The Yarmouth Ferries: A Summary.
by David Sollows & Eric Ruff at the YCHS 3 June, 2011
-the following is mainly taken (sometimes lifted verbatim)
from J. Murray Lawson’s Yarmouth Reminiscences (Yar. Rem.) and Marguerite Woodworth’s History of the Dominion
“Packets” were vessels which traded on a specific route and undoubtedly there
were a number of packets which sailed between Yarmouth and other ports on a semi-regular basis prior to the first steamers
to visit Yarmouth. These packets would have traded between Yarmouth and Boston, Yarmouth and Saint John, Yarmouth and
Halifax, etc. often calling at intermediate ports along the way.
The first steamer to enter Yarmouth Harbour was
the Saxe Gotha of St. John, NB on June 3rd, 1842. She left the same day to continue to Liverpool, Lunenburg and Halifax.
J. Murray Lawson’s Yarmouth Reminiscences gives a list of her passengers: “Mrs. Van Norden and servant,
Stayley Brown, Joseph B. Bond, Henry A. Grantham, Robert Brown, W.W. Brown, Benjamin Killam, Charles E. Patterson, Edward
M. Robson, William Robertson, Robert Guest, Edmond Lonergan and son, Nathan Weston, Herbert Bazalgette, William McNamara,
Dennis Sullivan, Moses Sollows, two Misses Nelson, Capt. Samuel Killam, Joseph Wyman, E. Christopher, Miss Oberry, and nine
in the second cabin.” In the same article “an old sea captain” described the Saxe Gotha as a very
crank boat, and always had a list starboard or port, and hard to keep on even keel”, She was a side wheeler having two
walking beams. Her time on one trip from Halifax to Yarmouth (with hour long stops in Liverpool and Lunenburg, was 26
hours. She ran between St. John and Halifax for the seasons of 1842 and 1843 but was then withdrawn.
She was followed
[in 1844 ?] by the steamer North America, also owned by the same Mr. Whitney of St. John. She continued with the same
route and also ran to Boston for two or three weeks during the summer.
In 1848 the steamer Herald, Capt. Oliver
Haley ran between the same Canadian ports. Yar. Rem. does not state how long she ran.
Steam Navigation Company, which was organized in February, 1855, had for its object the placing of a steamer on the route
between Yarmouth and Boston, and in April of that year a committee was appointed who proceeded to Philadelphia and purchased
the steamer Eastern State for $24,500, a little over one-half her original cost. She arrived in Yarmouth from Philadelphia
direct on the 30th May, having made the passage in 79 hours. She was in command of Capt. Bowman Corning. She continued
on that route for two years making weekly trips. In 1857 she ran from Boston to Halifax, making ten day trips, calling
at Yarmouth each way. In 1861 she was purchased for $9,000 by Ryerson, Moses & Co., who in October, 1861 sold her
to the United States for a transport for $26,000. [Not a bad profit!] Yar. Rem. then gives a list of her shareholders
and the number of shares each held: *Thomas Killam 9 shares; 4 shares each: Thomas Allen, Stayley Brown, John
W. Lovitt, W.H. Townsend, Samuel Killam all; 3 shares each: Nathan Moses, E.W.B. Moody, George Killam, John K. Ryerson; 2
shares each: Bowman Corning, Aaron Goudey, Allen & Brown; and 1 share each by Andrew Lovitt, Thomas Dane, Lyman Cann,
W.K. Dudman, Joseph Shaw, james Murray, Jr., Norman J. Bond, A.C. Robbins, William Robertson,, John Young, Thomas Barnard,
S.M. Ryerson, G. & G.W. Tooker, George S. Brown, Wm. H. Jenkins, Huestis & Moulton an G. Sanderson [all well-know
businessmen and ship owners of the time.] She sailed from Yarmouth for New York on the 23d September, 1861, where she
was delivered to the United States authorities.”
