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When I lived as a very young girl in Northern Michigan, a highlight of my little existence was any errand that necessitated our taking the Ironton Ferry.  I have looked for information, but have not been able to determine how long this ferry has been in service.  Suffice to say, it was certainly venerable by the mid-1970s, and last I knew, one of the few remaining cabled ferry services in the country.  It is also a practical way to get around the inconvenience of the protruding South Arm of Lake Charlevoix.  We lived in East Jordan; the next largest towns (“largest” being a very relative term) were Charlevoix and Boyne City.  To get from one to the other was a long enough drive, which the ferry made much more convenient.


Granted, on premium summer days and with visiting tourists, the four-car limit made for an occasional wait, but there are worse things to do than stand on the shore of a lake and watch the sun dapple-dance its way across sparkling water, listening for the approaching putt-putt of the ferry’s motor.  That was the signal to get back into our cars and await the instructions of the often crotchety captain who may have been the same age as the ferry itself.  (I have to be careful here; as an employee of the County of Charlevoix, my father had the opportunity to substitute-captain this fine craft on occasion.)  Speaking of captains, I did learn in my research that long-time ferry operator Sam Alexander is listed in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” for traveling 15,000 miles while never being more than 1/4 mile from his home over a period of years.   In recent years, I had the  misfortune of being piloted by a taciturn young man in his late teens duly plugged into his iPod who never even looked at his passengers, so it was a pleasure last month to meet a wonderfully outgoing middle-aged captain who obviously enjoyed such a unique job. (Clicking on photos displays a much clarified image, depending on one’s monitor settings.)


We arrived on the Charlevoix side to find the ferry just departing from its Boyne City shore.


While waiting, I looked south down the aforementioned Arm, towards my old hometown of East Jordan.


Soon, he will dock here and we will squeeze onto the deck.


Say, he's chugg-chugging back this way! Better get back into the car.


Posted signs direct passengers to remain in their vehicles. However, I didn't obey this edict when I was 5, and I'm certainly not starting now. One misses too much scenery from the passenger seat.


The command center for this carrier.


The designated box for walking passengers, who travel at a greatly reduced rate. However, I rarely see hikers remain in that yellow square any more than I remain in my car.


Glug glug glug (I have a thing for boat wakes.)


Landings Bar and Restaurant, where I have gone with friends by boat. Closed for the season here... (so-so food, good beer.)


Oops, almost to the other side! NOW I'll get back into the car.


Early as I can remember, fares were 50 cents.  Now they charge $3.25 (but I think walkers are still .50, and bicyclists are charged $1.00.)  However, if as part of your commute you will need the ferry service frequently, it is useful to purchase a book for $50, which contains tickets for 20 passages.  Handily, our family still has our book… purchased according to the inner ledger for a whopping $6 on May 1, 1976.  There are two tickets left in the book, but I doubt I have the nerve to use them.


Ticket Book



For how many bits of our childhood disappear as we get older, I’m awfully glad this fondly remembered relic is still around.  😀