Many Keweenaw residents got a rare opportunity yesterday as they attended a birthday party—for a boat.
The Ranger III, which provides passenger ferry and cargo service to and from Isle Royale National Park, is celebrating 60 years of service, and held open tours showing some of the vessels features to those who attended.
The Gulley, the Hull, and the Deck—are all maritime terms that boys and girls learned a little more about yesterday in Houghton as they stepped aboard the Ranger III.
“We’re taking folks out for about a half hour, up to the Coast Guard station and back. We just concluded a tour of the ship so now they get to see what it’s like in its operational mode underway,” said ship Captain Rand Attaway.
Ranger III was built in 1958 and has been in service ever since. On Thursday, spectators were able to tour the vessel and learn some of its features.
“Most of these people have never been on the Ranger III, so now they get to see a little bit more of it. We love to reach out to the public like this. It’s a public asset and they should be taking full advantage of it every chance they get,” said Attaway.
One item that was discussed is how the Ranger III is such a unique vessel. In fact, it was custom built specifically for its duties for the park.
“It was designed just for our purposes: to haul passengers out to the Island, to carry cargo, and to carry fuel. All of those were the bog boxes that needed to be checked when establishing logistical support for Isle Royale. So we hold within the ship cargo space that can keep cargo dry, we have a large deck up forward that can accommodate our large cargo such as dumpsters, people’s boats, building supplies and materials, that kind of thing. Our fuel tanks are such that they’re segregated into operational fuel and cargo fuel. We can carry fuel out to the island, to keep the generators running and the lights on,” Attawy also stated.
Last fall the boat was retrofitted with inflatable life rafts that replaced the full size lifeboats per updated Coast Guard requirements. Along with the new rafts, the ship was also implemented with a speedy rescue boat.
Three of the old lifeboats are still stored near the park headquarters. One was donated to the lifesaving museum in Eagle Harbor, which will be put on display in upcoming seasons.
There has been some discussion regarding retiring the 60 year old ship within the next couple years, but that remains uncertain at this time.
“That’s the million dollar question. We have a lot of people mulling over a lot of different options. It’s a very big decision being made. It won’t be made lightly. Hopefully, we will hear something in the very near future,” he concluded.
In the meantime, the Ranger III continues to make two trips per week to the island during the tourist season.