After over three weeks of delay, Hornby Island residents and tourists have their regular summer ferry back.
But, tourism-based Hornby Island business owner Steve Tovell said he hopes the return to normal is not too little too late for Hornby’s tourism-based economy.
“Well, it’s about time,” said Tovell. “Hopefully not too much damage was done because a lot of people (tourists) were really angry sitting in lineups.”
The Kahloke — normally used in the summer — was taken out of service at the beginning of April for a retrofit, so the Tenaka — the ferry used in the winter months — was used during the high tourist traffic season.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said each ferry is able to hold 30 cars, noting the Tenaka could accommodate overheight vehicles like campers only in the centre lane, whereas the Kahloke can fit overheight vehicles anywhere because it has an open deck.
However, passengers sometimes had to wait in line for three ferry trips due to backed up traffic, even with the ferry shuttling back and forth between Hornby and Denman islands. And these delays didn’t include the ferry trip from Vancouver Island to Denman Island or the drive across Denman Island either.
Some Hornby Island business owners, including Tovell, heard tourists say they would likely not come back to the island because of their experience with the ferries.
Earlier last month, Marshall noted the Kahloke was expected to be back in service on July 6, but the return-to-service date was changed to July 31 because the work was taking longer than expected.
The Kahloke returned to service Tuesday with a number of upgrades to the health, safety and environmental systems, like a new catwalk for crew to safely access the rescue boat for maintenance and launching, and a new sewage storage tank and pump.
There were also upgrades to the propulsion system, regulatory upgrades, and passenger upgrades, as well some miscellaneous upgrades like the installation of a closed circuit television system.
Tovell said the upgrades should not have been done in the spring/summer months in the first place because it was taken out of service during the busy season.
“It shouldn’t have been not here; it should have been dealt with during the winter time,” he added.
Marshall had previously said it can be complicated to co-ordinate refits for BC Ferries’ 35 vessels and there was no other “three-month window to accommodate the major refit work” on the Kahloke.
“We apologize to our customers for the unanticipated delay in returning the Kahloke to service,” said Marshall.