Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Part VI

It's sometimes easy to think romantically of the past, and this photo showing
passengers aboard the Wisconsin at their leisure, a few with sun (?) umbrellas
 may feed such an urge.  However, it is doubtful these passengers could have
found shelter if a rainstorm came on suddenly.  And, the chill of the lake was
theirs to deal with until they made land on either side of the passage, for there
was little protection to be had.
Not so much different than aboard the Karfi today, I am reminded!
(photo from Bell Collection, Wm. Jepson the likely
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When I wrote in the last blog in this series about the Washington Island waterfront over the years, describing early ferry boat efforts, I mistakenly omitted the wooden ferry H. J. Davis that competed, for a very brief time it appears, with the Wisconsin.  I say only the vessel Wisconsin, because I'm not certain for how many years the Marion and Navarre operated as ferries.   One mention in The Door County Advocate, in July 1928, mentioned the Marion had delivered cedar posts to Sheboygan from Cedar River, and in the paragraph that followed, that the H. J. Davis delivered cement to Sturgeon Bay.  It would seem that in the height of the season, the transportation of freight was the main source of income and purpose for those two vessels.  I'm uncertain how the Navarre fared as a ferry once placed in service.

I was advised by none other than Eric Bonow to "hold the presses" (but the blog had already taken flight into the ethernet) and so I'll provide a correction, an addition, actually, here.  With the previous blog I had been using clippings provided me by Eric Greenfeldt, all of which came from The Door County News, one of two newspapers that flourished for a time in Door County.  When I reached the final clipping, I ended my blog.

We have Ann (Herschberger) Young and daughter Carolyn Foss
to thank for this great shot of the Wisconsin departing Gislason's
dock, sometime prior to 1928, the year when Capt. Jepson
began using the new Welcome.  This is from a Herschberger
photo album.

From Eric Bonow, then, I received the following pertinent excerpts on the H. J. Davis mentioned in columns of The Door County Advocate (DCA).  She was referred to in a 1915 report as "the little auxiliary schooner" carrying pulpwood, and in another mention in 1918 as "the gasoline hooker".  In 1920, she was credited as the "auxiliary schooner…bringing a cargo of potatoes…Walter Goodlet is master." By 1923, Mike Anderson was listed as captain of the Davis, and hay was the cargo loaded in Sturgeon Bay for Menominee, Michigan.

So it may be with some surprise that in August 31, 1928, it was announced the J. H. (sic) Davis was purchased by Art Weber from Mike Anderson for the purpose of serving Washington Island as a ferry boat.  The dimensions of the H. J. Davis were given:  20-ft. beam; 75 ft. length; capacity of five autos besides passengers and "considerable freight," and would, through alterations, be capable of carrying seven autos the following year.  Capt. James Sorenson, owner of the West Harbor Hotel, would be "handling the craft," while Milton Hansen, also of the Island, would act as shore captain.   A daily schedule was also announced.

We have no idea how many days the Davis operated to and from the Island, but in the DCA of Sept. 24, 1928 its stint as a ferry appears to have ended:  "The new ferry Davis, which operated a short while as a ferry boat carrying cars and passengers across the Door, has gone into general freighting
for the rest of the fall.  Since the resort season is practically over, the ferry Wisconsin will be able to handle all of the traffic during the rest of the season."

Another wonderful photo from the Herschberger album shows an early,
unidentifiable vessel under sail.   This gaff rig was apparently used for saving
on fuel, and as the means of salvation if the motor quit.  

Hard to say what vessel this is for certain, since these small freighters 
tended to look very much like one another from a distance.   
Does anyone venture a guess?  

The Davis appears to have returned to freighting and "special ops," more or less on a permanent basis.  In November of that year, the Davis retrieved a damaged Cherryland Airways airplane (the first plane in Sturgeon Bay) from Green Island, located six miles or so from Menominee, Michigan.   And in the fall of 1929, the Davis was reported to have taken a load of coal to Sister Bay.  Art Weber of the Weber Dredging Co. was listed as owner, and the newspaper reported that the H. J. Davis was up for sale, "a good carrier and a staunch craft for coastwise trade."

