SS Badger back in action for 2019

May 11, 2019

The initial sailing of the 2019 season for the SS Badger was greeted with high numbers on a risen lake with new docks in both Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Pat McCarthy, vice president for Lake Michigan Carferry, said there were 200 people on Friday’s cruise from Ludington to Manitowoc. There were also 80 vehicles loaded onto the deck of the boat.

“There’s a lot of excitement about our dock walls. And whenever we have our first sailing, people really look forward to it.”

The docks in both port cities were renovated over the course of the winter. In Ludington, steel extended toward the seawall for part of the SS Badger’s slip. Large chains extend over massive rubber tubes sandwiched between steel. The ship itself can rub up against the wooden walls of the dock.

In Manitowoc, the steel support for the dock work is much closer to the shore itself. Overall, the dock in Wisconsin also received funds from that state’s Harbor Assistance Program and the City of Manitowoc. In April 2018, a winter storm forced city officials there to put more than $500,000 toward emergency repairs of that dock for the sailing season — the Badger’s 65th.

The work on the dock was approximately $9 million, of which $5 million came from the FASTLANE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The docks were originally built in the 1930s during a time when carferries were in their heyday on the Great Lakes, including in Ludington.

The excitement was evident by the well-wishers spread from Ludington’s dock through Waterfront Park to the school children from Lakeview Elementary School that made the short trek to see the Badger off. Children in kindergarten through second grade made their way from the school to watch the first launch of the year. They cheered when the ship began to move away from its slip.

Sandy Sanders, a substitute in Traci King’s second grade class, said the school children enjoyed seeing the fire department, harbor patrol and coast guard spraying the water.

“The kids get so excited,” she said. “They look forward to it every year — the big first voyage. It’s an opportunity for the kids to see the carferry.

“Ever year, we come down to watch them set sail.”

The thumping of bass drums could be heard long before the Badger gave its trio of horn blasts as it approached Manitowoc’s harbor. A large crowd was on hand near the Charles Conrad Memorial Building near the Badger’s dock. Members of the Lincoln High School Marching Band serenaded the ship as it made its way to the dock.

{p class=”p1”}The rubber between the steel of the dock screeched as the SS Badger rubbed up against the new wooden wall. Eventually, the ramp to the boat’s deck was locked into place and workers scurried to take vehicles off of the ship and drive different ones back on board.

McCarthy said the structure is in place on both ends of the voyage for the ship. In Ludington, some fencing and landscaping still needs to be done. In Manitowoc, landscaping also needs to be completed.

The SS Badger went from Ludington to Manitowoc on Thursday as a shakedown cruise, and part of the reason was so that the ship could be docked once in Wisconsin before the season got underway on Friday. McCarthy said some commercial traffic was parked in Manitowoc on Thursday, and that traffic was moved across to Michigan that night.

Also on Thursday, McCarthy said four loads of fuel and more items were taken from Ludington to Manitowoc.