For Immediate Release
November 20, 2022

Klitsa and the Malahat washout
How the crew of one of the smallest BC Ferries kept the Island connected

VICTORIA – Next week marks one year since the Klitsa and her crew became one of the only links between greater Victoria and the rest of Vancouver Island. The vessel’s route, recognized by many as more of a scenic detour of the Malahat, assumed the role of emergency lifeline and began a three day odyssey that would demonstrate how BC Ferries crew, land-based staff, and community came together in a time of crisis to keep the Island connected.

November 15, 2021 began like any other for the Klitsa crew with a 7:30AM sailing leaving Brentwood Bay bound for Mill Bay. Across the Saanich Inlet conditions were already deteriorating on the Malahat. Heavy rain from an atmospheric river was starting to overwhelm the region putting the Highway One commute in jeopardy and driving traffic to the only other easily accessible option – the Klitsa.

“It didn’t take long to figure out what’s going on,” says Ryan East, Captain of the Klitsa. “Whenever there is an incident on the Malahat our lineups get big, real fast.”

With demand growing, the team shortened its shutdown break from one hour to a half hour, and by 4 pm an extra sailing was added to the schedule. A half hour later the vessel went into shuttle mode and traffic control staff were called in to work. By 5:15 pm extra crew were sourced and 7 more sailings were added to provide continuous service throughout the night. 

On shore, terminal staff showed up to a route without terminals to help with the heavy foot passenger traffic that had materialized. Neighbouring communities became parking lots for stranded travelers, and residents responded with empathy. On both the Brentwood Bay and Malahat side people prepared sandwiches, fruit, and drinks to offer to waiting customers. Community members walked long lines well into the night checking on drivers and passengers to see if they needed anything. 

As the sun rose on November 16 the Klitsa crew resumed their regular schedule. No one knew the status of the Malahat just yet, but the lineups offered an indication. Rough estimates put more than 250 vehicles (a 15 sailing wait) on each side; a big ask for a 50 year old vessel with an 18 vehicle capacity, but the crew and the ship went to work.

“During this time we gave priority loading to Ambulances and medical personnel,” says East. “Emergency crews dealing with the floods in the northern portion of the Island also moved to the front of the line”  

Four sailings were added to the end of the regular shift and the crew eventually punched out around 2 am, the first break for the Klitsa in more than 40 hours. The extra efforts got an additional 60 plus vehicles, passengers, and dozens more foot passengers to their destinations. 

Four more sailings were added to the November 17 schedule to address the remaining demand, and after that the Klitsa and her crew reverted to their regular routine. 

One year later, the November 2021 storm is recognized as one of the most damaging in BC history. A piece of that story is how the Klitsa and her crew performed the equivalent of nearly five days’ worth of work over the span of 72 hours to turn the “scenic detour” into the lifeline that kept a broken island connected when it needed it the most.

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BC Ferries, Media Relations
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