BC Ferries cancelled, unable to dock as strong winds batter South Coast

Click to play video: 'Ferry sailings cancelled out of Tsawwassen due to wind storm'
Ferry sailings cancelled out of Tsawwassen due to wind storm
WATCH: Powerful wind gusts and a mechanical problem on a ferry forced BC Ferries to cancel most of the day's sailings to and from Tsawwassen, creating chaos and frustration. Tanya Beja reports – Apr 27, 2019

Strong winds on the South Coast made it impossible for several BC Ferries to sail or dock Saturday morning, creating chaos and frustration for passengers.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Metro Vancouver early Saturday morning, predicting wind gusts between 60 and 80 kilometres per hour down the Georgia Strait.

By 7 a.m., the winds became strong enough to make sailings in and out of the Tsawwassen unsafe, and a number of sailings between that terminal and Swartz Bay were cancelled through the morning and into the early afternoon.

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Click to play video: 'Long ferry lineups mark end of Easter weekend'
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Just after noon, BC Ferries said nearly all sailings between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay had been cancelled completely, leaving just the 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. sailings in both directions.

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Those sailings out of Tsawwassen are both full, however, while the sailings leaving Swartz Baywere still taking on passengers in the afternoon. An additional sailing was added for 4 p.m. from Swartz Bay.

One vessel, the Coastal Renaissance, experienced a mechanical issue with its alternator that made it unsafe to travel in adverse weather. Another, the Spirit of British Columbia, was forced to stay docked in Tsawwassen after getting damaged by the winds.

“The rubbing streak was damaged when the vessel was docking is Tsawwassen in the high winds,” Astrid Braunschmidt with BC Ferries said, adding the vessel will be out of service for the rest of the day.

On Saturday morning, the Queen of New Westminster was halfway through its 8 a.m. sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen when the crew said it was unsafe to complete its journey, forcing it to idle in the calmer waters near Pender Island for nearly two hours to wait out the winds.

The vessel headed back to Swartz Bay around 10:30 and had to wait until after noon, when the winds were expected to peak, to attempt another crossing.

One passenger on board that sailing, Jenelle Mikkelsen, told Global News she and her husband were planning to visit their friends’ new baby in Mission, but those plans have now been dashed.

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“We were told it was too dangerous to be able to dock for the boat and too dangerous for the passengers,” she said. “We’re definitely getting off in Victoria, we won’t be sailing again today.”

READ MORE: BC Ferries to consider variable pricing, getting rid of separate fees as part of reservation overhaul

Mikkelson said the water was so choppy during the initial crossing that people were told to stay seated and use handrails, and cars were shifting in the vehicle decks below.

“People needed to go and check their parking brakes because the cars were moving around so much,” she said.

The cafeteria staff was offering passengers free pop, coffee, and tea, Mikkleson said, and continued to serve breakfast.

READ MORE: BC Ferries vessel strikes dock at Langdale terminal

“Everyone seems to be pretty lighthearted about it, but I know there’s a lot of people from Victoria want to head back there and get off,” she said. “There’s some sports teams that won’t be able to make their games, and I know they’re disappointed about that.

“People seem to be understanding, but there’s definitely a level of frustration.”

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Environment Canada said cities throughout Metro Vancouver and the North Shore are expected to experience powerful winds through to the early evening, with downed trees and power outages possible.

More than a thousand customers were without power throughout the Lower Mainland, but BC Hydro said most of those outages weren’t a result of the storm.

A tree was reported down across wires in the North Grandview Heights area of Surrey, affecting just under 500 customers.

Roughly 5,000 customers lost power on eastern Vancouver Island between Courtenay and Nanaimo, with BC Hydro saying most of those outages were likely due to wind.

READ MORE: Thousands without power, ferry sailings cancelled as strong winds hit Vancouver Island

The troubles for BC Ferries on Saturday didn’t stop there. A medical emergency also caused a 90-minute delay for the Queen of Alberni’s sailings between Duke Point and Tsawwassen, and an issue with the payment systems at Horseshoe Bay terminal also caused delays there.

No sailings to or from Horseshoe Bay have been affected by the strong winds.

A full list of BC Ferries cancellations can be found on their website.

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The Vancouver Park Board, meanwhile, was forced to close the Seawall between Third Beach and the Lions Gate Bridge after the winds caused high waves to crash onto the path.

A lost sailboat was also spotted washed up on the shores of Sunset Beach in Vancouver, where high waves and strong winds were also reported.

The wind warning was lifted Saturday afternoon.

—With files from Robyn Crawford

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