By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press
The Tobermory to Manitoulin ferry, MS Chi-Cheemaun has been remarkably dependable over its nearly 50 years of service. Over that time period, the number of trips cancelled due to mechanical problems is well under 1%, Whole years go by without a single cancellation for anything other than weather.
Despite that, parent company Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) recently had to cancel sailings twice in one weekend, with two different mechanical problems.
On August 4, the regular 1:15 departure from Tobermory went as planned but the vessel was unable to unload at South Baymouth due to a mechanical issue with the docking ramp. She was forced to return to Tobermory and unload all the vehicles and passengers back where they started.
The 5:45 departure from Tobermory and the 7:45 return departure from South Baymouth were also cancelled as OSTC personnel scrambled to find technicians to repair the loading ramp at South Baymouth.
The morning trip on Aug 5 also had to be cancelled, with the repair crew due to arrive at South Baymouth at 11:00AM. Repairs were successful and the Chi-Cheemaun resumed regular service with the 1:15PM departure from Tobermory.
The following day however, a fuel pump on the vessel sprang a leak, which shut the service down again. The 5:45PM departure from Tobermory and the 7:45PM return departure from South Baymouth were cancelled, as were all three trips on August 7.
Repairs were successful and, after a sea trial, the Chi-Cheemaun resumed her regular schedule on August 8.
Problems with the dock seem to happen every few years; problems with the vessel herself are much more rare. The MS Chi-Cheemaun has four engines and two separate drive systems; those redundancies give her a lot of flexibility to deal with mechanical troubles.
But with 7 trips lost due to the two lots of mechanical trouble, the mechanical reliability for 2022 will drop below 99% for the first time in quite a few years.