The Howe Sound Queen is nearing the end of its BC Ferries life, but it’s not dead yet.
The vessel that has been running between Crofton and Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island since 1992 is being taken out of service at the beginning of June, but will remain on the auction block through GovDeals and available to the highest bidder until the end of April, according to Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries executive director, public affairs.
“It’s been in the works for a while,” said Marshall of the Howe Sound Queen’s ferry service retirement.
“You do get to a certain point in time in a vessel’s lifetime, it’s the prudent thing to do. If there’s another use for it, we think that’s great.”
It’s still in good operating condition; thus, the auction.
“It is an older vessel,” added Marshall. “There might be other platforms it can be used for.
“We would reach out to companies that have expressed any interest in our used vessels.”
The Howe Sound Queen was built in Quebec in 1966 and purchased by BC Ferries in 1971. It initially operated between Horseshoe Bay and Bowen Island.
Nicknamed ‘The Hound Dog’, the vessel eventually replaced the Vesuvius Queen on its current run.
Replacing the Howe Sound Queen on the route will be the MV Quinitsa that was on the Denman Island-Buckley Bay route before being replaced by a cable ferry and kept by BC Ferries as a relief vessel.
The Quinitsa is about 13 years younger – built in 1977 – compared to the Howe Sound Queen, but has a slightly smaller capacity of 44 vehicles versus 52.
However, Marshall noted it can accommodate more commercial vehicles due to a different deck configuration.
“Another advantage that’s going to be coming up, we’ve got a new schedule coming up,” she pointed out. “We will go to a new schedule May 1.”
That means slightly more sailings and the less likelihood of vehicles being left behind with the slight difference in capacity.
The Howe Sound Queen has been such a fixture on the route for so long it’s going to be like losing an old friend for some people.
“We do have a lot of commuters and frequent users and they do get attached to the vessel – same for the crew,” conceded Marshall.
In the meantime, the Howe Sound Queen awaits its fate – wherever that might be.
“The pool of potential buyers is limited,” reasoned Marshall.