S.S. Norisle revitalization project is full steam ahead

Located close to the beach in Manitowaning’s Heritage Park and Marina, the Manitoulin Roller and Burns’ Wharf warehouse were built in the 1880s, and the ‘Norisle,’ a steam-powered ferry built in 1946, carried passengers and cars between Tobermory and South Baymouth until 1974. photo by Isobel Harry

MANITOWANING – A representative of the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society says the restoration and proposed use for the historic ship are still being explored, that the project is definitely not dead. The project has only been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Norisle has been moored in the Manitowaning harbour since its decommissioning by the Own Sound Transportation Company in 1975. 

John Coulter, director of restoration for the society told The Expositor, “the proposal for complete restoration of the ship hasn’t changed, only the ability to negotiate with various agencies and the government has, due to the pandemic. The idea is to restore the ship to a four-star Great Lakes cruising ship. That has always been the case.” The Norisle would be one, if not the only Canadian cruise ship that would venture throughout all the Great Lakes.  

Mr. Coulter said that the pandemic has been the real problem in the process. “All meetings of our group with various officials have been put on hold for the past two years. Whatever movement we had made been making prior to the pandemic has been restricted since.” 

He noted the ship was painted last summer. “However, the rest of the proposal and negotiations we were involved in has been in a state of flux since COVID hit, especially in our ability to hold meetings and negotiations.”

As for negotiations and who that has involved or will continue to be once the pandemic has subsided, “I can’t go any further on the extent of that at this time. We are trying to be as respectful to the ship and the community as possible.”