The 115 foot, aluminum hull ship was
originally built in Jean LaFitte, LA in 1978 and christened as
the "Melissa Briley." The boat was designed and built as a crew
boat. A crew boat is used to carry men and supplies to the oil
rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Crew boats can best be described as
marine versions of flatbed trucks. After 8 years of servicing
the rigs the ship was sold in 1986 to the McLain family from
The ship was taken to Pascagoula, MS and
was modified from the original design to the yacht type vessel
that it is today. The new owners renamed her "Southern Comfort"
and ran it out of the Grand Hotel Marina in Point Clear, AL.
In 1997, the ship was once again sold, this
time to the Kollars family from Beaver Bay, MN. Once again it
took on a new name. This time it became the Grampa Woo III.
The name Grampa Woo came from Mrs. Kollars father who passed
away shortly before the family took delivery of the Grampa Woo I
back in 1992. The family upgraded to the Grampa Woo II in early
1996. In October of 1996 an incredibly fierce storm pulled the
Woo II and its mooring out of its harbor on the North Shore of
Minnesota. It was eventually washed up and the rocks of Passage
Island and was ultimately lost to the unforgiving waters of Lake
Superior. The family's search for a new boat led them far from
Northern Minnesota all the way to the southern coast of Alabama
where they found what was to become the Grampa Woo III.
After purchasing the vessel, the family
made the trip north from Mobile, AL to the North Shore of
Minnesota, where it spent the summers providing scenic cruises,
dinner cruises and private charters on the waters of Lake
Superior. After the summer season the ship would then follow
the fall colors south all the way back to the Gulf Coast
following the Western Rivers. Passing through cities such as:
Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw Island, Charlevoix and
Ludington, MI. Joliet, Peoria, Ottawa, Beardstown, Hardin,
Grafton and Alton, Illinois. St. Charles, St. Louis, Kimmswick
and Cape Girardeau, MO. Paducah and Kentucky Lake, KY.
Pickwick Lake, Iuka and Columbus, MS. Demopolis, Mobile, Orange
Beach and Gulf Shores, AL. Even as far south as Pensacola, FL.
The Grampa Woo III made this trip each fall for ten years.
Returning each spring along the same route back to Minnesota.
In the spring of 2007 the ship found
herself with new owners and another new name. The Ruleau family
from Menominee, Michigan rechristened her the "Spirit of
LaSalle," named for Robert LaSalle, the European explorer that
first sailed upon the Great Lakes. The ship now spends her
summer season in the Bay of Green Bay where she offers daily
ferry service between the ports of Menominee, Michigan and
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. After Labor Day the ship makes her way
down the western rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. There she
follows the course set by the Grampa Woo and even before