For most Gulf Islanders, riding the ferries is something we are forced to do for practical reasons. It’s low on the list of exciting leisure-time activities.
So it’s unlikely that many islanders have had much awareness about Friday night “island hopping,” which has been lightly promoted by the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce and other venues for the past few years.
Because of the Friday summer BC Ferries schedule, it was possible to leave Long Harbour on Salt Spring at 3:55 p.m., and visit Galiano, Mayne and Pender — one, two or all three — and return to Long Harbour by either 8:20 or 9:55 p.m. It’s definitely not long enough to do much on the islands but it lets you get a taste for more.
With new Gulf Islands ferries and schedules coming on stream next summer, Friday night island hopping will be no more. This Friday, Aug. 26, and Sept. 2 are the last two opportunities to give it a whirl.
Full-day hop options
Last Friday I embarked on a different kind of island-hopping adventure that let me spend three blissful hours exploring Galiano Island alone and six and a half hours with a friend on Mayne.
For weeks my friend Gayle from the Lower Mainland had been hankering to go to Mayne Island, which she hadn’t visited in some years. But finding a day when we could both free up the time was a challenge.
One day I twisted my brain into the shape required to wrestle with BC Ferries’ schedules and came up with a plan: I’d drive onto the Queen of Nanaimo from Long Harbour at 6:15 a.m. and get off on Galiano Island at 8:20 (after first stopping at Otter Bay on Pender and Village Bay on Mayne). Gayle would walk on the Nanaimo’s 10:20 departure from Tsawwassen and we’d unite after I got on that same ferry at Sturdies Bay. We’d get off at Mayne at noon in time for a fantastic lunch at The Groove.
Combining work and pleasure (as I often do), I got to meet the delightful Barbara McIntyre of Nomads Essentials and Lorie Brown at Gardenia in Miners Bay, delivered some Aqua magazines and took photos for Driftwood publications on both Mayne and Galiano. Gayle was happy to return to the Georgina Point Lighthouse park and the Springwater Lodge with its legendary deck and views. I bought a book at Miners Bay Books, some delicious fresh bread at the Farm Gate Store and we both carted small armloads of Nomads Essentials body care products out of Barbara’s store. We were also totally impressed by the Japanese Gardens at Dinner Bay Park.
The exit plan was to get on the Queen of Cumberland in Village Bay at 6:25 p.m., which would connect with the 9 p.m. Skeena Queen sailing from Swartz Bay to Fulford. While the Cumberland was late, as it often is, we were never in danger of missing our connection to Salt Spring.
At the end of the day, I added up my ports of call and vessels to discover I had sailed on three different ferries that touched berths eight times. My Salt Spring porch light was in sight before 10 p.m. I used my Experience Card and was surprised at how little it cost.
There’s more good news: my extended-day Friday island hop does not expire with the summer schedule and it’s not confined to Fridays. In fact, the more I squint at that confounded schedule, the more possibilities I see for weekday Mayne, Galiano and Pender visits.
P.S. See a previous piece from 2014 about my first Friday evening island-hopping experience. My partner Michael and I also enjoyed wood-fired pizza and dessert with friends at the Galiano Inn one Friday night last summer after hopping on the Bowen Queen from Long Harbour.
The writer is editor of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper and Aqua – Gulf Islands Living magazine based on Salt Spring Island, B.C.