We’ve been thinking a lot about our history over the past few weeks – and boy, is there a lot of history to uncover! Here are six fun facts that you might not already know about ferries on Casco Bay:
- We got our start way back in 1871 sailing steam boats around Casco Bay as the Peaks Island Steamboat Company. In those days we served Peaks Island, Long Island, Great Diamond Island, and Little Diamond Island. The original mission of the Peaks Island Steamboat Company was to keep up communication between the mainland and year-round island communities—a goal we continue to have today!
- We haven’t always been located on the Maine State Pier. Up until 1988, we spent over 100 years operating from a terminal two wharves down on Custom House Wharf. In 2014, we revamped our terminal on the Maine State Pier, turning it into the beautiful building it is today.
- Before we had all sorts of newfangled technology like depth finders, radar, and radios, captains used a compass, buoys, and “ran time” between points—measuring a trip by minutes and seconds. This process was especially difficult in Casco Bay because the tides “run hard” here, so trip times were constantly changing depending on the tide. In 1929 the 1,000 passenger mega-ferry Pilgrim, ran aground at Deer Point on Great Chebeague Island when the captain lost his time. We definitely think radar and depth finders are preferable to having to run time!
- In the late 1920s, we began modernizing our fleet from steam to diesel. The Gurnet was the first boat to make the switch in 1929 followed by the Armita in 1928. Those steam boats were much quieter than a diesel engine, but significantly less efficient because they ran on coal.
- Known as the “great white fleet,” all of the vessels in our fleet were painted white until, in 1959, Casco Bay Lines manager Peter McLaughlin decided to paint them. Each boat was painted red and yellow with a black hull, and back then passengers really hated the change, calling the move brash! We don’t know, we think we look pretty good in yellow, red and black!
- We run 365 days per year! This has been one of our hallmarks since the beginning, and we don’t mind braving snow squalls or rain storms (or even the hottest August day) to serve the island communities and those visiting Casco Bay.
These are just a few interesting nuggets we uncovered during the recent process of creating “Cruising Casco Bay: A History of Casco Bay Lines from 1871-1982,” a historical documentary produced by Galen Koch. Everyone will be able to view the documentary on our website beginning on October 3rd. We think our history is pretty cool, and we can’t wait for you to see the film!