Mackinaw may have found a home
Shepler's ferry service may offer vacant dock
BY SHERI McWHIRTER
MACKINAW CITY — The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw may now have a permanent home in northern Michigan.
A vacant dock in Mackinaw City owned by Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry Service may be available to the retiring ship, scheduled for decommission Saturday in Cheboygan. That city has been the ship's home port for more than six decades.
"We needed to find a home for that ship," said Stephenie Jacobson, secretary of a group intent on transforming the icebreaker into a nonprofit educational museum.
The Icebreaker Mackinaw Museum initially hoped to permanently moor the ship in Cheboygan, but fundraising shortfalls undercut hopes for that $3 million effort.
Museum officials then turned to a state-owned dock in Mackinaw City, a former car ferry site used before the Mackinac Bridge was opened to traffic. Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials would not allow immediate and permanent access to that site because of ongoing harbor renovations.
That's when Bill Shepler stepped up.
A dock in Mackinaw City is immediately available and is large enough to moor the 290-foot ice-breaker. It's the old Chief Wawatam railroad ferry dock, where cruise ships sometimes moor, Shepler said.
A rental agreement is being worked out with the museum, he said Monday.
"Whatever remuneration is charged will be put back into the dock," where cruise ships will continue to moor on the opposite side, he said.
Shepler said the historic ship will be moored at a historic dock. The existing tourism base ought to help launch the museum, he said.
The Mackinaw was the most powerful and technologically-advanced icebreaker in the Great Lakes when it was launched in 1944. Thirty captains worked the ship with their crews in the Straits of Mackinac and elsewhere, keeping navigational pathways free of ice for commercial shipping through winter months.
The ship was at risk of being sold for scrap or even sunk in Lake Superior as a destination for scuba divers, Jacobson said.
A decommissioning ceremony is planned for Saturday, when the new U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw will assume the duties and longtime mooring site of the older ship.
See related stories:
State sinks dock proposal - June 4, 2006
Ship won't be retiring in home port - May 17, 2006
Mackinaw will make home port for last time - April 23, 2006
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