Canoe Island French Camp has recently been fundraising to replace the Ferry Queen, our large passenger vessel. The new vessel will cost $500,000; we have been asking friends of CIFC to support this enormous project to fund this essential equipment.
Hosting educational programs on a private island in the San Juans affords our campers extraordinary benefits such as unparalleled access to nature and pristine land, the ability to roam freely, and a sense of security. However, our remote and water-bound location requires that we keep and maintain a fleet of boats to transport program participants as well as supplies and equipment to and from the island.
Our primary vessel, the Ferry Queen, has been serving Canoe Island for the past fifty-two years. This boat is both an iconic symbol of CIFC’s longstanding programs as well as the workhorse of our boat fleet. A voyage on the Ferry Queen marks the beginning and end of a transformative session at camp for the youth who come to Canoe Island.
Why are your retiring the Ferry Queen?
We have been using the Ferry Queen since 1972. We have replaced the engines six times and we repair the fiberglass every winter. Though it pains us to replace this beloved boat, we need a reliable, modern vessel so that we can continue to safely and efficiently operate camp.
Why does camp need a large boat?
Current French Camp families know that we use Island Express, a local charter company, to transport campers to and from Canoe Island for French Camp. But arrival and departure days are only one aspect of our transportation needs; we use our large vessel every single day during the programming season and throughout the year in various ways.
During French Camp, the Ferry Queen transports campers and staff to other islands for excursions and adventures. For example, we transport children and bikes to Lopez Island for day-long biking trips. We transport children in the Ferry Queen for volunteer service projects. We additionally go to farmers’ market and to other islands for educational opportunities, such as the salmon hatchery on Orcas. Having a vessel capable of transporting a significant number of campers is crucial to continuing to offer a high quality program.
The Ferry Queen is also essential in transporting machines, equipment, and supplies to Canoe Island. She is a landing craft with gull-wing doors, which allow us to drive vehicles and tractors directly onto the boat, as well as loading construction equipment such as lumber. Because Canoe Island is a private island accessible only by private boats and because CIFC employees undertake almost all our maintenance and construction work, we need a vessel large enough to transport all the materials essential for running our business. Additionally, for the six months when programs are in session, the boat supplies our twice-weekly food runs as well as mail runs.
Lastly, we require a large passenger vessel in order to run our shoulder season programs, which consists of school groups, family camps, and local non-profits.
What is the timeline of the new vessel?
We made a downpayment of $25,000 in the fall of 2023. Construction will begin near the end of 2024. The new vessel should be ready in the spring of 2025. We hope and expect that we will use the new vessel during spring programs of 2025.
What benefits will the new vessel offer to camp?
The Ferry Queen’s replacement will have an aluminum hull instead of fiberglass and outboard engines. These upgrades will eliminate some of the costly and time-consuming upkeep of the old boat, and the dual engine will offer enhanced safety in the form of redundancy. The new vessel will additionally be nearly twice as fast as the Ferry Queen. The Ferry Queen was rated to transport 15 passengers, and this new boat will carry 18 passengers, meaning our camper excursions will be slightly larger.
Why is this boat so expensive?
A safe, large, well made boat is simply expensive! We have contracted with Munson, a local boat builder based in Burlington, WA. San Juan County, OPALCO, the local fire department, and other government agencies all use Munson boats; they are a gold standard for safe, reliable vessels.
What fundraising have you done so far?
We have been actively fundraising for this enormous project since 2021. In 2021, 2022, and 2023, we dedicated our efforts during Giving Tuesday to the new vessel, raising approximately $25,000 over the three years. We have additionally had two online auctions and will have a third auction in 2024. These online auctions have raised an additional $24,000 for the vessel. Lastly, we have received approximately $17,000 in the last three years from community members in donations specifically earmarked for the new vessel. All together, individual donors have contributed roughly $66,000 to this capital campaign since 2021.
Doesn’t Canoe Island French Camp have a trust that could cover this expense?
CIFC’s founder, Dr. Warren Austin, established a trust in order to help ensure the continuation of French Camp after his death. The trust has strict guidelines about how these funds can be used; the guidelines stipulate that camp may only use the funds to maintain structures on Canoe Island that existed at the time of Dr. Austin’s passing, and the boat does not quality because it is technically not “on” or attached to the island. Additionally, as a principal-protected trust, we receive only the interest from the trust, and our trust disbursements are too small to have a significant impact on this expense.
How else will CIFC use this new vessel?
One element of CIFC’s mission is to serve the local San Juan Island community and support our neighbors. We accomplish this goal in a myriad of ways, including participating in oil spill trainings, donating to the food bank, offering free French language lessons, hosting non-profits for retreats on Canoe Island, welcoming local school groups, and organizing volunteer outings for our campers. Every one of these activities requires use of the Ferry Queen. In recent years, local residents have struggled with transportation issues due to an overburdened ferry system and reduced service, especially of the inter-island ferries. Once we have our new vessel, we aspire to join a coalition of concerned locals and boat operators who are helping to bridge the gap in ferry service. As the most central island in the San Juan archipelago, we are in a unique position to make great use of CIFC’s assets during our non-programming months, putting to use both the new vessel as well as the skills of CIFC’s licensed captain, director Ben Straub.
What will new new vessel be called?
We’ll announce the name as soon as we’ve decided!
Ferry Queen Online Auction Fundraiser 2023
Many CIFC community members contributed items to our auction and for their generosity we are incredibly grateful. It is with their support that we can continue to fulfill our mission and bring the magic of summer camp to all of our kids. To the following individuals who contributed to the Ferry Queen Fundraiser 2023, we say “Merci beaucoup”: Aaron Andrews, Alena Harris, Ali Morrow, Clare Lewis, Connie and Joseph Jones, Heather Jasper, Kate Hill, Laura Grove, Laura Sommers, Laura St. John, Margaret Schafer & Ben Straub, Mike & Kate Killigrew, Monrique Hennig, Pearl Mudd, and Sally Rechlin.
Merci beaucoup to the following organizations and businesses that donated to our online auction in support of our Ferry Queen Replacement Fund. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and we hope you know what an impact on our campers you will have.
“I can tell you as a camp parent, she has benefited enormously from the wonderful enriching, inspiring and educational facility you have created on Canoe Island with your camp. Canoe Island French camp has been a unique and treasured experience for our daughter. She often shares her experience with her family and friends, for example; the camp outs, whale watching, camp songs and the amazing food. She grew physically, mentally and culturally from her time at Canoe. She also remains very close to her Canoe friends. To Sarah, Canoe Island is heaven on earth.” ~ Dorothy, Sleepy Hollow, NY