Free Wi-Fi Coming to Gabriola and Nanaimo Harbour Ferry Terminals

The BC Government announced yesterday that free Wi-Fi would be coming to 14 more ferry terminals, including Descanso Bay and Nanaimo Harbour. This is welcome news for Gabriolans who have been asking for this service for years. Work to install and activate Wi-Fi service at all 14 locations is expected to be completed by Oct. 31, 2021. For more details see the press release here

Traffic Flaggers on Taylor Bay Rd.

Beginning tomorrow, June 15, BC Ferries will have traffic control personnel on Taylor Bay Road between 9 am and 1 pm every Tuesday and Thursday for a 10-week period ending August 19 as part of a traffic management trial. The FAC welcomes this trial and hopes that having flaggers to help manage the lineup during these busy periods will curb dangerous behaviour such as illegal U-turns. Drivers are asked to be aware of flaggers and to follow their direction.

High School Transportation Update

As many of you have heard, there have been some issues lately connected with the ferry running late enough that high school students could actually catch the earlier boat. In some cases students were expected to sit on a bus in the heat for an excessive period of time to avoid overloading the earlier (but late) ferry. In other instances those who arrived at the terminal by other methods of transport were denied boarding.

The FAC has communicated with BC Ferries and SD68 and received the following assurances and updates:

  • Students arriving at the terminal by any means other than the school bus will not be denied passage.
  • If the “school bus sailing” is more than 30 minutes late, the bus will hold at the school so that students won’t have to spend too much time downtown,
  • Students will be allowed to leave the bus and walk on the ferry rather than being forced to stay on a hot bus.

The FAC requested that if the “school bus ferry” is over an hour late that the bus leave NDSS in time to get on the earlier ferry. SD68 was unable to accommodate this request.

These difficulties arise from a combination of heavier summer ferry traffic and BC Ferries and SD68 COVID-19 protocols. Fortunately the school year is nearly over and we hope that when school resumes in September the situation will be much improved.

Taylor Bay Flaggers – Trial Announced

The Gabriola FAC is pleased to announce that BC Ferries has agreed to a limited traffic control trial on Taylor Bay Rd. for selected days this summer.  Flaggers were on site testing the logistics today, May 18. The trial will be in effect on our busiest ferry days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) from June 15 until late August. 

The flaggers will be there to help manage the lineup and to provide information and direction to drivers.  They will not be issuing tickets. The FAC trusts that all drivers will comply with the flaggers’ directions and treat them with respect.

BC Ferries has also committed to installing a portable toilet on Taylor Bay Rd.

The FAC will be gathering information from Gabriolans later this summer about their experiences with the traffic control trial with a view to finding out whether the community thinks it would be worthwhile asking BC Ferries to continue and expand this program in future years.


Tuesday, May 18 – Flaggers on Taylor Bay Rd.

BC Ferries Launches Community Consultation on Proposed Schedules for New Vessels

Starting today, BC Ferries is inviting community feedback on the draft schedules for the 2 Island Class vessels slated to replace the Quinsam on the Gabriola-Nanaimo route in 2022. Please visit to participate in a survey on their proposal.

They are also hosting a Virtual Community Meeting on Tuesday April 6 from 6:00 – 7:30 pm to discuss the schedules. Please RSVP at this link:

Please take the time to let BC Ferries know your thoughts. This is an important opportunity to provide your input and share your concerns.

Gabriola FAC Supports the electrification of BC Ferries’ Island Class vessels

On January 13, 2021 Steve Earle on behalf of the Gabriola FAC submitted the letter below in support of BC Ferries’ request for federal grant money for electrification of Island Class routes. The FAC is delighted that BC Ferries is applying for this federal support and hopes that the new ferries for the Gabriola route can realize their potential to be run as all-electric vessels as soon as possible after the redeployment of the Quinsam.

Mark Collins
Chief Executive Officer, BC Ferries

Dear Mark,

I am writing to express the support of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee for the electrification of BC Ferries’ Island Class vessels and their associated terminals. This initiative would enable the conversion of Island Class ferries from diesel-electric hybrid to all-electric by allowing them to seamlessly recharge their batteries during the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers.

Like most Canadians, we are aware of the significant threats posed by climate change, and we support any efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels in transportation systems, including the BC Ferries fleet.

We also value the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, Pacific Salmon and all other marine organisms within the waters of our communities. We understand that electrification of the Island Class ferries will contribute to quieter and cleaner ship operations that will help reduce noise impacts on local communities and on the marine life that we value. We are also supportive of the elimination of air contaminants that will help improve our community health and well-being.

The employment generated by this project would help stimulate the local economy and be of benefit to our community. Interconnection upgrades also have the potential of benefiting the power grid system by providing three phase power to our community that will support future economic and local business growth.

In our view, this effort represents an essential step that will help Canada take meaningful action against climate change while positioning our region as a leader in marine environmental protection.
We support this project and hope that the government will contribute funding so that the conversions can proceed quickly.


Steven Earle on behalf of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee

Why Can’t the Ferry Keep Up?

