Ship Shape at Shepler’s

Several weeks ago I got an email from Chris Shepler saying he wanted to talk to me about a “Captain of the Day” idea.  Well, you know me.  After blogging about a “Day in the Life of a Ferry Boat Captain” last summer and getting to DRIVE the ferry and DOCK the ferry, I just knew Chris now was planning to ask me to become a part-time ferry boat driver.  You know, I could go back and forth between Mac City or St. Ignace and the island while the other captains went to lunch or something.  How cool would that be!  I was excited!

Imagine my disappointment when he told me his plan to bring their freight boat, the Sacre Blue, to the island on Father’s Day morning and to allow children and adults to learn some of what it takes to actually become a captain of a ferry boat.  What a let-down.  KIDDING!

It turned out to be a lot more fun to watch wide-eyed boys and girls – and just as many wide-eyed dads and moms – as they arrived at the island dock a little before 9 a.m. on a very cool, very cloudy, very windy day.

Island weather is so funny - not "haha" funny - strange funny. It can be warm and calm up on our hill and cold and windy in the harbor - or vice versa. When I left the condo Sunday morning, dressed to meet Ted at church at 10:30 after this story opportunity, something made me go back and put my cuddle-duds shirt on under my sweater. I am so glad I did!

The Sacre Bleu is the Shepler work-horse.  She carries freight back and forth from St. Ignace to the island – everything from trucks of frozen food and fresh meat and produce to heavy equipment and horses.  She’s also the boat they use to transport passengers after enough ice forms in the Straits that the ferries stop running.  She runs until the ice becomes so thick even her heavy steel hull can’t plow through.
There was a great little crowd of children with moms and dads to take this tour, and I have to honestly tell you that it’s the dads I enjoyed watching the most.  The kids loved getting to see the different parts of the boat, but the men got into all the talk about engines and generators and tonnage.  I’ll show you what I mean.

This is the Sacre Bleu pilot house. Remember this photo because I'll make a connection to it in a minute.


We all made our way down some really steep, really narrow steps - BACKWARDS - into the engine room. Now I'm not even going to pretend I can tell you all the technical stuff Chris talked about down there. But let me just say that the guys were eating it up. They asked question after question while we ladies just looked at each other and grinned. It was great!


While Chris was talking, I turned 360 degrees and snapped a photo from each quarter turn. The first photo was this huge - and I mean HUGE - chain. I remember thinking, why isn't this anchor chain at the end of the boat and where's the anchor? About that time Chris walked over and explained, "this counter weight is to off set the weight of the pilot house. The pilot house is on the starboard side of the boat, so, all that chain is the counter weight to balance the boat." I guess that explains why there was no anchor attached. It also explains why I'm not going to captain a boat anytime soon.


More man stuff. I thought this pretty red thing was an engine. It's not. "It's the generator that provides 110 voltage (electricity) on board the vessel."


Inside the pilot house, the children really got excited. This is where you drive the boat! McKenzie, who I met on Saturday with her mom and dad - Steve and Tami - took over the captain's seat, and Mason wanted an explanation about what all the instruments were.


"From left to right," Chris said, "is the log book, compass, steering wheel, engine instruments (much like your vehicle...engine temperature, engine oil pressure, volt meter, transmission oil pressure), the throttles and clutch. The long silver bars coming up out of the dash is the emergency engine shut off (push these bars forward, and it shuts the oxygen supply, to the engine, off. The fastest way to stop all engine activity)."


McKenzie was sure making a cute captain!


Back on deck we met Bill Fink from the U.S. Coast Guard. Donovan was really into the charts!


Bill explained some simple navigational tools and how they are used - for instance, the compass for plotting courses.


Then he taught us all how to tie some of the common seaman knots . . .


. . . including the popular square knot that he assured us would help keep our shoes tied!


McKenzie, Mason, and Donovan all wanted to try out the knot-tying!


More people were arriving as I got ready to leave. At 10 a.m. Shepler's was taking all the participants around the harbor aboard the Sacre Bleu. These entire program was free to the public, and I think they'll be planning more of them later in the summer. It was great fun, and I guess I have to admit I have a lot more to learn before I can truly "captain" a boat. Darn.


Freshly mowed yard leading up to the condo. I love the way it looks - so lush and green. I'm so happy with our little place on the island.


A secluded little section of a private garden on the island.

Please join me back here tomorrow for the 62nd Annual Lilac Parade!  It was a doozy!
Personal Note:  My first night back with my face mask, who I have renamed Dudley, was pretty crummy.  But I expected it to be, so that’s ok.  Tonight will be better . . . . . . tonight will be better . . . . . . . . tonight will be better . . . . . . . . .

7 thoughts on “Ship Shape at Shepler’s

  1. Shepler’s is the only ferry we ride. We love them. What a fun idea for the kids! My son Nate was called up last year to “sound the horn” w/ the captain…as the captain announced, “Captain Nate will now sound the horn!”. He thought that was pretty special…and it was really nice because my Nate is very sensitive/timid when it comes to loud noises and I think getting to sound the horn himself showed him that it’s not that big a deal anymore! Love Shepler’s employees. Always a great crew/group of people to be around.

  2. So delighted it’s iris season on the island. They are all done here so I am delighted to see them up there for a round two of irises!

    Shepler’s and Star Line are both great companies. Kudos to Shepler’s for that awesome opportunity.

    Brenda, you should do a blog on one of Star Line’s Sunset Cruises. I believe they start in July. If it isn’t something you have done before you HAVE to do it. Great views, get to go under the bridge, up by the lighthouse, and if you haven’t met any Star Line people, this is your chance! Highly recommend it!!!!!

  3. Wow-my dad would have loved that ferry adventure… What a great idea. Shepler’s is going to get some customers for life, I think.

    I love that garden statue-looks like he’s about to pick one of the flowers!

  4. What a great idea Sheplers had. To bad the weather wasn’t better, but it probably wouldn’t have stopped us from coming either. No if we can just get Sheplers to do one of their under the bridge trip on an afternoon ferry 😉

    Love the picture of your condo and the garden. Looks so peaceful.

  5. I really enjoy all the pictures you post!!!! Was there over the weekend and enjoyed the parade, miss working there though….hope to be coming up in August for my mom;’s birthday!!! Enjoy your summer.

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