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Connecting Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula


Established in 1921 by three Owen Sound businessmen and owners of the North American Bent Chair Company, the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) operated the chair manufacturer’s steamboat SS Michipicoten for procuring materials along the north shore of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island and delivering finished products from Owen Sound.

In 1926, OSTC purchased a steel-hulled steamer, Modjeska, operating it briefly as an excursion boat between Sault Ste. Marie before refurbishing it with cabins and staterooms to accommodate 150 passengers. The following year, renamed the SS Manitoulin and Captained by Norman McKay, she made weekly excursions to Killarney, Manitoulin Island, Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinac Island. In 1928, OSTC added the SS Manasoo an excursion and cargo ship.

By 1931 there were four companies operating passenger, vehicle and freight ferry services from Owen Sound when OSTC launched the MS Normac, named after their general manager, Captain Norman McKay. Also that year, OSTC purchased a competitor’s service and their steamer, with Henry Pedwell renaming it the SS Kagawong.

For 30 years the MS Normac provided seasonal ferry service between Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth, Manitouin Island. During that time OSTC merged with the Dominion Transportation Company, added a new ship, the SS Norisle with a capacity of 50 automobiles and 250 passengers and in 1963 added the diesel powered MS Norgoma to handle increased traffic.

In 1974, Ontario Northland Transportation Company (ONTS) acquired OSTC and launched the state-of-the-art MS Chi-Cheemaun (“Big Canoe”) capable of transporting 600 passengers and close to 150 vehicles with a crossing time of less than two hours.

Today, after separating from (ONTC) in 2002, Owen Sound Transportation is an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Province of Ontario, headquartered in Owen Sound and owner of the MS Chi-Cheemaun.  The company is also contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to provide year-round transportation service to Pelee Island on Lake Erie.

Read more OSTC History