Steven Earle, for the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee

Gabriolans are justifiably frustrated because the ferry is so often behind schedule. This seems to have been the case for years, but is clearly getting worse, and many of us are negatively affected, at least some of the time.

Scheduling on Route 19 is a challenge. Gabriolans expect BC Ferries to put on as many sailings as possible, starting as early in the morning as possible and continuing as late into the evening as possible. BC Ferries genuinely wants to do that, but they have to work within a restricted budget and under the constraints of their contract with the crew. They have created a schedule that works in theory (and it does work on days when the traffic is light) but goes pear shaped when the loads are heavy.

So why can’t it work all the time?  We know the distance and the ship’s speed. We know approximately how long it takes to load and unload, but this is where it gets difficult, because the bigger the load, the longer that takes. The problem really starts with overloads, because it takes much longer to fill the ferry when there is an overload. Typically, the crew has to stop loading, and then assess how much space is left, and then work to squeeze on as many vehicles as possible, a few at a time. The issue is worse on this side because there are no terminal staff to help out. The other problem is that overloads don’t happen every day—even during the peak season—and at some times of the year they are quite rare. The amount of traffic is also hard to predict as it is affected by the weather and by special events happening in both Nanaimo and on Gabriola.

Sailing delays happen because the schedule is too tight to accommodate the overload problem. It doesn’t help that the Quinsam is currently experiencing a mechanical issue that prevents her from going over 10 knots. That speed is fast enough to keep on schedule on low-traffic days, but it doesn’t allow the ship to make up time when there are delays. The simplest solution to these problems would be to reduce the number of sailings, but that would likely mean even longer line-ups and greater frustration. Nobody wants that. Another solution would be to create a schedule that changes from day to day, with fewer sailings on busy days, and more on quieter days. We don’t think that’s going to float either.

There is one thing that many of us could do to help, and that is to avoid travelling by car when overloads are likely. Not everyone has that flexibility, but those that do could avoid the busiest days altogether: Tuesdays and Thursdays.  And we could avoid leaving Gabriola between 8:50 and 12:35 on weekdays, or returning on the 3:45 or the 5:10. Some of us could leave our cars behind for some trips, and take a bike or walk.

The FAC doesn’t have the answers, and nor does BC Ferries, but we know that Gabriolans are smart, so we welcome your constructive suggestions. They do listen to us (some of the time!) so good ideas do have a chance of being put into practice.

Please e-mail your great ideas on how to make the ferry work better to:

***Please note that the Gabriola FAC Facebook account is only used for the purpose of providing information to the community and is not monitored for feedback. The Gabriola FAC is also not able to moderate Facebook discussions.

Change to Sailing Cut-off Procedure

Effective November 18, 2020 BC Ferries is changing the cut-off procedure for customers arriving at Nanaimo Harbour Terminal.

Starting November 18, when the ferry is running late, customers will be allowed to purchase a boarding pass right up until vehicles begin loading from the last four holding lanes in Nanaimo Harbour Terminal. After that time, no ticket processing of vehicle or walk-on customers will occur for that same sailing.

BC Ferries is taking these measures to try and improve on time performance. For more information please see the Service Notice posted here.

If you wish to contact the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee with comments, or concerns please email The Gabriola FAC Facebook account is only used for the purpose of providing information to the community and is not monitored for feedback.

Upcoming Gabriola FAC Meeting

The next Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct 19 from 3pm to 4:30pm (via Zoom).

Meetings are open to the public. If you’d like to join please contact FAC Chair Steve Earle at or to request the Zoom link.

If you are unable to join this meeting but would like to provide input please feel free to email the FAC at the above address with details of your question or concern.

Update – Back to School Traffic on the Quinsam

Update: As of Monday, Sept. 14th, BC Ferries has confirmed that two buses will also arrive for the 3:45 pm sailing at Nanaimo Harbour Terminal and will travel to Gabriola with students on board.

As NDSS students are set to return to class there will clearly be increased demand for several sailings, in particular the 7:35 am sailing from Descanso Bay. Here are a few key updates from BC Ferries to keep in mind:

  • BC Ferries has coordinated with the Nanaimo Ladysmith Public School District to have two school buses at Descanso Bay each school day morning to transport students in buses on the 7:35 am sailing from Gabriola Island. These buses will be at Descanso Bay Terminal ready to load students before boarding the ferry. Students will remain on board the buses for the duration of the sailing, limiting their interaction with other people on board and freeing up lounge space for other walk-on passengers.
  • BC Ferries is also requesting that all vehicle passengers remain in their vehicles for that same 7:35 am sailing.
  • BC Ferries also reminds customers that all walk-on and vehicle passengers including students are required to wear face coverings at all times when at a BC Ferries terminal or on a BC Ferries ship, with the exception being if a customer is inside a vehicle or consuming food or drinks while maintaining physical distance. As with other COVID-19 regulations, travelers not willing to follow this requirement may be denied travel.
  • For more information please visit
  • The Gabriola FAC Facebook account is not monitored. If you wish to contact the FAC please email for a quicker response.