A dozen pizza boxes relieved of their contents are stacked neatly atop the recycling centre cabinet. A dozen or more members of a boys’ hockey team stride around the ferry passenger lounge looking metropolitan in dark suits, with pastel button-up shirts, neckties and polished shoes. A huddle of players from a Powell River girls’ soccer team contemplate their fellow passengers. Cafeteria tables host a variety of games—dice, cards and cribbage.
The first 6:35 pm sailing of the Island Sky, leaving Departure Bay, Nanaimo on route to Saltery Bay, was characterized by what many agreed to be a relaxed, “cruise-like” atmosphere.
Half an hour in, rather than the sober, impatient attitude one might have expected, the atmosphere was sociable and pleasant, with passengers wandering about and joining in conversation with strangers.
At least three sports teams made the most of the three hour sailing. “We just made sure we were ready for it,” said hockey dad Keith Parkhouse, travelling with the Pee Wee Rep Tim Hortons Kings team. “Although the coaches may have been dreading it, the kids were pumped.” The empty pizza boxes were testament to the team’s preparedness for the extended trip. “We were actually able to order the pizzas on the fly,” he said. “The team manager is great that way. We use every available technology to give us an advantage in situations like this. In this case we were able to communicate between several vehicles and take orders from everyone, and then place our order, while flying at 110 kilometres down the highway. The pizzas were ready when we got there. They practically threw them at us as we drove by. Then it was straight onto the ferry.”
For the most part, the young hockey players embraced the look, donning their jackets for the entire trip. “Look great, feel good, play well,” Parkhouse said. “The thinking was that the manager and the coaches wanted the boys to feel a sense of pride in appearance, which translates to confidence on the ice. The boys see players at the [National Hockey League] level taking pride in how they look. We want the boys to have that experience. In Canada we take pride in our national sport.”
Aside from a few grumbles here and there, the apparent social element was prevalent throughout the sailing and seemed to engage the same sense of community that galvanized Powell River and Texada Island at the public feedback forums to discuss ferry cutbacks on November 26 and 27, 2013.
Crew members went out of their way to be pleasant and professional, with the vessel’s chief officer checking in from time to time over the loud speaker to update passengers on progress.
BC Ferries spokesperson Darin Guenette confirmed that things are going well customer-wise. “All sailings on the first day and both departure and return sailings the morning of January 13, have gone without a hitch, with departure and arrival on schedule,” he said, Monday.
Guenette reminded travellers to take advantage of the free shuttle provided by BC Transit from the Westview ferry terminal. As parking is limited at Saltery Bay, cars can be left at the Westview terminal.