Queen of the Islands

Official No: 0320045
Place Built: Vancouver, BC
Builder: Burrard Drydock Co. Ltd.
Year Built: 1963
Date Launched: May 9, 1963
Vehicles: 40
Passengers: 400
Length: 71 m
Breadth: 15.9 m
Gross Tons: 1,717
Service Speed: 10 knots
Horsepower: 3,200


The Queen of the Islands was the first ferry specifically built for the Southern Gulf Island routes. Ironically, she was not very well suited to operate on the route she was built for. Gary and Patricia Bannerman described the pros and cons of the Queen of the Islands in their book, The Ships of British Columbia :
Queen of the Islands has been perhaps the least loved of any new ship ever to serve in the system. She had excellent passenger amenities, with panoramic 360-degree exposure to scenery, but that's where the joy ended. Her engines produced nothing but difficulty, the car deck was a jigsaw puzzle to load, and unless loading was done with meticulous precision, she sailed with a pronounced list. (Bannerman, 96)
The ferry was unique in that she had a turntable at the bow of the car-deck to turn vehicles around for loading and unloading. The route required a ferry that could be loaded for several destinations at one time and allow for further loading and unloading at each island.

Joining the fleet in 1963, the Queen of the Islands provided the first scheduled car ferry service between Tsawwassen and the Gulf Islands. The cost of building the ship was $2.1 million (Bannerman, 171). At the same time, BC Ferries invested in a new terminal at Long Harbour, Saltspring Island upgrading the existing terminal at Village Bay on Mayne Island (Griffiths and Cadieux, 29-30).

The Bannermans, in their book, retell the story of the first visit of the Queen of the Islands to Saltspring Island. To welcome the new ferry and route to the mainland, an official celebration was planned in Ganges by Premier W.A.C. Bennett himself. Unfortunately, the ferry broke down halfway to her destination and she had to be towed the rest of the way (Bannerman, 96).

In the following years the three Powell River class vessels ( Powell River Queen , Mayne Queen , and Bowen Queen were built and larger vessels like the Queen of Tsawwassen and Queen of Sidney became available for the route as they were replaced by newer and bigger ferries. By 1969, the Queen of the Islands was almost a surplus vessel.

According to Frank Clapp, each summer between 1969 and 1976, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways Coastal Ferry Service borrowed the Queen of the Islands to operate alongside the Comox Queen on the Powell River - Comox route (Clapp, 61).

Newspaper stories from the summer of 1980 indicate that the Queen of the Islands operated on the Saltery Bay - Earls Cove route at least part of the time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The articles describe an incident in the summer of 1980 when the ferry collided with the dock at Saltery Bay causing half a million dollars in damage. For the last half of the 1980s, the Queen of the Islands was tied up, but she remained part of the BC Ferry fleet until 1991. In October of that year she was sold to St. John's Fishing Lodge Ltd. for $375,000.


Celebration On Water

What Happened to the Queen of the Islands

Although the Queen of the Islands as a ferry had numerous problems as a car ferry, she continues to serve a purpose to this day. After being sold by BC Ferries in 1991, her engines were removed and she was converted into a floating fishing lodge. The St. John's Fishing Lodge operated from May to September, moored in either Caamano Sound or Milbanke Sound depending on the fishing season. As a fishing lodge, the ferry featured over 20 staterooms, a lounge and bar, a cafeteria, a nine-hole putting green, a hot tub, a TV lounge, and an exercise room. In the winter she was towed to the south coast and moored at various locations on the Fraser River. In 2008, the fishing lodge went bankrupt and the ferry was sold again. After being moored at the Mosquito Creek Marina in North Vancouver for 2 years, the Queen of the Islands has been again converted, this time into a wedding and conference venue. The ferry has been renamed "Spirit of the Nation" (in reference to the Squamish Nation) and now features two patios, a lounge, and dining room. Although the new owners, Celebration On Water, have changed the ship's name, Transport Canada still lists her with her original registration number and under her original name, Queen of the Islands . After a rather unglorious career as a ferry, she has had a rather glorious ending in comparison to most ex-BC Ferries.

Origin of Name

Queen of the Islands - Self-explanatory. The "Islands" refer specifically to the Southern Gulf Islands where the ferry originally served.

Works Cited and Further Reading

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

Clapp, Frank A. Ministry of Transportation and Highways - Inland and Coastal Ferries . Victoria: Queen's Printer for BC, 1981.

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

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