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Photos: One of the first BC Ferries is for sale again and it's selling for less than a used pickup truck

It's a piece of B.C. history

For fans — or at least regular users — of BC Ferries decades ago, the Queen of Tsawwassen was an icon.

As one of the ferry service's first two ships, it (and the Queen of Sidney) was built and launched in 1959 (using a similar design to the still active Coho). Regular ferry service started in the spring of 1960.

The launching of the two ships marked the beginning of BC Ferries, plying the waters between, fittingly Swartz Bay outside of Sidney and Tsawwassen. The Queen of Tsawwassen was younger (by a month) and bigger (by 150 gross register tons).

Originally they were just called MV Sidney and MV Tsawwassen, but when CP Ships named all their vessels 'Princesses' BC Ferries's bigger ships were upgraded to 'Queens.' The two ferries also started off without a cafeteria space, but that was added in the early 60s when the ferry company realized there was a demand for it.

The Queen of Tsawwassen was retired in 2008, after 48 years of service between the mainland, Vancouver Island, and Gulf Islands.

For sale as barge

A listing on an auction site for the Queen of Tsawwassen, now known as the 'Inlet Explorer,' is active online, and shows the well-known ferry still floats, even if it does look a little beat up.

Photos of the vessel from last year show it tied up close to shore; while the new name is written on the hull, the old name is still visible.

Inside the ferry appears to have been recently used as a sort of floating accommodation. Several bedrooms can be seen in the photos, along with other living spaces. The kitchen looks like it's been used regularly, and the cafeteria is quite neat and tidy. The listing notes there are 50 rooms, but doesn't say what they're all used for.

The car deck appears to have been used as storage and as a workspace, along with living space. On the deck, the ship appears to be in rougher shape. For example, the lifeboats have a substantial amount of moss growing in them.

An old listing notes the "engine is not operational" and the vessel has "four inoperable lifeboats." It says the former ferry sold for $180,000 CAD in September of 2022.

The current listing doesn't state anything about the engines, but 'Inlet Explorer' is listed as a barge. The current high bid is $55,000 (newer used Ford 150s can run upwards of $60,000). No closing date for the auction is listed. However, once the vessel is sold it "must be picked up within eight business days."

And just to preempt the idea, towing it into False Creek as an apartment building might not go over well with the authorities.

Ownership unclear

Since being decommissioned, the onetime BC Ferries vessel has been sold at least a couple of times, and it has shown up for sale yet again earlier this year, though it's unclear who owns it. Nauticapedia lists past owners as Helifor Canada from 2012 to 2017 and Croman Corp. from 2018 to 2022. In an email to V.I.A. Croman Corp. confirmed it is no longer their vessel.

However, the ferry formerly known as the Queen of Tsawwassen has shown up on Iron Planet again. When asked who was selling it (as an owner isn't listed on the listing), the company said they don't provide consignor information.

The federal registry for vessels shows it is owned by a numbered corporation based in West Vancouver. A company with the same P.O. Box as the numbered corporation did not respond to V.I.A.

Late last year the old ferry was spotted just off Gambier Island in Andy's Bay. At the time a local politician told the Coast Reporter there had been complaints about where it was moored.