Queen of Saanich

Official No: 0318669
Place Built: Victoria, BC
Builder: Victoria Machinery Depot
Year Built: 1962
Years Rebuilt: 1972, ?
Vehicles: 360
Passengers: 1,672
Crew: 36
Overall Length: 129.9 m
Length: 122.22 m
Breadth: 23.20 m
Gross Tons: 9,301.65
Service Speed: 18.5 knots
Horsepower: 8,941


The Queen of Saanich is the main relief ferry on the Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay route. At over 40 years of age, she is one of the oldest major ferries in the fleet. The Saanich is classed as a V-class (Victoria Class) vessel, making her a sister ship to the Queen of Vancouver , Queen of Esquimalt , and the former Queen of Victoria . Since the Queen of Saanich is the "third" vessel on BC Ferries busiest route, she has more amenities than her two sister ships.


Your best chance of catching a ride on the Queen of Saanich is by taking the ferry between Tsawwassen and Victoria on a busy day. The Saanich is the "third" vessel on BC Ferries busiest route after the two Spirit-class vessels. As the third vessel, she is most likely to be used as the extra sailing (usually on an even hour departure) or as a replacement vessel if one of the Spirit ships is out. The Queen of Saanich has also filled in as a relief vessel on the Duke Point - Tsawwassen route.

Onboard the Queen of Saanich you will find numerous places to sit and, depending on the season, a number of places to eat as well. In addition to the regular cafeteria and snack bar, the Saanich also has the "Upper Deck Restaurant." Like the Spirit-class ships, the Queen of Saanich also has a Passages Gift Shop, the White Spot Triple "O" menu in the cafeteria, and work/study stations. There are two passenger decks on the ship. The main forward lounge, gift shop, cafeteria, and coffee shop are all on the main passenger deck. On the upper passenger deck is another lounge and the Upper Deck Restaurant. Both levels also have plenty of outside space to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

The Queen of Saanich is powered by two diesel engines producing a combined 8,941 horsepower. The engines turn two propellers, both located at the stern of the vessel. The Saanich is a single-ended vessel, meaning it has to turn around at one end of the trip so vehicles can drive straight on and off.

The evacuation system on the Queen of Saanich consists of 6 stations (three on each side) on the upper passenger deck. At each station there are life-rafts along with davits to lower them to the water. BC Ferries puts the combined evacuation capacity of these 6 stations at 1,500 people. In addition to the life-rafts, there are three 52-person life boats and one rescue boat.


Built alongside the Queen of Esquimalt , the Queen of Saanich was launched from Victoria Machinery Depot on November 28, 1962 and made her inaugural run on February 9, 1963. She was the fifth of fourteen vessels built for BC Ferries between 1959 and 1965. A few years later, most of BC Ferries' larger vessels including the Queen of Saanich had platform decks installed on the car deck to increase capacity by about 40 cars.

In 1972, the Queen of Saanich , along with 3 other ferries of the same design, were cut in half and stretched at a cost of $2.5 million. A 25 meter mid-section was placed into the ferry to increase vehicle and passenger capacity. The passenger areas of the ferry were also improved with new furnishings, a new restaurant, dining room, and newsstand, and an outdoor solarium on the upper passenger deck. Work was done at Burrard Drydock in Vancouver. At this time, the Queen of Saanich was based out of Swartz Bay on the Swartz Bay - Tsawwassen route.

Sometime around 1982, the Queen of Saanich was drydocked and cut in half again, this time horizontally. A second car deck was installed to increase vehicle capacity to 400 vehicles. At the same time, the ferry was outfitted with new and more reliable engines. This rebuilding cost BC Ferries about $11.3 million per vessel.

Vehicle Capacity
Passenger Capacity
Length (m)
Gross Tons

Original (with platforms)

After Stretching

After Lifting

As some news media put it, it was a "fast cat" incident aboard the Queen of Saanich . On June 25th, 1998, a cat jumped from a car disembarking at Tsawwassen. It managed to clear the ramp and ended up in the water. The rescue boat was launched from the ferry and the cat was saved and returned to its owner.

The Queen of Saanich was involved in a rescue on August 22, 1997. As the ferry made its way westbound through Active Pass at around 1900, a kayaker who had fallen from his boat was spotted and rescued by the crew.

Unfortunately, the ferries are sometimes misused by people planning to commit suicide. On July 6th, 1995, a woman who jumped off the Queen of Saanich shortly after departing from Tsawwassen was rescued by the crew and turned over to police and the health authority.

In June 1995, a $1.5 million refit was completed on the Queen of Saanich in which the interior of the vessel was redone and improved. Work was done at the Point Hope Shipyard in Victoria.

The most serious incident involving the Queen of Saanich occurred on the morning of February 6th, 1992. The BC Ferry was northbound, coming out of Active Pass on the way to Tsawwassen when it collided with the southbound Royal Vancouver catamaran passenger ferry in thick fog. Eleven passengers were injured on the smaller ferry, which also suffered the most damage in the accident. The 302-passenger, $8 million, 40-meter, high-speed catamaran ferry operated by Royal Sealink Express was in just its 4th day of service between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria. It suffered over $200,000 in damage as a result of the collision and was out of service for 22 days. Damage to the Queen of Saanich amounted to a broken bow door. A bus at the front of the ship was also damaged. After an investigation into the accident, it was found that the catamaran was mostly at fault.

On April 9th, 1998 a crab fisherman, whose boat had swamped off Tsawwassen after its engine broke down, was rescued by the crew aboard the Queen of Saanich .

Origin of Name

Queen of Saanich - Named after the city, peninsula, and inlet located on the south end of Vancouver Island, north of Victoria. The name likely comes from the name of the Natives which first inhabited the area, the Wsanec First Nation. Today the Saanich Peninsula is covered by three municipalities, Saanich, Central Saanich, and North Saanich (combined population of about 125,000). The main town on the peninsula is Sidney. The Saanich Peninsula is home to the Victoria International Airport, the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, and the famous Butchart Gardens. Saanich Inlet is situated between the peninsula and Vancouver Island. The Mill Bay ferry route crosses the inlet between Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay. ("Saanich Peninsula" - 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.

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