VICTORIA – If you ever wondered how the Black Ball Ferry Line has kept the same ferry on the Victoria-to-Port Angeles route for more than 60 years, the answer is simple: maintenance.

Starting Monday, the MV Coho will be out of service for the next month as the vessel undergoes an annual refit. This year's refit will see the installation of two new electrical switchboards and two new generators.

"It's a job that we have been preparing now for well over a year," says Black Ball Ferry Line president Ryan Burles. "We've worked with the shipyard and with our naval architects that we have had on since the beginning. So it's a joint job that we have worked hard at and we feel comfortable about the timeline."

Burles says the new generators will be quieter, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly. The electrical boards are original to the ship and the ferry line felt it was time to change them out and install new wiring.

The refit will be completed at the Dakota Creek Shipyard in Anacortes, Wash. The shipyard has performed the refit of the MV Coho for the past eight years.

"We always want to keep maintaining her and improving her and we have always had a really good maintenance program," says Burles. "We've always taken her out every year and I think that is the key because we are always generally ahead of the game."

There is a crew on board who maintain the Coho 365 days a year. That dedicated crew ensures the Black Ball Ferry Line doesn't get behind on the ferry's maintenance. Burles credits the success of the ferry's continued service in the Juan de Fuca Strait to the dedication of the ship's crew and shore staff.

"We've had three port captains in 60 years and all of them have looked at her as their baby," says Burles. "It starts with that person but it goes right down to the oilers and the deck hands that have taken care of her, so the care of that ship is arguably the best in North America."

With two 55-year leases in Victoria and Port Angeles, the ferry line is looking at providing service between to two coastal cities for many years to come.

"It demonstrates that we are here for another 20 years and the ship is structurally sound and we are going to keep maintaining her to keep her operating as she is," says Burles. "We're looking for the future and we know our culture is a good one."

While the ferry is out of service, there is no major work scheduled at the Victoria or Port Angeles terminals. The MV Coho will go back in service between Victoria and Port Angeles on February 7.