Pressed back into service last week to replace the "Grand Manan V" sent away for repairs, when the old "black boat" came back to her North Head home, someone commented that it was great to see her coming around Swallowtail with "a bone in her teeth". (For readers on the mainland, "a bone in her teeth" refers to the wave pushed ahead of the bow as the ship churns through the water). This was a characteristic of the old "Grand Manan" and you will note that my painting shows "a bone in her teeth".
The newer "Grand Manan V" makes no such fuss going through the water. With a bulbous bow down below the surface, she cuts through the water more cleanly, making less wake, using less power (and fuel) and increasing the hull speed. This may be more efficient, but the old black boat just looks like she is having more fun!
When the "Grand Manan" arrived in October, 1965, the wharf for her in Blacks Harbour was not yet finished, in fact it wasn't ready until the following spring. So, for that first winter, you had to have your car hoisted out of the ship in St. Andrews.
You may recall the big hatch on the stern deck of the "Grand Manan". At the dock, the hatch was removed and the cable lowered down through the gaping hole to the vehicle deck. With slings on the wheels, your car was lifted up through this hatch, swung over with a boom and landed on the wharf. Everyone was pretty glad to see the Blacks Harbour terminal completed in the spring of 1966, and the luxury of being able to drive on and drive off the ferry. And, of course, that ushered in something new for the ferry service: trucking.
The old "Grand Manan" was remarkably free of mishap. But there was one mishap that may have been a blessing when we look back on it. How many people remember the fire in the wheelhouse of the "Grand Manan" in January, 1976?
The ferry had to be taken to the drydock in Saint John for repairs. The "Capelco" came on to carry a few passengers, but no cars could come or go while the ferry was away in drydock. So where was the blessing? When the Groundhog Gale struck Grand Manan on February 2, 1976, our most severe storm of the 20th Century, our ferry was safely tucked away in drydock and, of course, came through the storm completely unharmed. Suppose instead, she had been tied up at North Head; would she have survived the great Groundhog Gale?
We will never know the answer to that one, but that wheelhouse fire, as inconvenient as it was at the time, just may have allowed us to have another 35 years of faithful service from the old "black boat".