Saturday, October 22, 2016


Snake Island, with decoys set out on a calm morning.

Warm weather seemed to delay fall colors.  Only after examining this photo more
closely did I see many birds, possibly ducks, circling over Detroit Harbor.
Not far away, in the top photo taken only seconds earlier, is Snake Island with
decoys, and hunters in a duck blind.  

Washington Island -

After one of the busiest, best traffic seasons ever, the Island is finally slowing down a bit.

The Karfi's last day of operation was Columbus Day, Oct. 10th, and Jeff Cornell brought it around to Detroit Harbor that same afternoon.   Benches were removed and oil was changed the following day,
and early Wednesday it was hauled and pressure washed at the Shipyard Island Marina, prior to being placed on blocks for the winter.
Jeff Cornell cleaned the Karfi hull at the Shipyard.

The Karfi began in its 49th season with a new pair of main engines, John Deere motors that replaced fairly young Perkins Sabre engines.  The Perkins had many hours remaining, potentially, but with concern for replacement parts coming from England, a move to new propulsion of nearly the same horsepower was made.  Along with new engines, new pilot house controls were also installed with a single lever per engine for both shifting and throttle (instead of a separate lever for each, as original).  The new engines and controls worked flawlessly all season.

New starboard engine on Karfi.  A new fuel
tank was fabricated and replaced the original.
Otherwise, the engine room looks much as it did
49 years ago, clean as a whistle in the bilges.
New controls and new engine gauges
also required a new and deeper console.

We'll be heading south in two days, to the tip of South America, via Buenos Aires.   Chances are, internet communications will be spotty, or expensive, or both, but if I can get a few photos published here, then I will.

We'll be enjoying the early days of spring in the southern hemisphere, with temperatures expected to be 20-30s F on South Georgia.  

Hasta luego -  Dick Purinton

Monday, September 5, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Our most illustrious Karfi passenger this summer was a tree frog nicknamed "Chester,"  who rode back and forth many days to Rock Island.

This was back in June, and we were at first puzzled by the occasional, loud sound made by this frog.  I looked about on the shore, never imagining a frog might take up residence aboard this passenger ferry.

Then, one day, Jeff Cornell and his crew spotted the frog near the bow of the Karfi.  They took it ashore, and it returned.

On one of my days with Tony Woodruff, the frog was spotted clinging comfortably to the vertical wall above the door frame to the storage locker.  Like Jeff, Tony removed the frog from the boat and placed him (her?) in the woodsy strip adjacent to the parking lot.  And like the other previous occasions, it was found back on board the boat the next morning.  

I guess it was this persistent personality, with a penchant for traveling back and forth to Rock Island, that earned it the name "Chester" (Thordarson) from Jeff.    

Then, on one of my days in late June taking a turn as operator aboard the Karfi, I spotted the frog sitting on the starboard rail, just outside the screening.  (The starboard rail seemed to be its preferred perch.)   After several trips to Rock Island and back that day it disappeared, slipping, maybe, into a pile of camping gear for a ride to a new, more exotic location.

We haven't seen it since.

   *        *        *

View of decimated Pilot Island during height of cormorant nesting,
with ore boat entering Death's Door Passage, enroute to Escanaba.

During an Island visit in early June, boatbuilder and youngest son, Thor, and I took a leisurely trip around Detroit Island on the Moby Dick.   This short cruise turned out to be a practice run for our upcoming journey to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, where bird life is concentrated in the various harbors.  Thousands upon thousands of seabirds and penguins rest, mate and raise their young on the relatively small patches of land sprinkled across waters of the vast Southern Latitudes.

Thor at the helm of Moby Dick as we round Detroit Island.

The bird activity - in this case,  Pilot Island, and of seagulls and cormorants - and the smells that emanate from this nesting island favored by fish eaters - proved to be a practice run for what we expect we might encounter on our trip south.

But, first I should back up a bit to say that I've always been interested in reading about early exploration and man testing his limits, especially in those days when sailing vessels were the only means of going to the ends of the earth, and when discovery of new lands and the planting of a flag brought national prominence.

The risks of finding uncharted lands often meant lasting recognition for the vessel captain, ship sponsors (with the subsequent naming of islands, bays and sections of coastline) and occasionally, crew members.  More often, sailing in the high latitudes, whether the Arctic or the Antarctic, also brought on severe bouts of illness, months of deprivation and hardship, and not infrequently, loss of life.

