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Master mariner will miss 'little boats,' his favourites in 40 years of sailing

Apr 06 2012
Department of National Defence staff head home Thrusday on a blue Boat that goes across Esquimalt Harbour. 

Department of National Defence staff head home Thrusday on a blue Boat that goes across Esquimalt Harbour.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com (April 2012)

The passenger load of 29 was lighter than normal Thursday afternoon, as one of two Blue Boats carved a path across Esquimalt Harbour between HMC Dockyard and Colwood on one of 20 weekday crossings.

With the Easter weekend coming, many civilian staff and military members have time off, said Keki Pardiwala, the 67-year-old ship's officer at the helm of the 3 p.m. sailing of the military's commuter ferry service.

Pardiwala has been the master mariner aboard this 22-metre, 70-tonne ferry, which was built in 1955, for the past three years, and it's a favourite among the vessels he's sailed over his 40-year career at sea.

"I like these little boats the best," he said, spinning the spoked wheel and moving the vessel away from the dock. "It's a very nice boat to handle. And I get to meet the passengers."

Pardiwala is sad to think of the Blue Boats suspending their shuttle service at the end of the month. He says he'll miss passengers who have become friends.

Pardiwala and the other crew will be reassigned to other vessels operated by the Queen's Harbourmaster Unit. Passengers will have the option of using a user-pay ferry service operated by Victoria Harbour Ferries.

Susan Bridges, a 58yearold civilian employee in the Base Logistics office, has been riding the Blue Boat since 1988. "As long as there's a boat to come across, I'm fine with [a new operator]," said Bridges.

Passengers like Bridges dread the prospect of driving around on the traffic clogged roads linking the West Shore and Esquimalt.

Leading Seaman Matt Chalovich, stationed on HMCS Regina, said taking the Blue Boat "is a hell of a lot easier than actually sitting through traffic with the Colwood Crawl."

He has been taking the ferry for three years. The best thing about the boat is avoiding traffic, he said.

Able Seaman Phillip Tallack, who serves on HMCS Winnipeg, said driving to his home in Belmont Park, part of Colwood, takes an hour with the traffic. "The Blue Boat cuts about half of that out," he said.

All of the passengers interviewed said they hoped the cost of the new ferry service would fall in the range of $5 a day or $100 a month. If it's too costly, they'll consider switching to the time-consuming commute by road.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said Thursday she is delighted to hear of Victoria Harbour Ferries taking over the service.

"It's fantastic. The private sector has stepped forward and they're able to manoeuvre much faster than we could at any government level."

The new user-pay ferry system will give 400 passengers a day an option for getting off the congested roads, she added.

"It's excellent and I hope they can get all the little bugs ironed out."


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