Howe Island Ferry fitted with skis, snowmobile treads, to improve service

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Frontenac county operators announced this afternoon that they have taken drastic steps to avoid the kinds of outages which have plagued the Howe Island ferry so far this season. The largest or “main” ferry was fitted with large steerable skis, and treads from a surplus Canadian Forces vehicle to enable the ability to crawl across the ice instead of being forced to push through.

The ice has proven to be an insurmountable obstacle for the ferry a number of times this year. Temperatures dropping into a range many are calling “seasonal” have caused the normally pliable waters to harden and obstruct the cable-guided passage between mainland and island. Operators have tried a number of means to control and mitigate the problem, but have resigned to the fact that they are unable to fully guarantee service in a season choked by these frigid temperatures without resorting to some ingenuity.

“Well Jim had these skis from that time he tried to move his barn down the hill,” recounted an operator, “so we grabbed them and bolted onto the bottom. One of the older guys, down by the east end there, he’s got a son who knows a fella in the Forces. So we were able to track down some treads from one of them old unused tanks left over in the equipment yard down there. A few cases of beer and a trip to the crappy tire and we had ourselves an ice ferry.” 

Initial results are optimistic. Water crossing time is increased by almost five minutes, but they no longer have to pause for the large ice sheets or ‘bergs’ that choke the channel.

Similar ideas are being floated for the smaller eastern ferry, which for now will be suspended above the water similar to a gondola by tightening the cables over raised supports to create a “suspension ferry”. However this solution has proven extremely unstable in high winds, so residents are exploring more permanent options for the future.

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