2017-11-02 / Front Page

Ferry Service In Winter Schedule

Star Line Has Backups as Huron Out for Repairs
By Jacob A. Ball


Above: The Huron, owned and operated by Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, is pulled out of the water by a 550-ton lift at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It is traditionally used as the winter ferry to Mackinac Island, but issues with the plating and ribbing on the hull have sidelined the boat just as winter service begins. (Photographs provided by Star Line) Above: The Huron, owned and operated by Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, is pulled out of the water by a 550-ton lift at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It is traditionally used as the winter ferry to Mackinac Island, but issues with the plating and ribbing on the hull have sidelined the boat just as winter service begins. (Photographs provided by Star Line) Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry’s winter service schedule between St. Ignace and Mackinac Island began November 1 without the Huron, the aging but stalwart ferry that is counted on for winter service once the ice appears. She is being repaired and is expected to be back in service in December.

The Huron last week was piloted from St. Ignace to Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, for Coast Guard inspection and repairs. As of Monday, October 30, Chief Executive Officer Jerry Fetty couldn’t say for certain when the boat will return to service, but expressed confidence the boat will be back in the Straits of Mackinac area no later than December 1. The ferry’s steel plating and ribbing need repair.


The Huron was moved indoors to perform required repairs after a U.S. Coast Guard inspection identified problems with the integrity of the hull. The ferry company expects its return by the beginning of December. The Huron was moved indoors to perform required repairs after a U.S. Coast Guard inspection identified problems with the integrity of the hull. The ferry company expects its return by the beginning of December. Star Line operates winter service under franchise with the City of Mackinac Island, and the other ferry line, Shepler’s, suspends passenger service until spring. Star Line representatives met with the city’s Transportation Committee Wednesday, October 25, to reaffirm the company will provide that essential service, amidst speculation among residents that Star Line might scrap winter service.

Contingency plans have been made in the event the Huron’s repairs take longer than anticipated, the committee was told, and Star Line also has purchased a 48-foot steel workboat called Wawatam, originally built for the U.S. Army, that will be available in case there’s a mechanical problem or other emergency involving service to the Island.

While the Huron remains drydocked for repairs, the Star Line catamaran Mackinac Express will make the daily round trips to the Island. Mackinac Express has an aluminum hull, however, and can’t be used in icy waters. If the Huron isn’t back as ice forms, Mr. Fetty said, Star Line will consider using its Anna May or Ottawa. The company would have to install heating on the lower deck of either of those ferries to use it in winter.

Between the two, Star Line officials favor the Ottawa because they installed a refrigeration unit on the lower deck of the Anna May this year. Both boats have been proven viable during the winter, according to Captain Mike North. He said the Anna May was used to free the Huron from the ice a couple winters ago and the Ottawa was pressed into service for a week last winter when the Huron was unavailable.

Another alternative would be the car ferry Beaver Islander, which the Beaver Island Boat Company has offered to loan to Star Line for an unspecified amount of time if the Huron needs extensive repairs. It already has heat. Mayor Margaret Doud told Mr. Fetty representatives of the island boat company have assured her they’re willing to help Mackinac Island and she would be happy to call that company if the need arises.

The winter ferry will depart St. Ignace from Dock 2, the former Arnold Transit Company dock, in midtown St. Ignace. All ferries leaving Mackinac Island will depart the old Arnold Dock there, as well. Except for annual pass holders and those who already purchased full-price tickets, there will be a $5 winter surcharge again. Star Line has decided to continue operating ferry service from Mackinaw City until Sunday, November 12. Mr. Fetty said this is an experiment to see if there’s any demand this month.

Star Line has a new text message notification service that provide subscribers with instant updates regarding any delay or service cancellation. To receive the updates, text “WINTERSERVICE” to 41411.

Return to top


Click here for digital edition
2017-11-02 digital edition