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Miller resumes ferry service to Put-in-Bay

Lake thaw ushers in tourist’s trips from Catawba Island

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    People exit a ferry at the Miller Boat Line dock in Catawba Island Township. Miller began running its boats Thursday after warmer temperatures finally allowed the ice to clear.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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    Vehicles wait to board a ferry from Catawba Island Township to South Bass Island.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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People exit a ferry at the Miller Boat Line dock in Catawba Island Township. Miller began running its boats Thursday after warmer temperatures finally allowed the ice to clear.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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PORT CLINTON — For Reggie Hamann, the nearby beaches of Put-in-Bay are as fine as those lining Key West, Fla.

“Our sunsets are just as gorgeous,” she said.

Friday was the first trip of the year from nearby Catawba Island Township to Put-in-Bay for Mrs. Hamann and her husband, Bruce, who boarded Miller Boat Line’s afternoon ferry to open their vacation home.

The couple enjoy frequent getaway trips to Put-in-Bay during the travel season, and especially this time of year. Spring and fall bring a quieter and calmer atmosphere, they said.

“We’re here every week and in between,” she said.

Somewhat later than usual because of a severe winter’s lingering effects, Miller on Thursday resumed limited ferry service to and from South Bass Island. Regular service to South Bass will start Monday and Middle Bass will be Friday.

Billy Market, who with his brother Scott Market and sister Julene Market co-owns the ferry service, said Miller boats typically start running around St. Patrick’s Day, but Lake Erie ice delayed last year’s inaugural trip to April 6 and was a factor this year too.

Weather conditions delaying the season by a few weeks is something the workers anticipate, he said.

“You got to roll with what Mother Nature deals out,” he said.

But with Put-in-Bay businesses typically opening May 1, the late start will give their owners a hectic April stocking supplies and transporting workers.

“Everybody needs something yesterday right now,” Mr. Market said.

As ferry season approaches, the Markets frequently check Lake Erie ice conditions to determine when sailing can safely begin. Julene Market said she was grateful that this season could start in time for the Easter holiday weekend.

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Vehicles wait to board a ferry from Catawba Island Township to South Bass Island.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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The ice-fishing season that just ended was the longest Ms. Market said she could recall in decades. Recent sun, rain, and above-freezing temperatures allowed for safe travel, she said.

“Let’s put it this way; the ferries are not meant to be ice breakers,” she said.

Cabin fever is a familiar feeling for Kaetchen Eriksen, who remembers anxiously awaiting the boats’ return each spring during her childhood in Put-in-Bay.

She was returning Friday to the island to spend the holiday with family.

“It’s better to be waiting to go in that direction,” she said, pointing toward the island, “than being stuck on the other side.”

In Oak Harbor, Ohio, employees of Fenwick Marina and Turtle Point Marina said ice cleared and boating resumed early this week. This time of year is the typical start date, they said.

“We’re getting the parking lot full of boats,” said Gina Schiller of Turtle Point Marina, noting local fishermen’s desire to “break some teeth” of the walleye.

Martin Thompson, a hydrometeorologic technician at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland, said pleasant temperatures are likely during the next three months but April still stands to be cooler than average.

“Fortunately, nothing really stands out as above or below normal for our area,” he said.

At Toledo Express Airport, the official weather-reporting station for Toledo, March got off to a dramatic start with a 4.1-inch snowfall, but the rest of the month was dryer and cooler than normal.

The 1.34-inch precipitation total was 1.14 inches below average for March and the average daily mean temperature of 32.8 degrees was 4.8 degrees cooler than normal.

The month’s 5.7-inch total snowfall also was below normal, by 0.3 of an inch.

But heavy ice lingered on Lake Erie for most of March following a February that was Toledo’s second-coldest on record.

As it thawed and broke up, thick river ice caused ice-jam flooding in places along the Maumee and then, when the jams broke, heavily damaged trees and a low-lying cemetery near the river in Maumee.

Contact Ryan Dunn at rdunn@theblade.com, or419-724-6103, or on Twitter @rdunnblade.

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