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Historic Manitoulin Island ferry being towed away for recycling

A historic ferry that has been moored on Manitoulin Island for nearly 50 years after being decommissioned in 1974 is being towed away Wednesday to be recycled and there is mixed reaction from residents.

S.S. Norisle is being towed from Manitowaning on Wednesday to be recycled in Port Colbourne. Oct. 4/23 (Annette Laberge Virtanen)

The S.S. Norisle was built in Collingwood in 1946 and shuttled people and vehicles between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island from 1947 to 1974 before being replaced by the current ferry M.S. Chi-Cheemaun.

The ship has been used as a floating museum in Manitouwaning since the Township of Assiginack purchased it for $1 in 1975 and has been invoking a love/hate relationship with local residents ever since, David Smith said on the town's website.

"With a length of 214 feet or 65 metres, its imposing black and white exterior and towering smokestack it presents an imposing sight in this area," Smith said.

"One of the major drawbacks (when it was in use) was the fact that it burnt coal and belched black smoke into the atmosphere."

Black-and-white photo of S.S. Norisle (David Gustner)

Over the years, the S.S. Norisle has been deteriorating and has become an environmental and safety concern, Janey Anderson said in a social media post.

The boat is making its final journey to Marine Recycling Corp. in Port Colborne where the metal will be recycled and possibly used in other ships.

"Sorry to see this. Many good memories from trips on this ship when I was a kid. Too bad the town couldn't figure out how to get grants from government to keep her," Ron Hamilton commented on a social media post about the ship.

Many are sharing memories about the Norisle online.

"Many years ago, 134 RCSCC Admiral Mountbatten Sea Cadets from Sudbury spent a couple of weeks living aboard the Norisle. A Great time for seamanship training. In work dress, they would complete a days training while the rest of us cleaned and painted and then the evenings were spent relaxing....jumping from the ship's jetty," David Flake said in a Facebook comment about the boat.

"0700 each morning the Corps would perform colours and fire one round from the field gun out across the water waking all those sleeping aboard their own boats moored at the docks. We had a cook on board to prep our meals and each year held a fundraising spaghetti super in the front observation lounge. We had an amazing time!! Sunset was performed in the evenings and again one round fired across the water. If we could only bring back those times ... the bunks in quarters weren't friendly to those over five feet tall ... from experience!"

S.S. Norisle coming into Manitoulin Island harbour (David Gustner)

Not everyone was a fan of the vessel.

"The hard lesson to be learned … when someone offers you something that sounds too good to be true, just say 'no.' Fifty or so years ago, someone said to Assiginack, 'Here you can have this boat for $1.' And the spending of taxpayer dollars started then and will continue for years to come," Facebook user Steve N Rhonda Bondi said in a comment online.

The tug boat, Ecosse, came into the harbour around 7 a.m. Wednesday and the Norisle pilot around 10 a.m.

Tug boat Ecosse arrives to tow the S.S. Norisle from Manitowaning to Port Colbourne, where it will be recycled. Oct. 4/23 (Annette Laberge Virtanen)

Township of Assiginack officials said the S.S. Norisle should be leaving around 11:30 a.m. and live streamed the event. Top Stories


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