The Northern Sea Wolf received a warm reception from the local community on Sunday as BC Ferries hosted a jam-packed Open House to welcome the ship into service.
Locals steadily filed in and filled the car deck of the new vessel to witness the opening ceremonies conducted by representatives of BC Ferries, the Nuxalk Nation, the CCRD and tourism officials.
“Like all of you, we’re very thrilled to bring the vessel into service,” said Mark Wilson, BC Ferries Vice President of Strategy and Communication. “
Nuxalk Hereditary Chief Noel Pootlass was joined by several other Staltamc (hereditary chiefs) to conduct a welcome on behalf of the Nuxalk Nation, saying it was “awesome day” to see the ferry in Nuxalk territory once again.
“It’s really important because we don’t have a great amount of jobs in our community,” said Pootlass. “This brings a lot of help to our whole Valley and I want to thank everyone for coming here today.”
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who had been very busy in the Valley with various other announcements, was enthusiastic in welcoming the new route to the Central Coast.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Northern Sea Wolf ferry to the Central Coast,” said Rice. “The arrival of this important ship and service is wonderful news for the people, small businesses, and tourism operators who depend on this popular route.”
The ship was due to sail in 2018 but extensive renovations led to the cancellation of that summer service, much to the outrage of tourism operators and tourists alike.
“I’d like to express my gratitude to BC Ferries who I know worked under tremendous pressure and tight deadlines,” said Rice. “I also would like to recognize Ernest Hall, who rallied for this ferry tirelessly before he passed away two years ago. I wish he could be here today to see this ship. This is truly a great day for people on the coast and across the region.”
The new vessel is set to hold 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew, and sailings are already filling up.
“Space is still available for vehicle bookings on all but two sailings, with five other sailings booked to the level of at least 90 percent full,” said Darin Guenette, Manager, BC Ferries Public Affairs. “Thus, for people who are still considering travel on this route, we would encourage them to contact the booking team for travel planning assistance.”
Nuxalk artist Danika Naccarella, whose art is featured on the inside of the ship, was also on hand to celebrate the day. The vessel has been completely modernized with a brand new galley, bridge, electrical generators, emergency generator, HVAC system, washrooms, elevator, chair lifts, cafeteria and passenger accommodation area. Guenette said that “it will be a worthy addition to the Northern fleet for at least another 20 years.”
The name Northern Sea Wolf was selected after lengthy consultation and input from local Central Coast First Nations.
“The name was selected in honour of a First Nations legend in which the Sea Wolf is a manifestation of the orca,” said Wilson. “The Sea Wolf symbolizes family, loyalty and the protection of those traveling their waters.”
The first direct sailing from Bella Coola to Port Hardy departed early Monday morning on June 3 and will continue through an extended season that ends on October 10.