Cortes Island Stores Granted Assured Loading

For Curt Cunningham, of the Squirrel Cove General Store, it means not having to leave at 5 AM to ensure he can board the first ferry leaving Cortes Island on Monday mornings. He can stay in bed for another two hours. Cunningham will no longer worry about the consequences of being forced to wait for another sailing on the trip home. (Three loads of ice cream melted in the ferry parking lot last year.) There will be no more nights when he is forced to sleep on Quadra, or Campbell River, because there was no room for his truck on the last ferry. He will not have to ask an employee to open the store in the morning. BC Ferries granted assured loading to Cortes Island’s commercial food trucks.

The Appeal

Last Fall, Bill Dougan, General Manager of Gorge Harbour Marina, told the Campbell River -Quadra-Cortes Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) that Cortes stores need assured access to the ferries.

“All of the stores on the island experience outages of products as common as dairy, bread and meats. Dealing with food products is a challenging business to begin with. Food just simply does not last long, is highly perishable and people’s expectations are extremely high when it comes to quality of food products and pricing.” 

Assured Loading Explained

 Michael Lynch, Chair of the FAC, explained what assured loading will mean, “The program for one truck per weekday from Cortes to Campbell River has now been endorsed by the FAC and approved by the BC Ferry Corporation and will be implemented very shortly.”

“It will mean that assured loading will be provided for one truck on the 07.50 sailing from Whaletown and the 09.00 sailing from Quathiaski Cove every weekday until Thanksgiving. The return from Campbell River will be on the 11.30/13.05 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the 17.25/18.45 on Mondays and the 13.30/15.05 on Fridays. There is also provision for a commercial food supply truck to travel from Campbell River to Whaletown on the 07.30/09.05 sailings and return on the 13.50/15.00 sailings from Whaletown to Campbell River on Wednesdays and Fridays.”

‘This Is Great’

“We are thrilled that our FAC has approved assured loading routes for our food supply stores and commercial food truck.  Our community stores provide this essential service for us all during this pandemic as well as the busy summer season.  I know from speaking with them, that the summer is an extremely challenging time to stock food and essentials when the ferries are overloaded,” said Andrea Fisher, Campus Director at Hollyhock .

“Our Hollyhock kitchen has a lot of experience with the stresses of the commercial food truck not making the ferry because of too much traffic in the summer line ups.  We don’t have an option of a back up plan to feed our large number of guests if the food doesn’t arrive.  Our commercial drivers spend hours waiting in ferry line ups and have to rush to drop food and get home or sometimes don’t make it at all.”

“What this means for Hollyhock – We will be able to reliably predict when our food will arrive and schedule staff to unload it.  It will also ease our meal planning, instead of wondering if what we ordered will arrive.  This also prevents us from overbuying from the Cortes stores when the food is a priority for the local community.

Eric Hargave, of the Cortes Natural Food Co-op, added, “This is great. We use R & B Trucking and now R & B will be assured to make it through, both coming and going. That was our main concern.”

This Doesn’t Go Far Enough

“I feel that the assured loading offers us a little bit of comfort and security when it comes to getting our supplies to our business in a timely manner, but I don’t feel it goes far enough. All the stores on the island need to seriously look into operating much closer together , even as far as sharing a large vehicle to streamline the process and to ensure long term viability for us all,” said Dougan.

“In other words: this is a first step, but in itself will not solve some of our challenges when it comes to food security on the island. My hope is that this is the beginning of something, not an end.”