The CAT ferry is a high speed catamaran with four 9500 horsepower marine diesel engines that can carry up 250 cars, 14 tour buses, and 900 passengers at speeds up to 55 mph, making to the trip from Yarmouth, NS, to Bar Harbor, Maine, in under 3 hours.
Like most ferry's, once you pay the fee to take the CAT you line up in a big parking lot and wait to get loaded. One difference with this ferry is that they do check your papers and search your vehicle while in the parking lot, I guess they want to make sure you won't have trouble clearing customs after the 3 hour crossing - more on this later.
The guy with the white hair and the white minivan to the bottom right of the picture is from Palm Springs California. When I saw the California plates I just had to find out how far he had travelled. Well, it turned out that he did start in Palm Springs a bit before I left Calgary and he covered most of the same places I did in eastern Canada. He's originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, he was a railway engineer there for 25 years and still owns a farm there, so he stopped by there on his way north east and then headed into Canada through Sault St. Marie - we may have crossed paths there!
While waiting to board the CAT I couldn't help but wonder how we were going to get on the ship. You normally drive on one end of a ferry and off the other. In this case they seemed to be only loading and unloading from the back which was a bit puzzling and it made me wonder if cars had to back on or off until we started getting closer to the CAT. As you can see in the pictures below, buses and motor homes do have to back on, but cars can just drive on in an turn around like driving in a parkade!
There is an observation deck (the smokers lounge) high up at the back of the CAT that made for some good site seeing both while the ship was being loaded and while it was on route to Bar Harbor. The first thing we see here is a coast guard boat of some sort.
Next we some boats being unloaded and their catch being put on trucks for transport to the markets.
After the ship was loaded (on our trip there was something like 128 cars, and only a couple hundred passengers) the massive engines and propellers came to life and we were off. Good thing the guy in that little boat wasn't any closer.
The CAT had to do a U-turn in the harbour to get pointed out to sea, needless to say it took at little while (probably about 20 minutes or so) before we got out to clear water and pointed to Bar Harbor where they could open it and start cruising at 55 mph.
The passenger area in the ship is massive to accommodate all the walk on passengers and everyone that came on-board by car (no one can be in the vehicle area during the crossing). The front part of the ship shown below was extremely quiet, at least until the casino opened and the slot machines started up.
More than half of our trip was in the fog, so there wasn't much to see. That's ok, it gave me a chance to work on the content for my web site and snack on some pizza. I don't know if it was sea sickness or what, but I wasn't feel that great until I got some food in me. What ever it was the pizza cured it.
Going out to the observation deck while the ship was in open water really gave me a sense of the power of this ship. At 55 mph this thing is producing a spray of water which I estimated to be 15 to 20 feet high. If you want to get a better feel for what it is like to be out on the observation deck at 55 mph click here to download a short video I took while out there.
We got our first sight of land after about 2 hours or so.
The sail boat off in the distance is the one I showed you back in Bar Harbor.
The restaurant my sister and I ate at in Bar Harbor, the one with the yellow umbrella's, is to the left of centre in the picture below.
To the right of centre in this picture is the ferry terminal where we will be docking.
If you remember that when we got on the ship back in Yarmouth we turned around in side, so our vehicles were ready to drive right off the ship.
With all the cars getting off the ship and going straight to customs at the same time, it took quite a while to get through - at least 40 minutes.
I sure hope everyone cleared customs, because the CAT headed back to Canada before we were all through customs and it wasn't coming back on until the next afternoon.