Jun. 23—GREILICKVILLE — There's a new boat in town, and it's a double-decker.
The Discovery chugged into West Grand Traverse Bay last week and tied up at Discovery Pier. The 150-passenger vessel in early July will begin offering narrated sightseeing cruises and will operate daily through the autumn color season, said Cruise Director Tammy Hoy.
"We're doing a really soft opening, post-pandemic," she said.
The first cruise tentatively is set for July 1. But a few final inspections remain, and the start date could be pushed back a few days. To play it safe, the Discovery Cruises company is accepting reservations for cruises after July 8, at www.discoverycruisestc.com or 231-943-1183. Parking, and the company's office, is at the Discovery Center Collaborative Building, 13170 S. W. Bay Shore Dr.
Plans for the Discovery to operate from Discovery Pier were announced in 2019. It originally was to begin operation in 2020, but the pandemic put the project on hold. The vessel, 65 feet long and 22 feet wide, spent two years in drydock in St. Ignace being renovated.
Discovery, named for Discovery Pier, was built in 1974 and originally was fitted to carry 330 passengers. It operated out of Charles Town, West Virginia, as the Charles Town Belle and later worked as the River Rose charter vessel in New York City.
Hoy and her husband, Harley, bought the boat three years ago.
"My husband is from the Traverse City area. He did fishing charters way back when, in the early '70s. We've been bouncing around Traverse City for the last 30 years or so," Tammy Hoy said. "He always had a dream of putting a boat here."
The Hoys plan to offer a variety of scheduled public cruises and private charters for corporate groups, family reunions or weddings. The daily cruise schedule will have some exceptions when private charters are booked.
"We're starting with our scenic day cruise, which is a 2-hour narrated cruise around the bay. That one is going to operate 7 days a week. We're going to start with two — a 10:30 a.m. cruise and a 1:30 p.m. cruise. And of course we're going to be watching demand and doing adjusting," said Tammy Hoy.
A snack bar will be available, stocked with hot dogs, popcorn, pasties and cherry pie, as well as a full beverage bar.
They also plan a happy hour cruise on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, which will leave the pier at about 4:30 p.m. for an hour and a half and will feature appetizers and a full beverage bar.
The Hoys also are planning wine tasting cruises and some kids-themed cruises.
Rain won't affect the schedule.
"That is one of the nice things about the boat that we bought," said Hoy. "We did this intentionally, knowing and understanding the weather in northern Michigan all too well, both of the decks are actually enclosed.
"The lower deck is enclosed and climate controlled. which will be nice for guests who don't like that heat and humidity."
The upper deck is enclosed, but all its windows can open and there's an open observation area in the stern.
"You're really protected on both decks. That'll work out great for those afternoon storms — and when it gets colder, like in early June, late May or even into October. We'll be able to heat the lower deck."
The daily scheduled cruises will motor past Traverse City, then head north along the Old Mission Peninsula shore toward Power Island, then return along the Leelanau Peninsula shore to Discovery Pier.
Narration will include local history.
"We're starting around the 1850s," Hoy said. "We're going to be talking about how Traverse City started as a logging community. Of course we're going to be talking about Perry Hannah, the industries that were in place back then, when was the first cherry tree planted, when did the cherry festival start. We're also going to talking about the native American community, when they originated, where they came from."
The narration also will focus on the environment, water temperature, water depth and weather.