Monday, August 24, 2009

Not so fast for the Northern Adventure

There's a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbour
Today for old Rupert she'll sail
Far away from your land of endless sunshine
To my land of rainy skies and gales

With apologies to Roger Whittaker!

BC Ferries having apparently solved the problem of the tightly wound rope among its propulsion system, couldn't solve the problem of the weather.

The Northern Adventure, having spent the weekend in port to make for repairs thanks to the wayward ocean rope, now must sit in port awaiting a break in the weather.

The 11 am sailing from Skidegate to Prince Rupert was suspended due to extreme weather, pending further notice while the Ferry Corporation studies the weather maps and satellite images looking for a window of opportunity to resume service.

The most recent update from BC Ferries, recommends a return to the website's Vessel tracking page (which at this time doesn't even list the Northern Adventure) at 4 pm for an update.

Update 2 pm:

The Queen Charlotte Observer outlines some of the details of the misfortunate weekend for the Northern Adventure and her would be passengers.

Crab trap tangle is ferry's latest misadventure
Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
Monday, August 24
By Alex Rinfret

Almost 500 ferry passengers had their travel plans disrupted over the weekend after the Northern Adventure's propellers got tangled with rope from a crab trap, a mishap which took three days to fix.

BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the tangle was discovered on Friday morning (Aug. 21), soon after the ferry had arrived in Prince Rupert on its regular Thursday night sailing from Skidegate. The crew was investigating why oil was leaking from the vessel, she said, when they found a substantial amount of nylon rope wrapped around the propellers and shaft.

The problem was more complicated than just a tangle. Ms Marshall said the rope had gotten between the seal and the shaft, which could have resulted in serious engine damage. Luckily, divers were able to untangle the rope and fix the damage without the ferry having to leave Prince Rupert.

However, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday sailings from Prince Rupert to Skidegate were all cancelled, as were the Friday night and Saturday night departures from Skidegate to Rupert. A total of 252 passengers had been booked on the sailings from the islands, Ms Marshall said, and 246 passengers were booked on the sailings from Rupert.

Many of the affected passengers turned to the Queen Charlotte visitor information centre for updates on the ferry situation throughout the weekend, said manager Franc Pridoehl. Many said it was difficult to get information directly from BC Ferries, and were just generally frustrated by the entire incident.

"People had trouble finding out what was going on," he said. "Visitors were complaining about poor communication with BC Ferries."

Mr. Pridoehl said BC Ferries provided the info centre staff with regular updates which were passed along to tourists and posted on the front doors. "They were really good with us," he said.

BC Ferries was hoping to have the backlog of passengers cleared by Wednesday, Ms Marshall said, although by Monday morning the scheduled 11 am sailing from Skidegate had been delayed by storm-force winds.

BC Ferries has an agreement with the Area A Crab Association which outlines a designated track through Hecate Strait for ferry travel, Ms Marshall said. Crab fishermen are supposed to keep traps out of this track, and the ferry is supposed to stick to the track unless bad weather forces a deviation.

"We are obviously going to be talking to the crab association about living up to their end of the agreement," Ms Marshall said.

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