Ross J. Beaty. who lives on the waterfront on Bowen's Tunstall Bay, reports that last Sunday his six-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old girlfriend were swimming in flat, calm water in front of his cottage when a sudden swell from the fast ferry, which was travelling on the Horseshoe Bay-to-Nanaimo run, entered the bay and swamped the girls, nearly drowing them. Beaty, who was nearby in a kayak, was unable to reach them in time to help. A 14-year-old boy swimming with them pulled the six-year-old to safety while the severely traumatized seven-year-old managed to pull herself out of the water.
In a letter to Gordon Wilson, the Minister responsible for ferries, Beaty points out that his shoreline is already showing signs of accelerated erosion which he attributes to the frequent PacifiCat swells, especially at high tides. Beaty writes, "It is obvious that the new ferry is ill-conceived and innappropriate to the run it is on." He believes it is only a matter of time before someone is drowned in a fast ferry swell.
As the Ferry CURE petition points out, this incident is only one of several threatening events since the fast ferry began operation this summer. Homeowners on Passge Island, which sits south of Bowen in Queen Charlotte Channel, complained in July that "enormous, dangerous and destructive" waves were hitting the west side of their island each time the PacifiCat crossed from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay. What they describe as a 10-minute long tsunami--often reaching 10 feet above high water mark--has damaged boats and docks, washed away building materials, disrupted the island's ferry schedule, and forced the removal of a propane tank which had been safely positioned for 25 years.
Residents of Keats, Preston and Paisley islands, adjacent to Bowen, have reported similar distressing incidents.
The Passage Island protestors have demanded that "when the tide is above 10 feet, the ferry must cut speed to a crawl." In a recent U.S. decision, a Washnigton State court issued a preliminary injunction last month saying the high-speed ferry Chinook should reduce its speed to 12 knots from 34 knots until a trial can determine whether full-speed operation produces a damaging wake.
The Ferry CURE petition calls for the B.C. Ferry Corporation immediately to reduce the speed of the PacifiCat, while passing the affected islands, to a speed consistent with no damage arising from the wake, or effects of the wake, to the environment or property, and no risk to personal safety.
"It should be noted that the wake of the fast ferry is nine times stronger than the regular C-class ferries," says Ferry CURE president Richard Goth. "So it may very well be necessary to lower the speed of the fast ferry to less than that of the C-class vessels."
Passage Island Homeowners Association
Page last updated 99-08-14