A Summer Ferry Tale

Paul McGeachie

You generally can’t reserve a spot, but you get preferred boarding.

Good news. On most routes, the motorcycle fare is up to 50% less than a standard vehicle. Especially during the summer months, taking a motorcycle trip through the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island can be an outstanding experience.

BC Ferries policy is loading of motorcycles operates under the principle of first-come first-serve, but may deviate if a motorcycle does not displace other vehicles. They strongly encourage motorcycles to arrive 45-60 minutes in advance of the scheduled departure time, but arriving less than 30 minutes prior does not exclude you from boarding, if there is available space. 

Reservations for motorcycles are not available for the main routes such as Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Victoria) or Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver) to Nanaimo. However, BC Ferries offers preferred boarding for motorcycles at those terminals. They go to the front of the line. http://www.bcferries.com/travel_planning/frequently_asked_questions.html#motorcycles 

On-line reservations ARE available for your motorcycle (and BC Ferries recommends you make them) for select routes. That would include Port Hardy-Prince Rupert, Prince Rupert – Skidegate, and Port Hardy or Prince Rupert to mid coast destinations, but for most, that would mean the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands routes.

Tsawwassen to:               

Salt Spring Island (Long Harbour)

Saturna Island (Lyall Harbour)

Pender Island (Otter Bay)

Galiano Island (Sturdies Bay)

Mayne Island (Village Bay)

Note: You can ‘t make reservations for travel between Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands

You can make reservations for group bookings. We suggest you do it by phone. You need 16 people minimum and/or at least 10 motorcycles. Check with the booking agent, but for two-up on a route like Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, expect to pay the basic $28.25 motorcycle fee, plus the driver fee of $17.20, and then the group rate for passengers of $14.70. You, the motorcycle, and your passenger, in a group of at least 10 motorcycles, will pay just over $60. The good part is your group gets assured boarding for your reserved departure time and you stay together as a group.

The front line ticket agent is your first contact on site. They are the gatekeeper. The agent may direct you to the front of a lane, if the loading process has not already started. This procedure assists staff in placing motorcycles into spaces at the front of the ship where standard vehicles to not fit.

Depending on the vessel and the terminal. Motorcycles may be boarded at the very end of the loading process, taking into consideration the order the customers arrived.

Three wheels won’t help you. They pretty much use up a car spot. Can-Am Spyder riders, trikes, and motorcycles with a sidecar are a bit out of luck. Depending on the terminal, these customers may be assigned a special lane for the convenience of the loading officer and tower staff, to assist with the loading process.

There are some time-proven loading tips:

Ride onto the ship slowly. Keep a sharp eye for spills, liquids, or variations in the deck surface.

Park at a 45-degree angle to the ships centre line. Leave your bike in gear and use the side stand.

Wooden wheel blocks are available to wedge on the opposite side from the kickstand. A snug fit is all you need to ensure stability of a four point footprint.

Make sure you are with your bike when the ship docks, just in case there’s a bump against the pier on landing. Many riders like to be on their bikes, both feet on the ground, and squeezing the front brake.

1 Comment

  1. rmunroe97@hotmail.com on December 17, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    There is no priority motorcycle boarding for any of the inland ferries in the Kootenay area. Signs are posted at the terminals

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