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Author: Garry Tizzard

I have been traveling back and forth across the Gulf and home to Newfoundland, since 1955 but with my parents until 1970. Thereís not much I havenít seen in the way of changes at the ferry terminals in both North Sydney and Port aux Basques. The biggest change by far is the amount of traffic both going to and coming from Newfoundland, especially in the summer months.

Lately, like within the past 10 years, I was averaging a rip home about once every two months, more than that when I was helping a friend of mine on a tractor-trailer.

It used to be that the busiest months of the year were July and August, but now it seems June and September have crept in there also. When I was traveling alone, I tried to avoid July and August, mainly because of the crowds of tourists and what I call over-crowding on the boats.

When I was traveling with my family (Father, Mother, brothers and sister) years ago it was routine to be asked at the terminal in Port aux Basques if you were carrying any soil, plants or vegetables back to Nova Scotia. On occasion someone would ask to look in the trunk of the car, merely as a formality rather than actually trying to do a thorough search of the whole car.

That routine changed a little when the traffic increased and extra boats were hired on for the summer season. This was around the time when the Marine Nautica, the Marine Atlantica, Stenna Carrier and the Ambrose Shea were running. Then, before you were allowed out on the parking lot, your vehicle was washed and vacuumed, and inspectors from the Dept. of Agriculture looked your vehicle over pretty good. This went on all year round, not just the in the summer months.

As time went on and there was more and more traffic, especially in the summer, the crew at the ferry terminal in Port aux Basques did a very good job of not letting any soil, plants and vegetables ( and now thereís burlap in this line-up) out of Newfoundland. Or so we think. But thatís beside the point, Iím quite certain there have been more than a few pounds of Newfoundland soil lugged off to Nova Scotia and beyond.

This brings me to the point of this story. I was over home for the long weekend of July 1st, 2006. I was driving my extended cab Chevy Silverado Ĺ ton, which I tend to keep clean both inside and out. I also have one of those nice black Tonneau covers on the box. But as it was, prior to my going to Newfoundland on this trip, I was hauling a bit of firewood from my backyard to the wood-hatch in my basement earlier this spring. Needless to say there was a bit of sawdust, small twigs, a bit of mud and so on, lying in the ridges of the liner. I didnít bother to clean it out as I would be taking some cement blocks and wooden 6Ē x 6Ē blocking to drop off at our house in Indian Cove. And besides, there wasnít all that much sawdust and dirt anyway.

While in Indian Cove there were several people getting in and out of the passenger side of the cab and as it had rained a couple of times, needless to say, there was, of course, a bit of mud on the floor mat on that side. There was also a small bit on my side as well, but I wiped it off before leaving Indian Cove. The Tonneau lid was only open the one time, which was when I unloaded the cement blocks and 6Ēx 6Ē blocking. No Newfoundland soil or anything else entered the pan of my truck.

Upon arriving at the Inspection building, after purchasing my ticket at the ticket booth, I was asked by the Agriculture Representative, as usual, ďwere you on any farms during your visit to Newfoundland? Do you have any potatoes, plants, soil, etc. Blah, blah, blahĒ You all know the routine. I said ďnoĒ as usual, because I had nothing of that sort to bring back. Since 1955, and hundreds of crossings, I never have or had, or ever intend to bring potatoes or soil from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, we have lots of both.

Regardless of all that, the nice young Agriculture Rep wanted to see in the back of my truck anyway. I complied willingly. She noticed the little bit of sawdust and stated I must have been hauling wood. I said yes, I had been hauling wood at home in Nova Scotia this spring. She said she would get the young man with the hose to wash it out anyway. I stated that it was Nova Scotia dirt and sawdust and I didnít really want it washed out right there. If I had wanted it cleaned out I would have done so before getting ready to come to Newfoundland.

In the meantime she took a vacuum hose and vacuumed a tiny bit of carpet that was showing on the floor between the floor mat and the edge of the carpet hold-down strip. That was all she vacuumed. I mentioned about the other side and the number of passengers in and out while in Indian Cove but that didnít mean a thing to her, she merely said she didnít see anything over there and she didnít walk around to open the door and look. Nor did she look on the floor in the back seat area of the cab, nor behind the back seat, and she didnít check the garbage can behind the front seat, and she didnít want to see inside my suitcase or my other travel bag. So is this a joke or what? I mean if you are going to check for plants, soil or vegetables, then why not do that? Now then, maybe she believed me when I said I had none of the above, so why not believe me about the material in the pan of the truck. And why not vacuum that material up instead of trying to wash it out?

When I finally pulled ahead to get the back of the truck washed out, I told the young college student that I was having trouble with my tailgate latch so I wanted to keep it closed. He had a great time spraying that high pressure hose around the back of my truck sending dirt and sawdust flying everywhere except out of the pan of the truck. What I was left with was about 20 or 30 gallons of water sloshing around in there. What a mess, sawdust, bits of bark and mud stuck on everywhere. The young lad must have loosened up stuff that was there three or four years ago. And do you know what he said when he was finished playing with the water hose and as he was surveying the mess heíd made? ďThat water will eventually drain out back by the tailgate as you drive alongĒ. Well sir, I never would have guessed that. Itís a good thing he told me for heaven only knows what I would have done had he not told me!

Later on, out in the line-up in the parking lot, at least two people pointed out that I had something running out of the back of my truck I merely replied that the Agriculture Dept. wanted to fill up the back of my truck with water and I donít know why.

Now hereís a funnier part of this joke. In the winter time I have pulled into Port aux Basques with my truck absolutely covered with brown mud, salt, dirt, sand and whatever else you might want to mention, but do you think I would get all that washed off before leaving that fair province of Newfoundland? No siree, Bob. Not even if you ask nicely. Further more, do you get asked if you were on any farms? Yes indeed. But what would that matter, nothing is growing in the wintertime anyway and everything, including the ground, is frozen. Does anybody look in the back of my truck? No sir. Do you get your floor mat and carpet vacuumed? No sir. And do you know why? Itís because the same old crew is on duty, no college kids around now, and they have more important things to do, like watch TV, play cards or other personal matters to tend to. I donít know for sure about watching TV or playing cards but I do know for a fact that their vehicles are shiny and spotlessly clean. And Iíve had to wait sometimes for at least five minutes before anyone showed up at all. I wonder though, what else they could be busy at if their job is to check vehicles entering the Marine Atlantic parking lot.

Briefly then, just about anybody can take a bag of potatoes out of Newfoundland, especially in the winter months. I donít have too many gripes about the Marine Atlantic ferry service and I enjoy each and every trip home to Newfoundland. The Agriculture Dept., however, at the Port aux Basques ferry terminal leaves much to be desired.

 


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