Islanders complain of poor communications with Ferries, after Kwuna sailings cancelled

  • Feb. 25, 2011 3:00 p.m.

by Alex Rawlings–Strong northeast winds forced the cancellation of the Kwuna sailings and left dozens of islanders stranded for more than 24 hours Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 23 and 24). Winds and waves forced the captain of the Kwuna to delay, then cancel all but two of the scheduled round trip sailings between Skidegate and Alliford Bay. Although sailings have been cancelled before because of severe weather, it’s not often, according to Deborah Marshall of BC Ferries, that they are delayed for so long. The length of the delay has left some islanders questioning contingency plans.”It was definitely a pain. I was on the 3:40 from Sandspit on Wednesday when they attempted to make a crossing,” said Queen Charlotte resident Archie Bonneau, “it was pretty ugly out there…it’s not a very good system when the weather is bad, it was a real inconvenience, I would have liked to be at home,” he said.Another Queen Charlotte resident, Jackie Decembrini, noted that getting information was not easy.”It was not cool. Getting information from BC Ferries was tough, there needs to be a better back-up plan…we need a better system, especially if something goes wrong,” she said. “People got stuck on the Charlotte side too,” she said, “they were supposed to fly and ended forfeiting their tickets because the ferry sailed early and no one knew.””When you fly you take the 1:00 pm ferry, when I got there they turned me around because it had already left and it was 12:40 pm,” said Fran Fowler of Queen Charlotte who missed her flight Thursday. “It almost cost me $414 more to re-book my flights for the next day. This is a problem that can be easily solved, I think.”According to Ferries, the Kwuna departed from Skidegate at 12:10 pm Thursday rather than the scheduled 1:00 pm. It was then tied up in Alliford Bay for the next several hours and did not resume regular sailings until 7:00 pm. Thursday evening.”We try to get the word out,” said Ms Marshall, “and we appreciate that it’s difficult, especially in Sandspit because we have no staff (there), but we do our best,” she said. She also said winds on Wednesday were up to 40 knots in the early afternoon, and next morning reached as much as 45 knots with two to three metre seas.Archie Bonneau said that for people without cell phones or vehicles, the current system is not appropriate.”I was quite surprised to see my friend show up on Thursday afternoon, she had been stuck on the Charlotte side,” he said. “We didn’t know the ferry had sailed and we still had to wait for the 7:00 pm ferry…you know, what are we supposed to do? Run down to the terminal every time there is supposed to be a sailing? That’s ridiculous.”Not all passengers were so disappointed.”I got off my flight and headed to the ferry terminal only to see the crew unloading the 3:40 pm load-up, and we were told that the sailing had been cancelled,” said Deb Uliana, who was stranded in Sandspit. “I am happy that (BC Ferries) is paying attention to new guidelines and being safe, they aren’t taking risks. I respect the captain’s call for safety.” “We were treated really well by local ferries. The community really came together, we had dinner at the golf course, they were great about feeding all of us,” she said.