Queen of Nanaimo

Official No: 0320068
Place Built: Victoria, BC
Builder: Victoria Machinery Depot
Year Built: 1963
Vehicles: 192
Passengers: 1,130
Crew: 33
Overall Length: 129.97 m
Breadth: 23.20 m
Gross Tons: 4,938.75
Service Speed: 16 knots
Horsepower: 6,000


The Queen of Nanaimo is the main ferry year-round on the scenic Tsawwassen - Southern Gulf Islands route. She has one sister ship, the Queen of Burnaby , which operates on the Powell River - Comox route. The ferry was on of the first to be painted in the new BC Ferries colors when the company was semi-privatized in April of 2003.


Based in Long Harbour, Saltspring Island, the Queen of Nanaimo usually makes two round trips per day to Tsawwassen, stopping at Pender, Mayne, and Galiano islands each way. In the summer, the ferry sometimes makes an extra round trip without stopping at the other islands. Although often busy and behind schedule, taking a trip on the Nanaimo is a great way to see some of the Gulf Islands and the beautiful scenery on the south coast.

The size of the passenger area on the Queen of Nanaimo is about the same as the V-class vessels (for example the Queen of Saanich ), but the Nanaimo's registered passenger capacity is smaller so there is usually plenty of room on the ferry. Inside, there is a cafeteria, gift shop, washrooms, elevators, and large lounges on both passenger decks. There is also plenty of room outside on both levels. Outside on the main passenger deck, one can walk around the front of the ferry for a great view of where the ferry is going.

The Queen of Nanaimo is powered by two diesel engines producing a combined 6,000 horsepower. The engines turn two propellers, both located at the stern of the vessel. With only one bridge at the bow of the vessel, the ferry often has to turn around and back into the dock to enable cars to drive directly on and off.

The evacuation system on the Queen of Nanaimo consists of 4 stations (two on each side) on the main passenger deck. Each station deploys a slide, taking evacuees to water level to board life rafts. In addition, the ferry carries two rescue boats on the passenger deck level.


The Queen of Nanaimo was the seventh of fourteen vessels built for BC Ferries between 1959 and 1965. Her inaugural run happened on June 4th, 1964, six month and a day after being launched from the Victoria Machinery Depot. These new ferries were built following the success of the new BC Ferry service between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay and the take-over of Black Ball Ferries on the Horseshoe Bay - Nanaimo route and Sunshine Coast routes. In the late 1960's, most of BC Ferries' larger vessels including the Queen of Nanaimo had platform decks installed on the car deck to increase capacity by about 40 cars.

The Queen of Nanaimo was the last of 7 ferries to undergo a stretching operation where a 25 meter mid-section was added to the ferry. The ship was cut in half and the mid-section put in place at Burrard Drydock in early 1974. At the same time, the passenger areas of the ferry were improved with new furnishings, a new restaurant, dining room, and newsstand, and an outdoor solarium on the upper passenger deck. In 1974, the Queen of Nanaimo was based out of Horseshoe Bay, sailing on the Departure Bay (Nanaimo) route.

Vehicle Capacity
Passenger Capacity
Length (m)
Gross Tons



An anthrax scare aboard the Queen of Nanaimo on October 15, 2001 shut down the ferry for the day. A cashier found a white powdery substance in a roll of coins aboard the ferry before the first sailing of the day out of Long Harbour, Saltspring Island. Seven employees were tested for anthrax exposure after the incident, but it was found that the substance was harmless. This scare should be understood in the context of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001 and the following fears of anthrax poisoning and other forms of terrorist attacks.

Today, and for the past several years, the Queen of Nanaimo has been the main boat on the Tsawwassen - Southern Gulf Islands run. Although scheduled to be retired around 2005 or 2006 (according to the 2003 BC Ferries Coastal Ferry Services Contract), the Queen of Nanaimo underwent a major $14 million refit at the end of 2005 to extend its life for several more years. During the refit, the ferry's interior was stripped and refurnished with new lights, carpets, and chairs. The cafeteria, gift shop, and washrooms were also extensively renovated. The ship's engine was also overhauled, steel plating replaced, fire system improved, and a new evacuation system was installed. The ferry was out between September 2005 and mid-January 2006.

Origin of Name

Queen of Nanaimo - Named after the city of Nanaimo, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The name "Nanaimo" comes from the name of the local aboriginal people, the "Snuneymuxw." The area was settled in 1852 by the Hudson's Bay Company. Nanaimo was a coal town for almost 100 years, before developing into a regional commercial center, a port, and the second largest city on the Island. . ("Nanaimo" - Encyclopedia of British Columbia ).

For Further Reading

Bannerman, Gary and Patricia. The Ships of British Columbia . Surrey: Hancock House Publishers, 1985.

Favelle, Peter. The Queens of British Columbia: a detailed account of the ships in the B.C. Ferry fleet . North Vancouver: Discovery Magazine, 1974.

Griffiths, Garth, and H.L. Cadieux. Dogwood Fleet . Nanaimo: Cadieux and Griffiths, 1967.

About This Site - Contact: - Last updated on October 30, 2006

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