A photo Eric Bonow emailed (but which I don't have permission to reprint here) shows the Davis having similar lines as the vessel Marion, except for being in a very 'tired' looking condition.  My conjecture is that this vessel worked hard over the years as a small freighter, and that its life as a ferry boat amounted to a very brief period before it returned to its familiar role as freighter or small hooker.   Art Weber, listed as owner at least for a period of time, and who also owned a dredge company, was employed by C. H. Thordarson for excavation of the shoreline on the southwest shore of Rock Island late in 1925, where the foundation for Thordarson's Rock Island boathouse began.

In this photo Gordon Jepson appears in the window of the pilot house.
The passenger second from left below him is Gene Gislason, and
it is very likely Gene's brother alongside him.  Others have not been
identified.  Capt. William Jepson operated the North Shore 

beginning in 1933.(the photographer is unknown, but one copy 
is in the Herschberger family album, and it may be the original.)

One more mention came in my book Over and Back (1990) in which Gordy Jepson, son of William P. Jepson, recalled the name H. J. Davis:   "...a 70-75 foot boat, running from Teskies in Gills Rock to Nor Shellswick's on the Island."  Gordon also said in the 1990 interview that, "After Gills Rock replaced the farther port of Ellison Bay, most of the other boats which had made similar runs quit operating.  Dad landed at Gislason's dock, in Jensenville, near the present Shipyard Marina.  He sold the Wisconsin in the spring of '29 to Chris Andersen, who used her as a freighter once again to Green Bay.  Dad had built the Welcome for use as a ferry, and she could carry ten cars.  The Welcome was also built of wood, by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock.  Dad pulled me out of school to become a deckhand.  Other deckhands working for Dad during these years were:  Ralph Wade, my brother-in-law;  Ray Andersen;  Walt Hansen;  and Ernie Lockhart."

Two photos of the Wisconsin moored at the Ida Bo dock (now Findlay's Holiday Inn) appear in Over and Back (pages 29 and 38) , and these could have been taken when the boat was employed as a freighter, possibly before or after the regular tourism season.  The Ida Bo dock, however, didn't have the width necessary for loading autos.

 -  Dick Purinton

Friday, February 13, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Part V

Charles Hanson's freight boat Marion also served as one of the
early Island ferries.  Photo probably taken around 1919-20.  

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Previous posts in this series on the changing Island waterfront referenced the early days of ferry operation and Captain William Jepson.  Jepson wasn't the only ferry operator, but his operation succeeded in outlasting his competition by providing regularly scheduled service, and, it may be,
by employing a better vessel with superior docking facilities/location.

Once established, Jepson called his ferry operation "The Gills Rock Ferry Line," an attempt to closely associate his service with the peninsula port from which his ferries departed.  Earlier, Ellison Bay and Garrett Bay (across the harbor from Gills Rock) were two other points of departure for early ferry runs.
The facility at Gills Rock (the Voight/Johnson dock, where ferries continued to land for many years afterward) although exposed in W to N winds, was superior to Garret Bay, and to the more distant Ellison Bay.   (Northport was developed later as an alternative to Gills Rock, at times when winds prevented landing there.)

Jepson ferry schedule (year unknown)

Information from old newspapers show that the first efforts were wishful thinking with a fair amount of public support, but without resulting in an actual ferry service.  Columnists promoted  the need for a regular ferry service, repeatedly making the case on behalf of island and mainland citizens.

From the Door County News (DCN) 24 Nov. 1915, it was reported that "The value of such a ferry boat to the people of the island and also to all others concerned would be unestimable, and would work toward the rapid advancement of that place."  Just who the originator of the idea might have been was kept under wraps, described only as "…a gentleman from outside…", a businessman of mystery.    The broad backing needed to start such an enterprise was repeatedly solicited, along with the convincing arguments such improvements would bring, linking the island with the rest of Door County.

The 12 July 1916 The DCN reported efforts that had yet to get off the ground.

The people of Washington Island have been talking ferry so long that now action is going to be taken to see what can be done with the project…a meeting will be called for the purpose of launching a movement.  The people of the island are interested in anything that will bring the island closer to the mainland and their people nearer to the people on the peninsula...  The project has passed the stage when anyone can check it by throwing cold water on it.  The people want a ferry and are ready to listen to any plan that is feasible and not too expensive.

