For over 90 years, people living or vacationing on Bois Blanc Island have relied on Plaunt Transportation to deliver them, along with their mail and supplies, back and forth to Cheboygan. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of boat rides, you’re right. Curt Plaunt—the third generation to run the family business—estimates that since he started working on the ferry as a boy, he’s made 50,000 trips to the island.

The business started with Curt’s grandfather, Charles Plaunt, who lived on Bois Blanc with his wife, Ada. In 1932, Charles took over the contract to deliver mail from Cheboygan to the island. He transported mail and supplies on a series of three different boats—the last of which he named, appropriately enough, Ada M. Charles’ son Ray and his wife Patricia took the reins of the business in 1948. The couple had three children: Char and LeAnna (for whom the Char-Leann II was named), and Curt. In 1987, Curt bought the business from Ray and had a ferry built in Rhode Island. In keeping with family tradition, he named the boat after a female member of his family—in this case, his daughter. Initially, 65 feet long, the Kristen D. was expanded by 30 feet in 1998, an increase that allowed the boat to carry twice as many vehicles (15 four-door pickups or cars).

In addition to mail, people, and cars, Plaunt Transportation carries everything from gasoline and propane to garbage trucks and semis. But hauling stuff isn’t all that the Kristen D. does. The crew sometimes uses the ferry for things like lighthouse tours and a fireworks cruise on the 4th of July. On Mother’s Day, every woman who rides the ferry is treated to a rose. “We do a lot more personal things than any other boat company,” Curt said. And there are plenty of unplanned events that the crew helps out with, such as when they helped rescue a foreign exchange student who had fallen out of a tipped sailboat. Another time, the crew used their equipment to remove a tree that had fallen on the island’s community gazebo and move the gazebo’s roof to safer ground for the winter; in addition, they helped raise money to repair it.

Plaunt is also an invaluable partner of Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op (PIE&G) of Onaway. The Kristen D. brings PIE&G workers to the island for power repairs and maintenance and hauls gasoline for their trucks and other needed supplies. Curt said he also purchased a hangar at the Bois Blanc Island Airport so that PIE&G could store their trucks and equipment there in the winter. “We have a personal relationship with most of the guys at Presque Isle,” Curt said. “They have our numbers, so they’ll call us directly when there’s an outage and ask when we can get them over there.” And Curt doesn’t necessarily wait to be asked for his assistance. “When the power was out in December, he took a truck to the island and drove along power lines to look for downed trees,” said his daughter, Kristen.

Curt fulfills the Bois Blanc Island community’s needs with his fellow captains, Jason Plaunt (his son), Ryan McLaren (his nephew), and Travis Cronk (a close family friend). Curt said the most important part of operating Plaunt Transportation is having his family be a part of it. “I have two kids, so the chances of them going into the business were slim,” Curt said. “You can imagine how happy I was that my son and nephew wanted to join me.” Curt has six grandchildren, and he thinks one or two of them will want to continue on in the business. His grandson, Caleb, is already a deckhand.

Kristen, though not an employee of Plaunt Transportation, helps the family business out however she can, and she says that Curt’s dedication is the main reason for it’s success. Other transportation companies have come and gone from the island, and she is sure his investment in the community is the reason for their longevity. “This island means so much to my dad and his family,” she said. “They’re not just transporting cars and people on and off the boat. Plaunt has sustained because of the extra things he does and the relationships he has, and the trust he has built. Everyone knows that if they need something, Plaunt will help them get it or point them in the right direction. There is so much that they do behind the scenes.”