The first ferry ever built in Northern Michigan and the newest addition to the Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry fleet – the $3.8 million, 85-foot “Miss Margy” – carried her first passengers to Michigan’s premier tourist destination today.
More than 100 people were on the maiden voyage to Mackinac Island, on a partly cloudy morning with temperatures in the high-40s.
Miss Margy was christened by Gov. Rick Snyder in July and underwent final detailing in the weeks leading up to U.S. Coast Guard testing, which started in late August. Shepler’s just received word Tuesday afternoon that she had passed with flying colors.
The 281-passenger ferry, Shepler’s largest, was built at Moran Iron Works in Onaway, where construction kept a crew of 13 working for more than four months. Products and services of 20 companies in Michigan were used in the construction of Miss Margy.
“This really demonstrated the commitment of the Shepler family. This is really all about sacrifice and commitment. I think that sums it up. Anybody else would, if they were going to spend $4 million, have just sent the check off to the Gulf of Mexico and took on a new vessel. My hat is off to them,” said Tom Moran, founder and CEO of Moran Iron Works at the July dedication.
Moran said the project took the first four months of the year requiring 12,000 man-hours on Moran’s shop floor.
“We have done bigger projects, but they all make you proud. This is a special one and really part of northern Michigan, which will be here for decades. In our community, we don’t do enough heavy industry and we are not enough into the marine industry so this helps plant a seed. This isn’t the last high-speed ferry that will be launched in Rogers City,” Moran said.
CEO Bill Shepler was determined to keep work on the company’s new ferry in Michigan.
“This beautiful, state-of-the-art ferry is a tribute to my mother, Margaret, Miss Margy’s namesake, who started this business with my father 70 years ago,” Shepler said. “But Miss Margy is also a tribute to the workers, companies and leaders of this great state who have worked with us to make this spectacular vessel a reality – thank you.”
The new ferry features an air-conditioned cabin, as well as a ventilation system to remove interior condensation from windows during inclement weather. It has a top speed of about 40 mph.
“Putting Miss Margy into service for our guests is the most gratifying achievement my brother, Billy, my sister, Patty, and I have experienced as the third generation to lead this business,” said Chris Shepler, president. “It’s our pleasure to work hard every day to honor what our father, and his parents before him, created – Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.”
Ferries are usually constructed in ship-building centers such as Louisiana and Wisconsin, and Moran Iron Works faced challenges along the way. Among them was getting the 135,000-pound ferry from the shop in Onaway to Moran’s Port Calcite Collaborative, a deep-water port in Rogers City. The ferry was loaded onto a semi-trailer for the 21-mile journey along “high-wire corridor” from Onaway to Rogers City back roads in late May. Miss Margy was then lifted by crane into the water and piloted by Bill Shepler and his son, Billy, Shepler’s fleet captain, the 50 miles to Mackinaw City for final detailing.