But plan specifics were still lacking, other than that such a ferry must serve the needs of islanders, "…must operate at least during the months of June, July and August and September, and longer if practical;  that some arrangement be made with the local mail carrier to have the mail [transported] in connection with the ferry if possible."  The ferry must transport autos, horses, cattle, etc., and the toll must be "reasonable."

As of July 1916, the newspaper's efforts remained of a cheerleading nature.  No firm commitment to offer such service had as yet surfaced.  The Wednesday, 16 August 1916 issue of The DCN reported that a new association was being formed "for the purpose of promoting or urging the building of a ferry across the Door."  About 170 islanders were reported to have attended at Tom Nelson's hall "together with tourists and people from different townships of the peninsula."

Man at left holding one end of the fish stringer is Judge Herbert,
according to label on reverse.  One or more Herschberger
family members who had a home in Jensenville are
believed to surround him at the Gislason (shipyard)
 dock.   No information is available on the
Caroline moored at left.
(Photo is from the Bell Collection, and Bill Jepson
is believed to have been
the photographer.  (Year unknown)

"Judge Herbert was the principal speaker of the evening and in a very able manner addressed the audience, first calling attention to the remarkable growth of industries on the island through their own work."   Judge Herbert cited the telephone exchange and the difficulties overcome in establishing the island-wide phone service, and the island "creamery" for its prosperity.

The newspaper reported: "At the conclusion of his talk the bell rang with hearty applause and there was no question but what Judge Herbert had sensed the voice of the islanders on the subject.  Other men were called on for remarks, among them Attorney Wagener, A. A. Minor and Frank Graass.  Local men also raised their voice.  George Mann, it was reported, "…hit the nail on the head when he said, 'We want it to come,' and Lawrence Gislason was willing to do anything, 'To see that it gets here'."

A new committee was named "The Island Ferry Company"at Bo L. Anderson's suggestion.  Names for committee leadership were nominated and voted on, with a band playing during deliberations.  The following men were elected:  Will Jess, president;  Geo. O. Mann, vice-president; Lawrence Gislason, treasurer;  Earl M. LaPlant, secretary.   Mr. Laplant appears to have been the only non-islander to join the committee's officers.  With optimism, another meeting was announced two weeks hence, with the expectation that in the meantime they would get a membership of five hundred people, each paying dues of $1.00 per year.

Under the column heading "From HERE AND THERE" in the 29 Nov. 1916 DCN came this report:
   "The ferry project went a step forward when the county board saw the necessity of aiding the movement by a donation of $500."
Bo L. Anderson had made a pitch before the County Board, followed by a successful resolution.  Part of Anderson's reasoning was for the County to find some way to connect the peninsula's northernmost road with the "county highway on the island."  A suggestion was also made - the news story wasn't clear by whom - that ferry rates be set at $2.00 for autos and $0.50 for passengers.

[An unrelated but interesting aside in the same column was another newsworthy item from Washington Island:    "Measles are still in evidence.  Likewise, the itch which is as bad if not worse."]

By the time the 17 Feb.1917 Door County News was published, the County Board's action regarding the earmarked funds to help a fledgling island ferry service was called into question.  An opinion of District Attorney W. E. Gaede stated the county board's action had appropriated the $500  "...beyond its powers and consequently is illegal and void."    But following this announcement, another route was suggested by then assemblyman Frank N. Graass, who offered to introduce a bill that would legalize the action of the county board.  His bill later passed the Wisconsin Assembly and was signed by the Governor.  But these efforts did not immediately, or directly, bring about ferry service.

In November of that same year (DCN 22 Nov. 1917) a headline read:  "People of Washington Island Still Hopeful of Securing Service.  May Be Established Next Spring."   The ferry project was
"…dormant, but not dead by any means."

Meanwhile, it was reported that in Ellison Bay a Mrs. Andrew Nelson offered "the required timber and stone from her holdings…for the construction of a suitable pier for the boats to land, providing it is built at her place.  There are a number of boats owned on the island that could be utilized for the service and the people of Washington Island are confident that the enterprise would be a profitable one."

On 17 Dec. 1917, the DCN reported that the Weborgs of Gills Rock had offered their dock, "for the upkeep," should a ferry service there be established.

It wasn't until the 21 March 1918 issue of The DCN that names of possible ferry operators were first mentioned.  The start of ferry service, it appeared, would be dependent upon entrepreneurs.

