Long-time ferry captain Jack Birch retires after three decades at sea

by Karl O'Day

(The Bowen Island Undercurrent, February 7th 1992, p1: with permission)

Cy Peck, Pender Queen, Vesuviius Queen, Bowen Queen, Howe Sound [Queen]. These are the names of some of the ships that have served Bowen Island through the years and Captain Jack Birch has skipped them all.

Jack went to sea as an apprentic on cargo ships that travelled at 10 knots--slower than the Howe Sound Queen which can do over 12. After 10 years and three trips around the world, he then served with Imperial Oil, tramping up and down the coast. His career with B.C. Ferries began in 1964 and he was assigned to the Bowen Queen in 1975.

The mates and deckhands are all highly visible but the skipper is rarely seen for he rarely leaves the wheelhouse except at mealtimes.

Jack truly loved his ship, his crew and his passengers, even through the sometimes near-impossible schedules. Jack's last official run was the 12:50 from Bowen Island on January 31st. Aboard to celebrate with jack were friends and family -- even grandchildren.

His retirement plans are his secret but the time he spends with his family and friends and his dreams will be given with the same loyalty and dedication he gave to his career.

On behalf of all Bowen Islanders, I wish Jack good luck and godspeed.

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