October 12, 2012
Ferry crew, passengers safe back on mainland
By Mark Ribble, QMI Agency
LEAMINGTON, Ont. - Eighteen passengers and 15 crew members were safely back on mainland Friday after a routine two-hour ferry trip across Lake Erie on Thursday turned into an overnight stay on a sandbar.
The MV Jiimaan was caught in high winds and low water that sent it onto a sandbar Thursday afternoon. It took almost 24 hours before a salvage tug from Toledo, Ohio managed to free the vessel about noon Friday.
Once freed, the Jiimaan sailed to Leamington, Ont.
The vessel was on approach to Kingsville, Ont., on its regular noon run from Pelee Island. It got stuck about 100 metres from the entrance to Kingsville Harbour.
Kitchener, Ont., artist Erin Moffat was returning from Pelee Island, where she was collecting some of her work that had been on display.
She had nothing but praise for the crew who saw them through the ordeal.
“Everybody was awesome,” she said. “The crew was amazing and all the passengers were super patient.”
She said she was lucky enough to grab some sleep in the crew quarters, and spent her time playing scrabble and reading, never feeling like she was in any danger.
The water levels have been wreaking havoc on the sailing schedule for the past couple of weeks, according to locals.
Owen Sound Transportation, which operates the ship, has diverted all transportation to and from the island to Leamington until further notice.
Anxious relatives and onlookers braved crisp temperatures Friday morning to watch the rescue operation conducted by crews from the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and Pelee Island Transportation.
Transportation Safety Board divers were on the scene to make sure the hull held up before the ship was freed.
- with files from Kirk Dickinson