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Pacific Ferries launched Jan. 27

Pacific Ferries’ Coastal Clipper made its first voyage across Howe Sound, with all passengers safe and accounted for despite stormy weather.

Pacific Ferries’ Coastal Clipper set sail on its first voyage across Howe Sound as a passenger ferry on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Despite stormy weather, Pacific Ferries spokeswoman Linda Feuerhelm said the crossing was pretty smooth.

“We hit a couple bumps on the way over, which we absolutely expected. Other than that, it was exactly as we planned,” Feuerhelm said. “In fact, everybody started cheering when we passed the ferry.”

The Coastal Clipper launched from Horseshoe Bay with 16 passengers and made a return trip from Gibsons Landing with 12, although Feuerhelm said her phone had been ringing non-stop with reservation requests for their 5:15 sailing.

Gibsons resident Ray Dewolff said he was taking advantage of the free trial period to see how well Pacific Ferries stands up to BC Ferries. He said he was making the crossing to go for tea.

“We wanted to check it out, see how efficient it is, if it comes on time,” Dewolff said. “I’m hoping maybe it can fill in some of the gaps – for me – particularly in the evenings. It would be nice if there was a late sailing, if it came back at 11 p.m. or something.”

Like Dewolff, Gibsons residents Zev and Jeanette Clementson were at the launch to try out the new service. They also spoke in favour of a late sailing, which the operators of Pacific Ferries are looking into.

“Having a later sailing would be nice, so you would be able to do things in town on the weekend. Saturday night would be fabulous,” Zev said.

Feuerhelm said the company would like more information on how they can best tailor their sailing times to the needs of Coast residents. One option in the mix is the possibility of an 11 p.m. ferry between Gibsons, Bowen Island and downtown Vancouver.

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“We’re getting a little bit of flak about parking and ‘why don’t you do morning runs?’” Feuerhelm said. “But other than that, everybody is really excited about it.”

She said she will be talking to the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority and the Town of Gibsons to sort out parking.

“The issue with morning sailings is we would have to dead head there every morning and back every night,” Feuerhelm said. “Which is a huge cost and would have to be passed on to the customer.”

She didn’t rule out morning sailings in the future, and said that the company would be growing slowly.

The boat, which can carry up to 46 passengers, was built in 1981 by Rivtow Industries ltd. It is the sister vessel to the Leviathan II – which capsized off the coast of Tofino last October – but Transport Canada has given the Coastal Clipper a clean bill of health.

“The vessel Coastal Clipper was inspected by Transport Canada last November and December [2015], and holds an inspection certificate that is valid until Dec. 16, 2016,” Sau Sau Liu, regional communications officer for Transport Canada, said. “The vessel has been found to be in compliance with the regulations under the Canadian Shipping Act, 2001.”

Feuerhelm said the Coastal Clipper is not the same as the Leviathan II.

“Although they were built to be the same, the Leviathan was later on lengthened and an additional deck was added on top,” Feuerhelm said.

The Coastal Clipper has also had some work done in the last 35 years. According to Feuerhelm, she was “totally rebuilt in 2008 and repowered with three brand new engines.”

Prior to being acquired by Pacific Ferries, Feuerhelm said, a logging company operated the vessel between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy until 2011.