First trip out to Haida Gwaii, the photo below was the start of the two different BC ferries that Carl and I took. It was also the start of pushing kayaks onto ferries and a few lessons learned along the way.
The learning curve.
- We rolled our boats onto the ferry. Best to load them I told Carl. Boats loaded with 25 days of gear are heavy, especially when you push them 1/4 to 1/2 mile on an inclined steel grating. I can still feel my back aching. Stress cracks showed up in the gel coat. On the return trip, we used the cart walk on passengers can put bags onto and left the boats light. Sorry about that Carl…
- Arrival times tend to be accurate, its the offloading that may take a while. We missed our scheduled permit talk at the Gwaii Haanas Park office because of that. Fortunately the ranger lady took pity on us and we were out in an hour instead of waiting around till the next day.
- Water from the facets may not be potable. On the current ferry from Prince Rupert out to Skidegate I felt the effect by the next morning. It was 3-4 days before the need to quickly land when paddling had passed.
- Good wheels that breakdown and stow easily are a must. They best handle a loaded boat as well. On the first trip to Haida Gwaii we left our wheels in town. Mine didn’t readily come apart and Carl’s didn’t handle a heavy boat well. The wheels to the right solve both of those problems.
- Expect to secure your boat. Some of these boats encounter rough water and your boat will slide around.
There is a good life aboard to enjoy.
- Some have all you can eat buffets. Carl and I each had 3+ overflowing plates for breakfast and dinner after our 25 day long trip. Satiated, we found comfortable places to sleep off our food induced stupor.
- One of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen was when Carl and I sat on the stern as we pulled out of Skidegate at sunset. Simply gorgeous. Also gorgeous was the cabin shower and the bunk beds with clean sheets that we booked for the overnight trip to Prince Rupert. Waking up the next morning, Carl was in the shower again. Didn’t you take one last night? I wanted to make sure it took.
- Met a paddler from the Falklands on one ferry. Fun to pass time talking about paddling in another part of the world.
- The ship’s restaurant on the run between Dublin and Anglessey is a Burger King but you can order a Guinness.
But with all that said, you can expect to face the unexpected. Rules, regulations, the things the reservation agent says all can change and throw a barrier in your way. Check out this story from Nancy and Carl’s adventure taking the ferry to Newfoundland – click here.
- Traveling from the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island, I learned July 1st can be pretty festive in Canada. An obviously inebriated person shouted out at various intervals I love you Canada and Happy Birthday. Sometimes there are pretty woman on these ferries. Sometimes it is best to stay away from them. One of them pretty ladies introduced me to the singer who was her friend.
- In Stockholm, post 9/11, I had just passed through security when there was a shout. I was 15′ from a turn down a hallway and 50′ from the guards. Do I look back or ignore it and continue? After a couple of steps I turned around, all the security guards were there looking at me when someone said something in Swedish. No idea what was said, I kept pushing, smiled and waved. They all burst into laughter as I reached the hallway and turned out of their sight. Phew!
- Also in Stockholm, I pushed the boat onto the escalator after realizing it wouldn’t fit on the elevator. Everyone, without a word, moved out of my way, as if that happened everyday.
- Arriving in Prince Rupert, the ferry out the Haida Gwaii wasn’t until the next morning. The nearest campground was 2-3 miles away. The lady behind the counter was not one to allow any rule bending. What to do when it is midnight? We waited till the terminal staff left and commando camped in a nearby field. We rolled out of bed at 5 am to avoid trouble, broke camp and waited under the terminal’s eaves until it opened at 7am. A different counter person was more friendly. We didn’t say where we camped but the man said, you know a lot of paddlers just camp right over there, pointing to where we spent the night.