by Nancy McDermid
MANITOULIN—The spring ferry run begins this Friday, when the MS Chi-Cheemaun sets sail from Tobermory at 8:50 and docks at South Baymouth by 10:50 am.
In operation since the fall of 1974, the launch of the ferry is a sure sign that the tourist season has begun.
The spring itinerary features two daily runs departing South Baymouth at 11:10 am and 3:50 pm with a third added on Fridays and the holiday Monday at 8:15 pm.
Ian Dean, Manager of Operations and Customer Services with the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC), observed that “reservations have been normal for this part of the year and we are looking forward to a busy season.”
Passengers on the ferry will experience a two percent fare increase this season meant to cover the cost of rising fuel prices and other expenses.
“Fuel costs to run the Chi-Cheemaun for one year are well in excess of a million dollars and they have gone up 25-percent in the last four months,” Mr. Dean explained.
A significant change to the booking system has occurred this year with the $20 priority passage fee for the middle sailings now eliminated and, instead, passengers will pay a $15 reservation fee for the first three sailings (of four) for the summer schedule. The final crossing of the day can be reserved without a fee. There is no reservation fee being charged for the spring and fall sailings.
Over the winter, the Chi-Cheemaun’s fire suppression system was upgraded so that there are better fire fighting capabilities in the event of an emergency.
There were no significant mechanical needs to be met and the ship is ready for her maiden voyage.
The 2011 ferry schedule brochure is available at the Manitoulin Welcome Centre in Little Current and at tourist booths and stores across Manitoulin.
To make a reservation, call 1-800-265-3163.