Chi-Cheemaun sails on Tuesday

OWEN SOUND—Although there is still plenty of ice floating about in Manitoulin waters, the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) remains confident that the ferry linking the Island to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula will begin the season schedule, sailing from Tobermory at 8:50 am on Tuesday, May 5.

When the ferry arrives in South Baymouth at 10:50 am it will be sporting a fancy new paint job on its smokestack and sides, with a more detailed and intricate bow design slated to be applied after the ship is finished being sandblasted in dry dock in 2017.

“The cold weather has not been helping in getting the design applied,” said OSTC President Susan Schrempf. “But we will have it in place by the time we sail.” Since the paint on the hull will be completely stripped in the first sandblasting the ferry has received since it went into service, the OSTC “decided that it wouldn’t be prudent to put the bow design on until that work is done.”

The paint on the vessel’s hull has been boiling up, noted Ms. Schrempf. “It is something that has to be done.”

More good news will be found on ticket stubs, as the cost of taking the ferry will remain unchanged this year. Although the ferry had been following a policy of incremental increases to fare prices for several years, that policy has been suspended.

“It went by the wayside when we did the feasibility study,” said Ms. Schrempf. “It simply did not make sense to raise fares while we are going through a product development phase.”

Ms. Schrempf said that she had doubts the fares would rise significantly even after the marketing push was completed. “We are concentrating on increasing the ferry ridership,” she said. “If the number of passengers on the ferry increases, that will go a long way toward decreasing the operating deficit.”

OSTC and participating accommodations on Manitoulin Island have joined forces to provide travellers with a 10 percent discount on their ferry fare that includes a $5 discount per accommodation reservation. It is important to note that reservations are required for both the ferry and the accommodation to take advantage of the program discounts.

The process is to make your reservation at the accommodation first to receive your tag number and then to call 1-800-265-3163 to book your vehicle space on the ferry.

The popular Frequent Sailor Loyalty Cards are not only once again available, they are now transferable between family members. The cards are colour coded according to the size of the vehicle and can be used for up to three different vehicles of the same size, per family or business, exclusive of trailers. Riders can request a card from the terminal ticket booth agent on their first crossing of the season. If a passenger makes nine one-way trips, the tenth trip is free. But be aware, there is no carry-over to next season.

The complete schedule for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry and more information on the Destination Manitoulin and frequent sailor programs can be found online at ontarioferries.com.