Powell River residents say they are fed up and frustrated to be facing another major BC Ferries service reduction — the third one in the past year.
"With this total mess, people cannot get to Vancouver in time for their medical appointments, which have been scheduled long ago," said irate resident Ken White. "People are worried sick. We're talking about the elderly and senior citizens who have to go to specialists,"
"It's so frustrating to have junk ferries up here," he added.
The problem starts with the breakdown of the Queen of Burnaby which is being removed from service for at least three weeks starting Jan. 5 due to a leaking propeller seal — the third one in the last 12 months.
The 51-year-old vessel normally runs between Powell River and Comox but, to cover for its absence, BC Ferries shuffles boats, leaving the Saltery Bay to Earl's Cove route — which connects passengers from Powell River to the Sunshine Coast and from there to the Lower Mainland — with a smaller vessel capable of carrying only 49 vehicles.
The reduced capacity, and the fact that reservations are not possible on the route, makes it harder to catch a ferry out of Saltery Bay. It also means ferry travelers are more likely to get stranded on the Sunshine Coast side on the return trip home.
Powell River Mayor David Formosa says he is also frustrated but not surprised.
"That vessel has a huge problem with its age and being worn out," he told CBC. "It's probably going to happen again."
Formosa says a new ferry is supposed to replace the Queen of Burnaby by the end of 2016 but feels BC Ferries delayed the decision to start building it for far too long in order to save money.
"It's just part of this whole ferry fiasco," he said. "I don't understand why coastal communities are treated this way."
BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall says people who need to get from Powell River to Vancouver should consider adjusting their schedule.
"Definitely, if someone has a medical appointment, you might want to consider leaving earlier," she said. "We certainly apologize to our customers for the inconvenience."
"We had divers go down to see if they could make repairs under water but unfortunately that ship has to be dry docked to make those repairs," she said.