Photo of The Spirit of British Columbia courtesy BC Ferries Corporation
In mid-September my fiancee and I took a day trip over to Vancouver from Victoria, necessitating (unless we wanted to fly, or grease up like the appropriately named Fin Donnelly and swim the 45 kms across the Georgia Strait - he did it in under 9 hours!) the normally 1 hour and 35 minute voyage via BC Ferries.
See her fantasteriffic blog for details of the trip itself, and then come on back for the pulse-pounding (well... softly pounding in a very sleepy sort of way) tale of our FOUR hour return trip on the final 9pm sailing that evening/night/morning!
Now this (below) is how you are supposed to park on the 500 vehicle car decks of the Spirit of British Columbia (largest vessel in the largest ferry fleet in the world dontchaknow?). Which is how we did before heading on up to the cafeteria for some soup and hot chocolate. It had been a good but long day (up since 5am), rainy, tons of driving and walking, and we were plain tuckered out. Not to mention that we arrived early at the ferry terminal that evening and had been waiting for an hour and a quarter already before loading.
So as the ship sat still docked at 9:10pm, and as I supped on poulet avec nouille fantastique we were somewhat surprised to hear the chief purser come over the inter-ship communications announcing in a muffled voice ... "Due to a motor vehicle accident on the main car deck our departure will be delayed. We will keep you updated."
"Hmm" we, and many others, said to ourselves. "That's unusual..." If it's a minor fender bender it shouldn't have caused much, if any, delay. It must have been something more serious, maybe involving an injury. Oh, well... minor setback.
Life continued as normal on a tired rainy night. Finished up the soup, talk about our day, look at cool stuff picked up at Daiso, droopy eyelids abound.
15 minutes later the call of nature sent a text message to my bladder and I thought I'd kill two birds with one plate glass window by checking out the incident that was adding a half hour to our anticipated WACB (Warm and Cozy Bed) e.t.a.
Leaving Joanne to the comfort of the "Coastal Cafe" and a magazine or two I jauntily left on my appointed tasks. A few minutes later found me making my way down to the bottom level of the ferry and, after walking to the business end of the ship, this was the unusual sight that greeted me...
"What, pray tell, have we here?"
"I do believe that semi-trailer truck is jammed into the loading doors of the ship!" Let me take a closer look..."
It appeared that this misbegotten carrier of freight had inextricably wedged itself (well... I assume that the driver helped a bit!) into the loading doors of the ship, preventing them from closing. Can't move trailer? - can't close doors. Can't close doors? - can't move ship. Can't move ship? - can't get our heroes back into bed at a reasonable hour!
Now, I know that loading a 1992 Toyota Corolla is much easier than loading a 48ft trailer. And since I don't have a Class 1 air brakes license I wouldn't want to pass judgment (although it appears I'm about to!). But how in the heckeroony do you A: drive into the loading doors of BC Ferries largest vessel, and B: in an attempt to get free only wedge yourself in deeper?
After rubbernecking for a bit I trudged back up the four flights of stairs to rejoin my wonderful fiancee and fill her in on the not-so-nifty news while awaiting further developments. Within what was I'm sure a short time, but seemed much longer due the curved time-space complexities and quantum field theories that come into play when you're trapped on board a ship with little to do on a rainy night and a far-off down duvet is warmly calling you...
... we were once again graced by the dulcet tones of BC Ferries personnel over the ship's loudspeakers.
This time the head honcho himself spoke to us in a disembodied, and somewhat apologetic, tone with the promised update. The captain stated that it seemed the semi was indeed stuck fast to the doors and, in fact, the ship could not sail until that situation had been rectified. To wit, a tow truck had been dispatched from points unknown to attempt to free the beached behemoth. Unfortunately the anticipated arrival time of said rescue vehicle was not until at least 10pm!
Sleepy disgruntlement ensued. Even the proffering of free and gratis coffee, tea, and fountain drinks (that's sody-pop to you and me!) could not quell the air of somnambulous discontentment that was growing. Now, if they had offered us free video games in the ship's two arcades... that might have been a different kettle of fish! But alas...
Around 10pm I headed back down to take gander at the hoped-for progress, leaving my much smarter partner to take up residence in a padded chair in one of the main passenger areas. "You go have fun" was how I remember her dismissing me (I recall some shooing, but that may be embellishment on my part) to once again take up my photographic pursuit of (and I can't decide which works better)... " The Case of the Shmooshed Semi", or "The Mystery of the Stuck Truck".
Sometime after 10:15, to an ever increasing crowd of onlookers with nothing else to do, the tardy tow truck finally arrived, and proceeded to hook up his winch to the back corner of the trailer. A BC Ferries employee positioned himself with a charged fire hose in what I imaginatively, and very wrongly, assumed was in case of a massive Michael Bay-worthy explosion from the highly volatile cargo (I'm guessing here for dramatic effect) the truck might have been hauling...
In fact he just wet down the deck to make it easier to slide the vehicle over. And that's exactly what happened...
The tow truck slid over to the unmoved semi.
With thoughts of dancing sugarplums fading fast in my head I once again walked (although little slower with each successive trip) back to the upper decks to wait out our fate.
Fast forward through a couple more trips down to the main car deck, a groggy visit to the gift shop to make fun of the goofy souvenirs, and one or two more restroom breaks (there was free pop after all!) to 11pm... two hours past our scheduled departure time. With nothing else to do Joanne finally decided to go see what all the hubbub was about. This time, wisely taking the elevator down, we arrived just in time to watch as either a larger, or better anchored, tow truck finally succeeded in pulling the wayward trailer away from the car deck doors!
As the echos of squealing tires reverberated throughout the cavernous innards of our mobile metal marine motel a halfhearted "YAY!" rose up from the three dozen or so pooped passengers present. "We is free!" they exclaimed! (or at least that's how I choose to remember it. But I was really tired). I suspect, however, the twelve foot gash down the side of the smashed-up semi will not be free when the repair bill comes back from the shop.
Now only 15 more minutes to check out the doors, a 95 minute sea voyage, 10 minutes to dock, and a 30 minute drive from the terminal to home.
So... although I'm tempted to say that this is where the story only starts getting interesting (I was going to regale yous all with tantalizing tales of high seas hijackings, run-ins with the law, and lost house keys) the truth is that we slept in the car for the rest of the ferry trip, and eventually, and uneventfully, arrived home safe and somewhat sound about 1:15 in the a.m.
Elapsed time from arrival at the terminal to Victoria that night?... 5 1/2 hours.
Elapsed time from the front door to the warm duvet and sweet slumber?... 5 1/2 seconds.