DULUTH – The city’s floating maritime museum — the retired freighter William A. Irvin — will reopen to the public on Friday after nearly three years away and with new pandemic restrictions in tow.
Masks and gloves will be required during all tours, which will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through September. Self-directed tours will be restricted to “closely connected” groups with staff aboard to point visitors in the right direction.
“We have worked hard to not only get the Irvin ‘ship shape,’ but to ensure we have addressed the additional health-related precautions our visitors expect when they step aboard,” Irvin manager Steve Rankila said in a statement Wednesday.
The 83-year-old ore freighter was towed to Fraser Shipyards in 2018 for extensive hull restoration. A $504,000 Minnesota Historical Society grant covered the cost. The harbor landmark was delicately maneuvered back into the Minnesota Slip last October.
As pandemic restrictions ease and tourists flock north, the Irvin has been drawing increased interest.
“I probably could have sold 1,000 tickets in the past week,” said Jeff Stark, venue director for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. “Indicators are that people want to be there, especially on the weekends.”
The Irvin last hosted visitors during Haunted Ship tours in fall 2017. Due to COVID-19 concerns, there won’t be a haunted ship this fall, Stark said, though the regular tour season will be extended to the end of September.
Launched in 1937 and in service for more than 40 years, the Irvin was once the flagship of U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes fleet.
The museum had attracted an average of 36,000 visitors per year May-September.