Captain Bill Day pilots M.V. Grey Selkie during the first day of service by Baseline commuter ferry service between the Colwood and Dockyard sides of CFB Esquimalt.

Captain Bill Day pilots M.V. Grey Selkie during the first day of service by Baseline commuter ferry service between the Colwood and Dockyard sides of CFB Esquimalt.

New base ferry picks up the slack

At 6 a.m. on May 1, more then 200 people lined up at the CFB Esquimalt Colwood “D” jetty for a quick boat ride across the harbour.

For a time it seemed like it would never happen, but at 6 a.m. on May 1, more then 200 people lined up at the CFB Esquimalt Colwood “D” jetty for a quick boat ride across the harbour.

It’s a surprisingly short trip aboard the MV Grey Selkie. The 10 minute cruise to Dockyard and Naden is certainly shorter than driving around the harbour and joining the thousands of others braving the “Colwood crawl.” It’s far more pleasant too, as the noise of vehicles and the stench of exhaust is replaced by the hum of the boat and the crisp sea air.

It almost didn’t happen, this trip on May 1. The Department of National Defence and CFB Esquimalt announced only in March that the Blue Boat commuter service, provided free of charge for military and civilian personnel for the past 55 years, would be no more as of April 30.

From the ashes of that program came ideas for a replacement ferry. There were plans for a privately operated bus, but in the end Victoria Harbour Ferry stepped up with a plan to offer a similar ferry to the Blue Boat, only privately operated and at a cost to riders.

CFB Esquimalt base commander, Capt. Craig Baines, admitted he was genuinely surprised to see a new commuter ferry up and running the day after the Blue Boats set sail for the last time. He described cancelling the service as one of the hardest tasks he has done as base commander, and is glad to see an alternative has been found.

“I am surprised, I’m not even going to pretend,” Baines said. “But I think it’s a real testament to what the community can do when it puts its mind to it. It was that collective will that made this happen.”

Despite the tight timeframe of less than three months, owner Barry Hobbis said that he never misses a deadline and didn’t doubt they would have the Baseline service up and running by May 1. To reach that point it, he said took a lot of teamwork, deft navigation of bureaucracy and a willingness to develop the idea at the same time as moving forward on it.

“None of us had a path to follow. Nobody. And we just created that path as we went along and that’s a difficult thing to do,” Hobbis said. “Our goal is to make sure that people get to work and get home safely and efficiently. And that’s what we’re going to do, that’s our focus.”

Victoria Harbour Ferries hosted an opening celebration for the first day of operations. Area politicians, military officials and media types attended to hear some words from organizers and to enjoy a free run across the harbour and back.

Colwood Coun. Shari Lukens said the privately run ferry is positive for everyone, especially in regards to keeping traffic off the roads and out of the commuter grind between Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt.

“It also provides options,” Lukens said. “Any time we can work with another municipality, it’s a great opportunity to bridge those relationships and continue to build and work together.”

Esquimalt mayor Barbara Desjardins spoke on behalf of the councils of View Royal, Colwood and Esquimalt, and thanked the federal government, businesses and agencies involved for their speed in coming up with a solution.

“Can you imagine that the federal government moved faster than municipalities?” Desjardins joked. “I really want to say thank you for digging through that red tape, getting on with it and making something happen. Public, private partnership at its very best.”

The results of 747 surveys helped to decide the level and cost of service. The trip is $2.50 one-way, or cheaper with weekly and monthly passes. Baines said he has heard grumbling about having to pay for what used to be a free service, but most employees feel the fares are reasonable and are happy to see a service in place.

The vessel can hold 40 passengers and there are plans to bring in another 40-passenger vessel in a few weeks to meet demand. If necessary a third boat will be added.

Hobbis said that although there are no concrete plans yet, the intention is to expand the service. Down the road, Hobbis said that he envisions transporting civilians from the West Shore to the downtown area by way of water.

“When you live on an island the shortest distance between two points is water,” said Hobbis. “We can, I think, look at this reasonably and picture a day when you could be removing 2,000 vehicles from that roadway.”

For more on the Baseline commuter ferry service, see victoriaharbourferry.com/baseline

news@goldstreamgazette.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Community members Ed Hutchinson, left, Dave Noren, and Pat Graham, president of The Ladies Guild, stand before the new book house outside the Church of the Advent in Colwood. The tiny library was built as a result of the annual Church of the Advent book sale being cancelled due to COVID-19. (Submitted/Joan Hoffman)
Colwood church builds little library

Church of Advent annual book sale cancelled due to health restrictions

To each their own pipe. The new sewer main during staging in James Bay before it was installed in 2018, to convey waste to the McLoughlin Point treatment facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘End in sight,’ for Victoria’s annual sewage overflows

Wastewater projects underway should end sewage overflows

(Courtesy Very Good Butchers)
Very Good Butchers brand adds cheese to its platter

The Cultured Nut products to be rebranded under Very Good Cheese banner

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

June Saxe, 2, enjoys the sunny shoreline at Whiffin Spit with her dad on March 5. The family had come out from Victoria for a day in the sunshine. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Warm weather brings Sooke’s Whiffin Spit to life

Visitors, locals enjoy warm weather at coastal viewpoint

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read