There is every indication that the ferry line across the Door to Washington Island will be inaugurated the try first thing this spring.

The gasoline boat Wisconsin has been secured to do the work and Capt. Carl Christianson and Wm Jepsen (sp) who own the craft will handle her in the business.  The promoters consider themselves fortunate in having secured the Wisconsin, she being one of the best boats of her kind on Green Bay.  She is staunch, safe and speedy and capable of carrying 3 autoes (sic) as well as passengers and freight.  She is 59 feet long, 15 feet wide and 7 feet depth of hold and is equipped with a 40 h.p. engine.  She is only a couple of years old, having been built in 1916 in Green Bay.

The landing at the island will be at the Lawrence Gislason dock and it is planned to have the place of landing on the mainland at Garrett Bay.  This part has not been definitely settled upon, however, but it is not anticipated that there will be much trouble in securing a suitable place.  [Garrett Bay had a deep water pier used for loading stone onto ships.]

The owners of the Wisconsin have agreed to take their chances on the amount of business that they will do, feeling confident that there will be plenty of travel during the summer months.  They are both excellent seamen and hustlers from the word go, so that it will be no fault of their's if they do not make a success of the undertaking.

The ferry will be a great drawing card for tourists desiring to make the rounds of the county and should be the means of bringing much trade to hotels on the island.   It is planned to make the fare nominal for the round trip, so that there will be no objection on this score.

The 22 MAY 1919 DCN reported:

Capt. Carl Hanson, owner and master of the gasoline freighter Marion, was in the city the latter part of the week, at which time a reporter asked him concerning the proposed ferry line across the Door to Washington Island.  

Capt. Hanson says that he plans on starting along about June 1st to 10th.  He will make a round trip in the morning and one in the afternoon, and will have time to make a special trip should it be found necessary and desirable.  The schedule he has laid out is to leave Detroit Harbor at 7:30 a.m. and arrive at Garrett Bay at 8:10; leave again at 9 and arrive at Detroit harbor at 9:40.  In the afternoon he will leave Detroit Harbor at 2:15, arriving at Garrett Bay at 2:55; leave again at 4 and arrive at Detroit Harbor at 4:40.

The fare for the round trip will be $5 for an ordinary car and driver, or $3 for one way;  large cars will be charged $7, or $4 for one way.  Passengers will be charged $1 for the round trip.

An ad for the Marion's service appeared in the July 10 DCN, but the mainland location listed was Ellison Bay (beyond Door Bluff and several miles south of Garret Bay).  A paragraph that accompanied the ad stated:

The Washington Island ferry line is now operating on scheduled time between Ellison Bay and Detroit Harbor.  In another column will be found the time table and rates.  The line promises to become a popular mode of travel when brought to the attention of the outside world.  There has been a demand for transporting autos across the Door passage and the ferry Marion is fitting the long felt want.

But Hanson's ferry service, it appears, actually began July 1st, from Gills Rock to the island, as reported in the 20 June 1918 DCN.  The name "Carl" Hanson had been changed to "Hans" Hanson.  (I believe "Carl" was also referred to as "Charles" Hanson.)

 It was noted that:

"The auxiliary schooner Marion, owned and commanded by Capt. Hans Hanson, will be utilized as the ferry.  She is a staunch craft and in charge of an able and experienced seaman.  She is equipped with a 25 h.p. engine and will make the run across the Door in about an hour.  The transportation of autoes from Washington Island to the mainland will be of great convenience to the owners of cars, as it will make it possible for them to leave the island in the morning, come to this city and return home the same evening after transacting business."

Schedule and rates for Hanson ferry Marion,
as it appeared in the 10 July 1919 DCNews.

The fits and starts that seemed to accompany the first island ferry service(s), are confusing to piece together.  They're made even more confusing because of what appears to be mix-ups as reported in the newspaper.

The 26 June 1919 DCN carried the following story, giving the ferry operator's name as William Jepson, but the ferry name Marion, rather than Wisconsin.  Jepson's peninsula location at Gills Rock, which was developed on the eastern shore (where the highway in Gills Rock ends today) would prove considerably shorter and faster than the proposed ferry run of Hanson's to Ellison Bay.  

