Oddly, we are somewhat reliant on BC Ferries. Given that BCF does not service our island and we are independent, relatively speaking, it is an odd thing to realize. But the reality is that traveling to the next island by car to catch the ferry to town is quicker, cheaper, safer and more efficient than going all the way around that next door island to get to town by way of our own boat.
We don’t need ém so much as want ém.
The ferry has a number of drawbacks, to be sure. In the summer, there is often a two sailing wait and that can get a bit tiresome. The fares go up. And up. And up. That, too, is pretty irritating given that the vessel is really very old (built in the early sixties), quite rusty and inadequately sized. And the trip is pretty short – only about fifteen minutes (I think we pay the most in the BCF system on a per minute or per mile basis). They work that puppy like the dickens, too, getting in a full round trip every hour. But it is still cheaper than going in by boat. It is still faster, too. And I can’t take my car in my own boat!
And you can’t fault the service. Well, I can. I am a constant critic of BCF’s main routes and I am sure I could find fault with a lot of things (trust me) but the crew of the ferry next door is really quite remarkable. They make up for everything that might otherwise prompt a complaint. They really try to do a good job and they are considerate of the traveling public at a personal level. They are even friendly!
The ticket ladies often have dog treats for anyone with a dog!
That has a lot to do with the fact that the crew live on the island they serve. They know everyone and everyone knows them. The most common gesture of a crewperson on our ferry is not the waving of traffic into lanes. It is the smile and the wave and the nod of the head to greet neighbours. It is kinda neat. Small town stuff.
Even Sal and I are now getting some waves and nods. After almost ten years here, we are starting to become part of the ‘frequent-floater community’.
I always seem to like the crew even tho the members do change somewhat. Now and then. Even the captains. But, somehow, they all manage to keep the island spirit and the complement of staff seem to deliver the same competent service in a uniquely friendly manner regardless of who is on deck or on the helm. Year after year.
Seriously, dude…the larger fleet could take a few lessons from our guys.
I mention all this because the current politics around the ferries is that the corporation is trying to focus on making money and they have had that focus for at least a decade. Without any success, I might add. They went that route at the urging of our business oriented political party (the Liberals).
Well, the ferry system has lost gobs of money in the last ten years despite hiking fares more than 100% and, of course, their fiscal incompetence is only indicative of the larger government’s long running debacle applying their special form of business inadequacy to build the public debt. These goofs have set the province back a huge step economically. And they have not been good for BCF.
The voice of protest (regarding BCF) for all this is coming from the public that wants the ferry system treated as an integral part of the larger ministry of transportation. Like in the old days. When it worked.
The public doesn’t pay tolls for bridges. They don’t pay tolls for tunnels or roads. And gazillions are spent trying to make individuals move like herds on mass transit in the cities. The system with which we move things around is a hugely subsidized one and so why isolate one integral part – the ferries – and make them ‘pay their own way’?
This argument is especially promulgated by the those 40% or so of the population that actually depend on ferries.
This is the stuff of high emotion. On both sides. This is the stuff that splits people. This is the only stuff, it seems, that gets citizens involved in the political process – an attack on their pocket book. Community halls are always filled with this kind of stuff.
And yet, it is not poisoning the experience of taking the ferry. Not up here, anyway. No one blames the crew. Hell, we all know the crew. We all like the crew. And they seem to like us. And so we pay the rates and watch the rust grow and see the madness in the system and yet still smile and wave to our friends and neighbours on the day shift.
Seriously, dude…the larger fleet (and government) could take a few lessons from our guys.