Such has been my interest since reading a paperback book in seventh grade titled, Shackelton's Incredible Journey.  It was pure luck when I blindly chose this title from among several recommended in the flimsy, monthly paper called The Scholastic Reader.   (There was a faint image of a sailing ship on the cover.)  I ordered a copy, knowing nothing about Shackleton and his efforts to cross the southernmost continent.  

Such interest in books about men and expeditions picked up once again in recent years, and when I finished reading Alan Gurney's book in March, Below the Convergence, I wondered aloud, "Wouldn't it be fun to visit some of those places?"

Mary Jo firmly declined, having listened to my recounting of the literary descriptions of frequent storms, steep seas, ice, fog and generally harsh conditions experienced in the high southern latitudes.  But, she suggested, our son Thor might be interested.  And he was.

So, on October 24 we'll embark on a trip with Lindblad / National Geographic to the port Ushuaia,  Argentina, board the National Geographic Explorer, spend a night in the Falklands, and then steam onward, and southward, to South Georgia.   This island is rugged, with many fjords and indentations, along with grassy slopes in the southern spring (not to forget the interior glaciers).  This rarity of landmass in the midst of vast ocean reaches is what the population of Antarctic birds find to their liking for nesting.  One particular variety of penguin, in its favored cove, may number upward of a quarter-million, making Pilot Island's bird population, in comparison, a paltry warm-up.  

But it is the human history of this region, and the history of exploration of these remote, scattered lands that has most captured my interest.   I only realized, after first suggesting this trip, that May 2016 was the 100th anniversary of the noted crossing by Shackleton and five other men in the 22-ft. lifeboat James Caird, sailing from Elephant Island to South Georgia.  That desperate, heroic voyage of 15 days was equalled - topped in some ways - by the exhausting, life or death climb up and over the interior of South Georgia by Shackleton and two crewmen.  This climb brought them to the Norwegian whaling station on the far, eastern side of the island.  There, he found assistance, and he eventually succeeded in saving the lives of all of his men, including those men left behind without knowing if they would survive, on Elephant Island.

I've read almost nothing about this 100th milestone year of Shackleton's expedition and survival except in the marketing literarure of the Lindblad / National Geographic cruises.  The cruise ship company has planned this voyage in commemoration.  Their two ships will moor at South Georgia at the same time, to witness a recreation of the climb up and over the island.  Sons of noted explorers will do the climbing:   Peter Hillary (son of Sir Edmund Hillary);  Jamling Norgay (son of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay), and Sven Lindblad, son of Lars-Eric Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad was the first company to provide public cruises to Antarctica and adjacent southern waters, and 2016 also happens to be the 50th year of Lindblad Expeditions operating in Antarctic waters.  

Passengers will have the opportunity to meet this small group as they descend from the island's interior toward Grytviken, where the remains of the old Norwegian whaling station (now a small museum) can be found today.

In all, a most exciting time lies ahead!    

-  Dick Purinton

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The pace of summer was upon us each day, with strong auto and passenger traffic coming to Washington Island daily since the July 4th weekend, warm, sunny summer days, with numerous events to attract the interest of visitors and locals alike.

I happened to be in Sturgeon Bay approximately two weeks ago when several of the participants in the 2016 Great Lakes Tall Ship fleet departed Green Bay, most headed for Duluth, Minnesota where they would gather in that harbor for an event scheduled this weekend (Aug. 19-21).

The Spanish vessel Galeon, and the Norwegian Draken Harald Harfargre sailed to Sturgeon Bay and moored along the waterfront just east of the Oregon Street Bridge.  Before I headed to the Department of Motor Vehicle office to renew my driver's license (early, with the intention of beating the crowd) we stopped for a close look, unencumbered by other onlookers or security barriers.  By ten o'clock that morning the two vessels would be open to receive paying visitors, $10 for adults, $5 for children.  But by then we intended to be on our way back to the Island.

Locally, hopes were raised high that Draken and crew would consider stopping at Washington Island for a night or two, based on the sincere belief that a welcoming and solidly-rooted Scandinavian community might be an enticement hard to turn down.

However, the ship's presence in U. S. waters required filing a sailing plan with the U.S. Coast Guard (in part, because of current Homeland Security rules).  So, the plan's ports of call took priority.

The Sturgeon Bay stop may also have been influenced by the fact that Draken, with her diminishing operating funds as described in various press stories, could potentially fare better in receipts from day visitors at Sturgeon Bay's waterfront than in a Washington Island harbor.

