Bridge-Free Salish Sea

Ferry Tales

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An Ode to the Gabriola Ferry

This land is my land
It is an island
You might be pro-bridge
But I am no-bridge.
It makes me merry
To take the ferry
This island is made for you and me.

This land is my land
It is an island
The ferry’s pricey, but it’s so nicey
Don’t want to nix it, we have to fix it
This island is made for you and me.

This land is my land
It is an island
Don’t want the go-life, we like the slow life
Don’t want a fixed link, we think it would stink
This island is made for you and me.

Penny Sidor

Backing off the Ferry

It was the morning high school run, and the Quinsam had almost reached the point of its first speed reduction in its approach to Nanaimo, when the ship’s speakers crackled to life.

A voice from the bridge announced that the ship was experiencing mechanical difficulties which would require it to back into the dock in Nanaimo Harbour.
“Everyone will have to back off the ferry to disembark,” the speaker announced.

The boat docked, the ramp came down, the guard ropes were pulled aside and, showing a universal willingness to follow directions previously unreported of Gabriola’s youth, all the high school students who had gathered at the front of the Quinsam turned around walked off the ferry backwards.

Chris Bowers

Island Mind Rot

For many years I commuted to work in Nanaimo. My mode of transportation was a 100 cc Kawasaki motorcycle.

Often, while waiting for the ferry on the Nanaimo side, I got into very interesting conversations with someone else also waiting for the ferry. On one of those days, I parked my motorcycle in the front of the line-up (which is one of the perks of riding a motorcycle) and went to talk to a friend. So interesting was this conversation (I no longer remember what it was about) that I walked onto the ferry and my friend and I kept on talking.

It was only when I walked off the ferry on the Gabriola side that I realised that something wasn’t quite right! I laughed and talked to myself about fighting the well-known Gabriola ‘mind-rot’ with a bit more vigour, got back on the ferry, opened my book and read on my way back to fetch my motorcycle parked on the Nanaimo side.

I still chuckle when I think about it. It shows that while waiting for and riding the ferry is very interesting, funny, serious, educational – or embarrassing – things can happen.

Jacinthe Eastick

Maori Visitors

I was waiting for a group of Maori musicians to arrive from Nanaimo by ferry. Only two or three members arrived, telling us that the remainder of the group accidently locked themselves out of their rental vehicle. As a result they had to stay on the ferry and return to Nanaimo, and finally travel back to Gabriola while the ferry crew worked to unlock the vehicle.
All was well.

As a “thank you” to the crew, this group of Maori warriors performed “The Haka” on the bow of the M.V.Quinsam. A surprise and special treat to the crew – especially those on the bridge .

Jenny Black

Night Time Assist

An elderly friend was unexpectedly released from Nanaimo hospital too late in the evening for us to pick him up. He was sent by taxi to fend for himself at the Gabriola ferry terminal. I placed a call to the attendant (Carla) in the Nanaimo ferry ticket booth and asked if they could assist.

“No problem, don’t worry” was the immediate response. When the taxi arrived and dropped off this gentleman, the ferry crew took over and made sure he was seated in a waiting wheelchair.

We met the ferry on the Gabriola side and to our surprise a ferry worker (Richard Goode) actually pushed the wheelchair off the ferry and helped us put our friend safely into a warm waiting car.

Jennie Hopkins-Black

Scooters and the Quinsam

About 10 years ago I decided to buy a Yamaha scooter – which has turned out to be ideal for travel on the Island. I had never driven a scooter and had to pick it up in Nanaimo and come home on the Quinsam.

As I started to leave the ferry on the Gabriola side, the throttle stuck. I was thrown off the scooter and across the deck and the scooter did wheelies on the deck right next to a brand new RCMP cruiser.

Eventually someone reached the kill switch before any damage was done to the cruiser – the scooter was a write-off. I was taken to the RCMP station and my bruises were recorded. The master of the Quinsam saw everything and sent a report to ICBC as did the RCMP corporal.

Eventually ICBC and Yamaha agreed that the bike was faulty and replaced it. When I came back from Nanaimo two months later with a new bike, I got a rousing cheer from all of the Quinsam crew.

Lawrence Spero

Travellin’ Story

When we first arrived on the Island our son who has fragile-x (symptoms similar to autism) had to travel to Nanaimo on the ferry a few times a week. Everyone on the ferry looked out for him and often called us to say he was OK. The ship’s master commented that he didn’t know how to dock the Quinsam unless our son was standing at the bow directing him with his arms.

You could often hear our son talking to himself from across the water. Once a “visitor” took exception to the noise (slight understatement) and several Gabriolans told him to back off.

Also to our amazement the ferry booth in Nanaimo had our home phone number (and those of other vulnerable individuals) and could have called us if the need arose. It never did as our son always travelled in a secure environment thanks to the crew and passengers of the Quinsam.

Lawrence Spero

Twenty Minutes and a World Away

We lived in Cambridge Bay in the Arctic for a couple of years. Cambridge is an isolated community of around 850 people and the only way in and out was via a bi-weekly PWA 727 scheduled flight from Yellowknife or the occasional chartered flight via Buffalo Airways. The isolation helped to create a strong community that shared a great deal, supported each other, and celebrated the unique culture and artistic life of both the Inuit and the Kabloonak. Its people were feisty, multi-cultural, and deeply interesting.

When flying back to Cambridge from “outside” I could always feel my blood pressure drop and my stress bleed away as soon as I got onto the plane for home. The plane was the doorway to the slower, more humane, more tightly woven community that existed in the NWT and Nunavut.

The Quinsam is the same kind of gateway for me. When returning from the “hustle and bustle” of Nanaimo, the moment I step onto the Quinsam, I’m home. I have 20 minutes to read, listen to music, dream, chat with friends, and stand up in the bow and watch as my beautiful island gets closer and closer.

It’s a gateway to a slower and more measured pace of life. This refuge from traffic, noise, pollution, shopping malls, and the constant pressure to have more – this island of ours – is truly “20 minutes and a world away.” People need places like this where they can settle into the quiet, slow down and unwind, smell the salt air, and soak in the smells, and the wind, and the rain, and the sun. We need this. There is enough “progress” 20 minutes away. We don’t need to be attached to it by a bridge.

We need to honour the separateness and appreciate the blessings that an island can offer. It’s a sanctuary – a place apart. It’s unique. It’s an island – isn’t that why we moved here?

Steve O’Neill