Motorcycles on B.C. Ferries

June 5, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Featured, Rides and Roads

If you have already taken a trip to the Sunshine Coast, or Vancouver Island, you already know the drill. If you have not, however, there are a few simple things to keep in mind that will make your trip easy, fun and less stressful.

A few things to note about riding a motorcycle onto B.C. Ferries:

  1. Motorcycles get priority boarding. No more reservations and no missed sailings.
  2. Motorcycles, on most boats, are first on and first off. Beat the traffic out of town.
  3. Motorcycles sail cheaper than cars. Roughly $20-25 less than a car per trip.

Now, if you have never ridden aboard, here is an overview of how it goes down. Read these over so when you do finally take the bike on that Sunshine Coast – Vancouver Island Loop, you’re not left wondering what to do.

Ride up to the ticket booth like you normally would and pay your fare. Remember, B.C. Ferries accepts cash and credit card, no debit, so be prepared. It is always easiest to shut your bike down when you’re at the ticket booth. It reduces noise, exhaust and makes it a little bit easier to get in and out of your wallet. The ticket vendor will then give you special instructions as to where to go (remember that priority boarding thing?). As an example, at Horseshoe Bay, they may route you up lane 83 to the top of the ramp, in front of the other cars. At smaller terminals like Earl’s Cover, where there is no attendant, just look for the sign that says “MOTORCYCLES”.

Once all the cars have disembarked from the ship, the ferry attendant will give the bikes the go ahead to load up. Simply follow the attendant’s instructions as to where you should be headed, there are always several to guide you. You will ride up to the front of the ship along the outside edge where you may, or may not, see this sign.

You, You Motorcycle and B.C. Ferries

 If you don’t see the sign, or if it only kind of makes sense, no worries, here is what to do. Once you get up to the front simply back your bike against the rail at a 45 degree angle to the center of the ship like this and leave it in low gear.

Motorcycles at 45 Degrees

Lean your bike onto its sidestand to stop it from falling to the left. On the ride side grab one of the wooden blocks provided (you will see them laying around behind the rail or on a rack) and slide it into the frame and under the exhaust. These will help to stop the motorcycle from falling to the right.

Motorcycle Right Side Blocked

Now you are all set up to go enjoy the scenery, grab a coffee, or whatever it is you do on a ferry. I take lots, and lot of pictures.

Earls Cove to Saltery Bay Ferry

When they make the announcment that you are nearing your terminal, head back down to your bike. Remove the block and start gearing up in preperation for arrival. You want to make sure to be at the motorcycle when you hit land for a couple of reasons. First, you want to be sitting on your bike so you can brace it for impact with the shorepilings. For the most part, it is no issue, but it can sometimes hit pretty hard. Better safe than sorry. Second, as mentioned before, first on, first off, so get to your bike and be ready to roll. You will probably want to fire up once you’ve hit land and the vehicle ramp is making its way down to the deck. This will give you a minute or two to warm the bike up and adjust your position out of 45 degrees to head off the ship.

That is really about all there is to it. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Ride SLOWLY onto and off the ship. The metal deck is slippery. The ramps are slippery and often metal grates.
  • In order to get on a ship you must arrive 10 minutes prior to departure. I recommend arriving earlier to chat with the other riders. Shoot to get there 30 minutes prior to departure to swap stories, get local info and check out the other bikes.
  • Don’t leave your helmet sitting on your seat. It will end up on the ground, damaged and rolling around the car deck.
  • Don’t speed leaving the ferry terminals. These areas are hot beds for police knowing people are itching to get rolling. Be smart and adhere to the 20-40 km/h posted speeds, they only last a kilometer at the most.

Hope to see you on the boat, so saddle up and ride.

Related posts:

  1. Barnston Island Run
  2. Drying out…
  3. Cascade Mountains
  4. A Quick Ride Through Westham Island and Tsawwassen
  5. The Cascade Loop
  • Motorcycle Helmets and Gear


2 Responses to “Motorcycles on B.C. Ferries”
  1. Harley Rob says:

    We went to catch the nanaimo ferry to horseshoe bay, We had a support vehicle as there was six of us on a island tour, We had the car there 1 1/2 hours before the sailing and we took a ride to a restaurant to have dinner while we where waiting knowing that if we showed up 15 minutes before the boat sailed we could ride rite on, We have always been able to do this. When we arrived 20 minutes before the sailing we split 3 bikes to one toll booth and 3 at another. They let three of us from one booth go and the booth of the other three where told they had to wait two hours for the next sailing, Splitting up the group and the support vehicle. We told the ticket person that this was not acceptable and she try ed twice talking to the control tower but GOD in the control tower said no. We still went down and tried to get on, The guys loading the ferry said that there was room to sqeeze us on but GOD in the tower refused to let us go.

    We motorcyclists fill the void cars cant fit in and they charge us a premium rip off price of 41 bucks, its only 47 bucks for a car that allows 20 feet, You can fit 8 bikes in that space!

    We asked to speak to GOD because we now had two hours to kill and they refused to come down from their ivory tower and speak to us. A employee came along after and told us it was a new policy that it wasnt fare that cars have to wait and we dont, Even though we obviously are paying a premium for it. I have searched their web site and there is no such policy.

    I have to ask myself if i was mad if i was in my car waiting for hours and hours to cross the pond would i be mad because there is motorbikes?…Hell no!, Its the bloody lame ferry system that makes me wait! So passing the buck to us bikers just made me madder. on what is supposed to be an extension to the highway system, I have no other means, They have us by the short and curlies

    So what does that mean for future travel, I have no idea but i can tell you first hand from departure bay and Horseshoe bay the ivory tower and GOD make up their policies as the go, Making more people inconvenienced is obviously their new…..ahem ….ah hell…..its the Same lame BC Ferries. Long waits and its all the bikers fault

    • Marc says:

      I haven’t heard of that before. That would have made me hostile. And then some. You would think the guys loading the boat would know better than the tower what the hell is going on!