“When they do sail and it’s rough people complain, and when they don’t sail because it’s rough people complain,” said Powell River resident Brian Perrin of the Queen of Burnaby.
He said this as he waited for the ferry to dock in Comox Wednesday morning after being stranded in the Valley overnight when the last sailing to Powell River, at 7:15 p.m., was cancelled due to stormy conditions combined with a low tide on Tuesday evening.
While Perrin wasn’t upset about the cancellation, he said he’s heard people complaining about them. But he added that people complain during rough rides when the ferry does sail in bad weather.
The last round trip sailing was also cancelled on Monday evening due to weather conditions, according to BC Ferries Manager of Public Affairs Darin Guenette.
Guenette said the number of cancellations due to weather has increased since the implementation of the heavy weather matrix system last year.
“It has indeed tended to lead to more frequent cancellations,” said Guenette.
From April 1 to Mar. 31 2009-10, 12 sailings were cancelled, compared to 50 for the same time period in 2010-11 after the system was implemented. From April 1 to Nov. 30 this year, 34 sailings were cancelled.
Guenette said that while the system causes more cancellations, it’s more exact.
“It’s a more defined process than just sort of a feeling, or ‘OK well the last sailing was fine on the way over so it should be good back.'”
According to Guenette, the master of the ship uses the system which monitors wind, tide levels and sea state – meaning the height, frequency and spacing of waves – to determine whether it’s safe for the ferry to make the crossing.
“There’s not a cut and dry every time it’s above 35 knots or something you don’t sail; it depends on these other factors,” he explained.
The heavy weather matrix system was implemented partially in response to a “rough sailing” on this route just over a year ago where the boat had to take shelter near Texada Island keeping passengers on board for seven hours, said Guenette.
He said the storm came up quickly and it’s not always easy to tell what the crossing conditions will be like from the shore, as things can be different out on the water.
“If you’re in Comox it might be quite different weather than it is most of the way across to Powell River,” said Guenette. “They (master of the ship) make a call based on what they think the safety of the passengers and crew would be like, and the vessel of course.”