deployed the MV Qajaq W to sail from Corner Brook to Blanc Sablon because the route has been experiencing the same ice conditions seen in the Strait of Belle Isle, and a one-way trip from Blanc Sablon to Corner Brook takes approximately 12 hours in fine sailing conditions,” said a statement from the department. “A trip across the Straits in fine sailing conditions takes approximately 1.5 hours."
Ice conditions on the Strait have been bad for weeks, and Hobbs said he understand that. He does however question the appropriateness of the new ferry for the area, which just started this January.
“It doesn’t seem like the right boat for it to me,” he said. “It might be good for a run elsewhere on the island but they should’ve had something with icebreaking capability for this, the ice has just been getting worse up here and this boat can’t handle that.”