2018-06-07 / Front Page

Lakeshore gets custom ranger boat

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


SOUTH MANITOU Island in the background, a new boat serving Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore ventures out onto Lake Michigan from Leland Harbor this week. SOUTH MANITOU Island in the background, a new boat serving Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore ventures out onto Lake Michigan from Leland Harbor this week. The National Park Service has acquired a new boat for use by law enforcement rangers patrolling the waters of Lake Michigan off Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

County Sheriff Mike Borkovich says the boat would not serve as a replacement for a Great Lakes vessel he has been asking the County Board of Commissioners to acquire.

The boat, which is named after a former Lakeshore park ranger who died in the line of duty near the Mexican border, was delivered last month to the Leland Harbor. Its purchase has been planned for some time.

“The process to acquire a new boat like this takes about two years,” explained Phil Akers, chief ranger at the Lakeshore. “So, about two years ago, we went through our regional office in Omaha, Nebraska to acquire it, having researched exactly what we needed and looked at a lot of other boats in use elsewhere.”

The 26-foot vessel is equipped with a bow ramp that can be lowered onto a beach to offload cargo ashore including an off-road utility vehicle. The boat is propelled by twin 200-horsepower outboard motors.

Akers said the new boat was purpose built in Burlington, Wash., for use at Sleeping Bear Dunes. He said the project was competitively bid, with the final cost totaling $245,065.

The new boat replaces a smaller Zodiac-style patrol vessel acquired in 2001 that is still berthed in Leland Harbor. Akers said the 17-year-old vessel has been declared surplus and will be turned over to another federal agency for disposition.

“The old patrol vessel only had a Bimini top and a windshield, and crew were very much exposed to the elements,” Akers said. “The new boat has a fully enclosed and heated pilothouse which will allow us to operate it into the shoulder seasons, not just in the summer.”

The new vessel is also equipped with radar and global positioning system navigation. It also has a six-person life-raft, and a payload of 3,000 pounds. It is 10 feet wide and it’s constructed mainly of aluminum, with a double hull. Its deck sits above the waterline, allowing it to be self-bailing.

The boat includes davits that allow crew to hoist objects and people into the boat from the water, and a door near the waterline that could allow entry from the water by those in kayaks or other small craft.

“We’re very pleased that we were able to acquire this new boat, and very pleased with its capabilities,” said Akers.

Although the boat was intended to be used primarily for law enforcement purposes, it is also capable of transporting passengers and cargo out to North Manitou and South Manitou islands. In fact, it has been used for that purpose a few times already this spring because one of the National Park Service’s larger cargo vessels, also berthed in Leland, is currently undergoing repairs, Akers said.

Sheriff Borkovich said he has been aboard the new vessel with National Park Service law enforcement counterparts. He’s pleased the NPS was able to obtain it.

Borkovich himself has been trying for more than a year to convince the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners to authorize purchase of a Great Lakes law enforcement patrol vessel capable of venturing out onto Lake Michigan in marginal weather conditions. The sheriff hopes to cover most of the cost of a boat through state and federal grants.

“The boat I am hoping to acquire for the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office is a completely different boat from the one the National Park Service just acquired, and for completely different purposes,” Borkovich said.

Although the boat the Sheriff has said he needs might cost around the same as the park service’s new boat, the type the sheriff hopes to acquire would likely be more capable of weathering heavy seas and would not also be designed for cargo transport.

Borkovich said he plans to discuss his request for a boat with the County Board again at its regular monthly executive meeting next week.

The National Park Service’s new boat has been designated “NPS 1207” in honor of Ranger Kristopher W. Eggle who worked as a law enforcement ranger at Sleeping Bear Dunes from 1997 to 2000.

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