“The new steamer Emperor was placed on the route
between St. John and Digby on the 27th august, 1857. She first ran on the route between St. John and Boston for a few months.”
There is no mention of her calling at Yarmouth.
“Steamer Relief [appropriate name] was placed on the Halifax,
Yarmouth and Boston route, July 31st, 1862.
“The steamer Scotia started on the same route on 21st Oct. 1864
and ran for the rest of the season under Capt. Theodore Churchill.”
The Island City ran from Yarmouth to
Halifax, calling at Shelburne, Liverpool and Lunenburg during the 1866 period but was withdrawn on account of the subsidy
being transferred to the steamer Emperor.
1866 may have been a pivotal year as that year the steamer Palmyra arrived
from Boston and left for St. John but struck on Brier Island. She returned to Yarmouth and then Boston and was not seen
again in Yarmouth. But she was replaced with the Prometheus (for only four trips.)
“The steamer Linda,
screw propeller, was purchased at New York and arrived at Yarmou6th on her first trip from Boston on the 31st August, 1866.
She was first commanded by Capt. Oliver Haley [who had commanded the Herald in 1848], with David Richards as purser.
She was owned by the Yarmouth & Boston Steamship Company—set up by Capt. Clements. She was 450 tons and cost
Capt. Clements then purchased the Emperor to replace the Linda on her route but on her second passage
of 1867 she was wrecked on Seal Ledge, Matinicus, Maine.
In 1870 the new steamer City of St. John began
a service between Yarmouth and St. John but she only made a few trips.
The Linda continued on the Yarmouth to Boston
route until 1871 when she ran ashore at High Head. “The wreck of the Linda was sold on September 25th, 1871 and
was purchased by N.K. Clements for $2600. She was floated on Thursday evening, September 12th, 1872, towed to Yarmouth,
repaired, and again placed on the route, her name being changed to Dominion. First trip to St. John, April 9th, 1873;
first trip to Boston, April 11th, 1873.
“The steamer Emperor began running from Yarmouth to Portland, Maine,
on Friday, September 15h, 1871 under command of Capt. W.E. Sulis.”
The steamer Commerce ran between Boston,
Yarmouth and St. John between June 12th and August, 1872. She had one mishap when she ran ashore in Ipswich Bay but
was got off undamaged.
In 1877 the steamer Flamborough ran between Yarmouth, New York and St. John but was replaced
with the Alhambra after a few trips.
Capt Clements died in 1880 and his son, .E. Franklin Clements took over management
of the line. [aka The Clements Line?]
In June, 1882 the Nova Scotia Steamship Company was founded, when the steamer
New Brunswick was placed on the route between Yarmouth and Portland, but the company soon became disorganized.
They operated the New Brunswick on the Boston run. It was frequently mentioned in the Yarmouth Herald and gave the numbers
of passengers carried. That year the Dominion ran between Yarmouth, St. John Grand Manan and Eastport.
late 1883 the steamer Cleopatra ran a couple of trips between Boston, Yarmouth and Annapolis.
In 1884 The Alpha,
211 tons, owned by Samuel Killam entered into competition with the Dominion. Capt. Clements’ line, however, received
all the railway booking and Mr. Killam’s undertaking was in danger of failure when in May 1885 the Hon. L.E. Baker purchased
the steamers Dominion and the Clements wharf from the Nova Scotia SS Co, formed a new company and took over both lines.
This was the Yarmouth Steamship Company– also known as the Yarmouth Line.
of this new organization was almost wholly subscribed in Yarmouth. Mr. Baker was President, W.B. Lovitt, V.P., H.W.