In any case, shortly before 7 a. m., Mary Jo and I strolled close to the Draken as her crew of men and women stretched, brushed teeth, ate their breakfast and prepared for the day under the ever-present eyes of dockside onlookers.

That routine of living under a microscope must make her crew long to get underway for the open seas and passage home, distancing themselves for a time from press and onlookers...even though such media and public attention is a primary reason for the construction of such replica vessels, to show how ships of centuries ago were constructed and sailed, and to demonstrate their importance in the history of world exploration and commerce.  (With superstructure like a fortress, the Spanish crew at that same hour remained belowdecks, nowhere to be seen - not even a deck watch!)

A Jackson Harbor spectacle

The following remarks are based not on my personal familiarity with the world of theater - which is minimal - but rather from a most positive reaction to last night's Island Players drama staged on the grounds near the Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum's restored John Christiansen home.

(If you read this before noon Sunday, Aug. 22, and you're on the Island, then I'd urge you to see the play "Seascape," a drama by Edward Albee.)

The setting is outdoors, seating under a tent that is nestled between the porch of the old fisherman's home and the tall rushes and brush that grow with abandon along Jackson Harbor's shore in that location.

Andy Sachs, Director, took this project on knowing there would be many hurdles to putting on such a play outdoors. (Even Andy might have been surprised by the height of the hurdles!).

However, this location proved to be an excellent setting for an aging, bickering couple who spend their day on the beach discussing their life's regrets, joined eventually, and unexpectedly, in a discussion of human evolution, human traits and time by a pair of lizards, very distant cousins from the sea.

Albee's dialog is filled with humor and pithy observations about couples, both human and human predecessors.   Most pleasant surprises were provided by these actors, with great timing of lines and physical movements on the grassy stage:  Brian Sorenson, Patti Cauldwell, Libby Evans Sachs and Terry Henkel.

You'll not find a play that provides a more continual stream of laughs.  I may have been more easily encouraged by the tall glass of Guiness I had with dinner beforehand at the Fiddler's Green. But, I'm not one to find laughter in forced humor...this was not forced, but clever, timely riposte.  This play was best entertainment!

You can likely get your tickets at the door, as we did, if you don't already have them.  This evening's performance starts at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday's matinee begins at 1:30 p.m.

Other activities

Today's Island Fair - historically one of the biggest days on the Island - looks to be a rain-out.  That's very unfortunate considering the efforts on the part of Island Lions Club members and others that goes into the set-up, entertainment and food preparation (not to mention out-of-pocket expenses by various Island organizations and individuals).

You can cap off your weekend with a bit of historical reflection.  The Island Archives sponsors its second program of the summer with Will Craig presenting:  Early Washington Island Settlers - The Second Wave, at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.   A chance to wind down in the air conditioned Trinity Fellowship hall for an hour or so before supper.  See you there!

-  Dick Purinton

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Although the life ring says U. S. Coast Guard, this small lifeboat,
according to Eric Bonow, came from the American Girl, which
is now displayed in the Gills Rock Maritime Museum.
(Eric Bonow photo)

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When a topic presents itself, as did  Jim Anderson's stories of freighting with his close family members on the vessel American Girl, research and information can take unusual turns, and that's a fun side benefit to doing such projects.

I'm referring to the work done with Jim Anderson for his book, Memories of the American Girl - Stories of a Washington Island family freighting business.  Although the print run wasn't large, sales have been unexpectedly, pleasantly brisk in the past several weeks, encouraging me to reorder from Seaway, the Green Bay printer we worked with.

An interest I had in doing this book was to learn a bit more about the American Girl as a vessel, both before and after the Andersons owned and sailed her from Washington Island.  And, too, the Oil Queen, their tank barge built especially for hauling oil products from the Green Bay terminal to Sturgeon Bay and Washington Island.

I often go to Eric Bonow for answers to my questions, and even when he's out on the lakes in his capacity as a mate aboard one of the Great Lakes ore boats, he generally responds within a day or less, providing me with helpful direction, additional information, photos, maps or charts, and other connecting bits.   Such were the two photos he took of the old American Girl lifeboat, now on display at the Gills Rock Maritime Museum. I'm also looking at an old photo of the American Girl - on file with the Bowling Green University's Collection of the Great Lakes - when she was new, in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

American Girl as new vessel in 1922,
with lifeboat on after, upper deck.  Also, this
original profile matches closely the modifications of the
American Girl by Matt Fogg of Fogg Towing, and
St. James Marine, of Beaver Island.  (photo
from Great Lakes Historical Collection,
Bowling Green University.)

