Fairview was the Rocky Point Ferry until 1958

Diesel Ferry Fairview

Diesel Ferry Fairview

Early in January 1936, before the harbour iced over, the paddle steamer Hillsborough made its last trip. Replacing it was a boat that was new in many ways.  True, it retained the double ended configuration which enabled vehicles to drive on and off without having to turn around but in many ways it was a new design.

This boat on the ways at Fitzgerald's shipyard in Georgetown has been mis-identified as the Fairview. It is more likely the Montague or the Newport.

This boat on the ways at Fitzgerald’s shipyard in Georgetown has been mis-identified as the Fairview. It is more likely the Montague or the Newport.

The Fairview (named for a community near Rocky Point) was built in Georgetown at the shipyard of Captain Charles Fitzgerald. There were few ship yards left on Prince Edward Island in the mid-1930s and Fitzgerald had also built the ferry Newport (1928) which crossed the Cardigan River and the Montague (1930) which ran to Lower Montague. These two boats linked Georgetown with the communities in Eastern Kings County and enabled the county capital to continue as a commercial centre. The building of the new ferry provided work for about twenty men, many of whom had worked in the disappearing shipbuilding trade for years.

The new steamer was launched in December 1935  and was 115 feet long, 28 ferret wide and drew 7 feet.  The ferry had a gross tonnage of 227 tons. The main difference between it and its predecessor, the Hillsborough,  was in the means of propulsion. The Fairview was powered by a five-cylinder Canadian Fairbanks diesel engine which produced 175 horsepower which could drive the boat at 8 1/2 knots. The engine was supplied and installed by Bruce Stewart and Co. of Charlottetown  The ferry was wood throughout; the frame being American oak and pine and the planking was 3 inch hard  pine fastened to the frame using the traditional “trenails”, wooden pegs about 20 inches long and an inch in diameter driven through the planks and frame and wedged at both ends. The vehicle deck, which could carry up to eighteen automobiles, was spruce covered with asphalt plank. Unlike the Hillsborough, the Fairview had a deck covering most of the vehicle area from the elements. The passenger cabins, one of which was identified as the ladies cabin,  were finished in Douglas Fir. An additional line of inch and quarter hardwood planking along the waterline protected the hull from ice. Noteworthy equipment included 2 lifeboats and forty life belts.

The vessel was towed to Charlottetown for final fitting out at the Bruce Stewart wharf. By the 26th of March 1936 it had completed its test runs and was put into service.  Running from the period when the ship could be navigated through the spring ice until the winter closure of the harbour which could be as late as January the vessel continued on the route for twenty-two years. Service was interrupted when the Fairview went to Pictou for its annual overhaul. The boat was replaced on the run by a gasoline-powered launch.  In the winter a bushed road was marked for crossing the harbour.

For the most part the crossings were uneventful. An exception took place in August of 1944. As the ferry approached the Prince Street Wharf the horses hauling a truck wagon with potatoes and turnips were startled and backed up. Unfortunately the chain closing the gap at the stern snapped and the wagon slipped off the end of the Fairview dragging the horses, cart,  and a seven-year old boy, Delbert Muirhead of Canoe Cove, into the water. His father managed to jump clear as the wagon went off the stern of the boat into the water.  A passenger on the ferry dove into the water and saved the boy but the team, wagon and produce was lost. Howard Muirhead valued the team at $300, the wagon at $540 and the load of potatoes and turnips at $20.

In the days before automobile ownership was common the Fairview, like the other ferries before it, provided an easy and pleasant way for residents of Charlottetown to escape the city. Some times, on summer weekends two or three hundred people would cross the harbour on the boat to Rocky Point to use the beaches, visit the Indian encampment or the “Fort Lot” where the ruins of Fort Amherst were visible. Some even went farther to Holland Cove.

I have a recollection from about 1957 of being delivered by my family to the Ferry Wharf where the campers at the Holland Cove YMCA camp were assembled. After crossing the harbour on the Fairview we loaded our camping gear onto a waiting jeep and walked the dusty road from the Rocky Point wharf to Holland Cove where the cabins awaited us.

The Fairview after conversion to barge. Tied to Buntain & Bell wharf about 1960. Photo - Ron Atkinson

The Fairview after conversion to barge. Tied to Buntain & Bell wharf about 1960. Photo – Ron Atkinson

With improved roads and pavement gradually being extended into the countryside there was agitation for a permanent link between the communities of the South Shore and the City.  Various bridge proposals and routes were advanced and in 1958 a causeway was constructed across the West River between Meadowbank and New Dominion, just east of the steamer wharf at Westville.  Although a passenger service was continued into the early 1970s using the Fairview II and MacDonald’s 3, the converted fishing boats carried no cargo or automobiles.  The Fairview itself was sold off and used as a construction barge. Noted as “unseaworthy” the registry for the ship was canceled in 1963.

In spite of the fact that the Fairview was a fixture in the harbour for more than two decades photos of the ship are scarce. I would be pleased to learn of any that are available.

13 thoughts on “Fairview was the Rocky Point Ferry until 1958

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  2. Tom DeBlois

    I remember the Fairview with fond memories. My family made the round trip to Rocky Point a few times as well when I was a young lad growing up on Water Street. I also remember crossing on the ice to Rocky Point along the bushed roadway on the ice. I later sailed on both the Fairview II and the MacDonald’s III. When the author travelled on the Fairview to Holland Cove Camp in 1957, that would be about the same period when I used to rent a bicycle (because I didn’t have one) at West Kent School from a close acquaintance of the author. Fond memories, keep them coming. Tom DeBlois

    1. Russ Compton

      Most enjoyable article Sailstrait, the paragraph’s on losing the boy & team overboard and the Ice crossings bring back stories my father “Russell” told about the winter crossings from Eldon to Charlottetown, considering the sparse weather reporting of the time, no marked ice roads out in the bay’s, this would be an quite an adventure. One of dad’s most poignant stories was losing a 6 horse team, sleigh, and load of hardwood enroute from Compton’s Mill In Belle River to Town. To my recollection from stories told by Hector (grandfather) and Dad, the normal route would be by road or field from Belle River to Hallidays Wharf in Eldon or Selkirk Park area, across Orwell and Pownal bay’s, offshore far enough to avoid spring holes and rough ice. on this particular run, dad encountered a wight-out somewhere just short of Governors Island, the team found a crack that had opened up in the North wind, into which the whole lot dissapeared. Dad went in the water and pulled himself out by using the floating lumber. Not sure of the year , but i think it was mid to late 40’s. Russ Compton

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  4. Connie Gauthier

    I have a picture of the Fairview taken in 1943.
    C. Gauthier. Connieg@live ca

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  9. F W Lynn Gallant

    As a young boy in the 1940’s we lived on King Street and during the summer we took the ferry to Rocky Point my job was to watch for the ferry’s return around supper time.As no one had a car it was a great get away for most of the families on our street.We would follow the train track from Pownal St to Prince st past the CNR roundhouse to the ferry dock. They were wonderful memories

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