Chase, Secretary, and Directors Robart Caie, J.W. Moody, Hugh McCann and the Hon. David McPherson. In 1886 he
purchased the steamer Alpha and ran both the Alpha and Dominion on the Boston run that year. Beside the Dominion and
Alpha running to Boston, the company operated the side-wheel steamer City of Saint John between Yarmouth and Halifax.(Ref:
History of the DAR)
The Yarmouth Steamship Company was the pioneer tourist line in Nova Scotia. Until its
formation travel between Yarmouth and Boston had been insignificant, consisting principally of natives of the Province travelling
between their homes and New England. There was not at this time any uninterrupted connection between Yarmouth and Halifax
– the Western Counties Railway ran to Digby, then there was a gap between Digby and Annapolis, necessitating a trip
by boat or carriage before taking the Windsor and Annapolis Railway to Halifax. But the building of the ‘missing
link’ had at length been started and the amalgamation of the railways was only a matter of time, and Mr. Baker was far-sighted
enough to see the great possibilities of developing a through traffic that would consist not only of residents of the Province
but also their American cousins.
Dominion Atlantic Railway (D.A.R.) wanted to start a steamship service from Digby to
Boston but the Yarmouth Steamship Co., with whom the DAR had an “exchange of traffic” agreement objected to this.
This lead to the building of the Yarmouth. Baker was successful in securing the required capital, $75,000, and
the fine steel steamer Yarmouth was built on the Clyde and arrived in Yarmouth on the 3rd May, 1887.
new steel steamer Yarmouth arrived in Yarmouth on Tuesday, May 3d, 1887, from Glasgow direct, after a passage of 9 ½
days. She was built by Archibald McMillan & Son, Dumbarton-on-the-Clyde [Yarmouth shipowners were familiar with
this company as William Law had the first iron barque to be owned in Yarmouth built there in 1885 - this was the Bowman B.
Law.], is 220 feet between perpendiculars, 35 feet beam, and 21 feet 6 inches hold. She has five water-tight compartments,
is fitted with bilge keels, and carries 4000 barrels,. [With 260 H/P] her speed is guaranteed 14 knots,. She left
for Boston on her first passage on the 7th may, Capt. Harvey Doane master and Capt. S.F. Stanwood pilot. She was built
expressly for the “Yarmouth Steamship Company, and at the time was the finest steamer plying between the United States
and the Maritime Provinces.” (Ref: Hist. of the DAR)
The next two years saw a phenomenal increase in traffic.
In 1891 the Digby to Annapolis railway link was connected and the Windsor and Annapolis Railing put on the fast train “Bluenose”.
In anticipation the Boston was ordered.
“Steamer Boston was launched at Glasgow on September 15th, 1890.
She arrived in Yarmouth on Monday morning, November 24th, 1890, at 10 o’clock. Her record given at her trial speeds
(six consecutive runs) :marks this ship as the fastest single screw passenger steamer of her dimensions in the world.”
She is 245 feet long, 36 beam, and depth to hurricane deck 28 feet 9 inches.” This was the largest and most up-to-date
steamer which plied to Boston. (The Yarmouth County Museum has the silver bouquet holder used by the person who launched
the Boston in its collection – along with many other artifacts from the various Yarmouth ferries.)
SS Co co-operated with the railway to produce tourist pamphlets on the “Land of Evangeline”
Blue Hill, belonging to the Yarmouth & Shelburne Steamship Co., arrived in Yarmouth from Boston, via Mount Desert, on
the evening of February 19th, 1891. She was 140 feet long, had twin screws, and was very fast. She was sold in
May 1893, for $12,350 to the Bras d’Or Steamship Co.”
“Steamer City of Columbia of the New York
Steamship Co., arrived in Yarmouth on her first voyage from New York direct on the 5th June, 1891.”
the new, mainly British owned, Dominion Atlantic Railway came into existence in 1895 (an amalgamation of the various smaller
railway companies) they found in the Yarmouth-Boston service one of the most important sources of business and one which could
be made much larger and more lucrative by operating their own boats. Their competition did not deter them at all.
“Steamer Prince Edward arrived in Yarmouth on Saturday, August 28th, 1897, at 7 o’clock in the evening.
