Sixty-two years later, in June 2006, the Mackinaw left its lifelong port of Cheboygan and found a new home in Mackinaw City, its namesake. Opened in 2007 as a maritime museum, the Icebreaker Mackinaw continues to share tales of its storied past.
We received the ship in 2006, says interim executive director Marilyn McFarland, but we officially didnt open it for tours until last year for the 2007 tourism season. We had so much work to do.
More than $200,000 was spent getting the ship ready for visitors, including removing all of the fuel, running all communication lines and electric, sprucing up the dock, and hiring staff.
We had to get locks for every door on the ship; we had to secure all the ladders and stairways, so that nobody could run around, says McFarland.
We had to secure different areas on the interior block them off or put up half doors to allow people to see in the room, but not necessarily go in the room. Its a 290 ft. building thats in the water; we have the honor of making it into a business.
We hired trained staff docents who lead the tours, says McFarland. We have approximately 25 volunteers that love the ship so much, they help give tours, welcome people on board, do maintenance, and work in the gift shop. Theres a huge base that wants to help us succeed.
Tours last around 45 minutes and are not recommended for young children. [The ship] was made for Coast Guard personnel, says McFarland. Youre going through three different floors (sometimes on steep tiny ladders). Its not for the weary.
Secure shoes no flip-flops or heels are recommended, and visitors will want to have their hands free for climbing up and down ladders. The ship is not handicapped accessible.
Visitors will come and go right into the library, explains McFarland. From the library, they go through the ship; theyll see the mess hall, engine, bridge, XOs office and different bunk areas.
Last year you couldnt go on the bridge, she continues. Thats new this year. Everything is exactly the way it was when the Coast Guard walked off the ship. Maps are out; all the equipment is lit up.
The museum is officially a non-profit organization, and the board of directors is currently in the process of hiring an executive director.
Unable to find a place for the ship in Cheboygan, the city contacted Mackinaw City, and luckily, Bill Shepler of Sheplers Ferry had space on the old railroad dock to put the cutter there.
Cheboygan graciously gave us the corporation that they had formed, says McFarland.
Donations and museum admissions have allowed the organization to remain fiscally independent.
Last year we had 15,000 people (at $10 per person) through the ship, so that helped us come into this season in very good financial light, says McFarland.
Back in February, we had an angel gift us with $50,000 if we raised $50,000 which we did in two months so we have an extra $100,000 coming into the season. Its nice not having to worry about money to advertise and where to get payroll.
New billboards can be seen on US-31 north of Petoskey and while driving north on I-75, and brochures have been distributed in the area, as well.
Last year we didnt have money to advertise, admits McFarland. Our goal this year is 30,000 visitors.
Although the museums operations have gotten off to a great start, future improvements are planned.
Our long-term goal in five years is to have water and sewer, says McFarland. With that goal, wed like to be able to host groups like Boy Scout groups or strategic planning committees reopen the mess hall and have overnights on the ship.
A $5,000 grant was received from Consumers Power this summer, which will help pay for a study to figure out how it can be done.
We consider the Mackinaw an American hero story, and we try to tell people how she helped win the war, finishes McFarland. We just love to tell the story and people love to hear it.
For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw, visit www.icebreakermackinawmuseum.org or visit the ship at the old railroad docks, next to the municipal marina, daily through September in Mackinaw City. Adults, $10; Youth, (6-17); $6, Family, $28.