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Victoria man tests the waters for an Oak Bay Marina passenger ferry

Resident of 25 years wants more and faster connections to Vancouver, Gulf Islands, U.S.
A modified map of Oak Bay Marina visualizes Victoria resident Thomas Guerrero’s idea to run an international passenger ferry service off the end of Turkey Head (Spewhung). Guerrero noted that in 1968, Pacific Hovercraft Ltd. received a licence to operate a passenger hovercraft from Vancouver to Victoria and Nanaimo. (Courtesy of Thomas Guerrero)

A 25-year Victoria resident is sharing his vision for an international passenger ferry service running right out of Oak Bay Marina that would save time for people who usually travel across the Salish Sea via downtown Victoria or Sidney.

Thomas Guerrero, who works for the BC Public Service Agency and volunteers for the City of Victoria, recently blogged on his Sidewalking Victoria site about the prospect of a ferry terminal at the tip of Turkey Head (Spewhung). Destinations he has in mind include Vancouver, the Gulf Islands and Friday Harbour, Port Townsend and Bellingham, Wash.

“I think this would definitely be something people would like to see, especially in the summer,” he told Black Press Media, adding that government-run ferry companies servicing Greater Victoria must prioritize their key routes. “People often complain about the time it takes to get places.”

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Guerrero, 45, said taking the Victoria Clipper to Seattle, means time is lost circling east around Oak Bay from downtown Victoria – he figured up to 30 or 40 minutes. Boarding a Washington State Ferry to Anacortes or a BC Ferries vessel to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands requires a drive north to Sidney or North Saanich.

Alternatively, he estimated a sailing from Oak Bay Marina to Roche Harbour on the San Juan Islands would take 40 minutes.

“The benefit of Oak Bay is it’s not so far out that there aren’t already some transit connections,” Guerrero continued, saying these wouldn’t have to be particularly large ferries and a light rail transit or streetcar service along Oak Bay Avenue could increase access to Turkey Head.

He suggested the former V2V Empress passenger ferry, which ran three-and-a-half-hour trips between the Inner Harbour and Vancouver for two years, may have had more success if it launched from Oak Bay Marina and reached Vancouver in three hours or less. He also noted that a service to Bellingham would additionally connect passengers to low-cost regional flights at its international airport. Another option he put forward was water taxis running from the marina to Cadboro Bay.

Guerrero pointed to a 1968 Daily Colonist article on Pacific Hovercraft Ltd. receiving Canada’s first passenger hovercraft licence to run a service from Vancouver to Victoria and Nanaimo. The service would’ve halved the travel time between Vancouver and Nanaimo by ferry and covered a longer route than the Vancouver-Victoria ferry line in just 13 minutes extra. The hovercraft would’ve landed in either the Inner Harbour or Oak Bay Marina.

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While Guerrero said his idea isn’t sitting well with Oak Bay residents so far and the current marina is too shallow to accommodate ferries, he advocated broader travel options for locals and more tourist access to Greater Victoria.

“I just think that we get stuck in our ways in Victoria,” he said. “It’s always a good idea to test boundaries and think outside the box.”


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