FERRY STARTS - The first trip of the Washington Island ferry was made on Thursday, June 19th.  This was when the gasoline carrier Marion, Capt. Jepsen (sic) carried the first automobile across the Door to Washington Island from the mainland.

A dock is being built at Gills Rock for the ferry to discharge the autoes (sic) conveniently and expeditiously and the work will be competed by the end of the week.

On the patronage of the public depends the success of the undertaking.  It is confidently anticipated by promoters that it will be a paying proposition as soon as the fact becomes generally known that trips can be made back and forth.  The large increase in the number of autoes during the past and first of the present season augurs well for the ferry line.  The fare is reasonable and service of the best.

Jepson's Wisconsin, on the ways.  Sheets of metal
fastened to the wooden hull to give greater durability.
(Believed to be a Wm. Jepson photo,  from the Bell Collection.)

Finally, we add in one more name of an early ferry operator and his DCN.  The new aspirations were Pete Anderson's, who held the mail contract between the island and the mainland post office in Ellison Bay, which he fulfilled in non-ice months with his vessel named Volunteer.
Passengers aboard the ferry Wisconsin, during teens or early 1920s.
Photo likely taken by Wm. Jepson (from Bell Collection).

FERRY TO WASHINGTON ISLAND - Pete Anderson, the Mail Carrier, Will Carry Cars Across the Door In His New Boat.

Washington Island is to have a ferry service again during the coming summer for the accommodation of the inhabitants of that part of the county as well as the tourists trade.

Pete Anderson, the hustling mail carrier, is the man behind the proposition and he will combine it with his regular business of handling Uncle Sam's mail and carrying passengers back and forth.

During the past winter Pete purchased the gasoline yacht Navarre which formerly belonged to Judge Turner, now deceased, and during the past couple of weeks, he with Thos. Johnson and George Jorgenson have been busily engaged at Two Rivers in converting the craft into a business boat.  She was thoroughly overhauled below the water line and is now as good as new.  

On Monday, Mr. Anderson, accompanied by Messrs. Johnson and Jorgenson, arrived in the city with the boat on their way to Washington Island, stopping only long enough at the yards of the Fuller Goodman company on the west side to take on a load of material with which to finish the craft.  It is the intention to put in exceptionally heavy beams and decks for carrying automobiles.   The upper works and decks will be put in at Detroit Harbor during the ensuing month, it being the intention to have her ready for commission along about the first of June.

The Navarre is 56 feet long and 15 feet wide and will be capable of carrying three cars handily.  She is an exceptionally fine boat.  The owner will also have accommodations for passengers as well.

Mr Anderson has not as yet figured out just what schedule he will run on, but this will be announced at a later date.

There are a large number of autoes owned on the Island, which together with those of people who wish to visit the place should provide a good business for the ferry.

Mail carrier Pete Anderson's Volunteer (nearest shore) and the vessel
he purchased and converted in order to start up a ferry service, Navarre.

This is all the information I currently have on the very first motorized ferries (and all or nearly all of it comes from The Door County News clippings provided me by Eric Greenfeldt) but it is my assessment that these three ferry operations struggled in these first few years. Not only did they compete for customers, but the operators battled against weather elements using piers that were, given their haste to get started, probably somewhat make-shift and exposed.  Of the three announced operators, Jepson appeared to have developed superior landings at the best locations.  With his vessel Wisconsin he seemed to have the best craft, and the combination of boat and landings provided a consistent service.   Successful ferry operations and increasing traffic over the next few years led to Jepson's ferry Welcome, built in 1929 Sturgeon Bay, the first vessel built specifically for island ferry service.  His Wisconsin was then sold to Chris Andersen, who used it as a freight boat.

-  Dick Purinton

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Part IV

Washington Island -

Continuing the theme of looking at the Washington Island waterfront as time changed, I've come across photos that interest me, and I hope readers who have a connection to Washington Island are similarly interested.

My personal knowledge, and the photos readily available to me help me to make connections.  Most of these photos center on Detroit Harbor, but there are occasional, interesting side trips to other harbors and piers.   I'll admit these are not placed in a chronological sequence.  Rather, I've followed what piques my interest, and also what pops up that seems to make a connected story or sub-theme.

The photo above, for instance, is a fairly recent one.  I've received aerial photos over the years from pilots (Jack Cornell, Tim Graul and Ed Graf, to name a few) but I believe I took this one seated in the rear seat of an ultralight, behind pilot Butch Gordon, in February 1990.  (If anyone believes I'm wrong, please let me know!)

