Queen No More


I have no idea how many times, other than ‘lots’, that I travelled on the Queen of TsawwassenThe Queen of Tsawwassen was part of my existence for about 40 years so you can imagine my surprise to find her at the head of Toba Inlet, serving time as a logging camp. The Queen of Tsawwassen was decommissioned as a ferry in 2008 after 48 years of service, sold and renamed the Inlet Explorer for a new life.

One of the Sidney class of ferry made for BC Ferries she is the second ferry they had built. This class was inspired by the MV Coho, still in service between Victoria and Port Angeles, a ferry that has appeared in this blog before, and will again.

At the time this vessel was built for the Province of BC’s fledgling ferry service, the province relied very heavily on logging for tax revenue. You could say she was built with logging money so it is fitting that in semi-retirement she ends up a logging camp.



Canon EOS 5D MkII, Canon 50mm/f1.4 lens, ISO200, f2.5, 1/8000th (top) and 1/2,500th (bottom).




26 thoughts on “Queen No More

  1. Pingback: Is the Mystery Owner Bringing this Vessel to Deep Water Recovery? – allthingsunionbay

  2. Pingback: MV Rhododendron | burnt embers

  3. I felt the same surprise as you describe when I saw one of the other old BC Ferries vessels of our youth, serving as a logging camp mid-way up Johnstone Strait. Good to see some re-use of these sturdy old vessels even if it seems a big dissonant in terms of the context we’ve normally seen them in! Love that top photo BTW.


  4. The first photo is so BC West Coast I got my rain gear out. Beautiful! Even though, like many Vancouver Islanders I’ve logged many hours on this ship, the ferry never crossed my mind till now. Must’ve been a surprise seeing it there. The comments section here has become a conversation with historic references that round out and complement your write up. It must be an excellent entry since it made me forget the time… Good night


    • Thank you Joseph. I hope I did not keep you up past your bedtime! The comments on this post are among the best I have received on any post. Everyone was as surprised as I am to see this ship in this setting. On FB one of my friends declared he was going to be staying on board this week – doing fish surveys in the rivers. And others got into reminiscences of logging camps they have stayed at. A fun and informative post!


    • Thanks Andy!

      I just had an email from the UK about this post from a person that had seen my post just after reading about the prison ships on the Thames:

      The reason I mention it because there seems to be some intertwined things going on with Toba Inlet.

      The Toba Inlet entry in Wikipedia notes that: “The first non-indigenous exploration of Toba Inlet occurred in 1792 when British and Spanish expeditions arrived in the area simultaneously. There was cooperation between the British under George Vancouver and the Spanish under Dionisio Alcalá Galiano. From a base of operation in Desolation Sound boats were sent out to explore the region. On June 25, 1792, Vancouver proposed sending out three parties in boats. The Spanish offered to take on one of the three, this being the investigation of Toba Inlet. Caytetano Valdés left with a boat party early on June 25, and returned on June 27, having determined that the inlet was closed. He described it as being of great depth, with steep shores and high peaks around. On its east shore Valdés found a plank (“tabla” in Spanish) covered with paintings, which he described as “hieroglyphics of the natives”. There were several empty villages. The Spanish encountered no inhabitants. Valdés named the inlet after the plank he found, Canal de la Tabla. The British examined the inlet just after Valdés, confirming for themselves the Spanish report.[1] Vancouver kept the Spanish name, which a Spanish map engraver’s mistake had changed to its present form of Toba Inlet.[2]”

      In the link my reader sent to me about the prison ships (http://bit.ly/17roM34) has a section concerning the hulk of the HMS Discovery being a used as a prison ship. Discovery was Vancouver’s ship and the islands at the mouth of Toba Inlet are called the Discovery Islands. The reason that I was in Toba Inlet was to look at a recently discovered carved tree with the local First Nation, in this instance it was in the form of a face carved into the trunk of a tree quite a ways up the valley.

