In 1954, the small wooden Bainbridge, built near Seattle in the twenties, provided ferry service from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons. The subsequent 50-mile drive for the crossing from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, 20 miles south of Powell River, was demanding. Connecting former logging roads, the partly paved track never went through, over or under obstacles; it always went around. Motion sickness on the road of endless curves was common for car travellers with children and even for those without.
At the north end of Sechelt Peninsula, Quillayute, another aging wooden-hulled ferry, crossed Jervis Inlet in 65 minutes. From there, it was an almost one-hour drive to Powell River, half on gravel road.
Both Quillayute and Bainbridge had kitchen facilities and old-timers remember happy anticipation of ferry food. Dining helped pass the time and since this was before days of pervasive food outlets, for many it was one of few dining-out opportunities.
Travel memories were refreshed last week on board Island Sky, a 3-year old 125-car BC-built ferry that seems quite fine, except for the food. Factory-built sandwiches sold out in the first quarter hour so choices were limited pretty much to do-it-yourself microwave mac and cheese or a toast-it-yourself bagel. Of course, overpriced beverages were available for people happy to spend almost $3 for an item that cost BC Ferries 40-cents. Not just car and passenger fares are exorbitant in British Columbia.
Our trip from Vancouver to Powell River this month started at Horseshoe Bay aboard the ferry Queen of Coquitlam. The passenger load was larger years ago but the crossing took well over an hour, longer than the Bainbridge needed in 1956.
Today’s 35-year old vessel is rated for 362 cars. It underwent refit in 2002, extending life until 2022, according to plan. The ship though is showing signs of fatigue and, to a layman, excessive rust in visible steelwork of the car decks. I ascribed the non-functioning elevator to poor maintenance. The ship, I’m told, runs occasionally below required manning levels. If traffic is heavier than expected, crew should be added to meet Canadian safety standards. This is not always possible on short notice but the ship might sail anyway. Luckily, the waters are sheltered and the risks low.
Categories: BC Ferries