Governor christens first ferry built in northern Michigan

The following is the text of a news release from Truscott Russman:

(MACKINAW CITY, Mich.) (July 12) — Gov. Rick Snyder today christened the newest addition to the Shepler’s Mackinac Island ferry fleet — the $3.8 million, 85-foot Miss Margy — the first ferry to be built in northern Michigan.
The state-of-the-art, 281-passenger ferry was built by Moran Iron Works in Onaway, and construction included the products and services of 20 Michigan companies. CEO Bill Shepler was determined to keep work on the company’s sixth and largest passenger ferry in Michigan.
“When my parents — including my mother, Margaret, Miss Margy’s namesake — started this business, they never dreamed that 70 years later they would be helping to lead one of the most robust tourism economies in the nation,” Shepler said. “The state and this region have been crucial to the success of our third-generation business, and we wanted to make sure we gave something back.”
Snyder, who has made the concept of “economic gardening” — growing businesses that are already in Michigan — a focus of his administration, joined Shepler in a ceremonial breaking of a bottle of champagne on the bow to christen the new ferry.
"The new Miss Margy represents the best of what makes Michigan great — local businesses partnering to achieve a strong economy," Snyder said. "It's great to have a ferry built right here in northern Michigan, and Shepler's new investment will have a great impact on the local economy, helping to continue the job growth in this region for years to come."
The new ferry will make its maiden voyage to Mackinac Island later this summer. It features an air-conditioned cabin, as well as a ventilation system to remove interior condensation from windows during inclement weather. The ferry has a top speed of about 40 mph.

Final work on Miss Margy is being done in a huge tent that has been attached temporarily to the Shepler’s Marine Service building, where the christening was held.

“The first Mackinac experience a Grand Hotel guest receives is arriving on the ferry boat dock, either here in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace, to travel to the island,” Dan Musser, owner of the Grand Hotel, told 250 invited guests at the ceremony. “The Shepler family has been a wonderful partner in making that initial experience for our guests both pleasant and efficient.”
WJR Radio’s Paul W. Smith, a longtime booster of northern Michigan, served as host of the ceremony and praised the business partnerships that have contributed to northern Michigan’s success as a tourism destination. “When you have quality businesses like Shepler’s and the Grand Hotel working together, the sky is the limit when it comes to what they can offer visitors to our great state.”
At the ceremony the governor, state Sen. Wayne Schmidt and Rep. Lee Chatfield presented Shepler with a framed special tribute from the state that notes the christening of the company’s newest ferry and recognizes its 70th year in operation.
Also participating in the ceremony was U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek.
Tom Moran, CEO and founder of Moran Iron Works, said the project had been a wonderful challenge for his crew. Construction completed over the first four months of the year required some 12,000 man hours on Moran’s shop floor.

“This is a great day for Michigan and a proud accomplishment for the Moran Iron Works family,” Moran said. “We appreciate the trust the Shepler family placed in us to provide them a quality, made-in-Michigan product.”
Ferries are usually constructed in shipbuilding centers such as Louisiana and Wisconsin.
Among the challenges Moran faced was getting the 135,000-pound ferry from the shop in Onaway to Moran’s Port Calcite Collaborative, a deepwater port in Rogers City. The ferry was loaded onto a semi-trailer to make the 21-mile journey along “high-wire corridor” back roads in late May. Miss Margy was then lifted by crane into the water and piloted by Shepler and his son, Billy, Shepler’s fleet captain, the 50 miles to Mackinaw City for final outfitting.
Updates on Miss Margy as it nears completion will be posted on the Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry Facebook page at

By Professional Mariner Staff