I was interested in obtaining photos for the book Over and Back (published later that summer), and Butch offered to take me up in his small plane one late afternoon when the sun's angle was low in the sky.  At the island ferry dock as shown above are five ferries, with the C. G. Richter moored on the end of the pier, and the Voyageur moored at the Standard Oil dock's north side.  (Both of those ferries were sold years later.)  At this time, all Hansen Oil product tanks were still in place, and you can see autos parked south of the tanks, in the general area that is now open pavement leading to the new ferry terminal entrance (completed in1996).  The old ferry office on the dock was still painted white, later to become "federal blue."

Eric Bonow,  from Superior, Wisconsin, who enjoys digging into history, especially anything to do with regional maritime activity, visited last week.  In our conversation Eric reminded me how as operators we had to avoid a shoal area located directly astern of where the C. G. Richter is moored.  This shoal wasn't dredged until around the year 2000.   To safely leave the channel and head in to the pier, we used a range consisting of the light pole in line with the old office door.   Then we were assured of staying in deep enough water.  This shallow hump (with about 6-8 feet of water over it) also had to be avoided during ice breaking around the docks -  just one more deterrent that, when eventually removed, was longer thought about.

The relationship of the current ferry dock to the adjacent Standard Oil pier, and to the Island Outpost dock north of that, is clearly shown in this photo, and that's the main reason why I chose to feature it here.

Below is a May 1930 survey of the ferry dock property (the earliest survey I've seen), courtesy of Eric's sleuthing at the Courthouse.   I believe this survey was produced because of an impending sale of land from  Ole Christiansen to Captain William Jepson, who before that sale operated his ferries from the far eastern side of Detroit Harbor.   Ole's marine railway is indicated in the survey.

May 1930 survey of Standard Oil (previously the Cornell Tract)
and Ole Christiansen tracts  (later Wm. Jepson's, then WIFL)
in Detroit Harbor.

In a previous blog, I wrote that Ole was co-owner of a pier in Jackson Harbor, along with Bo Anderson, and a chart and photos Eric passed along show where that pier was located.  The photo is an old postcard, and although its not entirely clear in this version, piled lumber can be seen on shore and an unidentified small sailing vessel is at the pier, presumably loading - year unknown.

Related text reprints from the Advocate newspaper follow:

 Door County Advocate - 2.28.1903:
   The bulk of the Forster Lumber Co. lands have been sold mostly to settlers, the heaviest investors being Bo L. Anderson and Capt. Ole Christianson (sp), who secured about 500 acres.  These gentlemen are now engaged in building a dock inside the east point near the entrance to Jackson Harbor.  The cribs have all been completed and the stringers are now being laid.  There are two gangways to the main structure, which will prevent all backing or turning by teams.  Three vessels will be able to lay at the dock at the same time.  Captain Christianson is superintending the work which is a full guarantee that the structure will be put up in good shape.   The entrance to Jackson Harbor is shallow, so that only light going craft are able to pass in our out.  The owners contemplate removing the bar, which is only a few yards wide. They will likely have a small dredge do this work, although Captain Christianson has told us that he could remove the bar by other means, but at all events it will require a good outlay, but when this obstruction is away, allowing large vessels to load at the dock, it will fully pay for the outlay.  Besides that several of those owning timber lands on the northeast side have expressed their willingness to help pay for the expense in deepening the inlet. The enterprise of Messrs. A & C is sure to have the effect to build up Jackson Harbor.  There are thousands of cords of wood to go over the dock, and shipping is bound to be lively for some time to come.

Jackson Harbor shown on 1922 Lake Survey
Chart.  (Courtesy of Eric Bonow)

Door County Advocate - 7.30.1904:
Capt. Ole Cristianson is and has been engaged in the wood trade between Jackson Harbor and Milwaukee with the schooner Madonna. The Lucy Graham, Capt. Goodletson, is also carrying fuel from the same place to Manitowoc.  She came here on Saturday night for the sixth time so far this year.  The crew report that the yards are filling up rapidly, and the delivery will have to stop soon until more room can be secured.  Although 36 years old the Lucy is as sound as a trivet, having been well taken care of by her owner.  She was built at Sturgeon Bay in the winter of 1868 by the late Capt. Robert Graham, one of the pioneer residents of the county.

