- by Rick Stout

On this day January 12th 1974, my father, his friend and I drove from Owen Sound to Collingwood to watch the ship launching of hull # 205.

The day was cold like yesterday as we stood on the pier waiting for 11:45. Finally the horns blew and the ship started to slide into Georgian Bay for the very first time. As she rolled and tossed in the launch slip, one of the Tobermory tour guides commented "Another roller for Tobermory" as the former ferries Norisle and Norgoma both did their share of rolling on the three hour crossing to Manitoulin Island. The whole thing took less than a minute and it was over. As we made our way back out on to Highway 26, I looked down the slip between the Woolworth's store at the time to see the ship still rolling in the slip more than fifteen minutes later.

My interest in the ship started long before 1974 when Owen Sound Transportation president W.W. (Wib) Barnard who was a friend of my fathers, was at our house for a visit and told my father and I that traffic was getting so busy on the ferry run from Tobermory to South Bay Mouth on Manitoulin Island that a new and bigger ferry was needed. From that point on I cut out every news paper clipping to do with the new ship which was going to be built so it was only fitting to watch her launching as well. As the ship was not near ready for service,

Collingwood Shipyard soon moved the 365 ft ship into the Collingwood dry dock to install her engines and finish her off. It was during this time that a naming contest was won and the ship would be name "M.S.Chi Cheemaun" meaning "Big Canoe" in Ojibwa. Since that cold January day, I watch the ship be finished, and first sailed on her in April 1975 on her trip from her winter berth in Owen Sound to Tobermory . Many of her officers and crew were off the old boats and were friends of my father which allowed us the grand tour.

I've been on the Chi Cheemaun many times since from being in the wheelhouse as she was pitching spray right over the bridge windows and rolling side to side but forty-eight years later, she is still the pride of Tobermory and Manitoulin Island as well as being missed this winter at her winter berth in Owen Sound at she is in Thunder Bay dry dock for the winter for her five year inspection.

Happy Birthday M.S. Chi Cheemaun