A hodgepodge of marine vessels formed a flotilla to escort the Black Ball Ferry into its downtown Victoria port, with representatives from the Victoria Fire Department, CFB Esquimalt, Victoria Harbour Ferry, Canadian Coast Guard, Prince of Whales Wildlife Adventures, Downtown Victoria Business Association, Destination Greater Victoria and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
The M.V. Coho responded with its trademark three-horn blast, a sound that used to echo through the Inner Harbour on a daily basis, but has been mostly silent through the pandemic.
“A ship is kind of a living thing, and people seem to get attached to it,” says Ryan Burles, President of Black Ball Ferry Line, referencing that iconic ship horn. “It’s good to be back, and to have people really appreciate us.”
Burles was at the Black Ball Ferry terminal to welcome the M.V. Coho into its dock, and said he appreciated the efforts of locals to organize the flotilla and wave from shore.
“It was an emotional thing, just the spirit, and everybody’s enthusiasm.”
He says the first seven southbound sailings are completely sold out, as snowbirds and other travellers take advantage of reduced border restrictions. The first northbound sailing operated at about 10 per cent capacity — Burles says the Canadian entry requirement of a negative PCR test makes short-term leisure travel unrealistic for most Americans, but expects the coming holidays might increase demand.
“We feel we’ll be busy enough over the next two months. For us it’s getting our crew back, getting them comfortable.”
Thanks to American state and federal funding Black Ball Ferry Line was able to keep the majority of its staff employed, but with many of those supports ending this fall, the border opening was the perfect time to restart regular service.
All travellers must be fully vaccinated to enter the U.S. or Canada. To enter Canada, travellers (regardless of citizenship) must submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival and register travel with ArriveCAN.