It appears to be the same lifeboat  boat that is shown on the top deck, judging by lines, length, and so on.

Later photos of when the Andersons sailed her depict a smaller, newer model tucked behind the pilot house of the American Girl, probably lighter, easier to handle, and less prone to leaking.  Here is one photo, from the mid-1960s, with Jim Anderson on the upper deck, with the newer lifeboat version secured in the background.

Jim Anderson on top deck of American Girl.
(Jim Anderson photo)

Trip to Ironton

In order to see the American Girl as she looks today, and to obtain a comparison photo or two for Jim's book, I rode the Badger car ferry with Tom Wilson on a wet day in mid-May.

I was fortunate to able to first connect with owner Matt Fogg by phone to set up a visit for Saturday morning.  On the previous day he had been working at North Fox Island and just returned to his docks at Ironton, Michigan.

Matt met us at his landing property a  few hundred yards west of the Ironton cable ferry.  This ferry provides a shortcut across an arm of Lake Charlevoix that leads to East Jordan, Michigan.  This location was, conveniently, a mere 20-minute drive from son Thor's home in Boyne City.

The exterior of the American Girl looked great, as did the wheel house and interior spaces above decks.

Much maintenance work was done by Matt and his crew to keep her useful and operational during his years of ownership.

Below decks, the former wooden bulkheads that separated the machinery space from the rest of the vessel have been mostly removed.  (Those bulkheads also served as vertical points to stack freight against to keep it from shifting when underway, according to Jim Anderson.)

Standing near the Caterpillar engine, one can look fore and aft to see both stem and stern.  It is one, long and open space.

Original, riveted shell plating clearly shows without any sort of inner liner to cover it up.  The general look reminded me of a gill net tug, only much larger.

The American Girl wasn't used much in recent years because Matt nicely refitted a former U. S. Army tugboat he acquired on the east coast a year or two ago.  This new tug has more power (a single, Cat 3508 engine), with more speed, a good towing winch, and spacious accommodations for himself and his crew when they engage in long tows or contract construction work where they're away from home for long periods of time.  The Fogg landing in Ironton provides room for staging and loading materials and large pieces of equipment, much of it destined for Beaver or nearby Michigan islands.   This is a niche business that also hauls up cargo that the Beaver Island ferry is unable to carry.

With owner, Capt. Matt Fogg, on the American Girl.
A part of the former bulkhead can still be seen at left.

The American Girl, should anyone be seriously interested, is for sale, according to Fogg.

Her hull is sound.  The pilot house appears to be well-appointed and ideally set up for long transits.

Matt is presently working on an overhaul of the engine, and several system components, such as the sewage holding tank, will be modified.  But, the basics are certainly there, and the vessel is in near-ready to sail status.

All of this is quite amazing, I find, for a vessel that has seen her share of hard work in all sorts of conditions, and has wintered in ice, most of her 94 years.

And, finally, thanks to Eric Bonow who stuck his camera lens through the Basic shipyard facility chainlink fence one day, on a pleasure walk from the Escanaba ore docks.  His photo shows the Oil Queen resting in a field.  As far as we know, this is still her home and it will likely remain so until she's cut up for scrap.   The deep hull was built for holding liquid product is not readily adaptable for other work, and with today's current requirements for double-skin tankers, it is obsolete and non-compliant as a product tanker.

American Girl, below decks, looking aft.

After a second career on Beaver Island under the ownership of the Gillespie
family members, Oil Queen was retired.  Today, a new tanker that meets
U. S. Coast Guard requirements hauls oil products to Beaver Island.
(Eric Bonow photo)

These are but a few of the side trips made to learn more about the vessels used in the Anderson freighting business.

-   Dick Purinton

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The list of authors and poets is set, for both presentations and workshops, for the 4th Washington Island Literary Festival.  

The invited authors have each written and published one or more works that reflect this year's theme: MYSTERY AND MISTIQUE OF THE MIDWEST.     Not all are writers of mystery, although that genre dominates this year.  

In non-fiction, author Michael McCarthy's book Ashes Under Water is about the Eastland disaster in the Chicago River of a century ago.  This maritime event that shook not only Chicago but the entire nation, a milestone disaster that set a course for federal laws for improved passenger vessel design and operation.  The poems of Wisconsin Poet Laureate Kimberly Blaeser reflect the mystique of living in Wisconsin.


