BC Ferries passengers face long waits ahead of a long weekend

Many ferry passengers faced heavy queues and hours delays heading into the long Canada Day weekend after mechanical problems forced the Queen of Alberni out of service.

This problem resulted in the cancellation of eight sailings Thursday between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, as vehicles were backed up near Interstate 99 in the morning.

With the remaining flights filling up quickly, many of the drivers who had arrived before noon hoping for a spot left left for the 6:15 p.m. sailing.

Richard Bomet was one of the many passengers affected by the cancellation, and waited more than five hours trying to cross the water.

“This morning, I was so nervous that we’re going to the island to take over a house we just had and we’ve got things to move,” he said.

He tried to plan ahead and book his tickets in advance, but was disappointed when he found out that his sail had been cancelled, causing him to jog.

“I looked for options for Tsawwassen and other places and everything is booked up,” he said.

For some passengers, the ferry’s cancellation was not at all surprising.

“Something happens almost every year,” Alexander Hill said. “That’s why we get our guaranteed boarding pass at the beginning of every year. It costs an arm and a leg, but in situations like this, at least it doesn’t ruin our vacation.”

Some passengers maintained a positive attitude, including Mitch Dermar, who encouraged travelers to be patient.

“It would be great if (the cancellations) didn’t happen,” he said. “But we made a very conscious decision when we learned of the cancellations this morning that we’re going to go with the flow. It’s a beautiful day, there are worse places than Horseshoe Bay.”

BC Ferries said the mechanical issue was related to the Alberni Queen’s piston group, and said it would require “critical mechanical processing to repair”.

The ship is expected to remain out of service throughout Canada Day as well, with six sailings already canceled on Friday between 7:40 a.m. and 7:20 p.m.

“Our engineering team continues to work hard to resolve the issue,” the company said in a statement.

“Although the repairs to the Queen of Alberni are substantial, with a number of tests and trials remaining to ensure it is ready to sail, we expect service to resume to sail at 7:40 a.m. from the departure bay on Saturday.”

BC Ferries suggested passengers hoping to board Horseshoe Bay or Departure Bay without a reservation on a Thursday or Friday to consider going on foot for a better chance of crossing.

“We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience you may experience as a result of these cancellations,” the company said.

Even before the Queen Alberni was pulled out of service, BC Ferries had been preparing for a busy weekend, noting that it was the first time in six years that Canada Day and American Independence Day had been booked for the same weekend. Earlier this week, the company recommended sharing rides and walks, and boarding either early in the morning or late at night, to avoid long wait times.

The latest information on sailing schedules and available space can be found on the BC Ferries website.

Flights canceled on Thursday 30 June:

7:40 AM from Departure Bay
10:00 AM from Horseshoe Bay
12:25 PM from Departure Bay
2:45 pm from Horseshoe Bay
5:00 PM from Departure Bay
7:20 PM from Horseshoe Bay
9:30 PM from Departure Bay
11:40 PM from Horseshoe Bay

Flights canceled on Friday 1 July:
7:40 AM from Departure Bay
10:00 AM from Horseshoe Bay
12:25 PM from Departure Bay
2:45 pm from Horseshoe Bay
5:00 p.m. outside Departure Bay
7:20 PM from Horseshoe Bay

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