The ferry system returned to normal early Monday morning (Feb. 2) with the arrival in Skidegate of the newly refitted Queen of the North, after more than a week with no ferry service between Skidegate and Prince Rupert.
Service was abruptly cut off Jan. 23 after the Queen of Prince Rupert developed a problem in its starboard gearbox, and had to be taken to Richmond for repairs. The vessel had already been scheduled for an extensive refit, and will not be returning to northern waters until mid-May.
The only other northern ferry, the Queen of the North, was in refit in Victoria, leaving the entire north coast with no ferry service until the QN arrived in Port Hardy Jan. 31.
Until then, BC Ferry Services Inc. chartered Hawkair to fly stranded passengers between the Charlottes and Prince Rupert, and hired a barge to bring freight to the islands.
Gord Nettleton, marine superintendent of northern service, said Hawkair made two round trips Monday and Thursday last week to carry passengers with ferry reservations. The 37-seat plane was not full on any of its trips. BC Ferries also arranged for nine passengers to fly from Rupert to Masset Monday on an Inland Air charter which was heading to the islands.
One barge loaded with freight arrived in Skidegate Wednesday morning (Jan. 28), Capt. Nettleton said.
Capt. Nettleton said the cost of all this was “not insignificant”, but did not want to reveal the exact amount.
“It’s the basic cost of doing business here,” he said. “It wasn’t cheap.”
And while some islanders have speculated that the Queen of the North – which will be covering the Skidegate-Rupert route for the next three months – is not as stable as the older Queen of Prince Rupert, Capt. Nettleton said that’s a myth. The two ships do move differently, he said, but face exactly the same weather restrictions when crossing Hecate Strait.
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