An Iconic and Long-Lived Ferry Made Its First Run In British Columbia

July 20, 1956

On Canada’s Pacific coast, the ferry MV Mill Bay was first placed into service transporting passengers and vehicles across Saanich Inlet and between the communities of Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. W. Glenn “Red” Ryder served as the vessel’s first captain. The ferry was constructed by the shipbuilder Victoria Machinery Depot Ltd. on the island for Coast Ferries Ltd., which had taken over the longtime Brentwood Bay-Millwood Bay route from Cascade Freight & Trading Company in 1945.

The 123-foot (37.5-meter) long MV Mill Bay, characterized in a 1959 article in the Washington State-based Port Angeles Evening News as being “just like a toy boat,” was comparatively small and could accommodate only 136 passengers and 16 vehicles at any one time. Notwithstanding her size, the ship set a longevity record for ferries operating in that region of Canada. It became a part of the fleet of BC Ferries after the company bought out Coast Ferries in 1969, and ended up making the 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) run along Saanich Inlet on a regular basis for 55 years altogether.

MV Mill Bay had begun its own career four years before BC Ferries was even established, and she stood out as the company’s oldest ferry in operation. The ship became so popular on Vancouver Island that plans to discontinue the ferry’s service in 1977, 1985, and 2001 were dropped in the face of strong public protests. The MV Mill Bay route was even nicknamed “The Island’s Most Beautiful Shortcut.”

In 2004 – seven years before MV Mill Bay was finally retired from service – the vessel figured prominently in efforts to celebrate the 80th anniversary of when regular ferry runs between Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay were first launched. The ferry was also featured in several movies, including the 1970 Jack Nicholson classic “Five Easy Pieces.”

For more information on MV Mill Bay, please check out

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