Salish Raven filling in on Salt Spring ferry route

A mid-life upgrade will require B.C. Ferries to replace the Skeena Queen with the Queen of Cumberland on the route between Salt Spring Island and Swartz Bay.

The switch will happen Monday and be effective until the middle of March next year.

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The Skeena Queen, built in 1997, has capacity for 92 vehicles. The vessel will get new furniture, air conditioning, expanded customer washrooms and additional benches on the exterior deck, while the navigation, communication and electrical systems will be improved during the refit, being done at B.C. Ferries’ facility in Richmond.

The Queen of Cumberland, which will in turn be replaced on its regular Swartz Bay to Southern Gulf Islands route by the Salish Raven, can accommodate as many as 112 vehicles when both of its ramps are being used to offer a second level of parking on board.

Due to time constraints and the fact over-height and commercial vehicles cannot be loaded underneath the ramps, B.C. Ferries expects it will only be able to use one ramp, giving the vessel a 94-vehicle capacity.

B.C. Ferries expects the ramp will be used to fit as many vehicles as possible during busy morning sailings out of Fulford Harbour and busy afternoon sailings out of Swartz Bay.

The Queen of Cumberland also has some features the Skeena does not, such as an elevator to provide access to the second level lounge and a Coast Café Express.

The Queen of Cumberland will be leaving that route for a short period during the holiday season, as it will be deployed to the Swartz Bay-Southern Gulf Islands route between Dec. 20 and Jan. 1.

It will be replacing the Salish Raven during that time, which will be used as a supplemental vessel between Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands due to forecasted traffic increases.

The Bowen Queen will replace the Queen of Cumberland on the Swartz Bay-Salt Spring Island route during that period.

Because the Bowen Queen loads and transits faster than the Queen of Cumberland, it will be able to make two additional round trips per day on the Swartz Bay-Salt Spring Island route, so the maximum number of customers can be accommodated.

However, the Bowen Queen only has capacity for 61 vehicles so travellers are warned they may experience longer lineups.

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