PORT McNEILL—Travelers of the Tri-Island ferry linking Malcolm Island and Cormorant Island with Port McNeill will be without the services of the Quadra Queen II for a month while final upgrades to the Port McNeill ferry dock are completed.
Work has been going on at the dock throughout the summer, but the final stages of the ramp and dock upgrades will require the facility be shut down between Oct. 1 and Oct. 28.
During that time no automobile ferrying will be available. Passengers will be shuttled between communities via water taxi, while a barge will handle the hauling of cargo between Port McNeill, Alert Bay and Sointula.
Parking will be made available in several locations in Port McNeill for those Alert Bay and Sointula residents who wish to leave their vehicles on Vancouver Island for the duration of the service disruption. Parking is free, but users must obtain and display a permit, available for pick-up at the BC Ferries ticket booth in Port McNeill. The lots will be patrolled and unauthorized vehicles ticketed.
A limited number of handicap parking spots will be made available in the lot closest to the water taxi dock, which is located just below the Port McNeill Harbour pay parking lot.
Parking became available yesterday, and will continue through Nov. 3.
Alert Bay residents have been through this drill before, as their own BC Ferries dock underwent upgrades throughout April of 2013.
“Last year there was a last-minute rush (to get cars off Cormorant Island),” said Jo Mrozewski, the Alert Bay representative on the Tri-Island Ferries Commission. “Where it’s going to get fun this year is, on the last day of the ferry, the second-last run is a dangerous cargo day. So the word we’re trying to get out is, don’t wait until the last minute.”
No vehicles are allowed on the ferry deck during dangerous cargo sailings, and the 5:55 p.m. departure from Alert Bay next Tuesday falls under that restriction.
Tickets for the water taxi service are available through the regular BC Ferries ticket booth in Port McNeill. Load-on will take place at the harbour dock in Port McNeill, at Sointula Harbour in Sointula, and at the Government Dock in Alert Bay, just below the RCMP station.
In the event of inclement weather or wave conditions the water taxi landing could be moved to the marina behind the breakwater in Alert Bay, located next to the BC Ferries dock.
“The Government dock worked well last year, but that was in April,” Mrozewski said. “This time it’s October and, given the possibility of bad weather, we’re keeping the breakwater as an option.”
A temporary barge-loading dock was installed in Alert Bay during last year’s service disruption, but some vehicles experienced clearance issues during loading and unloading, Mrozewski said. This summer, the Village of Alert Bay and the ‘Namgis Band have joined forces to construct a $30,000 barge dock near the end of the marina. It will remain in place after full ferry service is restored.
Cargo transiting from Port McNeill to Sointula will be barged to Alert Bay, then transferred to the Quadra Queen II and delivered to the BC Ferries dock on Malcolm Island.