Door County Advocate - 12.3.1904:
The portable sawmill for Christianson & Anderson has arrived, and is now being set up.  The firm has enough orders ahead to keep the outfit busy the greater part of the winter.  Strange to say the demand all comes from the islanders, who are rather adverse to sawing their stove wood by the old and laborious method when it can be done by steam in one fraction of the time.  The buck saw is a thing of the past.

Door County Advocate - 3.4.1905
A good deal of cordwood is being banked every working day at Jackson Harbor, and the owners anticipate god prices again for this commodity.  There are two piers over which the wood will be shipped, that of Anderson & Christianson and Ras. Hansen.  The latter, which formerly belonged to Capt. Denio, is undergoing a substantial rebuild this season.

Door County Advocate - 10.10.1907
Rasmus Hansen is steadily improving and developing his Jackson Harbor property which has in late years become one of the most important shipping points in this region. 
The Lucy Graham has been lying at Jackson Harbor for more than a week waiting for a load.  Capt. Goodletson says that wood is getting very scarce in these parts, but he hopes to get in a few more trips before the end of the season.
  Chas. Anderson, Matt Swenson and Ben Jensen are building a structure on the south side of Jackson Harbor to be used for a saw mill, and as soon as it shall be completed the outfit will be removed to that place from the west side of the pond.  Business is pretty lively at that point, as there is considerable wood being banked and carried to market by the schooner Madonna, Capt. Ole Christianson.

Postcard - Jackson Harbor, inside Carlins Point, early 1900s.

After nine more years, the shipment of timber had slowed…and it was around this time the Madonna was abandoned in Detroit Harbor west of Snake Island.   Ole Christianson may have concentrated his efforts from that point forward at his shipyard on Lobdell Point.

Door county Advocate - 4.6.1916:
The Jackson Harbor Mill Co. will begin their spring sawing this week. Lumbering is nearly a thing of the past on the Island, the stock of logs being comparatively small.  But, still we wonder where so many come from.

  - Dick Purinton

Saturday, January 31, 2015


This photo would have been taken during the first years that Capt. Jepson
operated from Lobdell's Point, instead of across the harbor at
the shipyard location.  On the postcard reverse, in Mary Richter's
hand, is written:  Welcome  1933-34.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Ours is a small corner of Lake Michigan, a tiny bit of Great Lakes waterfront, and hardly a spit in the ocean when compared to the national maritime picture, and yet there is a relationship.  Maybe we puff our chest over this, but it's good to look at the national picture once in awhile and think how we might, or might not, be contributing to the overall picture.

What happens at home is always most important: Washington Island's port activity, revenues, tourism volume and overall business health.   A prospering business dependent upon good waterfront access will reflect in projects undertaken along that waterfront, efforts made to either improve operational facilities in a forward-looking manner, and sometimes acts in desperation, trying to stay ahead of mother nature, the weather-related events of storms, lake level fluctuations, as well as deterioration of docks and piers that happens over time.  Even concrete, as we often see, has its limitations when the element of time comes into play.

This date (again, according to Mary Richter's hand) is 1943.

So here are a few photos of the waterfront in different years, showing vessels of the day loading from the facilities available then.  In some cases the loading was made under duress, using the best available means that day.  Often the measures taken were bare minimum, but the best that could be hoped for.  Over time, the materials used (such as steel and concrete and asphalt) brought crispness to the edges and greater durability to the landings.  Machinery that could dig, pound and lift meant that time and money became the greatest hurdles.  Electrification made possible the use of portable hoists to raise and swing plates, plug in vessels to shore power (and heat the machinery spaces in cold weather).  Modern times brought larger and heavier vehicles that required larger and more substantial vessels, a few with year around capabilities.

Dora Engelson is shown in this photo (perhaps family
members will know who the children are) taken some
time in the early 40s, we think.  To be noted are the
buildings on Detroit Island, and the old, natural
channel marker of timber and piled stone.

Seventy five years have brought these changes, often established following lots of work just to maintain at the same level of service, sometimes small improvements, but with occasional, larger leaps into new and more modern, safer and more efficient service.

