‘To show our gratitude’: Alberni Inlet ferry service letting passengers ride for free this December

'To show our gratitude': Alberni Inlet ferry service letting passengers ride for free this December

This season of giving, a ferry service sailing through scenic Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island is offering rides for free or by donation all December long. 

Lady Rose Marine Services operates the MV Frances Barkley and, instead of charging customers next month, will let them hop aboard at no charge while also collecting donations for two local, Alberni Valley-based charities — the Ty Watson House and the Salvation Army.

The feat comes in an effort to give back to those who have supported Lady Rose through the years, especially after it almost closed for good in August 2021, according to the company.

“We wanted to find a way to give back to show our gratitude to the community and to support these two very worthy charities that do so much for the people of the Alberni Valley,” Greg Willmon, owner of Lady Rose, said in a release Wednesday.

The longtime ferry service — which, since 1946, has been delivering services, tourists and goods to remote communities, including the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla — looked all but sunk after its previous owners announced it would go out of business after falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, at the eleventh hour, Devon Transport Ltd., which Willmon owns, bought Lady Rose and saved the historic means of transportation without service interruption and retaining the entire ferry team.

READ ALSO: Lady Rose rescued from shutdown after buyer purchases Island ferry service

In addition to collecting donations from ferrygoers this holiday season, the company says it will match contributions up to a maximum of $5,000 — something it calls “a small gesture.”

Ty Watson House has provided hospice care and extended respite stays since 2008, while the local Salvation Army offers support to the area’s most vulnerable through social and community service programs.

“Creating an opportunity for passengers to donate to these commendable causes through the sailings seemed like a small gesture Lady Rose…could do to help fundraise for these organizations and give back to the community in a meaningful way,” it said, noting both charities contribute “tremendously” to the fabric of the Alberni Valley.

The MV Frances Barkley operates year-round with sailings departing Port Alberni every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 a.m. Passengers enjoy a three-and-a-half-hour ride through the Inlet and Sound, with an approximate one-hour stopover in West Bamfield, the company adds.

With files from CHEK News

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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