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General News · 26th September 2008
John Sprungman
A week ago Monday, I was caught in an overload for the 1 p.m. sailing from Quathiaski Cove. As the last vehicle in Lane One on the hill, I watched while the second lot attendant directed people into Lane Two, and it was obvious that most of the drivers were confused or uncertain about where to go.

The attendant told me managing the traffic is very difficult when there is an overload and only one of them is on duty. He said he'd liked to see the hillside lane blocked off and used for pedestrians and bicycles only.

“At least that way everyone would stay in the order they arrived,” he said. “I've been yelled at 50 times this summer because people get mad when they see cars that arrived after they did getting ahead of them.”

This has been a problem ever since the second lane was constructed two years ago. People, especially visitors, don't know what to do when there's no attendant at the top of the hill. The sign, which is too small to be noticed unless you're stopped next to it, says, “When directed, use Lane Two when Lane One is full.” That's really useful when there's no one there to direct traffic.

I was headed down to Tsawwassen for BC Ferries' AGM that day and I said I'd try to talk to someone about this ongoing problem.

So was I ever surprised when Corrine Storey, the Vice President of Terminal Operations, came up to me at the hotel and said she'd been to Cortes the week before to look at the Whaletown terminal.

“I got left behind in Quathiaski Cove coming back,” she said, “and those lanes on the hill really aren't working, are they? I could see people were getting out of order. I talked to the lot attendant. We've got to fix that.”

Very soon, I've been assured, we'll get the essential BCF personnel, including the terminal staff, and members of the FAC together in Quathiaski Cove to try to come up with a workable way to manage those lanes.

Refitting the Refits
A similiar serendipitous meeting helped bring about a switch in next year's refit schedules for the Cortes ferry which will see the 30-car MV Tachek replace the 24-car MV Tenaka for most of the summer.

At the opening of the new Quathiaski Cove terminal building in June, BCF's Chief Operating Officer Mike Corrigan and V-P for Engineering Mark Collins were present, and I was able to talk to them about the benefits to ferry users of having the Tachek in July and August instead of May and June.

Later that day, Mark took a roundtrip on the Tenaka. Capt. Jay Halladay, the senior master on the Cortes route, has been trying to get the Tachek for Cortes for several summers so he had all the operational reasons why it would be a good idea. After checking out the shipyard schedule and Transport Canada's refit requirements, Mark informed us that they could change the schedules.

In addition to being able to carry five or six more vehicles per trip, the Tachek also can take overheight vehicles in all four of its lanes. It has more freeboard than the Tenaka so the ramp support has to be raised at Heriot Bay and Whaletown, but the crew requirements are the same.

It should reduce the number of overloads and the need for extra sailings at the end of the day as well as accommodate more over-height trucks during the busiest time of the year for construction on Cortes.

To Connect or NOT!
For the 13 people on Cortes who had to have blood drawn a second time because space was not saved for the Cortes Connection van on the 9 a.m. sailing Wednesday, Sept. 3, there is now a clear understanding of the importance of the van making the connecting ferry on days when it is carrying “chemistry” from the Cortes Health Centre.

Capt. Lynn Hagen, the Quadra senior master, and Capt. Jay Halladay, Cortes senior master, have made their crews aware of the need for better communication when the Cortes ferry is running late and the Connection might be arriving at Quathiaski Cove at the last minute. The Connection drivers will also tell the Cortes crew when they know the ferry is running late and are carrying blood so the ship's captains can communicate with each other.

The Cortes Health Centre schedules all of its blood and urine tests on mornings the Connection is going to town. More than half the time, the Connection is carrying medically-important material. These time-sensitive samples must make it to the laboratory at Campbell River hospital on the connecting ferry or they are useless for testing purposes.
Everyone who lives on Quadra or Cortes is probably familiar with the Cortes Connection van which regularly travels from Whaletown on the 9:50 a.m. ferry and is supposed to have assured loading on 11 a.m. from Quathiaski Cove and on the 4:30 p.m. from Campbell River and the 5:05 p.m. from Heriot Bay.

The Connection is operated by Andrew Ferguson, whose late father Ken started the service 20 years ago. As a scheduled bus service, it picks up passengers around Cortes and brings them home with their shopping. It also takes Cortes Islanders into Campbell River when they are trying to catch a flight, and it brings arriving visitors back.

It is also a drop-off and pick-up service for islanders and typically does 30-40 stops in town, taking in everything from bank deposits to flat tires and bringing back anything that will fit in or on top of the van. Up to 2:30 p.m., a Cortesian can phone and have something picked up that will be back on the island at dinner time.

This is not only an extremely valuable service to people who need to fix something, it also reduces the number of emergency trips Cortesians would otherwise have to make which means fewer cars in the ferry lineups. It's surprising that no one on Quadra or in Campbell River provides a similar service for Quadra Islanders. Maybe the ferry fares have to get even higher to make it viable.

By John Sprungman, Chair, Ferry Advisory Committee