Shepler's Ferry

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Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry is one of three ferry companies serving Mackinac Island, Michigan. They have docks in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry provides ferry and freight service to Mackinac Island. Shepler's provides the fastest fleet to the island with all passenger vessels making the trip in 16 minutes or less in ideal conditions. Shepler's is also the original creator of the "Mighty Mac" departures starting this mini side trip on the way to Mackinac Island is 1955 when the Mackinac Bridge was being constructed.

In the spring of 1945, Captain William H. Shepler returned to Mackinaw (his birth place) and realized the potential of the area, specifically transporting people to and from the Island. His dream, however, was to provide a fast, efficient, and modern type of service that he felt was half of the Mackinac experience.

He started small by opening a snack bar for people waiting for the ferry. He soon discovered a need for a charter service for Island guests. It was Capt.’s instinct right from the start to do it right and with class. His charter service soon began to flourish and, with an opportunity to buy out a competitor, he was able to have a second boat with his son Bill Jr. as pilot. These two high class speed boats were named “Miss Penny” after Capt.’s daughter, and “The Fiji,” after Bill Jr.’s fraternity.

With the ending of World War II in 1945, the passenger traffic to the Island began to increase and it soon became evident that he needed a larger boat with an enclosed cabin for heavy weather. In the winter of 1950, he built a 30 foot cabin cruiser with twin gas engines for speed and safety. This small yacht carried 24 passengers and was a huge step for the Shepler family. The vessel was christened the “Miss Margie” after Capt.’s wife, Margaret.

The construction of the Mackinac Bridge began in early 1954. The idea of taking tourists for a sightseeing cruise out to the bridge construction site soon became a popular event and necessitated the construction of a second high speed cruiser which was christened the “Billy Dick” after Capt.’s son. The bridge was completed in November of 1957 with the formal opening in June of 1958. This turn of events had tremendous impact on the Shepler business. The bridge cruise business dropped off as tourists could either drive or take a bus across the bridge.

A few years later, Shepler’s was fortunate to be able to purchase a piece of beach frontage on the Island where a small dock was soon constructed. A larger vessel was required to give all-weather capability plus needed additional seating. In 1966, “Mein Kapitan” arrived at the Shepler dock, ready to carry 120 passengers to the Island, but the vessel’s design, weight, and horsepower would not provide the desired speed.

In 1969, “The Welcome” was built with the desired capacity and speed. Shepler’s still uses this vessel in St. Ignace on regularly scheduled departures. She was the start of a new concept in high-speed, modern passenger transportation not only for the Straits area, but for the Great Lakes.

Throughout the years, Shepler’s has undergone several major renovations of the docks and facilities in Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, and on Mackinac Island. They also have added a successful freight service in 1996, all the while adhering to the high standards of quality service that has become known throughout the industry worldwide.

In May of 1988, Capt. William H. Shepler died. He was followed in death by his wife Margaret in October of 2004. His son, William R., has taken the helm with the help of his three children, Chris, Patty, and Billy.


Fleet[edit]

The Shepler's fleet consists of six ships: The Welcome, Felicity, The Hope, Wyandot, Capt. Shepler and Sacre Bleu.

  • The Welcome 60 foot Built in 1969 120 person Twin Engine
  • Felicity 65 foot Built in 1972 150 person Twin Engine
  • The Hope 83 foot Built in 1975 150 person Twin Engine
  • Wyandot 83 foot Built in 1979 265 person Twin Engine
  • Capt. Shepler 84 foot Built in 1986 265 person Twin Engine
  • Sacre Bleu 95 Foot steel hulled boat purchased in 1996, updated in the Winter of 2013 freight, passenger and ice breaking capabilities[1]

This does not include the new vessel which is set to debut this coming 2015 season which is slated to hold 270 passengers and is being built locally at Moran Ironworks in Onaway, MI[2]

References[edit]

The vessels that are currently used by Shepler’s, with the exception of the Capt. Shepler and Sacre Bleu, were named after vessels that sailed the Straits area in the late 17th century.

External links[edit]