She was built by the Earle shipbuilding and Engineering Co., Hull, England for the Dominion Atlantic Railway. She is
268 feet long, 33 feet wide and 21 feet deep; tonnage 1413 gross; net 727. [Cost was $250,000. Earle’s made a
specialty of fast channel steamers of light draught.] She is fitted with twin screws and has a speed of 19 ½ knots,.
She left for Boston on her first passage on the 6th September, 1897.” [She had a passenger capacity of 314 first class
and 32 second class passengers. No expense had been spared with the fittings—she had lounges, cabins smoking room
and dining room all finished in teakwood. The equipment included specially designed silverware, dishes, furnishings,
supplies of wines, etc., and even ‘a bugle with a silken cord’ for the steward. Everything was thought of
for the comfort and well-being of the passengers. … The maiden trip was made in 23 hours. The Yarmouth band functioned
throughout the voyage and regaled the passengers with the ‘Prince Edward March’, composed specially for the occasion
by one of the ship’s officers; elaborate menus were served, and the wine list was varied and lengthy. Thenceforth,
the Prince Edward made two trips weekly, filled to capacity with tourist eager to travel on the new luxurious boat, and while
the traffic agreement between the DAR and Yarmouth SS Co., continued in force, business for the latter line began to fall
off appreciably.” Hist of the DAR.] Relationships became strained, particularly since the DAR was essentially
a British company and the Yar. SS Co had been in business for many years. Rumours began to circulate that the Prince
Edward was not up to the job (she had followed the design of fast, short-distance cross Channel steamers and was not suited
to the 24 hour crossing of the Bay of Fundy / Gulf of Maine. Accounts of such were written in the papers and ‘open
warfare’ was declared –in January, 1898 the traffic arrangements between the two companies was severed.
Steamer Prince George arrived in Yarmouth from Hull, England, direct, on the evening of 24th November, 1898, anchoring in
the Sound over night. She came up to her wharf next morning gaily decorated in bunting. She is 290 feet long,
38 feet beam and 17.6 feet deep. She was built by the Earle Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., of Hull, especially for
the Dominion Atlantic Railway, and is fitted with twin screws. Her speed on her trail run was 20.338 knots, with 172
revolutions of the engines. She made the passage from Hull to Yarmouth in 11 ½ days…”
Express purchased 1898 by Yarmouth SS Co for service on South Shore. (description Yar. Rem p. 556.)
Prince Arthur arrived in Yarmouth from Boston on the morning of the 4th July, 1899. She came out direct to Boston from
Hull England. She is a duplicate of the Prince George, and was built by the Earle Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.,
of Hull for the Dominion Atlantic Railway.
From July, 1899 The DAR ran both the Prince George and the Prince Arthur
on a daily service between Yarmouth and Boston. The Yar. SS Co.’s ships Yarmouth and Boston (with speeds of 14
and 17 knots respectively could only manage four trips a week so they cut their prices – as did the DAR. During
1899-1900 when the rate war was at its height a ticket to Boston could be had for 75 cents.
A compromise might
have been worked out had not the leading men in both companies (W.R. Campbell of the DAR and L.E. Baker of the Yar. SS Co.)
died about this time. In 1901 the Yar. SS Co. made advances for a settlement. The DAR bought out the Yar SS Co
“Paddle wheel Steamer City of Monticello was purchased by the Yarmouth Steamship Co., in March,
1899, for $30,000.” [Formerly belonged to the Bay of Fundy Steamship Service – 1889. She was withdrawn
from the Digby-St John service when she could not compete with the D.A.R.’s Prince Rupert.] The City of Monticello was
lost near Chegoggin on November 10h 1900 with a loss of thirty-six lives. (Yar. Rem. pp 191-198)
the DAR was ‘over-shipped’ and had to either sell off ships or try other routes. For example in 1904 the
Prince Arthur was put on a weekly run between Yarmouth, Boston and New York with another weekly run between Yarmouth, Halifax
and New York. This, without the Halifax call, operated for four years.
