Salt Spring Island briefly experienced two-ferry service on the Vesuvius-Crofton route Thursday — sort of — as the usual vessel returned to operation, and its temporary replacement signed off.
With perhaps a sigh of relief, islanders finally boarded MV Quinsam Thursday afternoon, Jan. 26, as that ferry returned after 94 days of refit work to a busy route that had been plagued by cancellations and delays.
The switch was eagerly followed by islanders; vessel trackers and ferry-spotters first spotted the Quinsam leaving the Deas Pacific Marine maintenance facility on the Fraser River Wednesday afternoon, stopping at the Tsawwassen terminal before sailing to Fulford Harbour, where it berthed overnight.
Just after 9 a.m. Thursday morning, the Quinsam left Fulford empty — perhaps puzzling some passengers waiting for the Skeena Queen — and sailed around the south end of Salt Spring and up to Vesuvius, docking at about 11:20 a.m. After a brief stop, Quinsam pushed off — again, empty — at 11:30 a.m., then held position a kilometre from the dock.
Meanwhile the Quinitsa pulled out of Vesuvius with a full load just after noon, delivering Salt Spring traffic to Crofton for the last time — for now, at least. Quinsam returned to the Vesuvius dock at 12:10 p.m., finished preparations, pushed back out and — still empty — chased the Quinitsa back to Crofton.
It was unclear who won the race, but ultimately Quinitsa offloaded at Crofton; Quinsam loaded Salt Spring bound passengers there and departed — a little late — at about 1:10 p.m., and after a quick crossing nosed into the dock at Vesuvius a little before 1:30 p.m.
The 40-year-old Quinsam holds more vehicles than the Quinitsa, and was originally estimated to return on Dec. 12; supply chain issues for needed parts were blamed for the additional delay. Quinsam was taken off the route for refit purposes on Oct. 24.