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The Maiden Voyage of the Marilyn Jean

Day 2: St. Ignace to Cheboygan

Photos of St. Ignace to Mackinaw City


By Doug Houseworth


7:30AM, July 15th, 2017 St. Ignace, Michigan.  The Marilyn Jean ripples in the water as Mark Hill and Greg Warner wipe off the morning dew.



The finely crafted mahogany interior of this replica is truly something to behold.




Clearing the break wall at St.Ignace, Paul Fairbairn is at the helm.  Also on board are Wayne Blomberg, Mark Hill, Mark Mercer, Tim Calloway and Woody Woodruff.  Following in a pontoon chase boat are Greg Warner, and photographers Patrick McGinnis and Doug Houseworth.


Heading out into the expanse of The Straits of Mackinaw, in a craft designed as a Launch / Inland Riverboat, was an adventure waiting to happen.  She handled well.  Powered by a 3 cylinder Yanmar diesel, she plied through the water easily.  Early in the morning, the sun lit up the boat’s beautiful lines as she cruised not too far out from shore, avoiding the ferry boats and shipping lanes.  On the west horizon, a thick fog bank was moving in fast.







In less than a ˝ hour, The Marilyn Jean was enveloped with dense fog and visibility was limited to mere

yards.  In the fog, she appears as a ghost ship.  The two boats came alongside each other to confer on the best strategy.  It was agreed to proceed with the original plan.  That is, go under the Mackinaw Bridge, then over to Fort Michilimacinac, back under the bridge past the Historic Light House in Mackinaw City, then over to the dock near the retired Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw.  Photographer Patrick McGinnis got a call from his wife, who was then crossing the Mackinaw Bridge.  She said the fog was lifting.  (To see Patrick’s video, Google:  Maiden Voyage of the Marilyn Jean)


We navigated towards the ‘Mighty Mac’ bridge. As it came into sight, the fog had lifted to the top of the towers, but still enveloped them.  The scene was magical. Seeing this historic replica launch so near to the bridge was inspiring.



As we continued our journey, we maneuvered the launch in front of the Fort, Lighthouse, and then near the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw; the stark contrast was so evident. This part of the voyage created a lasting memory.


The weather could not have been better for this crossing. Calm conditions, light winds, full sun, and comfortable temperatures.  The trip along the northern Lower Peninsula towards Cheboygan was uneventful, but beautiful.  The vessel arrived 3PM in Cheboygan.









The last two images in this collection were taken in Alanson, the final destination.



                                                                                                                               (This photo by Marta Saint-James)


This authentic (fiberglass hull) replica of a 30’ Fantail Truscott was commissioned by The Inland Water Route Historical Society (Alanson).  She is designed to carry up to 12 passengers and 2 crew. When first manufactured in the late 1800’s, in St. Joseph, Michigan, this vessel could have been purchased with one of three different types of power plant options, diesel, electric, and naphtha.  This vessel makes historic tours along the Inland Water Route, primarily on the Crooked River, Pickerel and Crooked Lakes.  Photos and historic documents of the first boats offering tourist rides can be viewed at the Historical Society Museum in Alanson.  From the late 1870’s to about 1910, there was a booming tourist industry with up to 4 trains per day coming to Alanson where visitors would then board boats such as those like the Marilyn Jean, and journey to a favorite camp, lodge or resort.  Many launches along the Inland Water Route were much larger than the Marilyn Jean, some exceeding over 100 passengers, and at times had brass bands aboard for entertainment.  (Special thanks to the editorial contributions of Mark Hill)