A variety of writing and poetry workshops will begin Friday morning, September 16, and there will be a Festival opening reception at the Farm Museum Barn that same evening for all registrants.  A panel discussion will begin Saturday's program at the TPAC, followed by individual author presentations, interspersed by opportunities for the purchase and signing of books backstage.   Dinner Saturday evening will be at Karly's, featuring readings by Poet Laureate Blaeser.   Sunday morning's author presentations will once again be held at the TPAC.  

Registrations are now being taken, both online at the Literary Festival page within the Trueblood Performing Art Center website (    Deb Wayman will also help to sign you up at her Fair Isle Bookstore, adjacent to Red Cup.

For more details on authors and events, please go to the Literary Festival website at:

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Jim Anderson signed books for the many well-wishers who
came to the Ferry Terminal lobby, Saturday.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

There were many who were interested in learning more about a chapter in Island history, about the Anderson family's freighting with the American Girl.   But it also appeared that those who gathered wanted to meet and visit with Jim Anderson, the former manager of the Island Outpost store at Lobdell Point, something they remembered and missed from the years past.

The Island Outpost was Jim's business for 43 seasons and a point of personal connection with many who were not only shoppers, but boaters, sportsmen and Island visitors.

Mike Berger, a close friend of Jim's, said, "Jim has an uncanny knack, like no one else I know, for remembering the names of people.  And the names of their dogs, too."

After several hours of non-stop signing of his new book, Memories of the American Girl, Stories of a Washington Island  family freighting business, Jim admitted he was deeply touched by the well-wishers, some of whom had traveled a distance to be there, many whom he hadn't seen in a number of years.

Official delivery of Jim Anderson's book at Seaway
Printing in Green Bay.

His book reflects the same care for people as did his opportunity for personal contact Saturday.  

Publication by Seaway Printing of Green Bay was completed in timely fashion Thursday afternoon.  The books were picked up Friday morning, July 15, and a box holder notice was delivered that same day.  It was close and fortunate timing for a signing event Saturday afternoon.

-  Dick Purinton
While their wives chatted, Al Thiele and Butch Jess wasted
no time previewing Jim's book. (photo by Barbara Greenfeldt)

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Jim Anderson has written a book about his family's freighting business, carrying goods to and from Washington Island with the American Girl, often with the petroleum products tanker Oil Queen in tow.

We may know Jim as a lifelong Island resident, and perhaps even better as the friendly owner and ever-present manager of the Island Outpost retail shop.  But, less known at least to members of the most recent generations, was Jim's involvement in his family's business, Anderson Transit Company.

From the time when ice left the harbor to when winter set in again, the Andersons hauled fuel, freight - anything that needed to be transported by water.  From his days as a young man, Jim worked alongside his Grandpa Jack, Uncle Jackie, and his dad, Cecil.  Their business required daily attention, with very few days, or even partial days, given to relaxing before having to prepare for another trip, generally to and from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Jim writes with intimacy about those times during the1950s through the early 1970s, when the bulk of Island goods - for Island stores, service providers, farmers and fishermen, came or left by freight boat.  The American Girl was 25 years old when the Andersons brought her to Detroit Harbor, and she was sailed and used extensively through 1971, when it was sold with tanker barge to a new owner on Beaver Island. A great part of the book is about the operation of that vessel, a commercial tug that is still in operation and closing in on 100 years of service on the Great Lakes.

The stories Jim tells, some of them written down almost 40 years ago when the details were still fresh in his mind, take us back to a time when plenty of physical labor was necessary in loading and unloading their vessel.  Freight was not yet palletized (or if it was, it had to be broken down into smaller packages anyway, for stowing on board).

The times were different, for certain, and the efforts expended by the Andersons to service the Island community were considerable.  Delivery trucks with regular routes to the end of Hwy. 42 in northern Door County were minimal then.  There were no daily package shipment services, such as Fed Ex or UPS, bringing household or business items to the Island.  The American Girl was of utmost importance in keeping the community going.

Although that period of time remembered by Jim was approximately 50 years ago, so much has changed since then.  But that change, looking back, is only part of what makes his stories interesting.  There are the close relationships of the men in his family as they worked together.  Jim was the youngest member of the crew, and his heart was in his family's work from an early age.

You'll see this setting through his eyes and words:  heartfelt, humorous at times.  And it reads easily, the sort of book I've always found to be highly entertaining.

Working closely with Jim to bring his stories to publication, I am now expecting his finished product (96 pages; $17.00) will be available by the weekend of July 16-17.

