Farewell to a QUeen
Publisher: Cave Art Press (2014)
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The sinking of the Queen of the North, a British Columbia ferry, in a remote area of the Inside Passage in 2006, was a commercial, financial, and political blow for the Canadian Government, an ecological disaster for the pristine area in which the boat sank, a personal catastrophe for passengers who lost their vehicles and possessions, and a fatal tragedy for the two passengers who lost their lives.

The documented events reveal a disturbing lack of crew discipline and accountability, as well as a troubling inadequacy of timely response from Canadian authorities. Only the two crew members on the bridge that night know exactly what happened, and they’re clearly not telling the truth.

The heroes of this true story are the rescuers from the tiny First Nations fishing village of Hartley Bay who transported and took care of the shocked and freezing travelers.

This book is a fascinating study of the events before and after the ship collided with an island, followed by an astute analysis of the probable causes for the reason the navigator failed to make a routine course change. The author includes a variety of supporting documents, including photos, a radio log transcript, charts, and a detailed description of the trial that finally took place seven years after the sinking. The author of Farewell to a Queen dares to ask himself, “What really happened aboard the Queen that fateful night.”

Don Douglass is well qualified to write about this lamentable event and the courageous rescuers who put their own lives at risk to save the Queen’s crew and passengers. Douglass himself has navigated over 100,000 miles at sea, and is an author of guidebooks and charts for the Pacific Northwest. He and his wife, Réanne Hemingway-Douglass, have plied these waters for decades. They have documented and navigated the British Columbia coastal waters and have taught others to do so.

Douglass doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions about what might have caused the flagship of the B.C. Ferries fleet to run aground and sink into the deep depths taking two lives with it and putting more in harm’s way.   He returns repeatedly to the fact that the two crew members on the bridge were former lovers. Some may find his account “politically incorrect” or a touch vitriolic. Nonetheless, ferry passengers may find themselves warily eyeing their boat crews and keeping life preservers close at hand after reading this well written and documented account of a modern disaster at sea.

“When it got near the end, it rose up until the bow was vertical, absolutely pointing straight at the sky,” Captain Henthorne, the Queen’s captain, remembered. “Then, it just went straight down, straight as an arrow, disappeared, gone.”  [CBC News, B.C.]

 On March 22, 2006, The Queen of the North sank into the depths of Wright Sound, 70 nautical miles south of Prince Rupert, B.C.