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Lady Michigan boat tours back

Limited capacity and tour times

News Photos by Justin Hinkley Visitors board the Lady Michigan glass-bottom boat for its first voyage of 2020 on Saturday. The boat will be running tours at 10 a.m. daily, weather-permitting, now through Labor Day. More tour times may be added soon.

ALPENA — On a sunny Saturday morning, the water was still as glass as the glass-bottom boat took its first venture of 2020 out into Thunder Bay.

The Lady Michigan glass-bottom boat tours restarted this past weekend, and the boat will be going out at 10 a.m. daily as weather permits. Tickets are $30 per adult, available online in advance at thunderbayfriends.org, or prior to each tour behind the NOAA building at the boarding dock on the Thunder Bay River. Tickets for ages 6 to 12 are $10 each.

The tour takes up to 40 people out into the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to view some of the shipwrecks.

Prior to the pandemic, the boat’s capacity was 80 people, but now that has been halved, and masks are required for all riders and staff on the boat.

According to Andrew Augustyn, visitor experience manager for the Lady Michigan, the boat would have normally been operating since April, but because of engine repairs, Coast Guard inspections and the pandemic, things have not been able to reopen until now.

Folks look down at a shipwreck through the glass-bottom boat on Saturday.

Normally, tours would be running thrice daily, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., but Augustyn noted on Saturday that tours will only be offered at 10 a.m. this week. He expects more tours to be added soon, and said to check the website for updates. He added that right now tours are scheduled to run at least through Labor Day.

On Saturday, only about 20 masked riders accompanied the crew for the boat tour, which ran out to Thunder Bay Island to view the Monohansett shipwreck.

“Built as the double-decked bulk freighter Ira H. Owen, the ship was rechristened Monohansett in 1882,” states a description at thunderbay.noaa.gov/shipwrecks/monohansett.html. “Ten years later, it was rebuilt as a single-decked lumber carrier. On November 23, 1907, the ship burned to the water’s edge at Thunder Bay Island. Most of the crew lost their personal belongings and some suffered minor burns, but there was no loss of life because the ship was near the island’s Life Saving Station. Today, the Monohansett’s wreck lies in three sections. The stern portion has hull features, propeller, and shaft all in place, and the boiler is nearby.”

Continuing the tour, the Lady Michigan headed to the site of Scanlon’s Barge, later renamed Haltiner’s Barge, after historian Robert E. Haltiner discovered a family connection to the ship and identified it with its unique characteristics, Augustyn explained during the boat tour.

The boat now features two large flat-screen monitors below deck adjacent to the two glass-bottom viewing areas. On the screens, riders can view in real time the GPS location of the wrecks, the route of the boat, as well as the vessels approaching or nearby. Also on the colorful screen is the boat’s speed and latitude and longitude, among other indicators such as the depth of the water below.

Above, Andrew Augustyn points at the screen indicating the depth of the water, the boat’s latitude and longitude, and the location of surrounding shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

For more information, or for tickets, call 989-884-6200 or 888-469-4696.

A view of a shipwreck through the glass-bottom boat.

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