Fifty Years of Cortes Ferry

Population figures on Cortes Island picked up after the 16-car ferry, Cortes Queen, began its regular run to and from Quadra Island in 1969, with the first sailing on November 22. Then electric power arrived in 1970 from Sarah Point to Tiber Bay. Along with the early settlers and their descendants, more recent “settlers,” people of all ages and backgrounds, came here in search of a more independent and casual lifestyle free from many of the troubling complexities of modern existence.

The ferry is still one of the hottest and controversial topics among many Cortes Island residents.

This below is an article from the Campbell River/Upper Islander newspaper about the first day of the Cortes Island ferry service.

Read the whole story in our blog.

The Campbell River / Upper Islander

November 26, 1969

Cortes is no longer the forgotten island



by the Gardners


“Here she comes! Isn’t she beautiful!”


“I never thought I’d see the day!”

“oh, what a thrilling sight!”


Such were some of the comments Saturday of bystanders and welcoming island residents as the new Cortes Queen rounded the bend — locally called “Thank God Point” — into Whaletown Harbor.


Overhead, an Island Airlines plane circled the ferry twice in a salute to the new arrival.


Under cloudy skies, and with a nippy southeast breeze rolling the waters between Heriot Bay and Whaletown, the new skipper, Capt. Robert Burns, eased the vessel into its berth in as smooth a docking as one could wish.


Island residents, parked on both sides of the newly-constructed road, assembled at the ferry to greet M.V. Cortes Queen and its first shipload of passengers and vehicles.


Pipe band leads procession


Dressed in their kilts of Granger-Stewart and MacBeth plaids, and smartly marching to the rolling beat of drums, the legion pipe band, under the leadership of Pipe Major Ted Ferguson, let the procession off the ferry and up the ramp to the ceremonial area.


Local resident, Elmer Ellingsen, one of the hardest workers and strongest supporters for the acquisition of this mode of transport, greeted the pipe band, the dignitaries, and the guests as they disembarked. Jean Campbell, wife of MLA Dan Campbell, then cut the ceremonial ribbon held by students Sarah Weiler, Janice Maclean, Philip Bergman and Jeff Hogan from Whaletown School and Betty Ann Hansen, Marlene Guthrie, Frances Guthrie, Johnny Brown, Boddy Hayes, and Jeff O’Donnell, from Manson’s Landing School, and then Mrs. Campbell dedicated this ferry to the Cortes Island residents.


George Freeman’s vintage car, now belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Alf Milsted of Coal Harbor, returned to the island once again after being barged long ago.


This 1928 Ford was the first vehicle off the new ferry, and let the ensuing motorcade to Manson’s Landing Hall.


The Community Hall, decorated with Japanese lanterns streamers, paper-mache flowers, and balloons, featured a large water-color mural of the new ferry and the new ship as painted by Ken Slater and Lex Bournazel. Two smaller murals, showing transport to and from the island, were titles “as it was” (a tug pulling a barge-load of cars) and “as it was before it was” (depicting a man and his spouse in a rowboat).


Dignitaries and honored guests were formally seated at tables decorated with cut flowers. Beautiful corsages for each lady were placed by the dinner plates, these being furnished by the several florists’ shops in Campbell River.

Elmer Ellingsen then officially welcomed the seated guests and audience on behalf of the Cortes Island Ratepayers. A toast was proposed by Regional Director George Griffin to Cortes Island’s new “bride”, the Cortes Queen who was born in Vancouver and christened by Mrs. Estelle Rose, April 23, 1960, as the Quadra Queen.


Formal presentation by M.C. Elmer Ellingsen included a Mary Weiler painting to the Hon. Dan Campbell for his tireless and unending work to acquire our new ferry; a Ken Slater wooden carved soaring seagull to Bill Law in appreciation for his thoughtfulness, initiative, and persistence towards acquisition of our Cortes Queen; and an Art Shearman painting, to first mate Fil Slater, representing Capt. Robert Burns at the luncheon, which will be hung in the passenger lounge aboard ship.


Don Elmore, from the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce, presented a polished bronze three-bladed propeller to Elmer Ellingsen. This presentation was on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, and with the best wishes of the mayor and council.


Adele Lewis, wife of Owen Lewis, Chief-in-Council of Cage Mudge Village, summed it all up by saying, “Congratulations! Enjoy this ferry as much as we did when it came to us.”


And we shall!