MARQUETTE - Starting Friday, Marquette will once again have a cruise to call its own. The maiden voyage of Marquette Harbor Cruises' Isle Royale Queen III is set for 1 p.m., years after the last commercial tour boat roamed the waters near the city.
MHC Manager Molly Carmody said a tour boat ran out of Marquette in the 1990s, and that people have missed the opportunity in the intervening years.
"Everybody with a riverfront or lakefront has a boat tour, and Marquette didn't. Everyone says, we can't believe it's taken so long to get a boat here again," Carmody said. "The shoreline is beautiful. We have two breakwaters and one has ore boats coming in and out of it - that alone is an incredible draw."
The Isle Royale Queen III first official Marquette cruise is scheduled to leave from the city’s Lower Harbor Friday afternoon. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)
Like the hundreds of trips that are scheduled to follow this year, Friday's inaugural cruise will depart from Marquette's Lower Harbor, heading north along the shore. A narrated journey will take passengers past Picnic Rocks, the Upper Harbor ore dock and breakwater, Presque Isle, Black Rocks and Middle Island Point. The cruise will then circle Partridge Island before making a return trip along the Marquette shoreline.
Carmody is accustomed to the schedule that will come with a daily cruise company. In the last few years, she has worked as a cruise manager at Sleeping Bear Dunes in downstate Glen Arbor and at the Apostle Islands near Bayfield, Wis.
The vessel making the trip in Marquette may also be familiar to some Upper Peninsula residents. It was originally named the Isle Royale Queen II and was used during the 1970s and 1980s to shuttle people, backpacks and canoes between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale.
It only measured 57 feet then and the small vessel's inability to handle turbulent waters quickly earned it a not-so-affectionate nickname: the barf barge.
In 1989, the boat was lengthened by welding on an additional 24 feet to the stern and was renamed the Isle Royale Queen III. The extra 24 feet greatly improved the boat's ability to take on rough weather and smoothed out the ride for passengers.
Recently, Carmody's husband, Bill Carmody, and friend John Madigan - one of the owners of Munising's Pictured Rock Cruises Inc. - spotted the now 81-foot boat.
"They were going down to Two Rivers (Wis.), I think, to pick up a propeller for one of the Pictured Rocks boats, and they spied it," Molly Carmody said. "They pulled in, one thing led to another and they bought the boat."
What Carmody calls an "old-world design of a boat," the Queen has a bowed frame and classic wooden doors with porthole windows.
The vessel has been moored in the lower harbor since late last month and she said it has drawn a great deal of interest from passersby.
Some of that intrigue stems from past trips on the boat and some from the appearance.
"People are attracted to the look of the boat," Carmody said. "When they come inside, I think people like it. It's a low ceiling and they just feel like they might be in someone's cabin cruiser. It feels like you could live in this boat."
The cruise season begins Friday and the Queen is scheduled to run daily through the fall. Until June 15, there will be a single daily journey, at 1 p.m. From June 16 to June 30, there will be two trips, at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. From July 1 through Sept. 2, three trips will depart at 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Finally, from Sept. 3 to Oct. 14, there be just two trips, at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Carmody said each trip lasts about two hours. Tickets for the boat are $25 for adults and $10 for kids 14 years old and under and can be purchased at the Lower Harbor ticket office. Group rates are available, as are private charters.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.