You know what they say about the best laid plans…
The best laid plans can go awry when Mother Nature has her way!
Living on balmy Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Gulf Islands, between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, our lives are circumscribed by ferries. That morning in December when we were to leave for a family Christmas in southern California, we were surprised, but only mildly concerned, to find four inches of unpredicted, heavy snow on our front porch. With a 2:50 p.m. flight out of Victoria, we prudently decided to leave ten minutes earlier than usual to catch the 11: 50 ferry from Fulford Harbour. That crossing to Swartz Bay is a half hour voyage, followed by a 15minute drive to the airport.
Driving through Ganges village, we were startled and confused when we were stopped by a police roadblock. “There’s a semi- trailer truck jack- knifed across the Fulford- Ganges road,” said the RCMP officer, “and the road to Fulford is closed. We don’t know when it will re-open.”
Panic! What do to? There’s no other road to Fulford, and we had a plane to catch. We had to try for the ferry from Vesuvius. That one crosses to Crofton on Vancouver Island, and that would mean a two- hour drive to the airport. There was an 11:40 sailing and it was now 11:00 o’clock. “If the ferry’s on time,” said my husband Alan, “we can just make it.” It was tight, but possible. If only it would stop snowing.
Mindful of the slippery roads, Alan was driving slowly and cautiously. Two miles from the Vesuvius ferry terminal, there was a sudden flash of light overhead, followed by a thunderous crack. Around the next bend, a large cedar had fallen right across the road. Had we been seconds earlier...well, that didn’t bear thinking on. Carefully braking, we slid gently into the tree. No damage to the car, but the tree, easily a foot in diameter, was way too big to shift.
In minutes, vehicles arrived on both sides of the barrier. Men climbed out of their trucks and SUVS and gathered to discuss. Can we all heave together and move the tree? Mutter, mutter. “She’s pretty heavy,” offered one. “I’ve got a chain in my truck,” said another, and headed off to get it.
In no time at all, he’d hooked that chain around the tree and dragged it off the road. Elapsed time, ten minutes. We exhaled and, calling thank you to all, drove off through the gathering snow.
By 11:20 we were at the Vesuvius terminal. Big, wet flakes were still drifting down. At that ferry crossing, you can see to the other side, and at 11:30, there was no vessel in sight. Disturbingly, the BC Ferries website showed our ferry was still parked at the dock in Crofton.
We called our daughter in Victoria, who had a little good news. “It’s raining here,” she told us, “and your flight has been delayed by 20 minutes.” With this reprieve in mind, we calculated that if the ferry came soon, we still had a slight chance. And if we didn’t make it? It was too complicated to think about.
But then there was the Malahat to worry about. That mountain pass between us and Victoria can be treacherous. Chatting to the few other drivers waiting in the ferry line-up, one fellow said it was closed. Another had heard that police were stopping southbound traffic, checking for winter tires or chains. We have good winter tires, but worry was quickly morphing into anxiety. Or was it hunger?
At 11:50, we spotted the ferry chugging across the channel. There weren’t many vehicles; unloading and loading didn’t take long and soon we were on board for the short crossing. And when we reached Vancouver Island, someone turned off the snow machine. There were no police cars on the highway, the road was clear of snow, and up and over the Malahat we went. With shortcuts and minimal speeding, we arrived at the airport by 2:45, hungry but somehow exhilarated.
The departures board showed a further delay. We had time for a quick bite, and hey, there’s Timmy’s!
Which unfortunately was in complete darkness.
There had been a power outage at the airport all morning. All the eateries were closed and wouldn’t open for another hour. Laden with healthy chips and granola bars, we headed to the boarding lounge and sat. And waited. And waited. Our plane finally took off at 4:00 p.m.
There’s no lesson to this story except, perhaps, to pack a lunch. ■
An unexpected snowfall, a downed tree, tricky driving conditions and more couldn’t stop Mary and Alan from making their flight!