She's carried passengers across B.C. waters for over four decades, but the time for the Howe Sound Queen to retire is upon us. And with the BC Ferries vessel's end of service comes the chance for pretty much anyone to own her, as the Howe Sound Queen is on the auction block, and the bidding right now is as low as $11,000.
The Howe Sound Queen owns the distinction in the BC Ferries fleet of being their only ship to be built in Canada, but not in B.C. That's because the Howe Sound Queen actually began life in 1964 in Quebec as Napoleon L, where she ran until 1971.
After joining the BC Ferries fleet, the vessel was refitted and renamed, and put on the Horseshoe Bay-Bowen Island route. But it wasn't exactly smooth sailing: "On that route she was affectionately (or not) nicknamed the 'Hound' for her lack of amenities and poor handling of heavy seas," notes West Coast Ferries.
In 1991, the Howe Sound Queen made a hard landing at Horseshoe Bay, sending six passengers to the hospital with minor injuries.
Eventually the Howe Sound Queen made the move to the more easy going Vesuvius on Saltspring Island and Crofton on Vancouver Island route, and now makes on average 84 round-trip sailings per week. While just over a decade ago she underwent a $3-million refit, her time as a BC Ferries vessel is up at the start of June.
Once the Howe Sound Queen retires, the Quadra Queen II, built in 1969, will move over from the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula route as a relief vessel.
The plan is for the Howe Sound Queen to be "kept warm and operation state" until the new owners take over, according to the GovDeals auction listing.
With no known operational issues, the Howe Sound Queen has the capacity to carry 300 passengers and crew and 52 "Automobile Equivalents."
The Howe Sound Queen hit the auction block with a starting bid of $5,000 - a bargain considering she actually works, unlike the Queen of Burnaby, which had a starting bid of $6,000 when she went to auction in late 2017, and that vessel was good for scrap only. That Queen ended up being sold for a bid of just over $555,000 (add nearly $100,000 for taxes and fees), which doesn't seem like much of a bargain.
That said, chances are with almost two weeks left on the Howe Sound Queen auction, the final bid is going to end up being well over the current $10,751.01.
Here's a 2015 video tour of the Howe Sound Queen: