Editorial: Life on the coast

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The famous quote above, most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, is often repeated and rarely added to. Both are certain, of course, except for individuals who choose not to pay their taxes and die before authorities catch up with them. They are the lucky ones, sort of.

Here is another certainty that can be tacked onto that quote, at least for those living on the coast of British Columbia: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and general unhappiness with BC Ferries.”

A cancelled round-trip sailing from Little River to Westview Terminal in Powell River on Saturday, August 10, left travellers stuck on both sides of the Georgia Strait. BC Ferries explained that an illness to a crewmember and a subsequent, unsuccessful search for a replacement led to the cancelled runs. The result left people hoping to get home or continue on their journey scrambling for accommodations and food options while waiting for the next sailing the following day.

The publicly owned company and its employees are often the target of disgruntled travellers when ferries break down or service is deemed unsatisfactory, but in this case, the action taken by BC Ferries is defensible.

Was it an unfortunate situation? Yes. Would the average person be irate to hear they would not be making it to their destination at the scheduled time? Of course.

However, Transport Canada regulations were followed. The ferry could not run without replacing that crewmember. It was a safety sensitive position, according to BC Ferries.

Does anyone want to travel in unsafe conditions? What if an incident occurs and someone gets hurt? The blowback for cancelling the sailings would be nothing compared to the onslaught directed at BC Ferries if the ship sailed and ran into trouble while disobeying Transport Canada rules. Those calling for the company to “just sail anyway” would be the ones likely demanding that heads roll.

Here is some advice for ferry travellers: Never expect to arrive at your destination at the scheduled time. Breakdowns happen, emergencies arise, and employees get sick; it is unavoidable. Always pack some snacks or a meal, especially at terminals where amenities are lacking (Little River, Saltery Bay, et cetera), keep a blanket or two in the trunk and have plenty or reading/viewing/listening material on hand, or in mobile device.

It doesn’t matter how many people are trained, or how many backup vessels they have, situations that complicate travel will inevitably arise. That isn’t just a fact of life on the coast, that’s just life in general.

 
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