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Park and ride on the “Queen of Coquitlam”.

It was my partner’s birthday, I decided to take him away for the weekend. With the itch to travel, a limited budget, and only three days off we decided a road trip was the best option. So from Vancouver we were Tofino bound.

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We woke early and headed towards the ferries at Horseshoe Bay. We intended to make the first sailing at 8:30am, but the call of sleep was too strong and we ended up sleeping in to catch the 10:30am sailing. It is Vancouver, so there was no surprise to see traffic going in the opposite direction of rush hour. Slow moving cars away from the city’s core.

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When we finally approached the terminal, we followed the signs and stayed in the right lanes. Workers in visibility vests greeted us at the threshold. They directed us to the appropriate lane. Are you going to the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver island, or Bowen island? Do you have reservations? For about $20 more reservations ensure you get on the sailing of your choosing. Without it you risk two hour or more waits if the ferry you were aiming for is full. We didn’t realize there was such an option, so never called ahead to make one.
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The next check point is a booth to pay at. You are charged per person, per car, per way. $80.55 with a $1 fuel rebate and a 30 cent port fee. It is a similar wait and process to that of the border crossing, but without the need to show your passport and explain why you are leaving the country.

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After our money was taken we were warned of a possible wait. There was  no guarantee that we would be on the latest ferry, without reservations. However after 10:30am the ferry comes every hour so the wait would be tolerable. And if you have to wait, at least you have the view of the Horseshoe Bay village to stare at in from afar. Tall mountains with flecks of snow, still blue waters, and a forest of evergreens as far as the distance extends. Though you are bound to a wait in your car. Once in this designated area there is no leaving. Your wait is confined. Though facilities are available to relieve yourself at. A row of cars stretches out in one lane, you can see the white of the ferry from far away. Most drivers get out and walk about to kill time. We were at the end of the line, in the shade, we weren’t going anywhere. Time to lean back and get comfortable.
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After the cars traveling from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay unload off the ferry, we, amongst others loaded on. We prayed for us to fit, for us to get on to this ferry, for us to not have to wait anymore. And we made it. Under the ramp and into the hull, we joined the already formed row of cars separated by painted lines. We parked with the aid of attends, they regulating the distance between us and the vehicle in front and behind, for maximum hold. E-break up, it was time to head up to the deck. It required a ride up the elevator or a climb up stairs. We were closer to the former, so opted to wait. 5 decks listed, the passenger one was right on top, the only deck worth visiting.

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The level had plenty of seating across various platforms. Majority of which were already sat when we got there. Many passengers walked on without their car, and now they needed a place to rest their legs and parcels at. Though with enough walking around you can find your perfect seat: a secluded corner to nap in, a desk with an outlet and three walls for undisturbed privacy, or a high top by the window to watch the waves ripple by. The only thing we were missing were lounging chairs to recline in. I know this was a resort ship, but we were tired and could have used the space to spread out and rest. In the end we headed back to the car early to catch ourselves a cat nap.
The layout was a circular maze, though with plenty of signs and markers we did alright. Several area and doors were coded with paintings. One area was designated with a starfish, another a sea lion, and where we parked was near a killer whale.
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In the dining area was a steadily growing for breakfast at the “Coast Cafe”. They served burgers and entrees from “White Spot” and “Bread Garden”. Many deemed it worth the wait. Many small families filled the tables and ate from pirate packs. For those who just needed coffee, a smaller line and a quicker wait at “Coast Cafe Express” was the ticket. They offered expressos and cups of joe, and light snacks in form of prepackaged and premade cold foods. Pastries and sandwiches, fruits and salads. For the travellers, the gift shop offered an opportunity to find souvenirs. And if you missed it the announcement over the PA’s had you considering the above.

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As most tourists do, we sought to get out and up to enjoy the view. Today the “Sun deck” was aptly name. We were travelling with warm weather, it felt like summer. A covered area provided benches and the crisp air, without the glare and wind. We found a place at the stern of the ship (the back), where we were able to lean against the side. There we took some time to enjoy the heat, while gazing out to where we once were. Cloudless skies, hot sun, and boundless waves; with the background of the city and mountains disappearing in the distance. But sadly no marine life, and believe me, camera ready, I looked. You just needed to tune out the children crying, the friends chatting, and the rumbles of the ship to fully enjoy the open sea. Though as I mentioned above our time here was short lived. Both my partner and I are night owls so the 8am rise was difficult for us and we were only know feeling the fatigue of it. So back down we travelled to catch up on sleep and be ready for the day of adventuring before us. 1.5 hour ferry ride to Tofino.

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Though sadly our fatigue cost us the opportunity to see a pod of killer whales travelling to the left of the ferry. An announcement was made over the speakers, by the captain, to call attention to the feat. It was ten minutes after we reclined our chairs and settled into our seats. We were already cozy in the car, so this would be an opportunity missed.

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We were later awoken by the PA again. This time asking all patrons to return to their cars as we would be docking soon. Welcome to Nanaimo.

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On the way back home, taking the Nanaimo ferry to Horseshoe Bay, we raced down the mountain to catch the 5pm sailing. We rushed only to be informed by an electric sign that the sailing was full and the 7pm sailing was already at 53% capacity. It was only 4:30pm. The race  continued until we finally reached the gate and paid the toll. We felt relieved to wait in line 22 for 2.5 hours for the 7pm sail time. At least we weren’t waiting another two hours on top of that for the 9pm sailing. The weekend was over and people were heading home.

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Time was killed at their market place,  an option not offered at the Horseshoe Bay dock. Here patrons boarding by foot and car mingled over snacks. A miniature food court offered pizza, sandwiches, pop, and chocolate. My partner grabbed a bottle of water and a magazine to pass the time. I gravitated to the “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory”. There they had caramel apples, fudge, chocolate bon bons shaped like minions, and ice cream. I challenged myself to eating their chocolate and peanut coated frozen banana as lady-like as possible. It was frozen on a wooden stick like a popsicle, and not easy to eat. I didn’t consider how embarrassing eating this in public would be. The nuts constantly falling down my dress, for starters.

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At 7pm we started driving into the “Queen of Cowichan” ferry. This time around we decided to stay in the car for the 1.5 hour ride home. The weather wasn’t as nice as on our ride here. There would be no view past the clouds and no warmth on the top deck. So once again reclined our seats and fell asleep. Wake up, hello home.