In 1911 the DAR was essentially absorbed
by the Canadian Pacific Railway – its first important action was to dispose of the Yarmouth-Boston steamers and did
so by transferring the Prince George, Prince Arthur and Boston, in 1912, to the Eastern Steamship Corporation for $1,200,000.
They became part of the Boston and Yarmouth Steamship Company (aka Yarmouth Line) [one of their many other companies, including:
International SS Lines (St. John and Digby to New England), Boston & Portland Line, Portland and Rockland Line, Kennebec
Line, Boothbay Line, Bangor Line, Mt. Desert & Blue Hill Line, Metropolitan SS Line (New York to Boston), and Maine SS
Line (New York to Portland).
Prince George and Prince Arthur ran until 1927 – both having been taken over
by the British Admiralty for use as troop and/or hospital ships (?) during the First World War.
Yarmouth-Boston 1918 – Canadian government service
“ 1918-1919 – ran aground on Green Island, no loss of life.
- temporary replacement for the North Star
Governor Cobb “
Yarmouth “ 1927-1958
Eastern SS Co (Boston & Yar. SS Line)
Evangeline Yarmouth-New York 1927-c1940
Acadia Yar-Boston/NY 1932-c1940
Bluenose (1) Yarmouth-Bar Harbor 1956-1982 Canadian National Railways,
later CN Marine
Prince of Fundy Yar-Portland 1970-1976 Lion Ferries (Swedish registry)
Bolero “ 1972-1976
“ (Norwegian registry)
“ 1977-1981 “
Marine Cruiser “ 1976-1978
CN Marine, winter service, (British reg.)
Marine Evangeline “
1978-1983 “ “ “ ,
Bluenose (II) Yarmouth-Bar Harbor 1983-1997 CN Marine (Bahamian registry)
Scotia Prince “ 1982 -?
Lion Ferries (German registry)
The Cat “
1998- 2002 Bay Ferries –often ran between Australia and
during our winter season.
The Cat (second) “
2003 -2008 “
The following is taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Ferries :
Bay Ferries began operations in
1997 upon being awarded the operating licenses for ferry routes in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine which were being discontinued
by federal Crown corporation Marine Atlantic as part of cost-cutting measures. Bay Ferries Limited, referred to simply
as Bay Ferries, is a ferry company operating in eastern Canada and the United States and is headquartered in Charlottetown,
Prince Edward Island. It is a subsidiary of Northumberland Ferries Limited (NFL) and a sister company to the defunct Bay Ferries
Great Lakes Limited (Wikipedia)
Bay Ferries operated ferry service across the Gulf of Maine from Yarmouth, Nova
Scotia, to Bar Harbor, Maine, and from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to Portland, Maine, using a high speed catamaran ferry service
using the marketing name "The Cat".
This ferry route was initiated in 1955 by the Government of Canada at the
insistence of tourism operators and fish exporters in southwestern Nova Scotia. Throughout the 19th century and early 20th
century, steamship service from Yarmouth to New York City, Boston and Portland, Maine, had been provided by various operators,
lastly the Dominion Atlantic Railway, subsequently Canadian Pacific Railway. The resurrected service in 1955 saw new ferry
terminals constructed in Yarmouth and Bar Harbor and used the newly commissioned ferry MV Bluenose, named after Nova Scotia's
famous racing schooner Bluenose.
The service was operated by Canadian National Railways (later Canadian National Railway)
and in 1977 was included in the CN reorganization which created CN Marine. In 1982 a newer vessel MV Stena Jutlandica was
purchased and renamed MV Bluenose (replacing the previous vessel). In 1986 CN Marine became Marine Atlantic which continued
to operate the service, although it was scaled back to a seasonal May–October operation by the mid-1990s. Since the
Gulf of Maine service operated to the United States, the vessel was not owned by the Government of Canada and was solely the
responsibility of CN and later Marine Atlantic.
