Monday, August 2, 2010

Canada RV Travel...............Wonderful!

The Ferry Fiasco at Prince Rupert    30 July 2010
OK.  You're not going to believe this one, but give it a try!  It's actually true.
After an absolutely wonderful day driving from our campground further east.... to Prince Rupert, we headed straight to the BC Ferry dock to make arrangements for passage to the Queen Charlotte Island, the northern most Island group of Canada/under the Alaska border.  A short wait in line and we were chatting with two very friendly and helpful ticket agents.  Our rig was measured for Oversize vehicle fare and we paid for it and us to be transported aboard the ferry in the next morning.  Fare for us was $39 each, but the Motorhome @ 24' was $275. one way.  We would make arrangements for our return when we knew our plans.  No rush!  We were told to make sure we showed up in the a.m. a bit early and certainly by 9 a.m. for our 11 o'clock departure.  The ferry ride would last until 6:30 p.m..
We now had time to explore the town a bit.  Actually, we spotted a laundromat first and took advantage of our free time for a wash, dry, fold afternoon.  Clothes put away, we took a slow drive through the small city whose downtown area was probably 3 x 10 blocks in size.  A Norwegian Cruise Line NCL was docked and it's passengers were exploring the gift shops.  Not wanting to be a tourist, but rather remain 'travelers', we continued on along the shoreline looking for anything old, odd or quaint to photograph.  The town was similar to many we visit in that it showed much effort to revitalize one that is and has gone through economic difficulties and changes.  Our explorations done sadly in short order, we decided to head to the BC Ferry dock to stage ourselves for the next mornings departure.  Once there, we found a spot to park away from most everything and relaxed for the evening.
Before 5 a.m. we could hear vehicles lining up at the 2 booths for staging for the ferry boarding.  I wanted to sleep more, but Dorothy was antsy so I got up to walk our dog, Lady.  Flipped the switch to the coffee pot before I left and enjoyed the scent of fresh brewed java when I returned.  It was heavily overcast with fog, common this time of year along the coast.  The pavement, grass and autos were as wet as after a good rain, but aside from the engines, it appeared the rest of this world was quiet.  One cup of coffee down and I was in the drivers seat to enter the tail end of the line.  At the booth, we handed the gent our paperwork with Appropriate Numbers.  We had to then show ID to confirm 'we' were the right folks and then given instructions and a red seal for shutting off our propane tank and marking it.  Safety first.
Told to get into Line 7.  There were 12 lines and it seemed they were filling from left to right, 1 to now 7.  Up we went, and in short order, our line was creeping forward toward the Ferry.  I was surprised they were boarding us so early, as the paperwork said departure at 11, but I guess they had no reason to waste time with us sitting there in the parking/staging lot.  Quickly, many motorhomes and vehicles with trailers, boats and yes, just regular cars loaded on.  Even a group of Hell's Angels from BC were going for the ride....their bikes parked right and left of the entry doors.  Once our vehicle was secured and we had our cameras in hand we headed up the stairs to check out the rest of this vessel.  It was quite bigger than I imagined it would be and newer.  Everything looked spotlessly clean..........a new ship!
Up on the top deck, the view was minimal.  We walked the lower lounge decks to get the feel of the layout and looked at the charts in the lobby to try to figure out where everything was.  For the moment, we were satisfied to just wing it yet not loose one another.  We had not had any breakfast, so we found the Canoe Cafeteria and picked out a table on the starboard side of the vessel with a wonderfully large view the fog.  Fog is nice!  Especially when someone else is doing the driving/someone 'else' is captain! :)
Breakfast was good.  I held our table and Dorothy did the walking.  She chose ham/sausage and eggs, with potato's and toast.  Relaxed after eating, a bit sleepy still though, I was thinking of moving to one of the lounges to find a soft chair.  Dorothy was content with the view where we ate, but I took a short walk to explore.  Not a minute passed and a pleasant female voice addressed the ship via a speaker system; "The destination of this vessel is Port Hardy on the Island of Vancouver.  Is there anyone aboard....a motorhome actually, that is supposed to be ferried to Queen Charlotte Islands?"  "Would the owner of a motorhome, destined for the Queen Charlotte Islands, please see a crew member!"
I scrambled back to the Cafeteria.  Dorothy was getting up but apparently had not heard or understood the significance of that message.  In seconds,(2), she was following me down to the lower deck level; the vehicle deck.  I walked quickly and there on the aft end of the ship were 6 or 7 men; vehicle loaders-awaiting the culprit.  "Me".
  I mentioned that we had no schedule, was not harmed by this and if it helped them, we could just be returned on another vessel or another time.  We were on an open ended vacation and timing was not a problem.  He quickly ran this by the ships captain and with confirmation, we agreed to just stay aboard and be returned in the morning.  What might have been a difficult situation was now an inconvenience for only the BC Ferry Line and us, and did not have to involve many other families needlessly.  The company was kind and generous.  They comp't us a room and meals going and coming and would make arrangements for corrections to our ticket over to Queen Charlotte to coincide with our arrival back to Prince Rupert.  I did ask a small favor if it might be possible.  As a captain, I would love a  'tour of the bridge'.  The Purser smiled and said she would relay my request to the Captain.
Awhile later, actually taking a nap in our room, I was awakened by an announcement for Mr. or Mrs. Sheridan to check with the Pursers office.  I got up quickly as Dorothy was down on the main deck taking Lady for a walk.  I feared something was wrong with her or the dog, so I made a Bee line for the Pursers office a deck below.  There, the Captain was waiting, offering a Bridge Tour.  We quickly agreed on a time, 15 minutes forward, to meet there.
 Ferry to southern Haida Guai
 Eagles often seen in packs
 Our first camp
 All shorelines littered with huge timers
 Museum craftsmen turn logs into totems or boats, keeping alive their traditional skills.
 Museum filled with artifacts of their past lives.
 Nature abounds here.  The forests luckily are still filled with life.
 2nd camping experience was along a beach far from any town.  Perch built atop an old stump.
 A location with 20 or so campsites on the northern most coast of the island. Large tidal flow make life interesting.  High tide had waves a few feet from our RV and low tide we had a couple of hundred yards to the water.
 Volcanic remains.
 20' from High Tide campsite.
 Low tide explorations

