Thursday sailings cancelled, Ferry to leave Friday morning

  • Aug. 6, 2008 7:00 a.m.

BC Ferries has quietly changed the sailing schedule between the islands and Prince Rupert, taking away the regular Thursday night sailing as of Oct. 1. Instead, the ferry will leave Skidegate Friday mornings at 6 am, arriving in Prince Rupert at 1 pm, for much of the winter season. However, the schedule changes slightly during the first week of November, when the ferry leaves Skidegate Friday at 11 am, and for the month between Nov. 19 and Dec. 20, when the ferry leaves Skidegate on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. The departure time from Rupert on Thursdays changes to 4:30 pm for most of the winter, arriving in Skidegate at 11:30 pm. The usual Monday and Tuesday sailings are unchanged for most of the winter season, with the ferry leaving Rupert late Sunday and Monday nights, and leaving Skidegate at 11 am Mondays and 10 am Tuesdays. On April 1, 2009, the schedule changes back to the traditional one, with a Thursday night sailing leaving Skidegate at one minute before midnight, as well as the regular Monday and Tuesday morning departures. BC Ferries did not return our phone calls about the schedule change before our deadline this week, but Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha had also been asking questions and received some information. Ms Kulesha, a member of the BC Ferries advisory committee for the northern routes, said she knew nothing about the schedule change until a concerned resident contacted her last week. She said BC Ferries gave her a couple of reasons for the change, although there may be more. The first one is that the Queen of Prince Rupert’s schedule had to change to coordinate with the Alaska ferry, which will be using the BC Ferries dock in Prince Rupert while its dock is undergoing renovations this winter. There will also be dock renovations happening in Skidegate at some point. BC Ferries also told her that it has changed the length of the expected crossing time to seven hours from six hours in hopes of improving its on-time performance, and that this is part of the reason for the schedule change. Ms Kulesha said she has already emailed a reply to BC Ferries letting it know she is not happy with a 6 am departure from Skidegate. If the ferry leaves at six, it means passengers need to be at the terminal between 4 am and 4:30 am, which is inconvenient enough and even worse for north-end residents, who will have to leave their homes at 2:30 am or 3 am. Also, the 1 pm arrival in Prince Rupert does not really leave enough time for a passenger to make a medical appointment in Terrace, given the fact that the ferry takes a while to unload and the drive can take two hours in the winter. “I let him know that I wasn’t very happy and that we needed further discussion,” Ms Kulesha said. She said it is understandable that there will be some schedule changes necessary as docks are rebuilt, but she was surprised at the lack of consultation before the new winter schedule was released on the BC Ferries website. Meanwhile, Ms Kulesha said she has asked several questions about the winter schedule and is waiting for answers from BC Ferries. The next ferry advisory committee meeting will be held in mid-September, she said.