Historical group plans replica of steam-powered launch

 Plans are for vessel to conduct historical, ecological and paid general tours

By Debbie McGuiness
Petoskey News-Review

ALANSON, Mich. (AP) — Members of the Inland Water Route Historical Society have announced their plan to create a replica of a steam-powered 30-foot Truscott launch to cruise the waters of the Inland Water Route of northern Michigan.

The ship, a turn of the century replica, is modeled after a Truscott 30. Once approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, the historical society plans the 12-passenger, two-crew vessel will conduct historical, ecological and paid general tours, according to the Petoskey News-Review.

The Inland Water Route Historical Society launch project group began meeting in 2010 to gather information, plan and discuss the building of a vessel. A purchase order was placed with Beckman Boatshop Limited in North Kingstown, R.I., for a 30-foot Truscott fantail hull with 8 foot beam (largest width) and 26 inch draw (depth of water required under its keel).

“In our minds, this design works with the type of ships which historically sailed upon the inland waters of Pickerel Lake, Crooked Lake and Crooked River, Mullett Lake and the Cheboygan River, and into Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island,” said Wayne Blomberg, chair of the project and vice president of Inland Water Route Historical Society, which was founded in 2004, .

The Inland Route Historical Society Museum was established by the society acquiring the historical Alanson Village Hall (later the fire station) in Alanson. The building was purchased for more than $200,000, and with a funding drive the final payment was made in August 2010. The museum contains many artifacts and photographs of life along the inland water route — its ongoing mission is to preserve the history of the entire inland water route and educate the public of the significance the water route has played to Native Americans, business and industry and visitors.

The museum is 100 percent operated by volunteer staff, Blomberg said, and has had visitors from 42 states and 14 countries.

The partially completed hull was on display on its trailer July 4 in front of the Inland Route Museum in Alanson, along with society members answering questions regarding plans to complete the hull, and what the next phase of the project entails. The hull’s drive train, 3-cylinder, 24-horsepower diesel Yanmar engine, propeller and rudder were installed by Beckman Boatshop.

“The original Truscotts were steam-fired, but it is with great difficulty to get U.S. Coast Guard approval today for utilizing steam engines for passenger carrying vessels,” Blomberg said.

By utilizing private donations, the completion of the ship will include frame members, seating, cockpit covers, head (bathroom), helm, flooring, trim, marine hardware and more. The hull will next travel by trailer to the Great Lakes Boat Building School in the Upper Peninsula village of Cedarville for the above. Consultations with and assistance for the project are also ongoing with the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven.

“We are about one-third to one-half of raising the amount of contributions needed,” Blomberg said. “We are always accepting donations.”

Mark Hill, president of Inland Water Route Historical Society, said the launch will be stored in a boathouse to be constructed between the Alanson boardwalk and swing bridge.

“The boathouse will be built to house the launch, to provide protection from the elements which will minimize repair costs,” explained Blomberg. The boathouse project includes restrooms for passengers prior to and following cruises.

“We can see the launch being used for private occasions, such as for marriage proposals, to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and the like,” said Hill. “We’ll have trained and licensed captains and crew, volunteers, and hope to offer public guided tours and cruises.”

“Out of the blue,” Blomberg said, “I was called by Ron Rokup of Burt Lake, a historical society member. He said I might want to see something.”

Rokup built a scale model of the launch, complete in detail with stripe top and seat cushions, brightwork and more.

“It took about a year to build,” Rokup said.

The model is on display aboard the hull, weather permitting, and will be on display in the historical museum.

Missing from the model and the hull itself, is the name of the vessel. That is something the public is being asked to help with.

“We are seeking the name of the launch,” Blomberg said. Ballots are available at the museum with possibilities and space for a write-in suggestion. Blomberg said balloting will continue with the name being announced during Alanson’s 2014 Riverfest celebration. The annual event takes place Aug. 6 to 10.


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