Mayne Island ferry mishap knocks out service to Tsawwassen for at least a week

Repairs on the weather-weary Queen of Nanaimo will begin Wednesday, now that B.C. Ferries has been able to secure drydock space for the damaged vessel.

The ferry is expected to undergo repairs at Vancouver Drydock for at least a week, during which time sailings between Tsawwassen and the southern Gulf Islands will be cancelled.

That includes service to Saltspring, Saturna, Mayne, Galiano and Pender islands.

Strong winds blew the ferry into a private wharf from its berth on Mayne Island Saturday.

The preliminary assessment found damage to a propeller, propeller shaft and a portion of the hull, with no repair cost estimated.

Gulf Island business owners, including Conny Nordin of the Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa, are determined to get through the potentially tough times posed by the loss of Tsawwassen-based ferry service. Nordin, who also serves as president of the Galiano Island Chamber of Commerce, said much of her clientele comes from the Vancouver area via Tsawwassen

She said the coming Remembrance Day long weekend can be crucial for Gulf Island operations that stay open year-round.

“In our quiet season, or our ‘secret’ season as I call it from a marketing point of view, we depend on our weekends as our bread-and-butter getting through the winter,” she said. “A long weekend in November is what takes us through the month.”

She said B.C. Ferries dealt with some challenging weather conditions on the weekend.

“B.C. Ferries does try to do a very good job in recovery in those kinds of situations.”

Nordin likened losing ferry service to having a landslide blocking access to a community. There already have been cancellations at her inn, she said.

She noted that the southern Gulf Islands can still be reached via ferries from Swartz Bay, or by float plane.

B.C. Ferries is responding to the expected jump in long-weekend traffic to the southern Gulf Islands from Swartz Bay with added sailings, over and above the usual increases on long weekends.

On Friday, there will be an extra run at 12:45 p.m. from Swartz Bay to Pender and Mayne, as well as an added trip from Saltspring to Swartz Bay at 9:50 p.m. with a return trip at 11 p.m.

Saturday will have an extra trip from Swartz Bay to Pender and Mayne at 1:30 p.m.

In addition, Saturday and Sunday will see extra trips between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. There will be an 8 a.m. run out of Swartz Bay and one out of  Tsawwassen at 10 a.m. to help those transferring between the southern Gulf Islands and Tsawwassen at Swartz Bay.

Sailings have also been added for Monday, Nov. 11.

A suitable replacement ferry for the Queen of Nanaimo is not available because a number of vessels are going through refits, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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