The Fraser River, Mission to Fort Langley -- October 29, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, Rider contacted me and asked if I'd like to paddle down the Fraser River from Mission to Fort Langley -- he wanted to stop at the decommissioned BC Ferry, the Queen of Sidney
that is moored along the north side of the Fraser just south of Matsqui Island to see if we could find out any more information about it and possibly get some pictures. I'd been to this ferry about three years ago and have often thought about going back so it didn't take much persuasion.
Mick and Maddie wanted to come as well, so we arranged vehicles for the shuttle and met on Saturday morning at 8:30 at the Fort Langley boat launch. The drive to Mission was pleasant on this surprisingly sunny day and we got a few positive looks from passing motorists as we drove along with four kayaks on the roof of the van.
We put in on the Mission side of the river at the boat launch located beside the rail bridge. I prefer this location to the Abbotsford side put-in as you get to paddle under the middle span of the Mission bridge. I like paddling under things.
We were on the water at about 9:40 AM for our journey 22 kilometers downstream...
Mick on the boat ramp at Mission:
Looking down the Fraser from the boat launch:
Heading toward the Mission bridge:
A shot into the sun as I drift under the bridge:
The main arm of the Fraser. We paddled to the left and went down the smaller arm south of Matsqui Island:
Sawmill near Matsqui Island:
A couple of bald eagles high above us:
Maddie waits as Mick checks out a location for the BC Marine Trail at the bottom end of Matsqui Island:
Looking down the Fraser from the lower end of Matsqui Island. Our goal is the white object on the shoreline in the distance ahead:
Arriving at the Queen of Sidney. This vessel was in service from 1960 until 2000. Her sister ship, the Queen of Tsawwassen remained in service until 2008. The Sidney was showing the effects of weather and was a lot dirtier than when I paddled past here three years ago:
A bit of a mess. There are quite a few derelict boats moored at this location:
We put-in at a small muddy beach near the downstream side of the ferry and noticed a car and a pick-up truck on the driveway to the ship. This was a good sign as it hopefully indicated that there was someone there who could answer some questions about the ferry. We climbed up the bank and were in a small pasture with a few horses. After doing a crouched maneuver under some barbed wire, we were on the driveway to the ferry.
No one is in sight so Rider and I walk towards the rickety gangways and half sunken scow that lead to a fenced doorway on the side of the ferry. Maddie and Mick hold back, apparently waiting to see if anyone comes out of the ferry with a shotgun to shoo us away. As we walk up the last section of dilapidated gangway an older man steps into view from inside the ferry. He doesn't say anything to us -- he just stares at us. I half expected to hear banjo music on this eve of Halloween. Instead, I explained to him that we had just been passing by in our kayaks and were wondering about the story of the ferry. He grumbled something inaudible followed with "It's just here". At this time, his buddy comes out from the ferry and says hello. He's definitely much happier and more receptive to visitors than his companion.
After some chit chat and firing off a host of questions we learn that these fellows had purchased the land a few years previous and the ferry and the rest of the decrepit old boats were part of the deal. According to this fellow, the ferry has been moored at this location on the Fraser since 2002. I asked what they were going to do with it and they asked if we wanted to buy it. They then said that the boat is estimated to be worth about $250,000 if scraped. I asked about the environmental issues involved with scraping and according to them, issues are non-existent. I found that hard to believe and doubted a few of the things that they told us.
So after a little more yakking about the ferry and the other boats, we were asked if we wanted to board the ferry. Well, the kinder of the two asked us but the other old guy began mumbling about liabilities and that we shouldn't go wandering around. I promised that if we come to our demise that we wouldn't sue. He still didn't look impressed but his pal said that it would be OK for us to take a look around so long as we didn't go into the engine room. We all stepped forward into the ferry at that point before he changed his mind.
The old fellow led us up to the upper deck and then said that he had to get back to work and that we should be careful not to hurt ourselves. Cool. So there we are standing on the upper deck of the Queen of Sidney, free to roam around as we wish (except not in the engine room). We started at the stern and walked through the cafeteria and lounges to the bow and then outside and up to the wheelhouse. Most of the furnishings and fittings have been stripped away and the place was a mess all strewn with junk -- much of it I'm sure was added long after the ferry was out of commission.
At some point there was airsoft gaming going on (similar to paint ball) -- there were paper signs on some of the doorways saying that airsoft warriors were not allowed in those particular areas. We all thought that it would have been most cool to participate in a terrorist gun battle on the ferry. There were small white airsoft pellets all over the interior of the ferry.
Here's the view of the upper deck looking aft from near the wheelhouse:
Mick and Maddie on the deck above the wheelhouse:
The radar mast and funnel -- note the original BC Ferries dogwood logo on the funnel:
Leonardo DiCaprio has nothing on Rider:
Looks like a few parties had been held in the wheelhouse:
Stairway leading to the lower decks:
Forward lounge, directly below the wheelhouse:
We think this would have made a great place to hold a WestCoastPaddler Halloween party. We wouldn't even have to decorate...:
Maddie stops to get a drink. Fortunately, the drinking fountain wasn't working:
After exploring the upper decks we proceeded back down to the car deck. On the way down, we passed by a closed doorway to the two upper car decks -- it took a bit of effort but I managed to get it opened. As we stepped through the door we were quite surprised to see that the entire upper car decks were crammed full of old vintage cars!:
More cars. There was a old panel van ice cream truck as well as a lot of older cars that I have no idea of their make, model, or year but I'll bet that a few car collectors would find most interesting:
Standing on the scow tied up alongside the bow of the ferry:
We were really tempted to sneak our way down to the engine room (well Rider was mostly, but I'd have gone with a bit of coaxing) but I figured it was best to respect the old fellows and abide by their wishes -- after all they were generous enough to allow us to explore the ferry all on our own. When we'd had enough of looking around we departed the ferry to see the old timers working on a tractor in the field adjacent to the ferry -- we waved them a good bye, shouted a thanks and continued on our way back to our boats.
Back on the water. Mick stops and checks out another Marine Trail location on Crescent Island as we paddle down Enterprise Channel:
Rider and Maddie paddling by some brightly coloured autumn foliage:
An abandoned canoe on the shore:
The Fraser Blues. This precision flying team has been around Langley for the past several years and we seem them quite often when paddling on the Fraser as they sometimes use this area for their practices. The team consists of a group of ex air force and commercial pilots under the command of past Canadian Snowbirds Team Commander, George Miller (who is also the manager of Langley Airport):
A float plane taking off near the Fort Langley Airport and the top of Bedford Channel:
After arriving at the boat launch at Fort Langley, Maddie takes Rider's Chatham 16 out for a spin:
Hopefully, Mick and Rider will post a few of their photos as well.
All in all, it was a fantastic and interesting day on the Fraser River. It was Maddie's first time paddling since we were in the Broughton Archipelago back in July as she had injured her shoulder before the Broughtons and has been under doctors orders to not paddle until last week. I think she enjoyed the day even more than the rest of us.
Thanks to Mick and Rider (and Maddie) for a great day.