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General News · 29th March 2017
Ferry Advisory (FAC) - Rod Lee
B.C. ferries has created a matrix to base whether it is safe to run our ferries or not and is consistent throughout the whole ferry system. The basic concern is the safety of the passengers and their vehicles, the safety of the crew, and the safety of the vessels. We hope this helps Cortes Islanders understand the choice on whether to run or not!

Heavy Weather Sailing Protocols/Decision Making

Routes 23/24
Overall, BC Ferries has heavy weather sailing protocols including a decision matrix for Masters with clear sailing guidelines taking into consideration forecasted weather condition, the vessel’s mechanical status, passenger and crew comfort, the vessel’s load and tidal conditions.

A variety of factors go into the decision to suspend service due to heavy weather:
• Wind speed
• Wind direction
• Wave height
• Sea State (how long has it been blowing).
• Current (direction and Velocity)
• Reports from other stations
• Master’s/crew experience

Depending on the Route, some, or all of the above points factor into the decision making process as long as they are in line with the matrix.

We continually monitor weather forecasts. We are in direct contact with Environment Canada meteorologists to get the most up to date forecasts if we feel necessary. Masters do this on a regular basis.

In addition, they call other ships which are either secured or sailing to gather data from the area.

Strong winds are 20 to 33 knots
Gale Warnings are issued when wind speeds of 34 to 47 knots
Storm Warnings are issued when wind speeds of 48 to 63 knots
Hurricane Force Wind Warnings are issued when winds of 64 knots or greater

Route 23 Mitigating Factors:
With the 4 RAD vessels, wind is typically not the greatest issue which forces cancellation.

Current against the wind creates higher than normal wave heights and the vessels become uncomfortable when transiting Discovery Pass. As well, Campbell River is subjected to swell surges at the dock which at times makes it unsafe to discharge. There is also increased risk of damage to the‎ vessel, terminal structure, and vehicles when docking during heavy swell in Campbell River. During an ebb tide, the swell can roll into Campbell River from Georgia Strait long after the wind has diminished.
These issues are what cause weather cancellations.

Route 24 Mitigating factors:
Route 24 is a Near Coastal Route and is more exposed. Winds (fetch) from the Southeast combined with tides can create unfavorable sea conditions.

The Tachek has the ability to do certain weather courses but as a rule when the Captain cannot avoid seas breaking over the bow, we shut down.

The Master of the vessel communicates with the Queen of Burnaby to gather more accurate data on sea state as that given by Sentry Shoal Buoy. We also utilize observations from Sisters Islet, Comox Airport, and Campbell River Airport We not only rely on existing observations but the trends combined with latest forecast plays an important part of the decision process. We still communicate with Environment Canada to get details on weather systems.

If there is an expectation that the vessel will make it to Heriot bay but may not make it back, we would consider cancelling the round trip to avoid having to overnight crew on Quadra.

Heavy Weather Matrix
It is broken down into three criteria; green, orange, and red.
If the operating criteria is in the green the vessel sails. If the operating criteria is in the red, the vessel doesn’t. If the criteria is in the yellow, a discussion is held with Master and Superintendent as to comfort level for sailing.

In any case, we do not question the Master’s decision to not sail. His/her decision is not taken lightly and we would not pressure an individual into making the wrong decision which creates risk to the vessel or passengers.
Working on Service Notices
Comment by Paul Ryan on 2nd April 2017
Your Ferry Advisory Committee has brought up the subject of service notices several times to staff at BCF. They recognize there are problems with the system and are taking steps to rectify the situation. (their words) It will be on the agenda of the next meeting in May!
notifications of cancelled sailings
Comment by shirley A. on 2nd April 2017
I'm adding a comment also that we need more timely notifications of cancelled sailings. I have on more than one occasions checked the bc ferries website for sailing notifications and found at 7:30 am no notification of cancelled sailing for cortes only to drive to the ferry and find out it has been cancelled. By 7:30am at the latest the captain should be making a decision regarding the first sailing. BC Ferries needs to mandate a cutoff time when the sailing will be cancelled so that travellers can be notified before driving 17 km to the lineup.
how about forecasting?
Comment by max thaysen on 1st April 2017
I recognize its an imperfect science, but maybe it would be a sweet service for bc ferries to also let people know when sailings might be cancelled... say the day before.
thanks for the info Rod!
I can use it to make my own guess with weather forecasts... but thought the captain might do a better job of that.
Entering the computer age
Comment by Richard Yensen on 31st March 2017
It would be a nice addition to this article if a central location online were cited where Cortes Island residents and interested others could know if the ferry is cancelled. I am signed up for email notifications from BC Ferries, but they are not issued in a timely way and often do not disclose when service resumes.