Within a day or so, it will be possible to place advance orders online at    If you can, stop by to visit with Jim at his book launch (date + location soon to be announced).  Or, pick up a copy of his book when it arrives at your local Island bookstore, or at the Ferry Terminal.

 -  Dick Purinton

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Mary Dawn and her sister, Ruth, visiting me following our concurrent
knee replacement surgeries. One cannot underestimate the devoted assistance
given by Ruth to her sister, but in particular during this past year.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Mary Dawn Gunnerson.

We'll miss her.

Mary passed away on June 17, and as noted in her newspaper obituary it was Icelandic Independence Day, fitting for someone of such independent character, one who sailed by her own inner compass.

A frequent caller on the telephone at unexpected times, Mary often informed us about Island happenings that we, in our Detroit Harbor isolation, hadn't yet heard.  We were among, perhaps, dozens of friends whose phone numbers were close at hand for Mary to call.  Her list of friends included then Door County Sheriff, Terry Vogel, and other law enforcement officers.  Mary shared the latest emergency news regularly gleaned from radio conversations on her scanner.

Birthdays, anniversaries, dates of deaths for close family members...these were cataloged by Mary and commemorated with either a phone call or a card in the mail.

Mary on board the ferry Washington 
in 1992.

For years, Mary was a regular visitor to the Ferry Dock for freight, picking up packages for her family's neighboring Kaupstadur gift shop, where she could be found working most days during the tourism season.  She could dish it out to the crew as well as they could give good-natured jibes.

My first encounter with Mary came in the bike rental garage in 1975.   Mary had either swerved to avoid a bicyclist, or she was driving too fast along the Ppoint road (or both).  The result was that Mary drove her father's, Roger's, panel truck (similar to the type used by the milk delivery man, with the stand-up driver's seat) into the woods.  She provided proof of her resulting injury as she told her story by pulling her pants down far enough to show me the ugly bruise on the side of her thigh.  (I'm not sure why she did that, but I never forgot seeing the large bruise!)

Despite health setbacks that didn't allow Mary leave home this past year except for medical appointments, her voice remained upbeat over the phone.  It was the the voice one might expect from someone who was perfectly healthy.   Her optimistic attitude was an admirable trait, and it surely helped her to cope with her life as physical abilities declined.

It happened coincidentally that in December of 2014, Mary and I scheduled knee replacement surgeries on the same morning - but at different Green Bay hospitals.   We looked forward to meeting up afterward at the rehabilitation facility in DePere, where both of us would stay for several weeks of therapy.  Our residency there didn't work out quite as smoothly as planned, for either one of us, but we often greeted one another as we shuffled behind our walkers to or from the therapy room.  One morning we even shared one of the large platforms used for exercising knee joints, groaning between our exchanges of brief pleasantries.  

Mary laced her optimism with choice comments about the food, the Packers, or whether or not she would be released in time for Christmas.  (Unfortunately she was not home for Christmas.)

In the future, when our family thinks back on beloved characters whom we knew, Mary's name will start our conversation.

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Spring:  Say it with flowers...or even pretty weeds.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

This posting will catch us up on a backlog of photos taken, considered at one point, and now put into play to represent a few activities of the past months.

While springtime is long awaited, a several month process in which only a handful of days would qualify as "warm and pleasant," the variety in our weather has to be considered for it's contribution to an exciting life on a northern island.  Shown is the result of a spring snowstorm. (I've lost track, but I think it was in late March.)   "Is it safe to put the shovel away?" we asked each other when that storm was over, meant as a joke but said with fingers crossed in the pocket of our heavy spring jacket.
"It's pretty, at least."   "It won't last long."
"We can use the moisture."   All of these, and more,
are commonly issued Island sentiments, brave attempts to
cover up our disappointment in the long-awaited, true
spring experience.

At a certain point, when construction was complete except for touch-ups, a new Northport ticket booth was towed by tractor down the Point road from an indoor shop, and made ready for installation at Northport.  This project resulted in a larger, "deluxe" type booth that can more easily accommodate the public and host ticket seller, occasionally two at one time (two doors for egress, two stations, more windows facing traffic and ferries...).  

The physical move to Northport and installation took place in one day's time, with removal of the old booth, reconnecting a phone line, laying a new electrical line, and filling and blacktopping the hole in the pavement where the old booth stood.

