Ferry schedule upended Friday night

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Travellers heading to the Gulf Islands can expect a busy schedule Friday night as mechanical issues have forced one of BC Ferries’ key vessels out of operation.

Sailings between Salt Spring’s Long Harbour terminal and Tsawwassen were cancelled for most of Friday as that route’s regular vessel, the Salish Eagle, was transferred onto the Swartz Bay-Gulf Islands route in place of the Queen of Cumberland.

“We know there’s demand in the Southern Gulf Islands to go into Swartz Bay and Victoria Monday to Friday in the daytime, so we wanted to keep service going for those customers,” BC Ferries media relations manager Deborah Marshall explained.

The Eagle’s sister ship Raven is unavailable as it is currently serving the Comox – Powell River route while its regular vessel, the Orca, is undergoing the warranty work to fix its HVAC system. Tsawwassen passengers have been routed via through-fare to Swartz Bay.

The Eagle will return for Friday evening’s 7:20 p.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen and will resume regular service on Saturday and Sunday to meet weekend demand patterns. It will then return to the Southern Gulf Islands on Monday.

Friday evening may see additional demand for service from Swartz Bay to Pender Island. If that happens, Marshall said the Skeena Queen may divert to Otter Bay on one of its scheduled sailings between Fulford and Swartz Bay.

The Queen of Cumberland is expected to be out of operation for most of next week while the ferry corporation sources a replacement davit for its emergency boat deployment crane.

“At this point we’re not sure; it will be until further notice,” Marshall said.

The davit was broken when a cable snapped during a regular crew training exercise on Thursday, which sent two BC Ferries employees into the water. One person was seriously injured and remains in hospital, Marshall said.

BC Ferries is conducting an investigation and is in the process of inspecting all the davits in its fleet in addition to its regular inspection routine.

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