Following government-mandated service cutbacks to Marine Atlantic in
the mid-1990s, Bay Ferries was formed as a subsidiary of NFL and successfully bid for the right to operate the Yarmouth-Bar
Harbor route. Upon taking control of the operation in 1997, Bay Ferries continued to operate the MV Bluenose that year, after
which it was sold.
Bay Ferries entered into a purchase agreement in late 1997 with Incat in Hobart, Australia, for the
Incat 056, a wave-piercing catamaran ferry operating on the Melbourne-Devonport service by TT-line) under the brand name "Devil
Cat." Upon acquisition of the vessel in 1998, Bay Ferries began using the term "The Cat" for its Yarmouth-Bar
Harbor service in logos on the vessel and in Bay Ferries marketing material. "The Cat" is merely the marketing name
for the ferry service operated by Bay Ferries, and not the name of the vessel, which remains HSC INCAT 046. The introduction
of HSC INCAT 046 to the Gulf of Maine met with great publicity and interest among Canadian and American media as this was
the first, and currently the fastest (41 knots), large-capacity high-speed ferry in North America, cutting the trip time between
the two ports from six hours on a conventional vessel to less than three hours. In 2002, Incat 046 was sold and the current
vessel HSC The Cat replaced it.
The high speed ferry can operate between the ports in 2 hours and 30 minutes, compared
with a crossing time of over 6 hours using a conventional ferry vessel. The high-speed service is seasonal and does not operate
during the late fall, winter and early spring when severe ocean storms could inhibit crossings, although the conventional
vessels were year-round services for many years.
The Government of Canada maintains ownership of the ferry terminals
in Yarmouth (through Transport Canada) and Bar Harbor (through Marine Atlantic Inc.) but has leased the management and operating
rights to Bay Ferries.
In spring 2005 rival Gulf of Maine ferry operator Scotia Prince Cruises announced that it was
cancelling its Portland, Maine-Yarmouth service offered by a conventional vessel, M/S Scotia Prince, as a result of toxic
mould problems at its ferry terminal in Portland, the old Portland Marine Terminal. The city of Portland was in the process
of constructing a replacement ferry terminal, but it assumed that financial difficulties would prevent Scotia Prince Cruises
from returning to the Yarmouth service and entered into discussions with Bay Ferries about expanding its Gulf of Maine service
to include Portland, in addition to Bar Harbor. An announcement was made in late summer that Bay Ferries would include "The
Cat" service to both ports from Yarmouth beginning in 2006 using HSC INCAT 059.
Beginning with the 2006 and continuing
into the 2007 operating seasons, the Government of Nova Scotia provided an annual $1.5 million subsidy to Bay Ferries due
to declining passenger revenue and increased fuel expenditures. The subsidy was increased by the provincial government for
the 2008 operating season to $6.0 million to account for rising costs and further declines in revenue. It is unknown how much
of a subsidy was provided for the 2009 operating season but it is believed to surpass the 2008 amount. The company has received
subsidies totaling $18.9 million since the fall of 2007.
On December 18, 2009 Bay Ferries announced that it was ending
its Gulf of Maine service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor and Portland after the Government of Nova Scotia ended the subsidies,
resulting in approximately 120 jobs being lost. Bay Ferries had been seeking approximately $6.0 million for the 2010 operating
season but the provincial government declined, citing financial difficulty. The disposition of HSC INCAT 059 is unknown.
As of June, 2010, HSC INCAT 059 can often be seen docked at its former terminal in Bar Harbor. (REF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Ferries)
This ended continuous passenger service between Yarmouth and the United States, exclusive of the war years,
for 142 years.
2009 – 2011 First years with no passenger link to the US since at least 1866
Note: Photographs of many of the above-mentioned vessels can be seen at the Yarmouth County
Museum and Archives.
Eric J. Ruff, FCMA
3 June 2011