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Author to honour 50th anniversary of Chi-Cheemaun

Undated photo of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry setting sail from South Baymouth. (FIle photo/Ian Campbell/CTV News Northern Ontario) Undated photo of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry setting sail from South Baymouth. (FIle photo/Ian Campbell/CTV News Northern Ontario)
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It’s an iconic symbol of summer, the Chi-Cheemaun, and it’s about to be memorialized in a book for all to see as it sets sail for its 50th year.

Historian and author Richard Thomas has been busy working on the project, in coordination with the Owen Sound Transportation Company, and is looking for help from those who have memorable stories involving the Chi-Cheemaun.

“It’s a great story and I ride Chi-Cheemaun probably about a dozen times every summer myself,” said Thomas. “So it’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.”

For decades now, Chi-Cheemaun (otherwise known as *Big Canoe*) has been making the trek to Manitoulin Island and back ferrying summer lovers across the Georgian Bay and cutting hours off car trips.

“Chi-Cheemaun really is an iconic symbol of Great Lakes travel. For many people, it’s the biggest ship they’ll ever be on in their lives and so it’s a special trip,” he said.

According to Thomas, the biggest issues with Chi-Cheemaun’s predecessors was the line-ups. They couldn’t keep up with demand which led to it’s creation at a Collingwood shipyard.

“I’ve heard lots of great stories so far, people are very generous with reaching out. I’m up to three couples who were married on Chi-Cheemaun who have shared photos and stories with me so I’ll be including some of those,” he said. “There have been a number of people talking about the iconic nature of Chi-Cheemaun, they remember as little kids travelling on Chi-Cheemaun with grandma to go over to the cottage and now as adults they take their own children on board. It’s a real generational story."

Thomas says he’s hoping to gather information about special trips they’ve had on the ferry, whether it was the good or worst passage ever along with any other interesting tidbits.

“I’ve gotten up to the point where Chi-Cheemaun is being built and I’ve actually interviewed about a dozen men form the shipyards who worked on Chi-Cheemaun back in 73 and 74 and I’ve got some great stories about them and the one thing I’ll say that came through loud and clear from the shipyard workers was the sense of pride that they all have that Chi-Cheemaun is still sailing,” he added.

No word yet on when the ferry plans to launch for the summer season.

To reach Richard Thomas or to contribute to his work, he can be reached at chicheemaun50@gmail.com

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