The 10-sailing schedule between Fulford and Swartz Bay is back on for this summer, according to BC Ferries officials, adding that plans to explore using the Quinsam for future supplementary service to fill the gap on the Vesuvius-Crofton route once full-time two-ferry service arrives in 2027 are still in motion.
Several representatives of the ferry company joined Salt Spring’s Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) Wednesday, Jan. 24 for a virtual meeting — that body’s first since last year.
“Once the two Island Class ferries come to Route 6, I think our problems regarding capacity will be solved for some time,” said FAC chair Harold Swierenga. “Having the Quinsam on Route 4 during the summers should do the job for years to come as well, as long as the Quinsam’s around.”
Fulford peak season schedules will run, according to BC Ferries, from June 26 to Sept. 30 in 2024, when traffic to and from the island is expected to be at its highest. But, said Swierenga, on Salt Spring the “peak season” idea was starting to fade.
“I think ultimately we’re going to find that the peak season is going to be all year ‘round,” said Swierenga. “It’s going to be a process in which we evaluate on a continuing basis whether the Quinsam is going to have to be around longer every summer.”
Capt. James Bradley, marine superintendent for BC Ferries’ south region, said that from a shipboard perspective, the extra sailings from Fulford last summer had gone very well.
“It was a little bit more extra work for the crews,” said Bradley, “but once they got into the swing of it, I would say it was more of a success than what some people were expecting.”
Bradley said that projected congestion issues in Swartz Bay were handled well, and despite the additional pressure on crews, the 10-sailing schedule — which amounted to a 25 per cent increase in capacity on weekdays — worked out from a fleet operations point of view. Salt Spring Garbage driver Mike Stacey said he agreed, both as a customer of BC Ferries and an FAC member.
“In the summer it worked really well for us,” said Stacey. “Sending the trucks over two trips a day, we saved a lot of time, and we hardly ever missed a boat.”
The so-called 10-sailing plan — nine on Sundays — began last year and featured a first sailing most days departing Fulford at 6 a.m. for Swartz Bay, and a last chance for Salt Spring passengers to return home departing Swartz Bay at 10 p.m.
Ferry officials said there would be renewed efforts to align the amended schedule with Salt Spring’s BC Transit bus service.
Full schedules will be available at bcferries.com and bctransit.com/salt-spring-island.