NORTH BAY -- Chief Commanda Captain Rich Stivrins is putting the final touches on the boat before it hits Lake Nipissing next week.

The boat has been docked in Callander since 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ship did not sail last season.

"We have to go through our checklist of things to launch and get the right weather break," said Stivrins. "So, sometime next week we will be at the dock."

Stivrins said the Chief Commanda can welcome passengers again when the province enters stage 2 of the COVID-19 reopening plan. He’s hopeful that will be the first week of July.

"We’re licensed for 321 passengers and crew, effectively that’s around 300 passengers," he said. "This year we really have no idea what we’re going to end up with, which is a little bit nerve-wracking this close to the season."

They would be happy to operate at 30 per cent capacity, Stivrins said, which is about 100 people. But they could safely take more.

"We are confident that we can operate safely into the 50, 60 per cent numbers because we have 80,000 square feet between the three decks," he said.

For Tourism North Bay, attractions like the Chief Commanda have staff hopeful the city will be busier this summer than it was in 2020.

“So many people come from out of town to the city, so it’s good for the city, it’s good for the community,” said Steve Dreany.

“Anything we do or anything we promote is going to be in conjunction with the health unit guidelines. But we are hoping that there will be an increase in tourism, especially over last year.”

As for the Chief Commanda, passengers can expect to enjoy their experience a bit differently than in the past.

“A lot of Plexiglas shielding is up to space people out and to create barriers between tables," said Stivrins. "We anticipate masks will be a mandatory requirement when they come on.”

Stivrins said the current plan is to have the Chief Commanda sailing Lake Nipissing until Thanksgiving.