Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kelli Turner and the folks at Granville Island Water Taxi are not the first people to try and make a go of a foot passenger ferry to Bowen Island from downtown Vancouver. Others have tried and found the operating costs prohibitive and the price just too high. Last night, I tasted a little of what they have to offer though and it worked well for me.

I arrived home on a flight from Prince George that got in at 7:45. Ordinarily, I would take a cab from the airport to Horseshoe Bay (at a cost of $70) and wait for the 9:30 ferry (at a cost of $6.50, or whatever BC Ferries is charging today). Last night though, I called from Prince George and booked myself on the Bowen Express which left at 9:00pm from Granville Island. Jumping in a cab, I ended up at Granville Island with 40 minutes to spare at a cost of only $30. I had a piece of pizza for supper and them headed over to the water taxi, paying $10 (the price of a commuter ticket on the Express) and arriving at Snug Cove at 9:30. We were ten minutes late because the driver misplaced the tickets. I was at home about the time the ferry I SHOULD have been on left Horseshoe Bay and I did it for about half the price. My client will be happy.

The crossing itself, in calm seas like last night, is scheduled to be 22 minutes, and the Bowen Express is running a pretty ambitious schedule. I don't think I want to be on it in a Squamish or a strong inflow, and indeed the story from two nights ago about taking air as they ploughed through five foot swells sets my stomach churning a little. So if you're planning on doing it, check the winds warnings and make sure there is no gale blowing. Winds in Howe Sound are very local and can come up very fast, with swells building quickly depending on the tide and other factors. You can start across Howe Sound in calm seas and get blasted before you get to Snug Cove.

But last night the water was fine and the three of us steamed out of English Bay and home with no hitches at all. It was surprisingly, scarily fast. If they keep it going, it will change the way people visit Bowen and the way we visit the mainland, and if it really takes off, BC Ferries will have to pay some attention. As it is the price doesn't make it the preferred way to travel, but when circumstances warrant, like last night when I'm travelling on someone else's dime and cabbing all around the lower mainland, it will be the way I get home.

So good luck to Kelli and the crew and thanks for the great ride last night.