Ferry passengers again facing hours-long waits at Horseshoe Bay

There was more frustration for BC Ferries passengers at the Horseshoe Bay terminal Friday, with some waits extending upwards of five hours at the outset of the long weekend.

The hectic conditions were the result of mechanical problems on the Queen of Alberni, which forced the vessel out of service this week and led to several cancelled departures during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

With six cancellations out of Horseshoe Bay on Canada Day, travellers who arrived at the terminal at around 10:30 a.m. without a reservation were left hoping for a spot on the 3:55 p.m. departure.

Conditions were similar on Thursday, when many drivers waited hours on end hoping to make it to Vancouver Island for the weekend. Among them was Richard Baumet, who tried to plan ahead by making a reservation, only to learn his sailing was cancelled due to the Queen of Alberni's engine troubles.

"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," Baumet told CTV News from the ferry lineup.

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

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 be back in service on Saturday morning.

The company suggested passengers hoping to board at Horseshoe Bay or Departure Bay in Nanaimo Friday without a booking 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," BC Ferries said in a statement.

Even before the Queen of Alberni was pulled from service, the company was bracing for a chaotic holiday, noting it was the first time in six years that Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day were bookending the weekend.

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

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tahmina Aziz 

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