At 8:50 a.m. on Friday, October 14th, 1983, "the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission's passenger and automobile ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN (which is operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company Ltd.), cleared her dock at Tobermory, Ontario, for her regular run across to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. There were 113 passengers on board at the time, as well as a crew of fifty.
When the ferry was twenty minutes out of Tobermory, she encountered 48-knot winds and extremely high waves. Her master considered it unwise to continue the crossing, but he decided against any attempt to return to the dock at Tobermory. CHI-CHEEMAUN spent the day sailing around the local islands, in an effort to find some shelter from the storm. After an unsuccessful attempt was made to return to Tobermory at about 5:00 p.m., the ferry made her way around the peninsula and continued south-east to Dyer Bay, where she dropped anchor for the night.
The passengers were given complimentary dinner on Friday night, and they whiled away the time playing cards and watching the World Series baseball game on television. Families brought their personal belongings, including sleeping bags, up from their automobiles, and also brought along items such as crayons and toys for their children. As the ferry provides no sleeping accommodations (CHI-CHEEMAUN is a day-boat only and has no overnight cabins as did her predecessors on the route, NORISLE and NORGOMA), the passengers had to rest as comfortably as possible in arm-chairs and on the deck. The crew members were complimented on their kindness and consideration, although certain passengers did express concern at missing connections or having travel plans delayed.
After an early breakfast on Saturday morning, the ferry proceeded to her dock at Tobermory, the storm having abated. Passengers were given the option of staying aboard and taking the regular Saturday morning crossing at 8:50, or having their passage fare refunded.
The 6,991-ton CHI-CHEEMAUN, which was built by Collingwood Shipyards back in 1974, is an excellent "sea boat", and is equipped with motion stabilizers. During her long ordeal, there was never any fear for the safety or comfort of the passengers or crew.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.