The new building is oriented with the intent to serve walk-up and drive-by traffic, without the one interfering with the other.  Once on site, this booth was also leveled to improve the equilibrium of the employees who stand within for hours during each shift.  (The old booth sloped downward with the existing pavement.)

Since installation we've even had our first scrape, a light sideswipe by a truck that turned too abruptly toward the ferry.  Large stones,or other dense barrier material may soon be installed to offer better booth protection.

Below, the new booth is shown on the foredeck of the Eyrarbakki the day prior to installation, as final touches were made.

1961 Packer Ball

Purinton family members, 15 in all, were present at the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame April 8, to present a 1961 Championship Team football.  

As donors, we were guests of the Hall of Fame for lunch in the new restaurant, "1918," and for the ceremony that followed, all of which was set up through calls and correspondence over a several month period of time.

The ball was given to my father, Harry F. Purinton, at a BarberShoppers (a singing organization) district conference in early May, 1961.  Featured speaker at the convention dinner was Packer quarterback Bart Starr, who then passed this autographed ball to Dad, recognized for his work at local and district level (Wisconsin, parts of Illinois and Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula) in the organization.  At the time, he served as Chapter President of the Baylanders Chorous, in Green Bay.

So, this football has been in our family, on a shelf mostly, for the past 54 years.   Mostly by good fortune, the panels of the ball with signatures of both coaches and players were away from the window sunlight, and they and the ball are quite well-preserved.  This is the reason this ball was welcomed by the Hall of Fame.  That, and the fact that each player on the team except one, who perhaps wasn't available then, signed the ball.   Out of 44 signatures, 28 men were later named to the Packers Hall of Fame.  And of those total players and coaches, 12 men were named to the NFL Hall of Fame.

The authenticity of the ball was never in question, but to be sure, two Board Members of the Hall of Fame closely inspected the ball several weeks prior to its transfer.  One unique mark that is used to determine the authenticity is the name Red Cochrane, a Packers coach who used the "R" in the ball trademark as a part of his name.   Stamped or imprinted balls made at a later time don't have that distinctive signature characteristic.

Nephew John and Hoyt Purinton pose next to the
Hall of Fame display case featuring the recently
donated football.   (Paul Hornung's square-toed
kicking shoe is adjacent, off-screen to the right.)

Of course, this was not only a great day to enjoy, but it was also one of a very few times in recent years so many family members have come together.   Nephew Ben Bacon came from Shanghai, China, in part for a memorial service for his father, for his mother, Helen's, 70th birthday, but also to join in the event.  Ben noted that one of the very few "sports bars" in Shanghai is only a few blocks away from his apartment, and Packer fans from the area (and there are quite a few of them) get together at 5 am at this known Packer sports center.  That is the time when the games are typically broadcast live on television there.  A wide net is cast by Packer supporters around the world!

We are thrilled to have in our midst two family bakers:  Chad Beneda and Aidan Purinton.  Both of these fledgling bakers brought their wares for tasting at a family gathering.  Chad brought a sourdough bread, full-bodied, delicious fresh or toasted.  Aidan, who has taken a shine of late to all things related to kitchen craft, especially multi-step dishes, has mastered Irish soda bread.   A few weeks later, he designed, and prepared, a several course meal for his grandmother's birthday.  Talk about lucky grandparents!    Here is Aidan with his first loaf of Irish soda bread, just removed from the oven.

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Finally, in the remaining space available (which, I think, is nearly infinite) we feature a March project in which the entry signs for the Island Terminal are touched up by yours truly.  Sizing is first applied, then gold leaf, to brighten up lettering on these two signs that hang over the entry.

This June will mark the 20th year (already!) that this terminal building has been in operation, a milestone in improvement for customers, and for employees.   Prior to this, all functions were out of the blue building on the dock, useful for many years, but at the end of its useful life as a ferry office and customer base.

One can hardly minimize the needs this building fulfilled: the storage records and shelving of small packages for a night or two; the public, and the employee, restroom facilities; a lobby; office space with a conference table; a customer desk that offers a visible presence for those who need information.   It's been a great improvement, and yet, with the proliferation of small packages on the rise, thanks to Amazon, FedEx and other shippers, we may one day need to look at the possibility of expanding or improving these facilities.

Anyway, for those who don't yet know where they are, or what this building is, the signage has been brightened to attract their eye.

And with that, let's get on with spring, already!

Today's temperatures are in the lower 50s, and we've lost our sun since daybreak.  A moderate breeze blows cool from the NE, off Lake Michigan.  Trillium that began to open, joining daffodils and May flowers, may hold back another week or so before fully displaying their blossoms.