 Atop the volcano's center
 The hike to the top took us through a wonderland of life as it should be.
 From atop, a view of Alaska, just to our north.

 Looking East.
 Low tide at the base.  Volcanic lava flow eroded into wonderous pools.

 Life goes on,
 Salmon, the main industry besides protected logging.
 Mythology here remains a strong part of their life.
 Ferry from southern Island back to main port and Ferry back to the mainland.
 Open waters were usually rough as there is no protection at all.  Open sea for thousands of miles.

After  a few hassles finding the correct passages aboard etc., we found ourselves introducing ourselves and being introduced to the crew of 4 manning the bridge at the moment.  The M.V. Northern Expedition was a new vessel.   Built in Germany, she sailed the Atlantic and passed thru the Panama Canal in March '09 and headed north for her employment in the British Columbia Ferry Fleet.  Actually, at the time of here Canal passage, we were aboard our vessel in Bocas del Toro, Panama having just arrived from our own passage from Guatemala via islands of Columbia, Provodencia and St. Andres.  Coincidence.
The helmsman stayed busy aboard Northern Exposure, while a cheery female officer gave us a first class tour and explanation of the systems available to the bridge crew for navigation, ship avoidance and emergency systems.  The Captain joined us a few minutes after we entered the bridge area and joined in our discussions.  All crew appeared quite sharp.  It was no surprise though to find them also interested in things mutual; sailing, the Panama Canal, old things nautical, history, the environment, laughter and technology.  We did not want to belabor their work, so after our tour and some chat time, we departed their company.
We did discuss a possible option for us, in not returning immediately to Prince Rupert, but delaying the return for maybe a week.  This would have 2 purposes; One, to be more relaxed and rested when we finally got to the Queen Charlotte port and Two, to be able to take time to visit the island of Vancouver after arriving at it's Port Hardy.  It should not be any more difficult for the company to arrange this a week out and would give us some time to enjoy our leisurely travel.  Will know more this afternoon, but the Purser is checking it out for us.
They did not call us, but had our info on record, so once I called we were given our choice of a departure date to bring us back to Prince Rupert and then on to Queen Charlotte Islands.  We asked for a 10 day window and it was OK'd!  10 wonderful days on Vancouver Island.  We enjoyed it immensely!
 Leaving Prince Rupert harbor, heading south to Vancouver island.
 Private yacht conversion.
 Breakfast aboard ferry, all meals and our room were compliments of the company.
 Low tide along the Pacific beaches of Vancouver island offered pools teaming with life.
 Ok, I take too many tree shots!  Just one more, honey!
 Deer walk the streets of the little towns.

 Heading back to Prince Rupert.  this is the NEW ferry.
 Moss covered part of this tree looks Eire, doesn't it?
 Logging tug.
 Coastline is littered with large logs.
 Near high tide.  Waves would crash ashore at night and had me worried they were so close. Low tide, you could walk out 200 yards on a firm volcanic sand beach.
 A campers shelter.
 Fabulous selection of weathered rocks...I forgot which kind but Dorothy had lot's of fun collecting.
This trip was like most, extremely relaxing.  What a life!

hey...its travel time! keep smiling, all will work out/ duh,,,,yup, I brought my home with me so I can sleep anywhere reasonable.  We need NOTHING.  We park as any car would do.    photos later................

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