There are five ferry boats that make up the current Madeline Island Ferry Line fleet.
MV LA POINTE
Madeline Island Ferry Line was looking at options to expand its fleet when in June of 2017 they became aware of a former State of Texas ferry—the B.L. DeBerry. The vessel was located in a small Chicago shipyard in the preliminary stages of being reconfigured to use as a river cruise boat. The Ferry Line found it to be in excellent condition. When the owner decided to put it up for sale the purchase was concluded. In May 2018 the ferry was moved to Fincantieri Ship Yard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for a complete refurbishing. Updates included an all-new pilot house, passenger accommodations, engines, generators, mechanical equipment, hydraulic ramps and state-of-the-art electronics.
The new ferry is double-ended which means that it has an engine, propeller, and rudder on each end. This means the vessel will not need to turn around to depart from a dock. It is 102 feet long, 44 feet wide, and can carry 20-22 vehicles and up to 149 passengers. Its width makes for roomier car lanes, easier loading and more room on deck. The B.L. Deberry was renamed MV La Pointe, honoring the important sense of place occupied by the town of La Pointe on Madeline Island. An historical geographical landmark for voyageurs and canoe-borne travelers who ventured into the region, home of the Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Bayfield, formerly the Charlotte, was purchased from the Lake Champlain Transportation Co. of Burlington, Vermont in 1999. This vessel was built in 1952 and is 120′ long and 43′ wide. There are two 400 horsepower John Deere marine diesel engines; it is a double-end ferry with an engine room and propeller at each end. The Bayfield has a capacity of 149 passengers and 26 vehicles. The wider lanes allow extra room for wider vehicles such as trucks, trailers, coach buses and even houses. More capacity was needed with the continued growth of the island year-round and seasonal population.
The Madeline was completed in 1984 at the Washburn Marina complex in Washburn, Wisconsin. Designed by marine architect, Timothy Graul, the 90 foot Madeline can carry up to 20 cars and 149 passengers. In 2007, the Madeline had two new twin 400 horsepower John Deere marine diesel engines installed. Each turning a four bladed propeller measuring 50 inches in diameter with a 41 inch pitch. The Madeline’s cruising speed is 10 knots (11.5 miles per hour). Due to the fact that she is not designed to operate in ice, the Madeline’s working season is limited to the months of May through November. The Madeline along with the MV Bayfield are the workhorses of the fleet during the heavy traffic months of the summer.
MV Island Queen
The Island Queen was built in 1966 at the Fraser Shipyards in Superior Wisconsin. Designed by marine architect Walter W. Haertel, this 71 foot motor vessel can carry up to 14 cars and 149 passengers. The Island Queen is powered by a 550 horsepower Caterpiller diesel engine, turning a four-bladed propeller which measures 54 inches in diameter with a 38 inch pitch. This substantial power makes the “Queen” a formidable ice breaker in the late season when she is called upon to break-up up to eight inches of solid ice. This added power also makes her the fastest vessel in the fleet, with a top speed of 11 knots (12.5 miles per hour).
MV Nichevo II
The Nichevo II was built in 1962 at the Fraser Shipyards in Superior Wisconsin. Designed by marine architect Walter W. Haertel, this 65 foot motor vessel can carry up to 9 cars and 149 passengers. She is powered by a 350 horsepower Cummins diesel engine, turning a four-bladed, 52 inch diameter propeller, with a 38 inch pitch. This gives her a cruising speed of 10 knots (11.5 miles per hour). The smallest of the five Ferry Line vessels, the “Nich” is used primarily for over- flow traffic in the summer months. However, due to her ability to operate in the ice, she is used throughout the entire season, acting as a backup to the Island Queen during the cold weather months.