Transportation on Mackinac Island is unique. The journey to the island is also a special experience — and part of the fun. Since there are no bridges to Mackinac Island, visitors must leave their cars behind on the mainland, and arrive by
aeroplane or ferry. The majority of visitors make the 16-minute trip across Lake Huron aboard a Shepler’s ferry.
From water’s edge to leading edge
For more than 70 years, Shepler’s has provided ferry service to Mackinac Island. In
1945, Captain William H. Shepler opened a snack shack and charter service to the island via highclass speedboats. As passenger traffic began to increase, a 30-foot cabin cruiser christened the Miss Margy after Capt.’s wife Margaret, started making runs. In 1969, The Welcome was built, ushering in a new era of larger vessels capable of transporting more than 100 people on two decks. Throughout the years, Shepler’s added more vessels to the fleet and expanded its services, docks and facilities.
Today, Shepler’s continues to be family owned, moving into the third generation of ownership. Capt. William H. Shepler’s son and three grandchildren Chris, Patty and Billy lead the company. The Shepler’s fleet has grown to six passenger ferries and one freight vessel, all powered by mtu engines. The 95-foot Sacre Bleu freight vessel starts the season in late winter, ploughing a path through the ice. Capable of powering through three feet of ice, the Sacre Bleu is powered by twin mtu Series 60 engines. As a flat-backed open space boat, it’s capable of hauling 200,000 lbs of cargo — anything from horses to pickles to cement trucks.
After the ice melts in April, Shepler’s starts its passenger ferry service. During peak season in July, its six ferries are in constant motion. The vessels operate between three ports, with 100 departures a day. To expand its service, Shepler’s built its biggest, most modern vessel to date, the Miss Margy, named after William Shepler’s wife, Margaret.
Building for the future
Christened in 2015, the $3.8 million Miss Margy is Shepler’s largest ferry. The former Miss Margy was one of the company’s first ferryboats in 1950. Although ferries are usually constructed in shipbuilding centers such as Louisiana and Wisconsin, Shepler’s wanted to keep the work in Michigan and partnered with nearby Moran Iron
Works to get the job done.
At 85 feet long, the new 281-passenger Miss Margy dwarfs the 30-foot cabin cruiser from years ago. Miss Margy is equipped with modern comforts such as air-conditioning, fog-free windows and Wi-Fi. State-of-the-art features extend to the engine room. Miss Margy is powered by triple mtu 16V 2000 engines, producing a combined output of 4,200 hp.