1. Caribou leaving Halifax May 7, 2004.
This week will mark the end of an era on Marine Atlantic's Sydney/Port aux Basques ferry service. The ferry Caribou will be retired, making her last crossing on November 28.
Both Caribou and fleet mate Joseph and Clara Smallwood have reached the end of their working lives and will be replaced in the new year.
Caribou was built by Versatile Davie Inc at Lévis, QC (the yard is in the village of Lauzon which disappeared as a place name in municipal amalgamations) in 1985. The ships was christened on September 7, 1985 by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé. It is the second Cabot Strait ferry of the same name. The first Caribou was torpedoed and sunk on October 14, 1942 with the loss of 137 passengers and crew. There were 101 survivors. The present Caribou therefore commemorates that terrible event that took the lives of Newfoundlanders, Canadians and Americans.
An impressive ship of 27,213* gross tons, Caribou (ii) was built to Ice Class 1A Super, for year round Cabot Strait service, with minimal icebreaker assistance. Cruising at an economical speed of 15 kn , but capable of 22 knots, she is powered by four Krupp MaK engines with a total horsepower of 24,700*, driving two controllable pitch screws. Her speed would allow her make four one way crossings per day at 4.5 to 5 hours each.
The ship is also fitted with two controllable pitch thrusters forward and two aft. These units permit the ship to berth without tug assistance. She drydocked in Halifax from time to time and it was always an impressive sight to see her steam directly in to the Novadock floating drydock with no help.
The design capacity of the ship was for 1146 (Marine Atlantic now says 1200) passengers. There are berths for 196 in 96 four-berth dormitory type cabins. There is capacity for 350 cars or 91 tractor trailers*. These are loaded through bow and stern doors, with retractable ramps, to two vehicle decks. Crew numbers vary seasonally with 106 in summer and 68 in winter.
Caribou arrived at Point Edward, Nova Scotia on March 29, 1986 for final fit out of owner's equipment, and made its maiden voyage from North Sydney to Port aux Basques on May 12, before going on to St.John's for a reception.
The ship has had numerous incidents in its career - each examined under the microscope of public opinion and political rivalry, since the ship maintains an essential service, a condition of Newfoundland's confederation with Canada in 1949. Regrettably Marine Atlantic and CN Marine before it, have been political footballs, kicked from pillar to post by all and sundry, and interfered with at all levels by countless politicians of all levels and stripes, both public and private, elected and non. Marine Atlantic's problems are far from over, as colossal sums of money will be spent in replacements, overshadowing Caribou's original price tag of under $100 million.
New ships are on the way, but before they arrive it is time to say goodbye to Caribou. It is not known what her future may be, but if history gives us any clues, we may be hearing more about her before she goes.
* Marine Atlantic's published numbers may vary from these figures which were taken from Lloyd's Register.