B.C. Marine Shipbuilders Ltd.
is a special vessel in the BC Ferries fleet. She is the shortest ferry, at just under 34 meters. She has the lowest car capacity (16 - tied with the
) and passenger capacity (133). She also is one of the most well-travelled ferries in the fleet, despite being only used for a relief vessel in recent years. The
has served on routes ranging from places like Nanaimo, Bella Coola, and Cortes Island. She has three sister ships that still operate on the coast, but not as part of the BC Ferry fleet: the
Albert J. Savoie
, and the
. The latter vessel could be returning to BC Ferries in early 2006.
Your best chance of seeing the
would be to take the ferry from Powell River to Blubber Bay, Texada Island. The
is tied up at Blubber Bay for much of the year, alongside the
. However, the
is often used as a relief vessel on minor routes, especially in the winter time when ferries are most likely to go in for maintenance and refits. She is the main relief vessel on the Heriot Bay (Quadra Island) - Whaletown (Cortes Island) route, replacing the
when needed. She can also be sometimes found as a replacement vessel on the Denman Island - Hornby Island route and the Port McNeill - Sointula - Alert Bay route. On busier routes, the
will sometimes run alongside another relief vessel during busy times when the larger regular vessel is out of service.
At other times, the
will be called up to the north coast when the
Queen of Prince Rupert
is out of service. The
connects some of the remote coastal communities with the
Queen of the North
on the regular Inside Passage run.
As you can see from the photo, the
is a very small ferry. There are three lanes for vehicle traffic. Only the center lane can handle over height traffic. Over both of the outside lanes there are small seating areas and some outside deck space. There are washrooms aboard, but not much else. Imagine a 6 hour trip on this ferry! Some of the trips the
makes along the north coast do take this long.
is powered by a two engines providing the ferry with 680 horsepower and a service speed of around 10 knots. For emergencies, the ship is equipped with life rafts and a rescue boat, located aft on the single passenger deck. For servicing the smaller northern communities that don't have conventional ferry loading docks, the
was reportedly outfitted with a stern loading ramp in 2006.
Built in 1973, the
was immediately placed on the "Nimpkish" route by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways. The ferry replaced the passenger-only
between Port McNeill, Sointula (Malcolm Island), and Alert Bay (Cormorant Island). The
was the first vehicle ferry on the route which had been established 7 years earlier. She only lasted 6 years on the route. In 1979, the Island Highway was finally completed between Sayward and Port McNeill, increasing the demand for a ferry with a larger vehicle capacity. The
was replaced by the
The same year, the
was moved to the Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) - Cortes Island (Whaletown). In 1985 the
, along with all of the Ministry of Transportation and Highways coastal assets, was transferred to BC Ferries. She continued on the Cortes route after the transition up until 1994.
In 1994, the
had grown too small for the route, and really, had grown too small to operate as a regular vessel on any route.
From then on, she has operated as a relief vessel on a number of different minor routes. For two weeks in the summer of 2000, the
ran alongside the
on the Gabriola Island - Nanaimo route while the
was in for emergency repairs.
From early March to early June 2006, the
was again placed on the north coast to connect some of the remote coastal communities with the
Queen of the North
on the Inside Passage route. The small ferry connected communities such as Shearwater, Ocean Falls, Klemtu, and Bella Coola, to McLoughlin Bay where the
Queen of the North
stopped en-route between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert.
Origin of Name
ferry is named after the river and lake which are located near Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. The name is also applied to the 'Namgis First Nations who are the original inhabitants of the same area and today mainly reside in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island ("Nimpkish Lake,"
Encyclopedia of British Columbia
.). According to Frank Clapp, the name is "derived from an Indian word for a mythical fish like a halibut" (79).
For Further Reading
Ministry of Transportation and Highways: Inland and Coastal Ferries.
Victoria: Province of British Columbia, 1981. Also 1978 and 1991 editions.