The BC Ferries tag line, “Welcome Aboard” has never been so fitting. I never thought these words would cross my lips about a government-run monopoly. “I’m impressed”. It really rubs against my fiscally responsible/socially progressive grain.
Even stranger, for those of you acquainted with BC Ferries, this is the monopoly I am referring to. Admittedly, I wasn’t completely “with it” at 5:45 this morning when we rolled up to the gate in the ferry terminal in Port Hardy, BC…aka BC Ferries’ most northernmost terminus on Vancouver island. I struck up a friendly conversation with the large fellow in the glow-in-the-dark vest who needed to see our reservation and our government-issued i.d. Like I said, it was really early and I don’t remember, but somehow the conversation concluded with him saying we should ask for the first officer if we’d like our son to see whales from the bridge. Cool.
So once we’d crossed the fog-laden straits into the fjords that would take us to our destination, Bella Coola, we asked the nice lady in the cafeteria if she could contact the bridge for us.
Our son was already known to her by name after 6 hours of our 10.5 hour journey since we had shared several friendly conversations about life on board (two weeks on, two weeks off. They live together on board.) She took us up there, and OMG, I realized it was the CAPTAIN who had been greeting us on the ramp and invited us on board. I assure you, nothing like this happens on the southern gulf islands or the southern mainland-Vancouver island routes! After a lovely tour by the second officer, we noticed a plume from a humpback whale, which breached and dove on our port side. We thought that was amazing. Then from the upper sun deck, the announcement that a pod of white-sided dolphins was around us and would “put on a good show” because they like to play in the ferry wake. I think there were close to 100 of them; they were all around us, diving and arcing in out of the ferry’s waves.
I realize the government-run monopoly had little to nothing to do with the wildlife. But they served absolutely decent food, which was freshly prepared. As I waited for my cedar-planked salmon on Caesar salad, I was told, “oh no”, we’ll bring it to your table when it’s ready. I nearly fell over. BC Ferries is still recovering, as far as I’m concerned, from it’s powdered-egg “sunshine breakfast” reputation of my childhood.
Then there was the docking in Bella Coola. Clearly only the experienced captains pilot this route. I grew up helping my dad sidle a 18.5 powerboat alongside a dock…I know that point of leaping onto the dock, to brace the boat so that it doesn’t bash into the pilings. But as I stared down at the approaching dock from about 4 stories up, I realized our 150 passenger passenger ferry would not be bashing into anything. In order to unload the ferry, the captain had to back the ferry into the dock. When we loaded in Port Hardy, we drove on, and turned around so that we were facing the only set of doors that we had entered from. So the captain had to do a three point turn in the water, and back up, gently, to nudge the ferry alongside the pilings and back the exit ramp onto the dock. Wow. Then we tramped down to the car deck, and as we drove off, guess whose was the last face we saw?
Yes, our captain was back on the ramp saying goodbye to each vehicle.