Now that the Arnold Transit Co. is back ferrying folks to Mackinac Island for the season, we caught up with Captain Garth Law.
How does your season start? For the first trip the mayor of Mackinac Island comes over and the mayor of St. Ignace meets her. In the preseason, people bring over their horses and construction materials. Electricians and carpenters go over and back with us.
What kind of boat do you drive? I drive the catamarans and the traditional ferries. It's always the same course — like a string. When it gets foggy and in thunderstorm, you depend on that string.
Favorite trip of the day? The first trip of the morning, sun rising over the Grand Hotel, and the breakwall. There's no traffic on the radios — just you and the water.
How is it cruising in big lake waves? Not too bad, because I know when I hit the wave wrong so I can brace myself. I make sure the soda pop is not on the dash. Actually, fog is our big thing. In the catamarans we can take 8-footers, and it will feel like you're in a canoe on a calm river.
So what's the worst you'll go out in? We go in just about everything. I have tourists ask what the weather is. I don't really look because I have to be out there anyway.
Any interesting cargo? For the Zoo-de-Mackinac bike trip, someone came across with a nine-foot papier mache shark bike.
What's it like to see the Mackinac Bridge every day? When I'm under it I look up at the bridge — a 5-mile amazing piece of architecture — and I am still in awe. Driving over it is old hat, driving under it still gets me. One great time to see it was while I was working an evening cruise during the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show. Semi-trucks lit up in neon lined up and drove across the bridge at dusk.
Does your 6-year-old daughter ever ride with you? She does, and she gets to honk the horn. Once when my daughter was on and honked the horn another 6-year-old boy said, "I wish my daddy was a captain." It made me feel pretty good, but I felt bad for the other dad.
What's the best seat on the boat? On the catamaran, on-the-bow seating, in front of the pilot house. Standing there, there's nothing in front of you but the water.
Meet any great people while captaining a boat? My wife, Julia, actually. She works for Arnold, too, out of Mackinaw City. We met on a rainy day. Mackinaw City's boat broke down so my boat switched over there. And there she was on the dock.
Emily Betz Tyra is associate editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in July 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.