13 Bowen Island Ferry Tricks & Tips to Help You Arrive on Time

13 Bowen Island Ferry Tricks & Tips to Help You Arrive on Time

Is the Bowen Island ferry late or has been cancelled again?

This questions has become an important concern for many islanders in recent years.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to check up on the Ferry and understand the reasons behind delays or cancellations.

Whether that consoles you or makes you hot under the collar, we’ll leave that to you.

In this article, we’ll cover the most useful tools for navigating the ever-changing logistics of using the ferry to make your appointment, plan your daily commute (if you still have one), or make it back home on time.

The Halcyon Days of the Bowen Queen

In days gone by, getting a friendly tip that the Bowen Island ferry was running late could give you an extra fifteen minutes at home with your hot coffee before heading out in the rain or having to wait in the ferry lineup.

Otherwise only way you predict when the ferry would be back in Snug Cove was to know ahead of time that the Bowen Island ferry had left Snug Cove already behind schedule and make an educated guess as to when it would be back.

A phone call to BC Ferries would sometimes give you an update on wither the ferry had gone.

BC Ferries starting reporting actual arrivals and departure on their website several years ago. But this information was not accurate, much of the time.

So, unless you had eyes on the Bowen Island ferry, its fate was something you just had to discover with the good old “wait and see” method.

The Line-Up is Always Growing…

These days, knowing that the Bowen Island Ferry is late doesn’t really give you the luxury of taking your time to get in line. There’s so much more car traffic on the island and we have more visitors than ever.

The ferry line-up builds whether the ferry is late or not.

Long line-ups are more common than ever, even in the off-season. You’re always at risk of missing the ferry if you don’t queue up well before your scheduled departure time.

Is the Bowen Island Ferry Late?

So perhaps you find yourself in the ferry line-up and you want to know if you have time to get yourself a coffee from The Village Baker, The Ruddy or The Snug.

Or, if you’re more ambitious, whether you have time to enjoy a quick snack nearby.

The most logical step is to turn the Departures and Arrivals page of the BC Ferries website. You can add this page to your mobile phone’s home screen so it’s always there when you need to check. This will save you time navigating the BC Ferries website, which can be a little tedious.

If the Bowen Island ferry is late again, BC Ferries will provide a terse and often frustratingly simple reason for the delay.

Why is the Bowen Island ferry late? A humorous cartoon by Ron Woodall.

How to Navigate the BC Ferries Website

There are several pages to check depending on what info you’re looking for:

  • Departures and Arrivals for Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island show actual departure times, whether the ferry is considered late (BC Ferries will say it’s ‘On Time’ if a departure time is less than 10 minutes), and usually an unsatisfying reason for any delay
  • Terminal Webcams are not actually that helpful for understanding why your ferry is late and not as good as knowing the deck space remaining. Unfortunately there is no webcam on the Bowen side (although there was once had a TV monitor in The Snug to show if the ferry was coming in!)
  • Special Notices are usually posted above the Current Conditions page (banner) or you can access them here.

Actual departure and arrival times often reflect that an early morning delay typically will ripple throughout the day, pushing back the ferry departures and clogging the lineup on both ends of the route between Horseshoe Bay and Snug Cove.

It’s also worth remembering that delays with the Sunshine Coast or Nanaimo ferries, sometimes due to heavy seas in the Straight of Georgia, mechanical issues or berth availability, can also impact the Bowen Island ferry schedule.

Check out the Real-Time Ferry Tracker Web App

Some brave and generous soul created the Bowenferry.ca web app for islanders, and it shows so much information on one page – in realtime. It is far more convenient than navigating all the different pages on the BC Ferries site looking for the same info.

It includes the current schedule for both directions, a real time ferry tracker map, available deck space on the Horseshoe Bay side for upcoming sailings, actual arrival and departure times and some other cool features.

Since it’s a web page, you can first pull it up on your phone, then use the ‘share’ button to add it to your home screen and always have it handy. Hallelujah!

Bowen Island ferry docked in Snug Cove.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

7 Reasons the Ferry May be Late (or not show up at all)

There are some general reasons why the ferry gets behind schedule:

  • The larger Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island ferries are occupying berth space at Horseshoe Bay or the Bowen ferry has to wait while the larger ferries arrive or depart
  • There’s been a mechanical issue
  • It’s a Wednesday dangerous cargo sailing (and you forgot)
  • BC Ferries had to delay or cancel a ferry because there weren’t enough staff for a full crew
  • Bad marine weather conditions or poor visibility
  • Tourist foot passengers are generally slow to walk off the ferry
  • High traffic seasons mean ferries take longer to load.

How to Get Detailed Information about Bowen Island Ferry delays

Ferry travelers often post detailed updates from the ferry terminal or en-route on their way across about the latest delays. These posts are usually found on a couple of Bowen Island’s active Facebook Groups:

Keep in mind that you’ll need to decide if the information is reliable or pure conjecture.

After all, it is a Bowen Islander’s favourite pastime to speculate why the ferry is delayed, and it’s no different on Facebook!

Bird's eye view of the Bowen Island ferry pulling in to Snug Cove.
Photo by Claudia Schaefer

It Pays to Know Your Bowen Ferry Schedule

Most Bowen Islanders have been caught off guard by a seasonal change in the Bowen Island ferry schedule.

What happened to that 1pm sailing that we had all summer?

You can check the current BC Ferries schedule or use Bowenferry.ca to stay up to date.

If you want to know the schedule for the upcoming season, you can select schedule for an upcoming season and view any schedule changes.

Dangerous Cargo sailings occur every Wednesday – cars are not permitted on the sailing to Bowen Island (at around 9:00 am) or on the afternoon sailing (at around 4:00 am) to Horseshoe Bay.

These sailings are indeed dangerous — they just lurk there waiting for you to forget!

Similarly, if you’re on the mainland on a Saturday, remember that there’s no ferry running at around 8:00 pm – it was cancelled several years ago. 🙁

High Traffic Days

The Bowen Island Muni Ferry Guide offers helpful suggestions for improving the loading and unloading process in Snug Cove (which we wish more visitors to Bowen Island would read. And even some residents).

Of particular note, is the list of dates that feature significantly higher car and foot passenger traffic. There is sometimes a ferry marshal on these days to help manage the cars lining up for the ferry.

Ferry Capacity Is Determined by the Number of Passengers, Not Cars

One particular vexing situation is when a large number of foot passengers board the ferry.

Because the maximum capacity for the Bowen Island ferry is based on the number of passengers (dictated by the number of life jackets, we’re told) rather than cars, it means that fewer cars will be allowed on the ferry if passenger capacity is reached.  

If a large group or tourists or students boards the ferry, you may watch it sail away from the comfort of your car.

Allow enough time to get in line

Gone are the days when one could arrive in the Cove only five minutes from departure.

Even mid-day ferries can be overloaded these days. Speeding to make the ferry is definitely frowned upon and dangerous. Try and give yourself a wide time ‘berth’, and visit local businesses in the Cove while you wait.

Lack of Carpooling and Passenger Boat Options

Carpooling and ride-sharing has definitely taken a hit over the last few years. The Bowen commuter bus is no longer active, and we miss the days of passenger shuttles to Horseshoe Bay & Granville Island!

There are plans afoot to start a passenger only small “ferry.” Perhaps a water taxi service that connects to a shuttle bus will resurface in the years to come if demand is there.

The Final Word

One thing for sure is that catching the Bowen Island ferry’s comings and goings will always be something to talk about with friends.

Especially if you’re in the line-up watching it pull away without you.

Author: devBowenOnline