After four years of heavy summer use on Lake Michigan
, the Lake Express high-speed ferry ended service early this fall for regularly scheduled maintenance in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
The 192-foot catamaran ferry was pulled out of the water after cruising to the Bay Shipbuilding yard Oct. 24, a day after the Milwaukee-to-Muskegon service ended for the year. The Lake Express has operated until Nov. 1 in past years.
The dry-docking of The Lake Express will allow the Milwaukee-based ferry operator to clean and repaint the hull and rebuild the boat's four Rolls Royce water jets. The time out of the water also will allow the U.S. Coast Guard to inspect the vessel.
The Lake Express crosses Lake Michigan about
1,000 times each summer sailing season, operating almost 19 hours a day. Just last summer, the ship traveled 68,500 miles, making the crossing in two-and-a-half hours at about 40 mph.
The ferry carries 250 passengers and 46 vehicles. It was the first auto/passenger high-speed ferry to be built in the United States and operate on a domestic route. During the summer season, it operates a three-trip-a-day schedule with two trips a day in earlier spring and later in the fall.
The ferry will be in Sturgeon Bay until about Nov. 15, when it will return to Milwaukee for berthing over the winter. Service is scheduled to begin its fifth season May 2. [Source: Grand Rapids Press]