Wednesday, March 22, 2006

B.C. Ferries welcomes you aboard

You can bet next time I'm on a B.C. Ferry I'll be paying a lot more attention to that safety announcement with the news this morning that a ferry sailing the popular Prince Rupert/Port Hardy inside passage route sunk in the wee hours of the morning.

Reports are still sketchy but it appears all 102 passengers and crew are safe and accounted for, and the fact there doesn't appear to have been any fatalities is a minor miracle. While there are certainly no ice bergs up there, those aren't the warmest waters this time of year. Reports said the seas were choppy with winds gusting to 75 km.

Imagine being awoken at 2:00 am to be told your ferry is sinking. But it appears the ship sunk slowly, allowing everyone time to evacuate. No word yet on the cause, other than that the ship appears to have run aground. The CBC reported with the usual ship in for its annual refit a larger vessel was plying the route, which may be responsible for its running aground.

While living in Courtenay on Vancouver Island I regularly took the ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver, but I have also taken the Prince Rupert to Port Hardy route and it's just an amazing day-long trip, with beautiful scenery that makes it very popular with tourists in the summer.

We're a long ways from knowing what happened here but I really hope this accident doesn't hurt the route's popularity with tourists, as the route is a significant economic boom during the summer for Prince Rupert, and more so for the smaller community of Port Hardy, on Vancouver Island. A friend of mine owns a hotel in Port Hardy and she said she's always full in the summer the days the ferry comes and goes.

What we can say for now is good work to the B.C. ferries crew, Coast Guard and military personnel that responded to successfully rescue the passengers, and especially to the 200 people of the small village of Hartley Bay that heard the SOS of the ship and took to the waters in the middle of the night with their fishing trawlers and other boats to help rescue the passengers, and have taken them into their community centre.

Here's a bit from the CP story:

Shelby Robinson, 13, said the entire village of Hartley Bay, with about 200 residents, pitched in when the distress call came in.

"I stayed here to get ready for them when they came in, get blankets ready and everything," she said.

Robinson confirmed fishermen from the isolated village rushed out to help evacuate the sinking ferry.

"Most of the guys went out and got their boats running right away and they took people in by groups," she said.

It always warms the heart to hear stories like that.

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1 comment:

durable1 said...

The sinking of The Queen of the North,hmmmm, sounds like a ballad title.
It was the top of the National this morning when we heard about the news. This will have an economic effect on the Town of Port Hardy with a ripple effect all the way down the Island. The Queen of the North was a major part of the highway system from the north end of Vancouver Island to the north west reaches of the mainland, much more than a tourist attraction.
Who ever heard of Hartley Bay? only the fishing fleets and logging camps that work in the area but now a place everyone can look on Google earth. A reminder of the importance of these resource bases around our country.
Back to the morning coverage though, listing past incidents with BC Ferries. The small pleasure craft with owners who either are strangers to our waters or are not Power Squadron trained learn a hard lesson that the "BC Ferries have the right of way" and ply the coastal waters every day on the same routes, year in and year out.
David Hahn and his crew will have to come up with a replacement Ship quickly just to maintain the continuety of the route.
Who said anything about "Fast Cats"?

PS. Jeff, it is good to have you back even if it is TO.