Cross-bay ferry plans shape up

BAR HARBOR — A new ferry service across Frenchman Bay, between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor, is scheduled to start Memorial Day weekend and run through Columbus Day.

Meanwhile, the operators of the existing ferry service plan to run again this summer despite the new competition.

Kaitlyn Mullen, executive director of Frenchman Bay Research Boating, the nonprofit organization planning the new ferry service, said there will be at least five round trips a day.

“Our first run will leave Winter Harbor at 5:45 in the morning, in time to get folks to Bar Harbor no later than 6:30, so they can make some of the early shifts at Jackson Lab and the hospital and College of the Atlantic,” Mullen said.

In addition to serving commuters, she said the ferry would make it easy for visitors who are staying on Mount Desert Island to spend a day exploring the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park and for people camping at the park’s new Schoodic Woods Campground to visit MDI.

The driving distance between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor is 43 miles. Mullen said she hopes to coordinate with the Criterion Theatre and Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor and the Schoodic Arts for All Festival in Winter Harbor to schedule “a dinner-and-a-show round trip that will operate a little bit later at night.”

The fare for all round trips will be $17.50 for Maine residents and $25 for nonresidents. Maine residents will be able to buy a 10-round-trip package for $150. There will be no charge for bicycles or pets.

In Bar Harbor, the ferry will dock at the pier at College of the Atlantic. There will be a ticket office of the third floor of the building that houses the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s visitor information office at the corner of Main and Cottage streets.

“That’s close to the Island Explorer [hub at the Village Green], which will be a great way for folks to get to College of the Atlantic and back,” Mullen said.

On the Winter Harbor side, the ferry will dock and tickets will be sold at the Schoodic Marine Center, formerly the Winter Harbor Marina.

Mullen said Frenchman Bay Research Boating is more than halfway toward its goal of raising $25,000 to be put toward the purchase of a boat.

“We’ve been working with some banks, and that may be just enough,” she said.

In addition to a campaign on CrowdRise, a fundraising website, Mullen said there have been other donations, and she has applied for grants.

She recently sent a letter to members of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce seeking corporate sponsors for the ferry’s 2016 season.

“We’re also looking to offer business on both sides of the bay the opportunity for some very targeted on-board advertising or a partnership in some way, shape or form,” she said.

For example, she said, “It looks like Elsa’s kitchen from Elsa’s Inn on the Harbor in Winter Harbor will be helping us out by having coffee and baked goods available on board.”

As part of the this year’s observance of Acadia National Park’s centennial, Mullen said that one trip from each side of the bay on Tuesdays and Thursdays will include narration about the islands the ferry passes. She is a former captain and naturalist with Acadian Boat Tours. People are always curious about which islands are part of Acadia and which ones belong to other groups such as the Nature Conservancy, she said.

“We’ll talk about how the idea of donating lands to the park has extended to preserving the larger ecosystems and larger habitat areas for things like bald eagles nesting on some of these islands,” she said.

As the name suggests, Frenchman Bay Research Boating plans to use the ferry as “a research platform for baseline data collection supporting transect-based oceanographic assessments of Frenchman Bay between ports,” according to the company’s website.

“We are starting to confirm the research that will be going on this year,” Mullen said. “Our potential research partners include College of the Atlantic, Maine Maritime Academy, the University of Maine and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.”

Existing ferry

Frenchman Bay Research Boating will compete for passengers with Downeast Windjammer Cruises, owned by Steven Pagels, which has operated a seasonal ferry service between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor for the past 15 years.

Last year, there were four daily round trips between Memorial Day weekend and Columbus Day weekend. Pagels said those would be the start and end dates again this year, but the number of daily trips will be flexible.

“With the advent of the new Schoodic Woods Campground, we will be expanding our ferry schedule,” Pagels said in a recent mailing to members of the Schoodic Chamber of Commerce.

He said he plans to increase the number of daily trips and to use a larger-capacity boat during the peak tourist season. He also said the ferry’s Winter Harbor arrival and departure times will coincide with the schedule for the Island Explorer buses on the Schoodic Peninsula route. The buses make regular stops at the Schoodic Marine Center, Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, Schoodic Woods Campground and the village of Winter Harbor.

Pagels said he has not yet set the fares for this year. Round-trip fares last year were $32 for adults and $22 for children, plus $7 for bicycles.

“We will again be offering discounted rates for year-round residents as we have in past seasons,” he said in the mailing to Schoodic Chamber members. “We are introducing new special family discounts for certain trips.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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