It was meant to be a moment to bid a fond farewell, a cherished adieu but, in the end, the old Queen ignominiously hobbled her way into retirement having died, unable to complete her last voyage.
As the Powell River Queen limped into Quathiaski Cove ferry terminal on Quadra Island Jan. 17, a retirement celebration was already underway for the 58-year-old car ferry. Cake had been served, coffee cups were being filled and community members had dropped by to say their goodbyes to the faithful old vessel.
The plan was for the Powell River Queen to pull into the “Q Cove” terminal on its regular 3:30 p.m. trip from Campbell River. Then after two more back-and-forth sailings to and from the Campbell River terminal the old vessel was to be motored off to Buckley Bay to await a final move into the hands of whoever bought the surplus old gal and whatever was planned for its final years.
But after a while, the 4 p.m. trip – a dangerous cargo sailing not open to the public – still hadn’t left Q Cove and drivers hoping to catch the 5 p.m. sailing started lining up.
Eventually, ferry customers were told about a mechanical issue with the Powell River Queen and that ferry service had been interrupted and wouldn’t be restored until initially, 8 p.m. but that was revised to 7 p.m. later.
Meanwhile, BC Ferries quickly pressed into service the Island K’ulut’a, one of the two Island Class hybrid vessels BC Ferries had commissioned to replace the Powell River Queen. The K’ulut’a was to be joined by her sister ship, the Island Nagalis and both were on hand awaiting the launch of their careers.
Both vessels took over the route on Wednesday, Jan. 18, providing two-ship service with 11 more round trips and reducing weather-related cancellations, wait times and congestion on local roads as well as providing more dependable operation. The replacement vessels are an improvement in service residents of Quadra and Cortes islands have been demanding for years.
The Powell River Queen’s final day provided the kind of randomly-occurring delay island residents have learned to live with. It’s a tenet of island life that you just have to accept ferry delays – part of that quintessential laissez-faire attitude bucolic island life engenders.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said it was coupling failure that resulted in suspension of the Powell River Queen’s service. Normally, the vessel can operate on three of its four engines in favourable conditions but on Tuesday afternoon the winds were quite high so for safety reasons BC Ferries had to suspend operation with that ship.
“We certainly apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this situation may have caused,” she said. “The new two-ship operation started yesterday (Jan. 18) and we are pleased to provide our customers with greater capacity and more frequent service.”
Meanwhile, the old Queen limped into retirement with her reputation a little tarnished but undiminished after a long career on B.C. waters. And besides, the love and affection demonstrated by the community and her past crew members at her farewell party will sustain her in her retirement years and easily eclipse her hapless final day.