Black Ball Ferries Ltd., Canada 1955-1961
On 1 May, 1955 the Chinook entered the Esquimalt Graving Dock for what PSN reported was an annual refit. However, the work included many structural
modifications including the removal of state rooms on the Cabin Deck and most telling, the removal of the Chinook's bow to allow bow loading. Rumors began to
spread that the ferry would not be returning to the Port Angeles-Victoria run. On May 24th, 1955, the company removed all doubt when it announced the transfer of
the vessel to Canadian registry and the Chinook would be moved to the Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo run opposite the Kahloke.
The outcry was swift and loud. Both Victoria and Port Angeles predicted economic ruin without the
link between the two cities. With Captain Peabody having already transferred the vessel to
Canadian registry, there was no going back. The Iroquois by this time had already been sold and
converted into a freighter and couldn't be used on the route for passengers any longer.
Port Angeles and Victoria appealed to Washington State Ferries to provide service on the run until
a private company could take over. WSF came to the rescue and sent the Kalakala to work the
route during the summer months between 1955 and 1959. They were able to abandon the run
when the Coho took over the route in the fall of 1959.
The City of Nanaimo, understandably, was absolutely delighted by the addition of the Chinook
however. The new service proved to be very popular, and Captain Peabody, knowing where the
greater profits were to be had, never looked back from his decision to move the Chinook.
Only one thing seems to have gone against Peabody's wishes: the name of the vessel. There was
already a Chinook on the Canadian registry. Black Ball contacted the owner of the vessel and tried
to appeal to him to change the name, but he would not be moved. Begrudgingly, the Roman
numeral II was added to the end of the Chinook's name, but the company never referred to the boat
by that name on schedules or promotional materials. It is always printed simply as "Chinook."
For the next five years the ferry sailed alongside the Kahloke, but the end of the decade was marred
by labor strife. When the Canadian government approached Captain Peabody with a buy out
proposal, Peabody was agreeable to the sale. Having single-handedly brought modern ferry
operations to Canada, Peabody was ready to retire. Black Ball Line became a memory in 1961
when Peabody handed over the entire operation, vessels, terminals, to the newly formed British
Columbia Ferries Corporation.
|The Chinook, shorn of her bow, in 1961. Courtesy of Brandon Moser.