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Marine Atlantic workers and history buffs join in history circle discussing Borden Ferries


Published on July 13, 2017

Tilman Gallant point to a model of the MV Abegweit II. Gallant recalls the time two men jumped overboard while the boat was docking.

©Millicent McKay/Journal Pioneer

Tilman Gallant has some laughable memories from the time he worked for Marine Atlantic.

“One time, I remember I was standing on the bridge of the Abbey II. I heard this splash and saw what I thought was a trash bag. I thought someone had dumped a bag of their garbage overboard.”

Nikki Gallant looks at picture of her father, Tilman Gallant, which was taken while he was working on one of the Marine Atlantic Ferries.
Millicent McKay/Journal Pioneer

Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw something else.

“This guy jumped overboard. And then I realized that the other thing in the water was another guy,” he said with a laugh.

It was a dangerous thing to do, he added.

The Abbey II was in the process of docking at the time.

“I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be between a ferry and a dock.”

Gallant, who worked for Marine Atlantic for 24 years, said it caused quite a stir.

“I had to tell the captain to stop and we reported it. I remember giving the police a statement.”

Shortly after, one of Gallant’s coworkers told him that they saw a girl or two running down the stairs with pants and shoes.

“Let’s just say you don’t fall overboard without your shoes.”

On Monday, Gallant was one of about 20 people who turned out to the history circle, hosted by the Bedeque Area Museum, to discuss the Borden ferries and share stories.

Gerard Sexton, a Marine Atlantic worker for 38 years, remembers the time one captain was hung from his feet to fix a section of the ship where a pin had come out of place.

“Captain Donald Graham was a big man. His shoe size was like 11 or 12. But he was a great captain. One day the mates tied a rope around his ankles, and helped him over the rail. A pin had dislodged. So there he was over the rail, head first. He had to wait till we came to high seas before he could even fix it,” Sexton explained.

Then there was the time that Barry Curtis’ father was going to make it onto the ferry one way or another.

“My dad had a company where he would transport livestock and other shipments between P.E.I. and New Brunswick,” said Curtis.

“This one trip was on a weekend or something like that so he let me come with him.”

But as they neared boarding the ferry, things seemed to hit a snag.

“Big trucks like this were asked to come into the truck lane and other vehicles stayed in the other lane. But my dad had been on the ferry enough times to work out that if he went in the other lane we wouldn’t make the crossing.”

So instead he stayed in the car lane, explained Curtis.

“You need to get in the other lane,” an officer told Curtis’ father.

“We’re not going to do that. I’ve got my family with me and we need to make this crossing,” his father replied.

Eventually CN police officers stopped them and said they weren’t supposed to be in the lane.

“I’ll shoot your tires out. You’re not getting on this ferry,” said the officer.

“You can shoot my tires out but I’ll still make it up that ramp,” Curtis’ father fired back.

The CN officer stepped aside and let Curtis’ father drive onto the ferry.

“There was no stopping him,” said Curtis.