Ferry Tales

You know what they say about the best laid plans…

More of Our Canada - - Contents - By Mary E. Hughes, Salt Spring Is­land, B. C.

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!

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