Maine pounces on The Cat ferry


PORTLAND (AP) – A high-speed ferry that can cruise the ocean at highway speeds arrived in Portland on Monday in advance of its inaugural run later this week between Maine’s largest city and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The 320-foot aluminum catamaran known as The Cat was greeted by a fireboat and tugboat as it sailed into Portland Harbor. A welcoming ceremony was held at the International Marine Terminal, the vessel’s operating pier.

Officials say the vessel will benefit Portland and Nova Scotia. It is expected to bring Canada-bound passengers from southern New England, and Canadian tourists who are using The Cat to Maine, New England and beyond.

Before bringing The Cat to Portland, Bay Ferries Ltd. berthed it in Boston over the weekend and opened it up for public tours.

The Cat can travel at speeds up to 50 mph and make the trip across the Gulf of Maine in five-and-a-half hours.

The vessel will sail Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Maine’s largest city and Nova Scotia through mid-October. Between Monday and Thursday, it will run between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, a trip that takes less than three hours.

Bay Ferries has been offering high-speed ferry service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth since 1998.

Mark MacDonald, president and CEO of Bay Ferries Ltd., said he has been working for years to bring The Cat to Portland. “This is the realization of a dream for our company,” he said.

The Cat can carry up to 775 passengers, 250 cars and 14 motor homes or tour buses. It is powered by four 9,500-horsepower marine diesel engines that drive a water jet propulsion system.

It has aircraft-style lounge seats, four movie screens, slot machines, a cafe and a duty-free shop.

The Cat’s arrival marks the return of Portland-Canada ferry service after the Scotia Prince canceled service last spring in a dispute with the city of Portland. The Scotia Prince and its successor, the Prince of Fundy, made seasonal runs from Portland to Yarmouth for 35 years.