      For me the fate of the Tsawwassen ties nicely back to that of the Discovery, and the carved tree to the Tabla.


  5. Though the second photo shows the ship better, I like the first photo. The sepia tone and the border enhances the look of the ship and water. The sky seems more dramatic, too.


    • Hi Ken – I processed the lower image first and was pretty pleased with how it came out looking as if it could be a print from hey day of this vessel. The other was an after thought. I had inserted it in a colour version in the blog, but decided I should put a border around it and make it more like the one I had processed. When I loaded the image into the software, it displayed it with the last used settings, and this is pretty much what I saw. It was soooo much better than the colour that the switch was inevitable, and I promoted it above the fold too. One of those lucky breaks, as I did not see this potential in the original at all.


  6. ephem – so great to see a familiar “lady of the gulf” at least being used and cared-for.

    Not so lucky, the history of the last of Puget Sound’s steam ferries: the San Mateo (http://www.evergreenfleet.com/mateo.html). How well I remember hearing the haunting sound of her steam whistle as she pulled into Edmonds in the fog. So sad that she could not be restored.

    BTW – Toba is indeed a beautiful place. Thank you again for so artistically reminding me of my childhood! You rock. Keep it up!


    • Hi Sam – thanks for your comment. In your link is a shot of the hulk of the San Mateo leaning against the Sidney, sister ship to the Tsawwassen and for which the Sidney class of vessels is named. There seem to be lots of round about connections arising from this story, as my other comments point out.

      But seeing as how you came to my blog through a Friday Harbor Labs connection, there is another one I will add to the list – my father did research in Toba Inlet, using the Pisces submersible, when it was stationed on this coast (I think it must have been the Pisces IV, now in Hawaii, though the Pisces II is now on display in Vancouver). His interest in that work was the vertical movement of plankton and Pisces took him hundreds of feet below the surface in this very deep inlet.


      • Yes it was the PISCES IV. That work came out in the Journal of Plankton Research, 1985, Vol 7, pp 753-777. Your father included a summary diagram showing the vertical distribution of plankton from several mainland inlets and around Vancouver Island on p. 35 of http://web.uvic.ca/~mackie/Career.pdf. I believe George went down below 750 metres off Texada Island but PISCES could go much lower.


      • Hi Val – thanks for that information. Amazing what a simple blog post can result in by way of little-known information about a place!


  7. Who knew?! Interesting how a primary industry (logging) takes on the remnants of another industry (transport), rather like the resort on Newcastle Island (recreation) used old CPR ships as floating hotels in the 1930s. I like the sort of sepia appearance of the second photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Richard – that is an interesting comparison, seems like a time honoured tradition. There are also the use of old warships as prison ships on the Thames in centuries gone by, and I think even quite recently.
      I treated that second image to give a feel of a 40 or 50 year old colour print, I like how it turned out too.


    • Thanks Melinda – that is even more unexpected, the Queen of Prince Rupert ,in Fiji!. The links in your article don’t work, but these do: http://bit.ly/HsXoVX. Seems that vessel has asbestos aboard – http://bit.ly/16j69vk. If you google the vessel name you get a lot of news – seems like it features big in the local news.
      This one gets into a FB gallery, which you can navigate in with the arrows (I can’t shorten the gallery link for some reason) http://on.fb.me/1byPpQl


      • Taking a ferry from BC to Fiji would be one LONG trip – our driver in Fiji said the ferry trip between islands (it’s 1.5 hours by plane) could take more than 18 hours, depending on currents.


      • The longest trips on BC ferries are the ones that run from the north end of Vancouver Island up to the northern end of the BC coast at Prince Rupert, about 18 hours, but mostly in sheltered waters. The Queen of Prince Rupert used to work that run, as well as a more exposed one across to Haida Gwaii. A few decades ago it was possible to take the ferry from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, a run that I did several times, possibly on the QofPR, or more likely on the Queen of the North (formerly called the Queen of Surrey) which sunk a few years ago along that route, after going off course and striking a rock.


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