2018-04-07 / Top News

Ferries Are Running, So It Must Be Spring

Island Is Busy Preparing for Summer Tourist Season, Even as Weather Warm-up Is Tardy This Year
By Jacob A. Ball


Commuters pack in along the Main Dock on Mackinac Island Wednesday, March 28, while Star Line crew unloads freight from the Huron. Commuters pack in along the Main Dock on Mackinac Island Wednesday, March 28, while Star Line crew unloads freight from the Huron. Star Line ferry service expanded to five daily round trips

Thursday, April 5, adding midmorning and late afternoon trips. The ice between St. Ignace and

Mackinac Island broke apart in early March, allowing ferries and freight boats to resume service

after a seven-week hiatus. Conditions on the water have been changing rapidly since then,

owing to high winds and cold

temperatures. Star Line chief executive Jerry Fetty said “the ice has just been out there blowing around” because the temperatures have not increased enough to melt it.

Spring ferry crossings can take longer than early winter because the ice is thicker. Trips can take more than an hour to complete.

Arnold Freight Company’s Cosair was the first boat to get underway, leaving Mackinac Island March 2 for its first run since early January. The boat is moored at the Island during the winter and its crew was flown over that morning to take it back to St. Ignace, where it was loaded at its freight dock near the Coast Guard station. It navigated the back side of the Island around Mission Point to avoid ice in the Round Island channel.

Veronica Dobrowolski, Arnold’s general manager, said that first trip took more than one hour to complete because the crew took the roundabout path to avoid the ice shelf. The boat’s cargo included many items that had been stockpiling on the mainland for the last couple of weeks, such as furniture, lumber, plumbing equipment, and propane tanks.

Arnold Freight is now running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with additional trips as needed.

“We are happy to be back out there operating, and are, hopefully, looking forward to a busy season,” she said.

Shepler’s Ferry began freight shipments from St. Ignace March 9.

Star Line’s last trip before ice halted operations was January 12, and it resumed winter passenger service March 5, running three trips a day when ice permitted. It added another trip Monday, April 2.

Star Line has been traveling primarily around the back side of the Island, but the reopening of the Soo Locks and resumption of icebreaking operations by the Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay has lessened the difficulty of navigating the regular route to the south side.

The Huron underwent extensive maintenance and repairs in recent months. The heating system has been working well and the boat has been operating in heavy ice for weeks without any mechanical problems.

One challenge has been the stacking of lake ice as winds blow it toward shore. The Huron is able to break through some of this stacked ice, but in many spots, the boat has had to be carefully navigated around massive ice sheets, said Captain Mike North.

Even into April, boat operators say weather and ice conditions will dictate service. One morning the Huron followed a freighter path through the ice into the Round Island Passage. By noon the route was blocked by ice. Later in the day it was open again.

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