BC Ferries deckhands Travis Young (left) and Todd Nickless sit on the back of an ice-covered semi-truck aboard the Nimpkish en route from Bella Bella to Bella Coola on Saturday evening. Photo submitted

Extreme weather covers BC Ferries’ Nimpkish in sheet of ice as it sails

Frozen vessel thawing in the Bella Coola harbour

A BC Ferries vessel and some of its cargo are thawing at the Government Warf in Bella Coola after quite a night at sea.

“It was like something out of the movies,” said deckhand Travis Young of how the sea spray froze directly onto the Nimpkish as it sailed from Bella Bella to Bella Coola Saturday night.

“Waves were freezing all over the boat, it was building and building,” Young told Black Press Monday. “When you are training, you take courses and see things about de-icing, but I never thought I’d see it on the Central Coast.”

According to Environment Canada, the Bella Coola area received temperatures as low as -17.5 C and wind gust speeds up to 52 kilometres an hour on Saturday, Feb. 2 and gusts up to 81 kilometres an hour the next day.

Read more: Extreme cold warning issues for B.C. Interior

“It started freezing about three hours out of Bella Bella,” Young said. “We made it to Bella Coola about 1:30 in the morning, which was later than usual. We were fighting a huge headwind on the Dean Channel and going slower than usual.”

The Nimpkish always has a captain, a mate and two deckhands on board with two people on the bridge at all times, Young said.

Last Friday the ship had sailed the eight hour trip from Bella Coola to Bella Bella, where the crew spent the night, and then left for the return sail to Bella Coola on Saturday afternoon.

There were one passenger vehicle and seven passengers on the ship Saturday and moving around the boat became increasingly dangerous, Young said.

“At one point there was a foot thick of icy slush on the deck,” Young added. “We’d tell people when we thought it was safe to go to the washroom or tell them to sit down when we knew it would not be safe.”

Ice was also forming on the windshield of the bridge and when it was time to dock in Bella Coola, Young and the other deckhand, Todd Nickless, were scraping off the ice so the captain could see.

“The lines were all frozen when we were tying up at the dock too, but we got her done,” Young said.

Originally from Maple Ridge, Young has worked as a deckhand on the Nimpkish for two years.

He moved to Bella Coola five years ago, following his brother who had moved there for an affordable lifestyle.

“I was working at the harbour as a wharfinger and met the ferry captain who told me I should come and work on the ferry.”

Young studied the bridge watchman program at BCIT as well as the Marine Emergency Duties course from Transport Canada and applied.

He’s a casual employee for now and will be working on the Northern Sea Wolf when it goes into operation this summer.

As for his first ice adventure, Young said it was neat to be a part of.

“Our highest concern was safety.”

Young said the Nimpkish’s next sailing is Thursday, Feb. 7, which is earlier than normal because they will accommodate passengers needing to connect to travel by ferry to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament.

Read more: Lax Kw’alaams prepares to lead All Native opening ceremonies

The Central Coast has seen strong winds in recent days and is still under an Arctic outflow warning. The warning is in effect for the Central Coast and inland sections.

Environment Canada said the bitterly cold conditions will persist through Tuesday, but should improve by Wednesday.

Residents should be prepared for unusually cold temperatures and strong winds.



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Icy slush was building on the deck of the Nimpkish Saturday evening at it sailed from Bella Bella to Bella Coola.

The Nimpkish back at the Government Wharf in Bella Coola. Photo submitted

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