Marquette Cruise ship to become latest attraction in northern city Shuttle boat was converted into a tour ship for service starting this summer

By Christopher Diem

The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) -- No matter who owns it or its home port, the Isle Royale Queen III seems destined to visit islands.

The 81-foot vessel, which for many years shuttled passengers to and from Isle Royale and then was a ferry between Menominee and Sturgeon Bay, Wis., is being used to tour Marquette's coast, including Middle Island and Partridge Island.

Recently, a number of Marquette-area residents took several rides on the boat and toured the areas west of Presque Isle before returning to the bulkhead at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The tours served as practice runs for next summer, when people will be able to buy tickets for the cruises.

"People have been talking about doing the harbor cruises here for a long time and I've been pushing somebody to try and do it," said Peggy Frazier, who's acting as an unofficial spokeswoman for the business, Marquette Harbor Cruises.

Frazier said the cruises will increase activity in the Lower Harbor and add to the list of attractions and entertainment options in Marquette.

"It's an exciting opportunity for the community -- anything we can do to increase our critical mass of things to do when people come here," she said.

The boat, originally named the Isle Royale Queen II, was used throughout the 1970s and 1980s to shuttle people, backpacks and canoes between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale. It was smaller then -- only about 57 feet -- and due to sometimes turbulent seas, length of the journey, and relatively small size of the boat it was not-so-affectionately nicknamed the barf barge.

In 1989, the boat was lengthened by welding on an additional 24 feet to the stern and renamed the Isle Royale Queen III. The extra 24 feet greatly improved the boat's ability to take on rough weather and smooth out the ride for passengers.

Later, the boat was used to transport people from Menominee to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin's Door County. Several local business partners, including William Carmody and John Madigan, purchased the boat in 2010.

"We're excited about the opportunity that exists in Marquette. We're hoping that everything works out such that we can be doing business here next spring," Carmody said.

He said there will likely be three tours a day and the boat will be available for private charter for such things as anniversaries, birthdays, corporate parties and other occasions.

Converting the boat into a tour ship took a bit longer than expected, Carmody said

The upper deck of the 90-ton vessel was reinforced at a facility on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. The upper deck was originally designed to carry backpacks and canoes and had to be reinforced to bear the weight of passengers. The official inspection, which took place in St. Ignace, was also a lengthy process.

"We anticipated 30 days at the most in dry dock, and we were there 60, which really put us behind," Carmody said.

Carmody said he hope to have the boat back in Marquette by next May and start the tours in June. He said the business' website will go online this fall.

Although many of the details have yet to be worked out, Frazier said tickets for the cruises will likely cost about $25 and will be available at the Lake Superior Theatre ticket office in Mattson Lower Harbor Park.

Published: Wed, Nov 23, 2011