The Madeline Island Ferry is up and running

By KBJR News 1

April 23, 2014 Updated Apr 23, 2014 at 11:30 AM CDT

Bayfield, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- Sure signs of spring are not so sure around here this year but here is another clue that the snow and ice will eventually go away. The Madeline Island Ferry is up and running as of Tuesday.

Even the gulls are getting impatient waiting for the ice to melt between Bayfield and LaPointe on Madeline Island.

The Madeline Island Ferry is done waiting and is now operating again despite lingering ice. The long winter has made getting the four boats of the ferry line ready a drawn out job.

"The challenge is you have to work between snowflakes. Last week, we had a snowstorm so our crew paints a little and then deals with the weather and paint more and scrape some more so it's always a challenge,” Madeline Island Ferry, Mike Radtke, said.

Indeed, part of the challenge is scraping and painting the four large vessels.

"The anchor isn't so much a big job but when you look at the boat, it looks a little daunting," Bayfield, WI, resident, Joni Vaughan, said.

Also daunting are the ice chunks still floating on the waters of Lake Superior. Chunks the ferry coxswains are trained to spot.

“You never know when you're going to hit something hard so they're aware of it and take it easy,” Radtke said.

Two of the four ferries are ice breakers so passage on the boats is safe despite the ice. And, they are important parts of the tourist economies in both Bayfield and LaPointe.

Radtke has been with the ferry–line for 20 years. He tells us the boats are tourist attractions themselves.

“There aren't many ferry services in the Midwest. There are on the west coast and east coast like Seattle but not here in the Midwest so taking a ferry a ferry boat ride is a unique experience and especially in ice.” Radtke said.

One of the ice breaking ferries went back into service Tuesday. The other will follow Wednesday. The non–ice breaking boats will fire up when all the ice melts.

Dave Anderson