SANDUSKY -- Two ferries that deliver tourists to a Canadian island in Lake Erie have been shut down for weeks, sinking much of Pelee Island's economy.
Farmers who are ready for spring planting are stuck too, unable to get deliveries of seed to the island in the western Lake Erie basin between Cleveland and Detroit. "It's affecting our entire economy," Pelee Island's mayor, Rick Masse, told the Sandusky Register.
The two ferries normally make regular trips to the island, with one traveling from southern Ontario, Canada, and the other from Sandusky, Ohio. With both out service for repairs for at least 10 more days, the only way to get to the island is by small plane.
But a 40-pound baggage limit on the small charter flights that are available cuts down on the amount of supplies that can be transported that way, said Louisette Durocher, the owner of Island Memories Bed and Breakfast.
The island's small airport would not be able to handle large cargo planes, she said. Durocher said it also is hard to take reservations when there is no firm date for the ferries to resume service. The lack of ferry service is more than an inconvenience, Durocher said.
"It's a terrible, terrible loss to all of the businesses on the island," she said. The Pelee Islander, which provides service from Sandusky, won't run this weekend or the next, according to the Owen Sound Transportation Co.'s website.
The boat has been in Cleveland since March 30 undergoing an out-of-water inspection required every five years. That inspection has shown that the 52-year-old vessel will require additional structural steel renewal and the replacement of both propeller shafts, meaning the ferry will be out of service about two more weeks, the company said in a release.
Masse said that if the Pelee Islander isn't back into action until the middle of May, there could be potential transportation problems for visitors wanting to attend a bird watching festival beginning May 11.
The other ferry, the Jiimaan, which runs to the island from the Canadian towns of Leamington and Kingsville, has been out of service for about two weeks for repairs to both of its propellers. It's not expected to return to service until May 12, the company said.
Masse said he is talking with other officials to try to find a stopgap solution until the ferry starts running again. Pelee Island, about 20 miles north of Sandusky, is a popular summertime destination. It is known for pheasant hunting and fertile farmland, with winery tours, cottage rentals, beaches and bird watching.
The Associated Press