BC Ferries passengers stuck after ship loses steering ahead of busy long weekend

A number of BC Ferries sailings have been canceled after a ship traveling between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island lost the ability to steer late Wednesday, leaving hundreds of people stranded on board for hours.

The Queen of Oak Bay, which had been traveling from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, had its hydraulic steering pump fail during the 8:05 pm sailing.

An announcement came over the intercom informing passengers they would be delayed just a few minutes away from Nanaimo, passengers said.

“It ended up being about 2½ extra hours,” said Glenn Alderson, who lives in Vancouver and travels to the Island to see his father.

The vessel was stopped in the Strait of Georgia. Tugboats pulled the ship to dock in Nanaimo, BC, around 1 am — more than three hours after it was supposed to arrive.

Passenger Karen Kuwica, who’s been traveling the ferry route for 40 years, said passengers were relatively calm with most people watching shows, sleeping in their cars or sipping on free hot chocolate from the concession. She was on the main car deck when the tugs pulled up.

“Their maneuvering was really impressive and they had their big flood lights on … people were talking, it was all positive.”

“I knew that we’d be just fine, that the crews would do what they needed to do and they did,” she said by phone. “[B.C. Ferries staff] did their best to make people comfortable. They just did their best in an unfortunate situation.”

Passengers watch as tugboats help the Queen of Oak Bay into Departure Bay in Nanaimo, BC, after midnight. (Sonya Hartwig/CBC)

Alderson was also watching as the tugs did their work.

“It was a pretty cool sight to see, but still not an ideal delay,” he said. “The boats are old but you don’t expect them to have mechanical failure like that.”

A statement from BC Ferries said 410 people were on board the sailing.

The ship is still not running Thursday, creating delays ahead of what is usually a busy Easter long weekend.

“We are waiting for an update from engineering regarding the status of the Queen of Oak Bay and an update from our operations team regarding contingency plans for the day,” BC Ferries said in a statement.

The Queen of Coquitlam, a second ship on the route, is still running Thursday.

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