Northern Adventure returns to islands on Thursday

  • May. 11, 2009 1:00 p.m.

by Alex Rinfret–The Northern Adventure should be carrying passengers and freight to the islands by Thursday, says BC Ferries, after engineers began installing a new bearing in one of the vessel’s two engines. Sailings have been suspended since late last Thursday due to the engine trouble. The Northern Adventure’s port shaft bearing disintegrated during the Thursday afternoon crossing to Skidegate, leaving the vessel to limp across Hecate Strait with just one engine. Spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the company found a new bearing in Vancouver and flew it up to Prince Rupert Monday morning, where the Northern Adventure is now docked. Engineers were planning to spend Monday night installing the bearing and checking the shaft alignment, she said. If all goes well, the Northern Adventure will sail to Port Hardy on Tuesday. A barge carrying nine drop trailers filled with groceries and other freight arrived at Skidegate Monday afternoon, Ms Marshall said. The ferry breakdown affected many islanders and visitors, including 12 teenage athletes from Queen Charlotte Secondary who had been looking forward to a weekend track and field meet in Prince Rupert. Coach Neal Currie said the team had been training three times a week for the past two months for the annual meet in Rupert, which the Queen Charlotte team has competed at for the past two years. “Now, our only meet this year is the zone championship on May 22-23, if we make it,” Mr. Currie said. “And since competition is the best training, we won’t be as prepared for the zones as we normally would be.” Mr. Currie said the students were “very mad and upset” about the abrupt cancellation of the trip, while he had concerns about the flow of information. The coach said BC Ferries called him at home at about 8:30 pm on Thursday to tell him the sailing would be delayed, and told him to call back for more information in an hour. “They did not pick up the phone after that, and the toll-free number was completely useless for getting any information,” he said. “I ended up having to drive down to the terminal to get any information at all.” At the terminal, he was told mechanics were coming and that he should call the toll-free number after 10 am Friday to find out when the ferry would be sailing. “Calling back after 10 am was also useless, as no information was available,” he said. I found out through parents of the students that were supposed to be travelling that the ferry was going back empty and we weren’t going to make it.” For Sue Brown of Jags Beanstalk in Skidegate, the entire incident has been a “nightmare” which has left her worried that her garden store won’t be able to get plants delivered in the future. Ms Brown had ordered a huge assortment of bedding plants and hanging baskets from a nursery in Houston. The plants arrived on the Thursday ferry in the nursery’s specially-designed truck and trailer – but the breakdown meant the truck and trailer couldn’t get back to Rupert as planned for Friday morning. The vehicle is still parked in Skidegate, and the owner is losing thousands of dollars worth of business because of it, Ms Brown said. “I was just in a pickle,” Ms Brown said. “This is a custom vehicle… That truck had $80,000 worth of plants to deliver next weekend.” BC Ferries told Ms Brown at one point that it might be able to take the truck and trailer back to Rupert when the Northern Adventure headed back there on Friday for repairs. She was waiting to hear more about that when she looked out her window and saw the ferry heading across the strait. The barge was not an option because the salt spray can damage the vehicle, she said. Ms Brown let the truck driver and his wife stay at her house and booked them on a floatplane from Masset to Prince Rupert. They then had to take a bus from Rupert to Houston. The total cost came to more than $1,000 and Ms Brown paid for it all. She’s going to submit the receipts to BC Ferries, which says it considers claims like this on a “case by case” basis and has no set policy. Ms Brown said this is the third year in a row the Houston nursery has had trouble delivering plants to Haida Gwaii, and she’s worried that he won’t want to make the trip again. She was also wondering why BC Ferries had decommissioned the Queen of Prince Rupert, leaving it with no backup vessel for a situation like this. “Something’s got to be done here, this is crazy,” she said. She called provincial candidates Gary Coons and Herb Pond to explain her predicament, and both got right back to her. “Gary Coons actually called me personally,” she said. “Then from the Liberal office, a lady got back to me…. Both of them did get back to me within three hours. BC Ferries never called us.” Ms Marshall said BC Ferries apologizes to all customers who were affected and who could not get information.