Official No: 0347770
Place Built: Vancouver, BC
Builder: B.C. Marine Shipbuilders Ltd.
Year Built: 1973
Overall Length: 33.93 m
Length: 31.00 m
Breadth: 12.53 m
Gross Tons: 266
Service Speed: 10 knots
The Nimpkish 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 Mill Bay) 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 Nimpkish 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 Nicola, Albert J. Savoie, and the Garibaldi II. The latter vessel could be returning to BC Ferries in early 2006.
Your best chance of seeing the Nimpkish would be to take the ferry from Powell River to Blubber Bay, Texada Island. The Nimpkish is tied up at Blubber Bay for much of the year, alongside the Tachek. However, the Nimpkish 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 Tenaka 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 Nimpkish will sometimes run alongside another relief vessel during busy times when the larger regular vessel is out of service.
At other times, the Nimpkish will be called up to the north coast when the Queen of Prince Rupert is out of service. The Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish makes along the north coast do take this long.
The Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish was reportedly outfitted with a stern loading ramp in 2006.
History Built in 1973, the Nimpkish was immediately placed on the "Nimpkish" route by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways. The ferry replaced the passenger-only Sointula Queen between Port McNeill, Sointula (Malcolm Island), and Alert Bay (Cormorant Island). The Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish was replaced by the Tenaka.
The same year, the Nimpkish was moved to the Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) - Cortes Island (Whaletown). In 1985 the Nimpkish, 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 Tenaka replaced the Nimpkish again. The Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish ran alongside the Kahloke on the Gabriola Island - Nanaimo route while the Quinsam was in for emergency repairs.
From early March to early June 2006, the Nimpkish 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 Nimpkish - The Nimpkish 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
Clapp, Frank. Ministry of Transportation and Highways: Inland and Coastal Ferries. Victoria: Province of British Columbia, 1981. Also 1978 and 1991 editions.