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The Kipawo, the last of the once-proud wooden ferryboats...

By ROBERT PLASKIN

ST. JOHN'S -- The Kipawo, the last of the once-proud wooden ferryboats that for 200 years plied the waters of the Bay of Fundy, arrived Friday on her final voyage home to become a floating museum in Nova Scotia's Minas Basin.

The 2,400-kilometer voyage home was regarded as 'an immense victory' by James Potts, secretary and trustee of the Kipawo Heritage Society. It was formed in June, 1981, to bring the 77-year-old wooden ferryboat back to Nova Scotia.

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The Kipawo was built in 1925 at Saint John, N.B., the last of 33 ferries that for more than 200 years plied the waters between Wolfville, on Nova Scotia's west coast, and Parrsboro, N.S., only 50 kilometers from the New Brunswick border.

The ferry service was started originally by Acadian settlers and 'was really the highway of Nova Scotia,' Potts said. It cut several hundred kilometers off the overland trip from the north end of the Annapolis Valley to New Brunswick.

The Kipawo was the last ferry to work the Minas Basin route and was 'one of the oldest ferryboats that we know of still afloat in Canada,' he said.

The service was disrupted in 1941 when the Kipawo was seconded for World War II duty in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After the war, the vessel was used in Newfoundland until 1978 when it broke its mooring lines and ran aground on the beach at Bonavista, 300 kilometers north of St. John's.

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The Kipawo Heritage Society in Wolfville, N.S., bought the vessel two years later and has been working to bring it home since then.

Potts said the society has not worked out all the details of what it will do with the vessel, but has agreed on a basic plan.

Once back in the Minas Basin, the ship will be hauled out at Parrsboro for a refit and equipped with 'at least a small theatre and a museum, and facilities for use as a community centre,' he said.

The refurbished ferry will not be equipped with engines, to save space for better uses. 'We find that the ship is so light it can be towed so easily that a small boat can take it almost anywhere,' Potts said.

The Kipawo will likely be travelling extensively since 'nearly every community in the Basin has an interest, and they all want to use her for something,' he said.

The plan to bring the Kipawo home nearly failed earlier this year because it would have taken the society 'years' to raise the $22,500 cost for a commercial tow, Potts said.

'We are very grateful to the Canadian Coast Guard' which agreed to provide the towing service, he said.

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The CCGS Bartlett brought the Kipawo into St. John's from Bonavista Friday. The icebreaker Labrador -- which has been on refit at the Newfoundland Dockyard -- was to take over Saturday for the second leg of the voyage to Dartmouth, N.S.

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