The ferries that service Casco Bay have a long and interesting history. According to company records, they began sailing among the islands in either 1870 or 1871. But it wasn’t until 1878 that permanent year-round service was available. At that time the company was know as Casco Bay Steamboat Company.
In 1881 another year-round company, the Harpswell Line, was formed to provide service to the outer islands as far as Bailey and Orrs Islands. In 1907, after a series of financial troubles, the two companies combined to form the Casco Bay and Harpswell Steamboat Company.
The company changed again in or around 1920 when Casco Bay Lines was created following the closing of the previous operation due to mounting repair bills associated with its wooden ships. The company again went bankrupt in 1981.
In 1963 the Maine Public Utilities Commission granted franchise protection to Casco Bay Lines to ensure daily year-round regulated transportation.
Following the 1981 bankruptcy the Casco Bay Island Transit District (CBITD), a quasi-municipal, non-profit corporation, was established to ensure the continuation of service.
For more on the history of ferry service in Portland, visit the history prepared by Captain Larry Legere on the company’s website.