The Princess of Ludington arrived Tuesday afternoon at her new home in Pere Marquette Lake after a four-day journey from Bayfield, Wis.
Al Laaksonen bought the 65-foot boat and brought it to Ludington, and he plans to spend the next month or so getting it ready to sail for his business, Ludington Harbor Tours.
“One of the guys who piloted the boat asked if I had someone up above looking down on us because we had a smooth sail,” Laaksonen said as his new pride was docked at Lake Street Marina in Ludington’s Fourth Ward.
Over the coming days and weeks, Laaksonen said some work will be done on the boat, such as replacing some of its carpet. It also will be prepared for hosting its tours. It also will be going through its paces on Pere Marquette Lake with Capt. Lee Price at the helm.
Once the Princess of Ludington is ready to take passengers, Laaksonen said he would like to have some appreciation tours for first responders, teachers and those who work with the Mason County District Library.
Laaksonen said he thought it would be good for Ludington to have a tour of its harbor similar to what is in South Haven. In his business plan, he cited the growth of sightseeing tours at Sault Ste. Marie, too.
He initially thought it could work hand-in-hand with the Mason County Historical Society to have historical tours of the lakeshore, but decided to work on it with some investors. They did their research around the state, including going to Mount Clemens for a river cruise on the Clinton River, he told the Daily News earlier this year.
His idea has been mulling around for seven months, and his plan is to run four tours a day with a 20-passenger minimum. Tours will be along Pere Marquette Lake, to the Ludington Pumped Storage Facility, to Big Sable Point and for sunsets. The company has a website set up at www.ludingtonharbortours.com.
The company also plans to have private group charters for a variety of occasions. The Princess of Ludington is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry 149 passengers, Laaksonen wrote in his business plan.
The ship itself has spent the last several years named the Island Princess and a part of the Apostle Island Cruises in Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Before that, it served as a Mackinac Island ferry, used by Straits Transit and then Arnold Transit from its christening in 1973 in Bay City until 1988, according to a post on the company’s website.
Because of the ship’s name before, Laaksonen said he thought it was appropriate to keep the “princess” part to its name, and that’s why he renamed it the Princess of Ludington.
When the ship was tied up at Lake Street Marina Tuesday afternoon, he was met with smiles from his children and grandchildren. He’s hopeful that the area embraces a new part to its maritime port.
“I want Ludington to be proud of it,” he said.