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Summer is coming

Melissa Topey • Apr 1, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Crews of area boat lines have no option but to wait patiently until Old Man Winter decides to loosen his icy grip on Lake Erie. Sometimes, life on the Lake Erie islands means waiting on warm weather.

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Goodtime, Lake Erie Island Cruises

The Goodtime is mired in ice at its dock at the Jackson Street Pier, said Brooke Chamberlain, operations manager of the Goodtime Lake Erie Island Cruises. The city has yet to turn on the water supply at the docks, she said. A double dose of bad luck means the crew of the Goodtime has been unable to de-winterize and perform maintenance on the boat, such as painting a large area of the boat near the wheelhouse, where ice has taken off the paint.    

“This winter has been like Humpty Dumpty,” Chamberlain said. “We have to put it all together again”

Goodtime doesn’t start its cruises until May, when the weather is warmer, so the long and harsh winter shouldn’t impede its business. The cruise line has a private event scheduled for April 26, but Chamberlain is confident the frozen lake will have loosened its grip on the boat by then.

Once summer cruises begin, passengers will notice some changes.

Customers interested in the Sunset Cruise will have twice the opportunity this summer. Goodtime will host the two-hour Sunset Cruise on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, starting at 7:30 p.m.

There’s also a change to the Goodtime’s most popular cruise, the Friday Night Party Cruise — better known to locals as the Booze Cruise.

This year, the Friday-night boat pulls away from the Jackson Street Pier to Kelleys Island at 8:30 p.m. Island revelers can still board the Goodtime at 7:30 p.m. to enjoy drink specials and dancing.

The Goodtime previously ran twice on Friday nights, ferrying passengers to Kelleys Island and back, until about two years ago, when the island police and officials asked the Goodtime to cut it back to one trip.

Last year, the Goodtime ran one route that left at 7 p.m. Fridays. “That was too early to give people enough time to get to Sandusky” Chamberlain said. They’re hoping the new time will be just right for fun and revelry. “It’s still a good time on the Goodtime,” Chamberlain said.

Jet Express

The Jet Express anticipates no trouble as it heads into its 26th season starting May 2, with weekend runs beginning from Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay. Daily service begins May 22. Service from Sandusky is scheduled to begin May 23. “We are looking good,” said Capt. Lance Woodworth, general manager of the Put-in-Bay Boat Line company that operates the Jet Express.

The operator long ago installed equipment known as “bubblers” in its docks, to eject air into the water surrounding the four boats they run. This way, the water doesn’t freeze. Crews are already performing routine maintenance on two of the boats they pulled out of the water, preparing to begin runs. There’s no change to the normal ferry service from Port Clinton and Sandusky to Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay. The boat line will also continue with its Excursion Adventure cruises, a service that proved popular when it was rolled out last year.

The Jet Express two-hour cruises leave from Black River Landing in Lorain and head into Cleveland. The cruises vary their destinations, including wine tastings and stops in downtown Cleveland for a trip to the Horseshoe Casino.

The Jet Express’ newest offering this year isn’t even on the water.

When the season begins, Jet Express customers leaving from Port Clinton can expect to find work being done to the passenger terminal, where they’ll have a more comfortable wait. It’s part of a three-year project that will end with an indoor restaurant and bar and a gift shop.

Miller Boat Line

While Goodtime and Jet Express don’t run until May, companies such as Miller Boat Line and Kelleys Island Boat Line Ferry are normally running now.

Both boat lines ferry people and cargo back and forth to the islands.

“All four of our vessels are tied up at the downtown ferry dock at Put-in-Bay in ice,” said Julene Market, spokeswoman for the familyowned Miller Boat Line. “We are normally out by the end of March” The Miller Boat Line boats can carry about 500 passengers, depending on the number of cars on the boat. They’re also a critical lifeline to supplies needed for island life and businesses, such as food, drink and building materials.

Last year, Miller Boat Line had its boats out by March 18. There’s no way of knowing when the boats will be out of the ice, but Market is hoping it’s soon. Hotel operators and village administrators are hoping for the same. “There are lots of big projects,” Market said. “Everything is on hold until we can ferry materials back and forth” Until then, island residents are relying on the airplanes to shuttle them back and forth to the mainland.

Everyone suspects that once the warm weather hits, people will rush to the boats to put this historic winter behind them. “People will be stir-crazy” Chamberlain said. “The natives are getting restless,” Market said. “People are anxious to get out. I expect to see heavy traffic on our boats”

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