An extra special christening

ALPENA – Alpena boat builders Ed Kavanaugh, Mark Upham, Phil Jordan, Dennis Krasnicki, Jim Engles, Troy Heathcock and Walt Jacquemin saw the fruits of their labor come to fruition Tuesday afternoon as their wooden Mackinaw Boat, the Animikie, was christened for her maiden voyage at the Alpena Small Boat Harbor.

What made the event extra special, was Kavanaugh’s mother, Virginia, being the one who broke the bottle of champagne to christen the Animikie Tuesday was Virginia’s 100th birthday, and she said she was honored to be able to christen the boat her son helped build.

“Its wonderful to be able to christen the boat,” Virginia Kavanaugh said. “My son was part of the build, and my family is here to see it. I’ve lived in Alpena since 1945, and am very happy people turned out to watch the ceremony.”

Kavanaugh broke the traditional champagne bottle on the ships bow with the help of her son to complete the christening. The crowd also got involved in participating in the christening and a champagne toast to the Animikie.

Work on the Animikie started in October 2013, at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in its boat building area behind the sanctuary.

“Things just came together between myself and the other builders,” Upham said. “We all did different things on this boat. We all knew different things, and worked together through the various stages of the build.”

The Mackinaw boat is a traditional northern Michigan boat built in the 1800s and 1900s and is an open-sail boat and row boat.

The Pride of Michigan Color Guard was at the christening ceremony to witness the event. Greens were placed on the boat as part of an old launching tradition to remind the boat how to return to shore. The christening ceremony is a big tradition done before first sending a ship to sea. The ceremony is held for the safety of the crew and the good luck of naming a ship.

The name Animikie come from the traditional Ojibwe name for Thunder Bay, and after the christening, the Animikie will have its name written on the boat.

This is the second Mackinaw boat built in northern Michigan, the first was by a group in Tawas who assisted the Alpena group with their build.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687.