2018-07-21 / News

Arnold Transit Passenger Era Ends as Straits Express Heads to New York

By Stephanie Fortino


Crewmembers ready the catamaran Straits Express at the Favorite Dock in St. Ignace on its last night in the Straits of Mackinac Thursday, July 12. It departed for New York the next morning. Crewmembers ready the catamaran Straits Express at the Favorite Dock in St. Ignace on its last night in the Straits of Mackinac Thursday, July 12. It departed for New York the next morning. The last major asset of the former Arnold Transit Company passenger ferry service, the catamaran Straits Express, has been sold to Hornblower Cruises and Events, a California based company that will use the vessel to ferry commuters traveling to and from the New York City area.

The Arnold Freight crew has been working for more than three months to bring the ferry back into service after being laid up for more than five years. The crew included mechanics Tom Coveyou and Will Faulkner, who joined the others in March.

Straits Express last hauled passengers to Mackinac Island in 2012. Its trip to New York began Friday morning, July 13, as a crew hired by Hornblower steered the vessel away from the Favorite Dock in St. Ignace at 6:40 a.m.


The Arnold Freight crew spent the last 3.5 months repairing Straits Express, which passed the Coast Guard inspection Thursday, July 5. The Arnold Freight crew spent the last 3.5 months repairing Straits Express, which passed the Coast Guard inspection Thursday, July 5. “There’s a big empty spot at the Favorite Dock where she sat for quite a long time, but it’s a positive thing for our entire crew,” Arnold Freight General Manager Veronica Dobrowolski told The Mackinac Island Town Crier.

The transportation crew arrived in St. Ignace Tuesday, July 10, to make preparations for the voyage. The trip was expected to take eight to 10 days, Ms. Dobrowolski said, and the crew packed the catamaran with supplies for the journey, including everything from fresh produce to coffee. At night, they stopped and slept on air mattresses on the boat deck.

On Sunday, July 15, the vessel reached Buffalo, New York, and as of Monday, July 16, was in the New York City area. The journey was slowed by the series of canals the boat had to navigate to reach its destination.


At left: The Straits Express waits at the Favorite Dock in St. Ignace to begin its New York adventure. At left: The Straits Express waits at the Favorite Dock in St. Ignace to begin its New York adventure. Hornblower Cruises and Events plans to use the ferry for commuter passenger service in the New York City area, taking passengers on about 45-minute-long trips. The vessel will cruise at about 22 knots, Ms. Dobrowolski said. It reached a top speed of 35 knots, or about 40 miles an hour, during sea trials in the Straits of Mackinac.

The catamaran was seen sailing the Straits of Mackinac Area this summer as Arnold Freight got it fitted out. A new wiring harness needed on the boat’s starboard engine delayed getting the Straits Express seaworthy, Ms. Dobrowolski said. On Thursday, July 5, the vessel received its certificate of inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The vessel still bore the Arnold Transit Company name, but Straits Express has been owned by Mackinac Island Ferry Capital, the Cincinnati based investment company that took control of Arnold Transit in 2014 and has been doing business as Arnold Freight. Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry purchased most of the old Arnold Transit assets in late 2016.

Hornblower Cruises began as a small charter yacht business in 1980 and now offers private cruises and events in seven port cities from the San Francisco Bay Area down the California Coast to San Diego. It also offers cruises to Alcatraz Island through agreements with the National Park Service. In New York, Hornblower offers cruises to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The company also recently added cruises to Niagara Falls through a partnership with Canada’s Niagara Parks Commission.

The only vessel still owned by Arnold Freight is the freight boat, Corsair.

Arnold Freight has an agreement with Pure Michigan Boat Cruises, however, to use the 906 Express landing craft, which delivers the mail to Mackinac Island every morning at the Coal Dock, makes quick deliveries to the Island, offers private charter and photography tours, such as during the Bell’s Beer Bayview Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Island, and transports the Arnold Freight crew and performers for the Sip ’n Sail Cruises aboard the Isle Royal Queen III, also owned by Pure Michigan Boat Cruises and leased to Arnold Freight.

The 906 Express made its first trip to Round Island Thursday, July 12, to deliver mortar for a new door the Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society installed on the lighthouse. The boat was able to come ashore at Round Island and drop its ramp for the delivery, Ms. Dobrowolski said.

“More than anything we’re just excited to move forward with Arnold Freight and build on the resources we have,” Ms. Dobrowolski said. “It’s been a successful year so far.”

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Sad to see that boat go like

Sad to see that boat go like that.
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