OWEN SOUND – The Chi-Cheemaun ferry will once again be plying the waters between Manitoulin Island and Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, but things will be very different for passengers when the service starts up this Monday, June 1.
“We have cancelled all previous reservations for the month of June and are requiring everyone to rebook,” said Owen Sound Transportation Company CEO and president Susan Schrempf. “Even foot traffic will be required to have a reservation.”
The ferry will be giving priority to essential and commercial travel, she noted. “This will not be for tourism or leisure purposes.”
As to how that is determined, Ms. Schrempf was direct. “We are being very transparent about it,” she said. “We are asking people the purpose of their travel and asking them to contact the community where they are going to as to whether they are prepared to receive them and what is involved in that.” Those with cottages on Manitoulin will, however, be able to access their property via the ferry.
With several First Nations communities limiting access to their territories, it is hoped that some disappointment can be nipped in the bud with that simple precaution.
“The ferry will be strictly a ferry service,” cautioned Ms. Schrempf. “There will be no onboard amenities, no food, no gift shop, but people will be able to order merchandise at our online store.”
All passengers will be required to wear face masks on board, the only exemptions being those with demonstrated (and documented) medical conditions and children under two years of age.
“We will probably be travelling with half of our car decks empty as there will be a limited number of passengers,” admitted Ms. Schrempf, “and we won’t be counting the outdoor on-deck physical spaces as part of our space since we can’t necessarily predict what the weather is going to be like. There will definitely be a lot less chairs on board.” Physical distancing will be the norm and respected.
The restrictions will be in place until the Transport Canada directives are lifted or modified, noted Ms. Schrempf.
The company’s staff has been kept very busy over the last few months, not only in preparing the Chi-Cheemaun ferry for its inaugural 2020 run in unprecedented circumstances, but also in getting the other two ferries overseen by the company in place as well.
“We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and healthy,” she said. “We appreciate and encourage the efforts that people are doing themselves as well. Together we will get through this.”
To make a reservation visit OntarioFerries.com or call 1-800-265-3163.