Bay Ferry The Oldest BC Route|
By Ron Armstrong
For those driving
the Malahat, the ferry is a crawling speck on the water below. For small boaters,
it is the largest vessel theyll meet on Saanich Inlet. This is the popular
Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay ferry, and it
turned 75 in 1999 the oldest continuous ferry operation on the entire coast
of British Columbia.
In the 1920s, the road from Victoria over the Malahat
was gravel, twisting and subject to washouts. Two former naval officers, Kennaird
and Williams, saw a way to bypass the road by transporting vehicles across Saanich
Inlet. They converted the 22-year-old, 90-foot coastal tramp steamer Cascade
to allow vehicles to drive on bow and stern. Terminals were established about
10 metres south of the present terminal location in Brentwood
Bay and at Camp Point in Mill Bay.
The SS Brentwood
as it appeared in 1926
Photo Courtesy Wilf Hankin
much for the inauspicious start. The new ferry sank at her Brentwood dock just
before Christmas 1924. The shell ice in the bay had opened the seams in her wooden
hull. In 1933, the ship underwent a major refit. Another wheelhouse was set amidships
upon a new superstructure rising over the car deck. Her steam plant was replaced
by a horizontal Gardner diesel engine and her name was changed to Brentwood.
Freight and Trading Company was bought by coast Ferries Ltd in 1945. In 1947,
the Brentwood had another power change when two Cummins truck engines were
installed. Former Chief engineer Wilf Hankin referred to them as two boys
trying to do a mans job. After four unsatisfactory years, an inline
eight-cylinder Gardner replaced them.
53 years old, the little ship was showing her age. Another partial sinking in
Canoe Pass and a grounding on Johnston rock added to her normal wear and tear.
So, Victoria machinery depot was contracted to build a replacement. Launched in
1956, she was an all steel construction, 125 feet long with a capacity of 18 cars
(two more than the older ship), and she also received an eight-cylinder Gardner
Ferry departing the Mill Bay Terminal
predictably, she was named Mill Bay. For two years both ships ran in tandem
while the present Malahat highway was under construction. Since then the Mill
Bay has become part of the Saanich Inlet scene as she makes her 18 crossings
a day at a sedate eight knots.
June 1969, B.C. Ferries bought the operation from Coast Ferries. For many years
the Mill Bay, as well as being the smallest car-carrying ferry in the Corporations
fleet, was the only one without radar. Her skippers combined skill with local
knowledge to keep her out of harms way, even in the thickest fog.
her predecessor, the Mill Bay has only had one major mishap in her 43 years
of service. On May 29, 1989, she ran up on the beach just south of Mill Bay terminal.
Her strong bar keel prevented severe damage and she was pulled off safely. A later
inquiry found the grounding resulted from the captain falling asleep. He hadnt
rested after a hard sail in the Swiftsure sailing race!
the years the crossing has employed four men with remarkable service records.
In the engine room were Bert Clow (1924 1964) and Wilf Hankin (1951
1993). In the tiny wheelhouse were Capt. John Deacon (1945 1969) and Capt.
W. Glenn (Red) Ryder (1956 1987).
Ryders memories portray a largely pleasant operation, but not without incident
or anxiety. There were separate collisions with a fish boat and a windsurfer,
but no personal injury and little damage.
years without radio and radar were challenging. When lost in the fog, many
of the fishermen would head for the ferry, as our foghorn sounded frequently,
and they could tell by the time which way the ferry was going. This created a
scary situation, as so many of them were near or on our course line. One time
Capt. Reakes (marine superintendent) was on board and I was trying to convince
him of the necessity for radar. He spent most of the trip telling me how to miss
the island, but he never once told me how to find my way through the boats and
to the wharf.
the last 20 years there have been threats of change of terminals and even a total
shutdown, but residents on both sides rallied to save their ferry.
As long as her old Gardner keeps thrumming, the Mill Bay seems secure.
Ferries calls the oldest ferry link on the coast "The Islands Most
by Ron Armstrong|
Victoria, British Columbia
ferry Mill Bay was retired from service on 2 May 2011, and replaced by
the MV Klitsa with effect from 1 June 2011.|