MANITOULIN—The MS Chi-Cheemaun will be making her first crossing of the season this Friday, May 5, sailing into South Baymouth port at 10:50 am and sporting her brand-new look.
The Expositor spoke with an enthusiastic Susan Schrempf, CEO of the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC), who is looking forward to what should be a very busy sailing season for the ferry.
“We are anticipating an extremely busy season,” Ms. Schrempf said. “Reservations are up 150 percent for this time of year.”
The CEO noted that as Tobermory’s popularity continues to grow, ferry traffic will as well, coupled with the expected spike in domestic travel for Canada 150 celebrations. As part of those celebrations, all of Canada’s national parks are free for 2017, including the Bruce Peninsula National Park. To help mediate the boom of travelgoers to the area, the ferry will be the foremost suggestion for Bruce tourists with tourism stakeholders pointing people in the direction of the Chi-Cheemaun and Manitoulin Island, Ms. Schrempf explained.
There will be no hikes to fares this year, with the exception of the five sunset entertainment cruises booked from May to September.
“The quality of the entertainment is quite good, and it doesn’t come cheap,” Ms. Schrempf said.
To complement this new entertainment, the forward lounge has been transformed complete with stage, sound and lighting befitting this high quality entertainment. During those cruises the lounge will be accessible to only those ticketholders. The acts booked include David Newland (and two throat singers!) and his Northwest Passage in Story and Song Tour in May, Trent Severn in June, Tyler Beckett and James Keelaghan in July, Harpoonist and the Axe Murder in August (“They are unbelievable,” Ms. Schrempf said of the group. “You will hear the ship all the way across.”), and The MacKenzie Blues Band in September.
In July, as part of the Ontario 150 events, each Sunday all ferry passengers will be treated to music from the Georgian Bay Folk Society as they mentor up-and-coming artists. There won’t be a special Canada Day celebration on the ferry, but the OSTC supports both fireworks displays in South Baymouth and Tobermory.
There was to be an open house Tuesday of this week in Owen Sound to see the changes to the ferry before she makes her way to Tobermory for Thursday. In what has become a new tradition for the crew and captain, on its first sail to Tobermory from Owen Sound for the past two years, the ferry does a turn at what is known by area locals as Lighthouse Point near Cape Croker First Nation. This is in tribute to Donald Keeshig, the man who named the ferry, as this was the last place he watched the Chi-Cheemaun before his passing last year. Mr. Keeshig’s family now gathers at this spot to see the tribute to their father.
The spring sailing season sees the ferry depart South Baymouth starting this Friday, May 5 at 11:10 am, 3:50 pm and 8:15 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:10 am and 3:50 pm and Mondays through Thursdays at 11:10 and 3:50 pm. There will be an additional sailing on the Victoria Day holiday, Monday, May 22, at 8:15 pm.
Tune in to the Expositor’s Facebook site for video of the ferry sailing into port this Friday at 10:50 am.
For reservations call 1-800-265-3136.