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History of the car ferry "The Straits of Mackinac"

"The Straits of Mackinac", joined the fleet in 1928 and provided service across the Straits until the opening of the Mackinac Bridge on November 1, 1957. This boat was built for the Highway Department to carry approximately 35 vehicles. Within two years, the ferry was modified with an upper level loading area which increased the capacity to 90 cars and up to 400 passengers. For many years, "The Straits of Mackinac" was considered the flagship of the Michigan State Ferry fleet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Mackinac Bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957, car ferry service between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace ended. In 34 years of service, the ferries operated by the Department of State Highways carried approximately 12 million vehicles and more than 30 million passengers across the Straits of Mackinac.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1969, The Staits of Mackinac was purchased by Peterson Shipbuilders of Sturgeon Bay for use as a floating warehouse. There she was witness to the construction of military boats, and elegant Tuna Seiners, but exposure to the elements took their toll. In the mid 1980's, her badly deteriorated superstucture was removed for safety reasons. In 1994, an investor bought The Straits, towed her to Kewaunee, then abandoned her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a NEW add to the history of the mackinac written by a group that deserves some recognition!

"Prior to the Neptunes Nimrods group attempt to sink her.. Another Michigan based 501C3 Non profit organization held title to the Straits. They acquired title to the "Straits" from Jerry Lamer of the Marine Travel lift fame who had had his fill of looking after the "Straits" (Which was literally abandoned on his doorstep) after it sank at his dock in Kewaunee.
Jerry, Having had to go to court to acquire title to the"Straits' from the estate of one Constantine Makydakis, a Greek gentleman who met an
 untimely demise shortly after he had purchased both the "Straits" and the cross Lake Michigan rail ferry Arthur K.Atkinson from Peterson Shipbuilding for scrapping in Greece. He unsuccessfully attempted to
sell the (now unusable under the Jones act because of the temporary foreign ownership) "Straits in the trade publication "Boats and Harbors". Finally... Disgusted with a $10,000 refloating bill... Mr
Lamer was going to give the ship away for scrapping when the Great Lakes Center for Marine History stepped in and bought a stay of execution for the old girl and negotiated a mooring site for her for three years. Volunteers from the "Center" regularly made the interstate trip (some driving 500+ miles one way) to Kewaunee to maintain a close watch on her and give her a bi-annual pumping out to remove the accumulated rain and snowmelt water, along with the small amount of water that would actually leak into the hull through the tail shaft..This organization subsequently sought funds from the State of
Michigan for preservation and restoration.. After encountering a surprisingly myopic response from the State of Michigans' Bureau of History and various State grant departments regarding preservation of the last surviving Straits area Auto ferry.... The Center then offered the "Straits" to a St. Ignace based dive group for sinking near
the Mackinac Bridge... Again, Insufficient interest could be raised to sink her in the very area that she had sailed all of working career... Sad.. When the Wisconsin dive group expressed an interest in sinking her title was turned over and the rest is history..
 I believe that the Great Lakes Center for Marine History based in Lansing Michigan should be givin it's due credit in the history posted in the mackinacproject.coms web site.. Because the truth is..Had this organization NOT stepped up to the plate and took stewardship of the vessel and incurred ALL the attendant out of pocket cost in the mid 90's, for the express purpose of finding a productive
educational use for the old girl.... Thousands of people would now be shaving with her! And there
would be no first class dive site provided by the forward thinking group that successfully placed her on the bottom near Chicago today. Best regards"

 
Christopher Bloswick
Captain: Former USCG "MAPLE"
 And the guy who pumped out the good ship "Straits of
Mackinac" for three years running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon after, members of the Neptune's Nimrods diving club began to consider the idea of sinking the vessel as an educational and recreational dive site. Discussions with the U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin DNR outlined the steps necessary for the sinking, which include removal of hazardous materials, opening the deck for safe diver access, and a thorough cleaning to remove debris, flaking paint, and items of historical significance. The dive club has started the clean-up, with a tentative sinking date was set for May of 2002 at a location 1.5 miles off of Algoma but due to loss of dockage at its location, Netune's Nimrods gave the vessel to a Chicago group to finish the job.The Straits of Mackinac sat along the Calumet River and was worked on by many dedicated people. It took less than a year of hard work to prepare her for her final resting spot 78 feet in the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Take a look at postcards of the Straits of Mackinac

and learn how the ship had touched our lives.

If you have any stories or history to add please contact us and we can post it for everyone to learn more on this great ship in history!