COVID-19 again delays start of Chi-Cheemaun sailing season

Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

OWEN SOUND – The Ontario Ministry of Transportation released a bulletin last Friday, April 30, stating that it would be delaying the start of the 2021 Chi-Cheemaun ferry sailing season between Tobermory and South Baymouth until further notice.

“Ferry services between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island originally scheduled to begin on May 7 have been delayed until further notice. The government is monitoring the situation closely and will provide an update by May 21,” the bulletin stated.

MTO’s bulletin continued to note that the province’s priority is to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians and prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is why Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) has delayed the start of the season.

“All reservations affected by this delay have been cancelled. At this time, OSTC will be in contact with customers with reservations on regularly scheduled sailings between May 7 and May 20, and will assist them with rescheduling transportation to a later date,” the bulletin continues.

Susan Schrempf, CEO of OSTC, told The Expositor in an emailed statement “We will continue to prepare the ferry for operation and will await direction from the Ministry of Transportation regarding the new start date.”

Dr. Maurianne Reade of the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team had raised concerns with the May 7 start of the sailing season at a Manitoulin COVID-19 Leadership Co-ordination Committee meeting late last month and was contacted by The Expositor following the Friday news for comment. 

“The news of the delay in the Chi-Cheemaun ferry service operating season will come as a relief to many Manitoulin leaders, and many health care providers,” Dr. Reade told The Expositor. “It sends the right message: that everyone needs to take the lockdown seriously. We are at a critical time for the sustainability of our health care system. Just as decisions that every ministry makes will have an impact, decisions that every individual makes will also have an impact. We will all look forward to having tourists come to Manitoulin when it is safe to do so.”

Last year, the ferry’s first sail was delayed until June 1 and only available for passengers who were using the service for commercial travel purposes or to access their residences. On July 1, access opened up to all wishing to sail on the Chi-Cheemaun, but with strict COVID-19 guidelines, including reduced ridership.

Any passengers who seek more information on refunds and the trip rescheduling process can email info@ontarioferries.com for details.