BC Ferries celebrates Klitsa crew on anniversary of 2021 floods

A year ago, a powerful river brought torrential rains to greater Victoria, washing out a highway linking the area to the rest of the island.

BC Ferries is marking the day by shedding light on how one of its ferry crew members stepped up to help the community in a time of need.

BC Ferries said in a release that the Klitsa and her crew were on Vancouver Island, touted by many as a scenic alternative to the Malahat section of the Trans-Canada Highway, but on that fateful day, the Instead, the ship has become an important lifeline.

15 November 2021 started like any other day for the crew, with a 7.30am departure from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay. However, by the time they set sail, conditions on board the Malahat had deteriorated.

“It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on,” said Ryan East, the captain of the Klitsa. “Whenever there is an incident in Malahat, our lineup goes really fast.”

As demand grew, the crew reduced the stoppage time from one hour to half an hour, and by 4 p.m., the schedule added extra sailing. Half an hour later, the boat went into shuttle mode and traffic control officers were called to work. By 5:15pm, additional crew had been recruited and seven sailings had been added to provide uninterrupted service throughout the night.

On land, terminal staff showed up to help with the heavy passenger traffic that had already occurred. Residents expressed sympathy as neighboring neighborhoods became parking lots for stranded travelers. On both sides of Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay, sandwiches, fruit and drinks were prepared for waiting ferry passengers.

As the sun rose on November 16, Cretsa’s crew resumed their normal schedule. No one knows Malahat’s status yet, but the lineup offers an indication. Rough estimate is over 250 vehicles on each side – 15 sailings awaiting. That’s a lot to ask for on a 50-year-old boat with room for 18 cars, but the crew and boat got to work.

“During this time, we are prioritizing loading ambulances and medical personnel,” East said. “Emergency crews responding to flooding in the northern part of the island have also moved to the front lines of the defence.”

Four more sailings were added to the end of the normal shift, and the crew finally got off duty around 2am – the Klitsa’s first break in more than 40 hours. Extra efforts got more than 60 passenger vehicles and dozens of passengers on foot to their destination.

All told, BC Ferries said the Klitsa and her crew managed the equivalent of five days’ work in just 72 hours as they quickly turned the scenic voyage into a critical lifeline.

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