‘I wasn’t prepared to spend the night’: Ferry passengers voice frustrations after two dozen sailing cancellations

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Watch A major wind storm Friday left some BC Ferries passengers stranded and forced to book hotels or sleep in their vehicles. On Saturday those frustrations continued with sailing waits and lineups for most of the day. April Lawrence reports.

Nearly 24 hours after a wind storm brought BC Ferries travel to an almost complete halt, the lineups and sailing waits continued.

“When I got here there was a lineup like a mile away from the terminal, I thought that’s not good,” said Victoria resident Mark Reichert.

Traffic was so backlogged as a result of Friday’s storm BC Ferries added sailings Saturday at 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. out of Swartz Bay and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. out of Tsawwassen hoping to clear up some of the backed up traffic.

Vancouver contractor Robert Smid had been waiting almost 24 hours for a ferry and had to sleep in his van on the side of the road.

“There was no hotels available anywhere,” he said. “I came over here yesterday for an hour job, so of course I wasn’t prepared to spend the night.”

The winds came on strong mid-morning Friday, gusting up to 90 kilometres an hour in some parts of Vancouver. The 11 a.m. sailing out of Swartz Bay was cancelled and it was all downhill from there.

“We did have to cancel 25 sailings on our 3 major sailings, the bulk of those sailings were on our Swartz Bay – Tsawwassen route, we did actually cancel 14 sailings on that particular run,” said BC Ferries Public Affairs Executive Director Deborah Marshall.

They finally thought they were in the clear just before 8 p.m. Friday when the Spirit of Vancouver Island left Swartz Bay, but it only made it as far as Active Pass due to high winds.

“[We] sat there for three hours, then they turned around and came back, we got back off the ferry around 11:30 last night,” said Victoria resident Peter McArthur.

So McArthur got back in line Saturday morning to try again. He was trying to make it to Coquitlam for his niece’s wedding which started at 1 p.m. but was unlikely to make it to the ceremony.

“Well we’ll join them for the end of it,” he joked.

BC Ferries says Friday’s storm was unusually persistent, lasting for more than 12 hours. And making matters even worse, their fourth vessel is undergoing refit, so it can’t be called in to add extra sailings. But they say they will review and try to learn from this event.

“If any customer feels that we fell short we certainly apologize,” said Marshall.

Smid says this experience has turned him off the ferry system for good.

“I will never contribute to BC Ferries again, I’m done with them, I’ll fly,” Smid said.

 

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