Have a Ferry Merry Christmas

I wrote this post a few years ago, but it seemed apropos again this year.

Merry Christmas to all and I wish you a happy New Year.

One snowy night before Christmas, I waited with an expectant crowd in the parking lot of the Nanaimo ferry terminal on eastern Vancouver Island. The crowd was buzzing with excitement. An entire family in Santa hats arrived, adding to the festive air.

Lights spilled out the open terminal doorways highlighting the falling snow. We don’t usually get snow on Vancouver Island, maybe a couple of days each winter, but in this particular Christmas season we, like most of Canada, had been battered by wave after wave of snowstorms.

Taking ferries to and from the mainland is a fact of life for islanders everywhere. As I waited in the dark parking lot for my daughter, I thought back to the first time I spotted her, blurry through my tears, among the hundreds of students pouring out into the parking lot on her first Thanksgiving weekend home from university. Now, years later, she lives in Vancouver and once again the ferry was bringing her home for the holidays.

But what about my husband? I’d taken him to the tiny Nanaimo Airport two weeks before in the middle of our first, blinding snowstorm to catch a flight east to attend a family emergency. When we got to the airport we discovered nothing was flying out that day – but if he could get the ferry to Vancouver,  he might still catch his connecting flight. In almost white-out conditions, we made a run for the ferry and he did just make his flight that day.

Now, two weeks later, as I slogged through the snow to pick up my daughter, I wondered if he’d get home the following night in time for Christmas. My trusty Rav 4 made it to the ferry, the windshield wipers barely clearing the window before the sticky snow covered it again, the headlights showing only the swirling snow ahead.

My daughter and I stopped at the airport on our drive home to see what the chances were of my husband’s flight making it in the next night, Christmas Eve.

Apparently zero to none.

In the empty, echoing airport, we heard an attendant tell a traveler that the bags he’d last seen two days before in Vancouver might be in the truck of lost luggage that had just rolled off the ferry. And that they might get the trucks unpacked in the next few days.

“But tomorrow is Christmas eve,” he wailed. “All of our presents are in those bags.”

“Sorry,” the attendant said.

Although we here on the coast love to complain about holiday ferry sailing waits, the fact remains that, barring gale force winds, the ferries will make it through. They’re our stalwart link to the mainland and, for me, on this unusually snowy Christmas, the ghostly white ship was the envoy responsible for pulling our family together.

It kept on snowing right through Christmas Eve, but finally, at noon on Christmas day, my husband made it home, with his bags, on the ferry.

It’s the same story for families up and down the coast, from Saltspring to the Queen Charlotte Islands. In good times and bad, and when all else fails, we count on the ferries to keep our families together.


I hope you made it together with you and yours this Christmas.

See you in the new year.

Judy's signature




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