Over 40-year-old footage taken by an ex-BC Ferries employee offers a unique glimpse into behind-the-scenes antics you’ll never see again.
Danny Clair first began working at BC Ferries when he was 18 years old in 1974. From 1976 to '78 Clair carried around with him an 8 mm video camera and used it to capture over 1,000 feet of film imbued with many memories, a few of which have been recently restored and uploaded online.
“My intention was to edit it into a mock training film,” Clair explained in a recent email to Vancouver Is Awesome. Most of the film was taken on the Comox /Powell River run between '76 and '78 but the filming stopped in '79 once Clair got his mate's ticket and he had to take the job more seriously.
The footage was restored and uploaded by a work friend in Hungary and offers a glimpse into the history of the ferry service – complete with employees smoking freely on the outer decks.
Interesting highlights of the film include a ferry worker giving a full moon to Clair’s camera while standing on the ship’s car ramp and two workers parodying military-style drill exercises with brooms in the place of rifles.
The film also shows damage to a dock structure which Clair said was done by the ship he was working on but not the crew he was working with. Another clip shows a white van being pulled out of the water at the Powell River terminal which had nothing to do with loading the ship Clair explained.
Vancouver’s skyline is also featured in the footage when the ship Clair was working on went for its annual maintenance at Seaspan’s shipyard in North Vancouver.
From when Clair worked for the ferry service to now he has seen many changes.
“When I started most of the ferries were part of Dept. of Highways. Only the ships running to Vancouver were BC Ferries,” Clair said, adding the smaller runs to the Gulf Islands and across lakes and rivers were nicknamed "The Moth Fleet” (for Ministry of Transportation & Highways).
Much of the change came about in 1986 when BC Ferries took over the operations of the saltwater branch of the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Highways Clair said. Even still, while Clair was working along the mid-coast, he and his five-man crew could still “get away with some fun at appropriate times.”
This all changed though when the Queen of the North sank in March 2006, Clair said.
“BC Ferries was now under the microscope of Transport Canada. The changes BC Ferries had to make turned the workplace sour,” Clair added.
Clair worked at BC Ferries for six years starting in 1974 before leaving to buy his own commercial fishing boat. Years later Clair returned to BC Ferries where he worked for another 14 years before creating a boater’s bed and breakfast on Cracroft Island. Clair now runs Comox Harbour Charters, the logo for which features a nod to BC Ferries' now retired symbology: the dogwood flower.