It's an Island spring, after all.

 - Dick Purinton

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Visitors yesterday (May 2) posed with us before touring the Island.
(from left):  Dick Purinton, Magnus Arthursson, Sigridur A. Jonasdottir, Mary Jo,
Evy (Purinton) Beneda, and Lynn (Sorensen) Rasmussen. 

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Feeling like a teenager sneaking in late at night, hoping his absence wasn't discovered by his parents, I resume this blog today.

It has been a bit of an absence - since late January.   I regret this might have caused consternation and even concern for my well-being, or that of my family.   The short answer is that during our vacation away from the Island in Feb/March, I enjoyed doing other things, and that feeling has lasted until now!

I've been busy on other projects, and other activities, too.

One suggestion, for anyone who might enjoy what I tend to most often communicate through this blog, is to subscribe to the Island Observer newspaper.   Since Janet Berggren's retirement as Archivist at the close of 2015, I've taken over writing and editing the Archives page, and I will continue to do so, at least for the near future.  With this new responsibility, though, the frequency of the Archives page changes to one such page per month, rather than in each issue.

The photo at the head of this blog is of two Icelandic guests, along with their host, Lynn Rasmussen, who helped to arrange their Island visit Monday, May 2.   The photo was taken by Sue Kissinger from Stevens Point University, who guides groups to Iceland each year.  Sue became good friends with (husband and wife) Magnus Arthursson and Sigridur Jonasdottir during those trips, and she has now reciprocated during their visit here.  Moreover, Magnus (or "Maggi," as he prefers to be called) drives motor coach for Gray Line Tours in Iceland, which is how they became acquainted in the first place.

Monday's visit was arranged by Lynn Rasmussen, a friend of Sue's, and who also is from Stevens Point.  Lynn remembered Washington Island as a young girl, although she grew up in Sturgeon Bay.  She is the youngest daughter of the late Elmer and Dorothy Sorensen, whose names readers may recognize. She is related to several well-known Island families, Hagens and Sorensens.

We had a most pleasant visit of several hours over late morning coffee.  Encouraged by Lynn to invite others, Mary Jo extended an invitation to several representatives of Icelandic heritage here, to join in an exchange of information.  Comparing notes on their family backgrounds and personal interest in Iceland relations were Steve Reiss, Lee Engstrom, Shirley Ellefson, Sherry Young, Jeanie Young, Jeannie Hutchins, and Evy Beneda.

One specific interest of Sigridur's, and a primary reason for their visit to Washington Island, was to find out more about her great uncle, Halldor Einarsson, an Icelandic immigrant to Chicago from the early 1900s who was an expert wood carver.  It was Einarsson who C. H. Thordarson commissioned to carve his office furniture with Norse mythology features for his Thordarson Electric Manufacturing facility in Chicago.  Photos of Thordarson dating to a 1925 magazine about him show him sitting behind his custom made, specially carved oak desk, so we know the furniture was in place at that time.

Those furniture pieces were later moved from his Chicago office to Rock Island, in 1941, along with his large book collection and their cases. Nearly all of the original set of carved furniture pieces are now on display in the Rock Island boathouse during the state park's months of operation, late May to mid-October.  

Chair carving detail, Rock Island

Sigridur was pleased to find that there are books and other written materials still available here describing Einarsson and his carvings.

Jeannie Hutchins, a Jacobsen Museum docent in summer, invited Sigridur's group to a special viewing of the carved whale's tooth.  (The museum's official season doesn't begin until Memorial Day weekend.)  Einarsson carved this as a gift to the people of Washington Island in 1970, commemorating the100th anniversary of Icelandic immigration here.
Detail from one of Thordarson's 'vest pocket' notebooks.
This shows a stone-and-turf chapel.  Drawn by "Dory,"
(by Halldor Einarsson), and dated Dec. 1937.  Was this
an idea for a future Thordarson structure on Rock Island?  

Carved sperm whale's tooth by Einarsson, displayed at the
Jacobsen Museum.  This side of the tooth shows the
likeness of early Icelandic immigrant to Washington Island,
Gudmunder Gudmundsson. 

Sigridur was most excited to see the carved whale's tooth and took lots of photos, according to Jeannie.

The hope of Siggi and Maggi is to return in several years' time, during the summer when the Rock Island boathouse and other Einarsson carvings would be accessible to them.

 -  Dick Purinton