The mystery ramps

I was had a bit of time on my hands while waiting for the ferry to Denman Island, so I walked around the Buckley Bay ferry terminal and shot a few images – including one of this old concrete ramp that is just to the side of the waiting area.

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Interesting, especially when I saw a very similar structure at next to the ferry terminal at Gravelly Bay – on the far side of Denman where you can catch the ferry across Lambert Channel to Hornby Island.

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As it turns out, the ramps were used for loading ferries. 

Ferries,BC Ferries,Buckley Bay,Denman,Gravelly Bay,history,Gulf Islands,and now you know,Catherine Graham

The first government ferry between Denman Island and Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island was the Department of Highways Ferry Catherine Graham. Essentially a self-propelled landing craft, the ferry sailed up to the loading ramp, dropped a  loading ramp that doubled as the bow of the ferry, and cars drove off. Loading was a bit more tricky as cars and trucks had to be backed down the loading ramp and onto the ferry. The Catherine Graham operated from 1954 until it was retired as a ferry in February 1973.

And now you know…

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3 Responses to The mystery ramps

  1. Tim Peters says:

    The photo at the bottom is of the “Albert J. Savoie” than ran between Hornby and Denman Island. The ferry is docking at the Hornby side with Denman in the background. It was operated by the Savoie family for years.

  2. Raymond Robert Redfern Jr. says:

    I used to ride the Catherine Graham twice a day every weekday to go to school at Union Bay on Vancouver Island from Denmark Island in the mid-1960’s. My father also was a deck-hand on the Catherine Graham from about 1963 until 1971.

    The Catherine Graham had ramps on both ends of the ferry, so it was never required for cars to load by backing down the ramps onto the ferry.

    What was interesting, was that there were a series of steel floats with large cleats that were chained to pilings along side the ramps you saw that were used to dock and secure the ferry to. Imagine a stormy, rainy night as the ferry came in. The deck-hand, in his rain slicker, would climb out over the rail at the bow, a heavy rope in one hand, the other gripping the rail. As the ferry came in he would jump off the bow onto the madly bobbing, slippery, wet float and quickly tie the rope to a cleat.
    The forward momentum of the ferry against the securing rope would pull the ferry tight up to the floats as the deck-hand allowed the rope to play a little through his hands over the cleat, adjusting the ferry so that the ramps could be lowered and make secure contact with the concrete ramp. Once that was done to his satisfaction, he would finish tying the rope to the cleat, and then go to the stern and secure that with a second rope to a cleat. Then he could direct the offloading and reloading of cars off and onto the ferry deck.

    Over the years I lived on Denman Island, I never heard of any deck-hands being killed or injured by falling between the floats and the ferry and being crushed, even though it was a very real possibility.

    It was also interesting when the spring tides would be so low that the ferry couldn’t get close enough to the ramps, or when there were medical emergencies and the ferry would have to wait for those being transported to the nearest hospital at Comox on Vancouver Island, about 25 miles away.

  3. Raymond Robert Redfern Jr. says:

    I used to ride the Catherine Graham twice a day every weekday to go to school at Union Bay on Vancouver Island from Denman Island in the mid-1960’s. My father also was a deck-hand on the Catherine Graham from about 1963 until 1971.

    The Catherine Graham had ramps on both ends of the ferry, so it was never required for cars to load by backing down the ramps onto the ferry.

    What was interesting, was that there were a series of steel floats with large cleats that were chained to pilings along side the ramps you saw that were used to dock and secure the ferry to. Imagine a stormy, rainy night as the ferry came in. The deck-hand, in his rain slicker, would climb out over the rail at the bow, a heavy rope in one hand, the other gripping the rail. As the ferry came in he would jump off the bow onto the madly bobbing, slippery, wet float and quickly tie the rope to a cleat.
    The forward momentum of the ferry against the securing rope would pull the ferry tight up to the floats as the deck-hand allowed the rope to play a little through his hands over the cleat, adjusting the ferry so that the ramps could be lowered and make secure contact with the concrete ramp. Once that was done to his satisfaction, he would finish tying the rope to the cleat, and then go to the stern and secure that with a second rope to a cleat. Then he could direct the offloading and reloading of cars off and onto the ferry deck.

    Over the years I lived on Denman Island, I never heard of any deck-hands being killed or injured by falling between the floats and the ferry and being crushed, even though it was a very real possibility.

    It was also interesting when the spring tides would be so low that the ferry couldn’t get close enough to the ramps, or when there were medical emergencies and the ferry would have to wait for those being transported to the nearest hospital at Comox on Vancouver Island, about 25 miles away.

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