The popular car ferry was facing closure, if major changes were not made.
Now, a multi-million dollar project ensures the tradition will continue.
"It makes me feel great" says the boat's Capitan, Jeffery Curtis. "I love this. It is a heritage. We are the only coal fired commercial vessel in North America".
In order to keep the coal burning, and comply with federal mandates, major changes were needed in the engine room.
"I am ecstatic. I think it would be detrimental to both economies, Ludington and Manitowoc if it did not run" says Nathan Conoley who has used the ferry several times.
In the off season, the S.S. Badger's owners spent more than $1 million to install combustion controls.
It is the first step in stopping ash discharge into the lake.
"We are hoping that [this system] will reduce it by 20% at least which is probably 2,000 tons of coal a year" explains Robert Manglitz, President of Lake Michigan Carferry.
This is the first system of its kind on a boat.
"I am proud of them, even today they were down there trying to make it burn better and cleaner" Manglitz says.
Roughly 200 passengers and almost 30 vehicles made the 60 mile trip across the lake.
It took an hour longer than normal, while engineers made adjustments.
" We were still tweaking the system so we were going a little faster, then slower give the engineers some time to get the system up and running" Curtin explains.
By 2015 the S.S Badger must be able to store all ash on board.
The retention system is expected to cost roughly $800,000.