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Little boat forges on through fog

Many Bowen Island residents have spent the past week waking up to the sound of fog horns. For commuters, that's the sound of delays.

Many Bowen Island residents have spent the past week waking up to the sound of fog horns. For commuters, that's the sound of delays. On Tuesday of this week, the Queen of Capilano departed Snug Cove at 8:30am, then again at 9:50am, and BC Ferries cancelled the boat's 10am sailing. For commuters who travel to the mainland on the English Bay Launch, heavy fog can signal the need for a change of plans. So far, though, there's only been one cancellation due to fog.

"Coming out of False Creek last Friday I had zero visibility," says skipper Dominic Frei. "But I just needed to get a little more accustomed to the boat to run in that weather. The High Flyer is very smooth and stable, and it has fantastic navigation equipment which makes it possible to run in through fog like that."

Frei's been working with English Bay Launch for a month. He lives on Granville Island, but due to the fog spent several nights this week sleeping in the High Flyer's tiny berth.

"It's draining running the boat in those conditions, and with zero visibility I need to keep the speed down to 10, maybe 12 knots," he says. "That way if I do hit anything, it won't do any damage."

In May, the High Flyer hit a log and as a result, didn't run again until mid-August.

"We normally have two boats running during the summer, and we know we can fill them," says Shannon. "This helps us build up a cushion that helps us run through the winter, so we didn't have that this year."

Originally, Shannon didn't think they'd be able to keep running past Labour Day, but ridership on the launch was strong through the summer and Shannon has found a way to offer regular commuters a slightly cheaper way to travel.

"We're now offering monthly passes, for $500 per month. Which is still expensive for a lot of people," says Shannon. "But what helps is that the tax man actually recognizes those passes and will make an exemption. So if you declare your pass when filing your taxes, the price actually comes down to $425."

Vince Knudson is a monthly pass holder and has been commuting with the English Bay Launch since June.

"It's more expensive than taking the ferry over," he says, "But it's way cheaper than buying a second car."

Knudson rides a scooter to Snug Cove in the morning, and after reaching Granville Island, walks to his office a few blocks away. Other English Bay Launch commuters have been making use of Cars-To-Go. Mike Koziniackzips down on his bicycle from Cates Hill to the Government Dock every morning, then off at Granville Island and a quick ride to the Vancouver Planetarium. A family member picks him up at the end of the day to drive him back up Cates Hill.

"Living on Bowen, you resort to whatever ways and means you have to to make the commute," says Kozniack. "But for me, every trip to and from work is more of an adventure than a commute."

Mike Shannon is in talks with people in Gibson's Landing about a new run that will take people from the Sunshine Coast straight to downtown Vancouver. He says this run could have a hugely positive impact on his business.

For now, though, the margins are still tight and he can only plan two months ahead for any continuing service between Snug Cove and Vancouver.

"If we can, we'd like to keep it going," he says. "Last year, we started up again in February and the whether wasn't too bad, the days get a little longer. So if we can manage to keep running until then we'll have made it over the hump."