Passengers trying to get home to Vancouver Island Friday evening were left less than inspired after almost 600 "We Day" students crowded on to the Nanaimo ferry, leaving commuters cooling their heels in Horseshoe Bay.
Julie Salisbury, who lives in Cowichan Bay and regularly commutes to the Lower Mainland for business, said she and about 100 other foot passengers were told they couldn't get on to the 5 p.m. sailing to Departure Bay because a group reservation for students had already pushed the ferry to its passenger limit of slightly more than 1,400.
We Day, an event aimed at fostering global citizenship in youth, saw thousands of students travelling to attend an Oct. 18 rally at Rogers Arena.
A number of school groups made ferry reservations for large groups of students to travel on certain sailings.
But Salisbury said nobody warned regular foot passengers they might get bumped - or planned to accommodate the extra traffic.
Salisbury said she arrived at the Horseshoe Bay terminal at around 4:30 p.m. and was told the ferry was full due to the large group reservation.
Salisbury said there was no prior warning on the B.C. Ferries website or elsewhere that huge numbers of foot passengers had already reserved about half the available space on the often-busy Friday afternoon sailing.
"It's rare to have a sailing wait for foot passengers," she said.
Salisbury said ferry staff then told the gathered crowd there was room for about 40 more passengers on board.
But after about 10 people bought tickets, staff changed their minds and decided the ferry had to leave because it was already running almost an hour behind schedule, said Salisbury.
Ferries staff then made passengers wait even longer outside - until about 6 p.m. - before they were allowed to buy tickets for the next sailing, said Salisbury - which also left almost an hour late.
The whole experience left Salisbury and other foot passengers who were left behind steamed.
Since it knew about the reservation a month in advance, Salisbury questions why the ferry corporation couldn't have put on a larger vessel that could take more passengers or at least have warned passengers about the large reservation.
She said she wrote a letter of complaint to the corporation, but hasn't got any response back yet.
Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, confirmed the Nanaimo ferry did have a reservation for almost 600 school students on We Day.
Normally, the corporation would post a warning to passengers to arrive early and expect possible delays, she said. But in this case that didn't happen.
"This is a learning curve for us," said Marshall, adding We Day has usually been scheduled for mid-week in the past.
Marshall said B.C. Ferries staff estimated about 60 foot passengers were left behind as a result of the reservation.
A number of vessels are in refit at this time of year, which is one of the reasons an extra sailing wasn't scheduled, according to Marshall.
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