It’s been a stressful six months for Salt Spring Island ferry travellers.
The replacement of the tried-and-true Howe Sound Queen with the smaller Quinitsa on the Vesuvius-Crofton route in June turned out to be a disaster, regardless of how BC Ferries tried to spin the tale in its favour. That the corporation has decided to bring the Bowen Queen on to the route next spring indicates that reality could no longer be ignored when it came to the Quinitsa’s inadequate capacity during spring and summer months.
More recently, people travelling between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay have been thrown off course by the Queen of Cumberland being late in some of its arrivals and departures. While the Skeena Queen is getting its mid-life refit, the Cumberland is the replacement vessel on that route (except for the Christmas holiday period, when the Bowen will be on duty there). While people are delighting in the replacement vessel’s lounge amenities, using its upper ramp to accommodate as many vehicles as possible is a time-consuming process. But if the Cumberland gets off its schedule, people wanting to connect with a Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen vessel are sometimes unable to do so. It’s no surprise that BC Ferries often issues “delayed sailing” notices for Route 5 between the Southern Gulf Islands and Swartz Bay, which the Cumberland normally serves.
As inconvenient as it may be, anyone needing to get off or on the island at a specific time via the Fulford-Swartz route in the next few months is advised to give themselves as much time as possible to incorporate possible ferry delays into their plans. On-time performance for the route has certainly improved since the vessel’s first week on duty, but as of last week it was still not matching the Skeena’s stellar 95 per cent or better on-time record.
Travellers should perhaps never assume that a particular BC Ferries sailing will be on time, or that a ferry will never break down — witness the Salish Raven experience last Thursday — but it’s safe to say that is moreso the case these days.
People can check bcferries.com to determine if a ferry is late or not, sign up for service notices that will advise via email about tardy ferries or follow BC Ferries on Twitter. Arriving at terminals as early as possible and being armed with information are the two best ways to cope with the reality of living on ferry-dependent islands.