LITTLE CURRENT – Large vessels tied up on the Port of Little Current’s waterfront in late November are not necessarily an unusual sight, but they do tend to attract curious onlookers. So it was with the MV Sandy Graham, a ferry which normally services the Beausoleil First Nation, an Ojibwe community located at the southern tip of Georgian Bay on Christian, Beckwith and Hope Islands.
Captain Mike Cass told The Expositor the MV Sandy Graham can haul a combination of 27 cars and 100 passengers on its 38.33 metre by 12.19 metre deck for the 20 minute crossing to Beausoleil First Nation, travelling at around eight knots. The vessel’s top rated speed is 12 knots, with its gross 212 ton hull driven by twin diesel engines.
“We are just passing through,” said Captain Cass. “We are heading to Sault Ste. Marie for her annual drydocking at Purvis’ (drydock). This will be her last time in drydock as we are getting a new ves sel next year.”
Built at the Barbour Boat Works in New Bern, North Carolina in 1957, Midland, Ontario is her port of registry. The federal government purchased the vessel in 1998 as a temporary solution. In 2016, even then well beyond its best before date, the ferry began breaking down regularly and was removed from service, leaving the community of 700 without a car ferry for several months. The only other real option is the MV Sandy Graham’s sister ferry, the passenger ferry MV Indian Maiden, a 70 passenger ferry with icebreaking capabilities.
As a lifeline linking Christian Island to Midland, Penetanguishene and Barrie, community members utilize the ferry services to reach hospitals, grocery stores and other mainland services.
Beausoleil First Nation contracted Fraser Shipyards of Superior, Wisconsin to build the new 50 metres by 18 metres wide ferry at a cost of $18.8 million.
Where the MV Sandy Graham can manage to break through up to three inches of ice, the new ferry will be a true game-changer, as its icebreaking capabilities will allow it to operate year-round. The new double-ended ferry will carry up to 150 passengers and 36 vehicles and be capable of roll-on, roll-off loading.
The new ferry is part of a multi-million retrofit of the docks and waterfront on Christian Island.