Horseshoe Bay ferry lineup nears Hwy. 99 on hectic day of sailing cancellations

Many ferry passengers faced massive lineups and hours-long delays heading into the Canada Day long weekend after mechanical problems forced the Queen of Alberni out of service.

The issue resulted in eight sailing cancellations Thursday between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, where vehicles were backed up close to Highway 99 in the morning.

As the remaining departures quickly filled up, many drivers who arrived before noon were left hoping for a spot on the 6:15 p.m. sailing. 

Richard Baumet was one of the many passengers impacted by the cancellations, and waited more than five hours trying to get across the water.

"This morning, I was pretty stressed out because we're going to the island to take possession of a house we just got and we've got stuff to move," he said.

He tried to plan ahead and booked his tickets in advance, but was disappointed to find out his sailing was cancelled, which left him scrambling.

"I looked for options for Tsawwassen and elsewhere and everything's booked up," he said.

For some passengers, the ferry cancellations came as no surprise at all.

"Pretty much every year, something happens," said Alexander Hill. "That's why we get the assured boarding card at the beginning of every year. It costs an arm and a leg, but in situations like this, at least our vacation isn't ruined."

Some passengers kept a positive attitude, including Mitch Dermar, who encouraged travelers to remain patient.

"It would be awesome if (the cancellations) didn't happen," he said. "But we made a very conscious decision knowing about the cancellations this morning that we were going to go with the flow. And it's a beautiful day, there's worse places to be stuck than Horseshoe Bay."

BC Ferries said the mechanical issue involved the Queen of Alberni's piston assembly, and said it would require "critical machining to repair."

The vessel is expected to remain out of service throughout Canada Day as well, with six Friday sailings already cancelled between 7:40 a.m. and 7:20 p.m.

"Our engineering team continues to work diligently to resolve the issue," the company said in a statement.

"Though the repairs to the Queen of Alberni are significant, with a number of tests and trials remaining to ensure it is ready to sail, we anticipate it will resume service for its 7:40 a.m. sailing from Departure Bay on Saturday."

BC Ferries suggested passengers hoping to board at Horseshoe Bay or Departure Bay without a reservation on Thursday or Friday consider going on foot for a better chance of getting across.

"We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience you may experience as a result of these cancellations," the company said.

Even before the Queen of Alberni was pulled from service, BC Ferries was bracing for a hectic weekend, noting it was the first time in six years that Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day were bookending the same weekend. Earlier this week, the company recommended ride-sharing and walk-ons, and boarding either early in the morning or late at night, to avoid long waits.

Up-to-date information on sailing schedules and available space can be found on the BC Ferries website.

Cancelled sailings on Thursday, June 30:

7:40 a.m. out of Departure Bay
10:00 a.m. out of Horseshoe Bay
12:25 p.m. out of Departure Bay
2:45 p.m. out of Horseshoe Bay
5:00 p.m. out of Departure Bay
7:20 p.m. out of Horseshoe Bay
9:30 p.m. out of Departure Bay
11:40 p.m. out of Horseshoe Bay

Cancelled sailings on Friday, July 1:
7:40 a.m. out of Departure Bay
10:00 a.m. out of Horseshoe Bay
12:25 p.m. out of Departure Bay
2:45 p.m. out of Horseshoe Bay
5:00 p.m. out of Departure Bay
7:20 p.m. out of Horseshoe Bay 


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