Vacation starts in 16 minutes – thanks to Shepler's ferry
9/15/2014 | Words: Mike Principato | Pictures: Shepler
2-Cycle engines, Series 71, MTU Series 2000
Shepler's high-speed ferry service is as much a part of the lore and lure of Michigan's most famous resort destination as the island's unspoiled natural beauty itself. For tens of thousands of tourists every year, a Mackinac Island vacation doesn't officially begin until they're aboard one of Shepler's boats for the 16-minute ride to the island. Today, half the fleet is powered by twin Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engines.
Chris Shepler and his siblings Bill and Patty oversee the continuation of a family business success story that started just after World War II. In envisioning a ferry service that was fast, efficient, affordable and enjoyable, Shepler's was ahead of his time, recalls Bill, currently president. "We've been running the fastest fleet to Mackinac Island since my dad started the ferry service in 1945. By using a speedboat to take passengers across the Straits of Mackinac, he set new standards for speed and comfort," he says.
Today, Shepler's fleet includes three ferries powered by twin Series 71 engines and three with twin MTU Series 2000 16V engines. The engines get used hard, running up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week during high season. "The MTU engines are beasts. Their record of durability and reliability speaks for itself," declares Chris, who also notes there's no great mystery behind the longevity of the relationship between his family's ferry service and MTU distributor W.W.Williams.
For him, it's as simple as choosing the right friends.
He says, "We don't just buy parts, service and engines from Williams—we're investing in a relationship we've had for three generations. After all, if we're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, we want it to be with a company that shares our values."
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