Thursday, July 16, 2009

Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI on the S.S. Badger

For our return trip to Michigan we decided to take the car ferry across Lake Michigan. Once you arrive at the dock for your voyage, you are directed to park your vehicle, leave the window down, and the keys in the ignition. S.S. Badger personnel load your vehicle on to the 410' 6" ship, unless you rode a motorcycle, in which you drive on to the ship yourself. Looks like the S.S. Badger is a hatchback.Here is a view from the upper deck looking down into the cargo area. R says they load the semis last so that the heaviest cargo is in the area of the propellers. I guess this keeps the propellers deep into the water. The Badger operates on coal, a domestic fuel. It is the only coal powered passenger ship still in regular service. It recently underwent a retrofit to burn coal cleaner.Originally when the Badger launched in 1953, it not only carried passengers and cars but also rail cars. Eventually with the decline of the rail road, the Badger was retro fitted to carry just passengers and vehicles. It's current carrying capacity is 620 passengers and 180 vehicles.

During the 4 hours it takes to cross Lake Michigan you can sun yourself on deck in a lounge chair. Notice how R is shielding his face with his Antiques Roadshow ticket.Or you can play bingo, watch a movie, walk the deck (6 times around equals a mile), drink, sleep, eat, or shop at the Boatique. The bingo area was hopping. They even had a karaoke contest. The bingo caller also kept the passengers informed about local happenings in Ludington. I heard him tell the crowd......

"Last night the Ludington police station was robbed."

"The robbers took all the toilets at the police station."

"They started an investigation, but they have nothing to go on."
The lake was extremely calm and the sky was nearly cloudless.As we neared Ludington Mi, we picked up a Coast Guard escort.Can you explain why people always wave at large boats full people???
and why do we wave back??? I felt like Queen Elizabeth.
Once we arrived in Ludington, the unloading began. Ship personnel drive your vehicle off the boat and park it with keys in ignition. When you see your vehicle, you hop in and drive off. I should have used this opportunity to upgrade my vehicle.Passengers wait here for their vehicles. Notice the ship in the background called Spartan? I guess this is an old ship no longer in use. It currently is used for spare parts to keep the Badger sailing.