Forty minute trip turns into 4.5 hours after BC Ferries vessel breaks down

Watch85 passengers on board the nearly new Salish Raven were stuck floating for more than four hours Thursday after a mechanical problem with one of its thrusters. April Lawrence reports.

Ferry passengers from Pender Island found themselves stalled in the middle of the Salish Sea Thursday due to a mechanical issue.

“About 15 minutes into the trip you could hear something shut off and we were just kind of floating,” said passenger Lisa Prat.

A problem with the Salish Raven’s thruster made it unable to dock in Swartz Bay. Forced to wait for a tug boat to arrive, the 40-minute trip turning into a four-and-a-half hour ordeal for the 85 passengers.

Lisa Prat was heading to a medical appointment she had been waiting two months for.

“I had an appointment with my MS neurologist at the Jubilee hospital actually so I had to phone and explain I’m floating on a boat out here,” said Prat.

One woman reportedly missed a job interview and others missed work or connection to other ferries and flights.

“I have plans, I had plans to hit the Coho ferry at 4 p.m. I think we’re supposed to be through immigration at around 2 p.m. so it looks like I’m going to miss that trip,” said passenger Fiona Nay who is from Kaslo, B.C.

The Salish Raven is a fairly new member of the BC Ferries fleet arriving just two years ago. Yet this is the second time a malfunction has taken it out of service.

“Every mechanical moving part occasionally you are going to get a breakdown,” said BC Ferries Public Affairs Executive Director Deborah Marshall. “They’ve done hundreds or thousands of sailings altogether and we think they’re great ships.”

The ferry left Pender Island just after 9 a.m. and at about 1:30 p.m. a tug boat finally arrived to tow it to Swartz Bay.

Shortly after docking, dozens of vehicles and relieved passengers started rolling off.

“Frustrated but you know what can you do about it?” said passenger Yvonne Tabin.

But the saga wasn’t over for everyone. Prat drove right back into the ferry line up trying to get back home.

“The woman at the toll booth said they’re working on the boat we just got off of and as far as she knows that’s the only boat we’re going back on,” she said.

Technicians were able to solve the problem, and after sea trials, the Salish Raven was put back in service more than seven hours after its initial voyage began.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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