Ferry travel not just challenging, but infuriating

Masset Tidings by Margo Hearne: Ferry travel is challenging. There are weather glitches, breakdowns and refits.

  • Mar. 30, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Ferry travel is challenging. There are weather glitches, breakdowns and refits. The Northern Expedition leaves for its spring refit this week and the Northern Adventure returns for the summer. These past few sailing weeks have been particularly stressful. We had business in Prince Rupert and planned to return last Thursday. When we arrived at the terminal to catch the sailing to Skidegate with the rest of the passengers (before 8 am to catch the 10 am) we were told that the ferry ‘might be cancelled due to weather and to wait for an announcement within the next 20 minutes. B.C. Ferries staff were on a conference call and we’d find out soon.’

Within the alloted time BC Ferries staff called out to us from behind the desk that the ferry was cancelled and the next run would be on Sunday night. We had to re-book for Sunday if we wanted to get home or there might not be room for us. Well, every coastal person understands that ships don’t sail into the teeth of a storm, but why couldn’t the sailing take place when the wind went down – as it did the next day.

No. That wasn’t going to happen. There was a scheduled sailing to Port Hardy, and that, apparently, takes precedence over any island sailing. So what compensation was being offered to cover three extra nights lodging in town? Who help find us accommodation, everyone had checked out of their hotel. Who was going to assist those who had medical, family and work reasons to be back on Haida Gwaii? Was the Service going to compensate for lost work time? We had tickets booked and paid for. We had legal rights. Why was the sailing not simply delayed rather than cancelled. In the past, that was what generally happened. The passengers were boarded and we waited out the weather. That was when we had service, before BC Ferries Service took over.

We contacted the company with regard to some compensation for three extra days and nights in Prince Rupert but received a message on our answering machine apologizing for not letting us know in advance that the ferry would be canceled. We had no apology for the cancellation, nor any offer of compensation. We contacted our MLA Jennifer Rice and our MP Nathan Cullen. A note from our MLA just received:  “I hope that you were able to make it home safely and uneventfully last Sunday. Thank you for taking the time to come in to the constituency office as well as writing an email to outline your concerns regarding last Thursday’s ferry cancellation.

“Your email has been forwarded to the office of Claire Trevena, MLA for North Island, and Opposition Spokesperson for BC Ferries.

“It  may interest you to know that just this morning we learned that today’s sailing to Skidegate has been cancelled as well, with the next sailing being Sunday March 6. Jennifer has been notified as well as Claire Trevena’s office and we will be keeping an eye on the situation.

“Again, thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns, we appreciate hearing from constituents about BC Ferries services, and lack of, here on the North Coast.”

Nothing will change unless we do something. A good start would be to contact the Minister of Transport, Todd Stone (Minister.Transportation@gov.bc.ca) our MLA Jennifer Rice (jennifer.rice.mla@leg.bc.ca) and, as the Province receives Federal funding for the “Service” contact Nathan Cullen, MP in Ottawa to try to find out where the money is going and why things are such a mess.