Parks Canada cutbacks have hit a historic Cape Breton waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean and a popular sailing destination, and visiting yachters are feeling the effect of the changes.

St. Peter’s Canal offers boaters a shortcut between the ocean and the Bras d’Or Lakes, but it has offered boaters reduced service since it opened for the season more than two months ago, which is now affecting tourism.

“We’ve had visitors come to the centre who’ve had their boat in the canal for a couple of days and they weren’t impressed,” says Anne Marie Yorke, who manages the local visitors centre. “It’s a shame, actually.”

The canal had been closed for up to four days a week since mid-May, and boaters arriving at the wrong time had little choice but to tie up their vessels and wait.

“The other day here there was a whole lineup of yachts that could not get through,” says area resident Cecil Landry. “A hell of a thing as far as I’m concerned.”

The canal has resumed its seven-day service for the summer, but its daily hours of operation have been reduced.

Gerry Gibson, who manages a local marina, says he depends on canal traffic to help fill his 64 berths.

“I am basically going to lose 15 to 20 per cent of my transient boaters this year alone, and in the future, I am not sure where it’s going to be,” says Gibson. “I don’t know because I don’t know how many people are not going to bother coming to the Bras d’Or Lakes.”

St. Peter’s Canal handles about 1,000 transits a year. By its own estimate, Parks Canada believes 15 per cent of those boaters will be inconvenienced by the reduced hours of operation.

The canal will close no later than 6:30 p.m. throughout the summer and German yachtsman Robert Mueller worries fellow boaters may be left scrambling for an anchorage in the dark.

“If they need to anchor anywhere and if it’s going to be late or dark, it’s a problem to find a good anchorage, so it’s necessary to get in just in time,” says Mueller.

The canal will only be open weekends for the last part of the season and will close completely in late September, which is three months earlier than in 2012.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald