(BC Ferries/Twitter)

As we inch closer to the next long weekend spent in the middle of a pandemic, BC Ferries has issued a list of tips and recommendations for a safer travelling experience for passengers travelling to and from the mainland.

Back in June, as ferry traffic started to increase for the summer, BC Ferries increased their capacity to 75 per cent from the original 50 per cent passenger limit per vessel that was originally instated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this capacity increase, the ferry operator says they expect vessels running over BC Day long weekend to be extremely busy and “strongly recommends” all passengers to book their trips ahead of time.

In particular, those travelling without a booking on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale and Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay routes are advised to expect multiple sailing waits, unless they travel at times known to be less busy.

For the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route, less busy times are the 9:25 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. sailings departing Horseshoe Bay, and the 6:20 a.m., 8:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. departing Langdale.

For the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route, less busy times are the 8:30 p.m. and 10:40 p.m. departing Horseshoe Bay, and the 10:40 p.m. departing Departure Bay.

According to BC Ferries, the most popular travel times overall are usually Thursday and Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, with many catching the ferry off of Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay terminals.

People tend to return from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast on BC Day Monday and the following Tuesday morning.

Passengers, both in vehicles and on foot, are advised to arrive an hour before their sailing as COVID-19 screening measures mean more time is required to check in.

Travellers are also required to carry a face covering with them and agree to put them on while aboard the ferry in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

Earlier this month, vessels began offering limited food services on board, with new ‘Grab and Go’ menu items that encourage travellers to take their food with them to their vehicles, the outerdeck, or to consume them in the limited cafeteria seating spaces.

The ferry service has also added more sailings to their summer schedule than were originally anticipated, in light of B.C. entering Phase 3 of the restart plan and thereby allowing travel within the province again.