British Columbia

Storm tosses B.C. ferry passengers

BC Ferries passengers were thrown about a ship buffeted by high winds and reported seven- to 10-metre waves on a voyage Prince Rupert to Skidegate in the Queen Charlotte Islands early Monday morning.

Waves up to 10 metres hit ship, say passengers

BC Ferries passengers were thrown about a ship buffeted by high winds and waves seven to 10 metres high early Monday on a voyage from Prince Rupert to Skidegate in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Passengers describe a chaotic scene aboard the Northern Adventure as it was tossed in the rough waters of Hecate Strait, with people thrown out of their chairs as cafeteria dishes flew through the air.

There were no serious injuries to passengers, but the crew turned the ferry around and returned to Prince Rupert, a port on the northern mainland about 1,000 kilometres north of Vancouver by air.

90 km/h winds in forecast

Passengers report no ambulances or other emergency vehicles met the ferry when it arrived.

The ferry corporation says some crewmembers suffered minor injuries and some passengers got quite a fright.

"We had a few crew members who had a few bumps and bruises," said BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall. "There was a woman [passenger] who was eight months pregnant. While she wasn't physically injured, she was upset by the incident."

The storm damaged four cars on the ferry and also the vessel's starboard bow thruster, a device that helps the ship manoeuvre into dock.

Members of a high school girls volleyball team from the Queen Charlottes said the ferry ran into rough seas at about 1 a.m., about an hour after leaving Prince Rupert.

"It just started to rock about one o'clock," coach Debbie Lockland said. "Things were flying, you couldn't walk, the cafeteria was upside down, the gift shop cash register hanging."

Environment Canada weather forecasts were calling for southeasterly winds of 90 kilometres per hour during the voyage.

Passenger Tara Sjolund wondered why the ship sailed into such rough weather.

"I would say absolutely, lives were in danger," Sjolund said. "We were listing so badly from side to side. The captain got himself caught in that storm we never, ever should have been out on. "

Fisherman Wilson Brown said he wasn't sure he'd make it out alive.

"I've spent the last 37 years fishing crab out on the Hecate Strait," said Wilson. "Smart people don't go out in that kind of weather."

Crew aware of storm before sailing

BC Ferries says the crew was aware of the storm before leaving Prince Rupert.

"But it did come in faster than what was predicted, and worse than what was predicted," said Marshall.

Pictures sent by passengers to CBC News show shelved goods strewn across the floor of the ship's gift shop.

The Northern Adventure had left on a scheduled seven-hour trip before midnight Sunday. It was about halfway through its voyage when the crew decided to turn back, passengers said. 

Future sailings were cancelled pending calmer weather, according to the BC Ferries website.

With files from Betsy Trumpener and Robert Doane