The Beaver Island Boat Company is one of those places where meaningful tenures are still measured in decades and—in Captain Mike Green’s case—family dynasties. The newly christened senior captain started working there in 1975, when his dad, then a captain, needed a deckhand for the summer. Green hasn’t looked back since and counts himself lucky to be the guy who gets to cross the roughly 25-mile stretch of water, four times daily, ferrying residents, visitors, and supplies to a place his family has called home for generations.
When people think of ferries, they probably think of boats packed full of tourists heading to Mackinac Island. But your ferry is a little different, right?
Yeah, we don’t have any fudge shops on Beaver Island. There are a few gift shops, but I think people mostly come here for the nature and to get away. Our passengers are a mix of tourists, year-round residents, and a lot of people who have summer homes on the island. But we’re also a cargo vessel, and April through just before Christmas, we’re pretty much the main lifeline for supplies to the island. We’ve hauled chickens, cows, sheep; we carry all the milk and groceries for the stores, and food and supplies for the restaurants; we’ve ferried auto repair parts, windshields for cars, bunks of lumber, building supplies. Ice cream. Beer. Cars. Semi trucks. You name it, we’ve probably hauled it.
So when winter is approaching, do people on the island start squirreling away supplies?
For sure. After the summer months, we haul a lot more freight, and residents and the stores and restaurants will stock up on non-perishables. Almost everyone who lives here has a chest freezer, because after the ferry stops running, the airlines are the only way to bring in things like fresh milk and bread. One year, though, the island was running low on gas, so we made a run outside our scheduled season. And the weather got so cold and icy, the tanker truck actually got stuck here for a little bit before we could get it back out. But that sort of comes with the territory. If you’re going to make this your home, you know you’re in for a long winter. The flip side is, in the summer, you have a cool breeze that never quits.
You were born and raised on Beaver Island, and so were your parents. And your dad was a captain, too. Is there anyone in your family who’s shown an interest in carrying on the legacy?
Well, my 6-year-old grandson tells his friends and his schoolteacher that he’s already a captain. Whenever he comes to visit, he’s my right-hand man, and I even had a shirt made up for him, just like mine, with the boat company’s logo. I mean, I feel very fortunate that my dad came to me all those years ago when he needed a deckhand for the summer. And here I am. So we’ll see. My grandson seems pretty serious about it. I wouldn’t rule it out.
Click the cover to read the Charlevoix/Beaver Island Vacation Guide.