Partly for my amusement, and partly to find out what's happening in the maritime trade beyond Detroit Harbor, I regularly read three or four industry related magazines.  It helps me in keeping our Ferry Line role in perspective.

One such magazine, The Waterways Journal Weekly, has been around since 1887.  Although it reports mostly on "brown water" events and activities, meaning the inland rivers, there is always an eye to the national picture.  In the January 19 issue, I found these amazing statistics that indicate not only the health of our maritime economy, but also our continuing national dependence on shipping, ports, shipyards and the  many thousands of workers and families who derive their livelihood from these and associated industries.

This postcard shows the dock around 1950, when the new
C. G. Richter still had its hull painted white.

I consider the case of my own family, having grown up in Sturgeon Bay, and its dependence not only on the local shipyards, but the Great Lakes bulk shipping industry as a whole, for my father's work involved engineering details for conversions and repairs of lakers and other vessels (including several of the Washington Island ferries).   Ship construction was cyclical, dependent on the economy and surges in Great Lakes shipping, but also to a great degree on government contracts.  There were research vessels, transports, and naval vessel contracts, if not at the Christy, Ship Building and Dry Dock or Peterson Builders yards, then somewhere else on the Lakes, when R. A. Stearn Naval Architects looked further afield than the adjacent waterfront for work.   Workers at Bay Shipbuilding (now under Italian ownership) today build oil industry vessels with ice classification approvals, perhaps for work in the near future in Arctic waters, where competing international maritime interests have recently beenfocussed.

One point I always found exciting and also satisfying was that from the front of our home, which was situated along Memorial Drive where we saw many of these vessels pass, including the cross-lake car ferries when they were still in service, was that I could some day take a vessel from that point and sail to any point in the world's oceans.  That thought allowed me to dream, an activity I still enjoy!

You might think this photo was taken at time of record high water,
in the fall of 1987, but in Arni Richter's handwriting on the
reverse, the date is January 11, 1975.  This early winter
storm raised the water level, and tore up the wooden cribbing
along the waterfront, the area now immediately in front of
the present day ferry terminal.

Life in Sturgeon Bay, and for the last 40 years on Washington Island, has impressed on me the importance of a having a vibrant maritime industry, not only for our local economy, but for the nation.  I wouldn't think this concept would be a hard sell, but every so often members of Congress bring up amendments to abolish the Jones Act.  Most recently, Senator John McCain proposed this as an amendment to the Keystone Pipeline project.  I suppose we should forgive a senator from a dry state like Arizona that has no shipyards, but for an ex-naval officer, and son of a navy admiral, to turn his back on American-built vessels in favor of opening up ship construction, design and supply to foreign-built vessels for our domestic trade, seems ludicrous.  Normally, I'm not for specific industry-protective legislation, but the Jones Act means that our American vessels will not be built in China, or Korea or some other nation, but by a U. S. shipyard, by U. S. workers, and that's important for our economy, but its also also critical for national security.

Well, that's only one of the items in the larger picture that caught my attention while reading.  Here are a few others found in the Jan. 19 Waterways Journal:

*  The Seamen's Church Institute continues to promote seafaring through training of mariners, and with their chaplains who visit vessels along the coasts and inland.   Training facilities in Houston and Paducah train nearly 1600 mariners each year.   The organization was founded in 1834 by the Episcopal Church,  and the non-denominational institution has always had the welfare of mariners at heart.   **  It was members of this organization, I believe, who helped construct  Bethel Church in Washington Harbor in 1865.

*  Burns Harbor, a destination for many of the ore carriers we see passing by our island's shores, experienced the best year ever, with total tonnage delivered up by 30% over 2013, including steel, grain and salt. These figures were also boosted by a 35% increase in ocean-going vessels, and a 25% increase in river barges moving through Illinois/Mississippi river systems.  Over 500 barges were handled in 2014, linking the port to more than 20 states and 12,000 miles of rivers.   This is a statistic that makes one doubt the wisdom of those who wish to close off the Illinois barge canal, rather than find other solutions to stopping the advance of Asian carp.

*  Our dependence on ocean shipping is as great, if not greater, than it ever was, with the container industry bringing us all sorts of goods from foreign shores.   Measurements are in TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) rather than tons of cargo carried.   On the West Coast, ports have been locked up due to striking longshoreman, with incoming ships queued at anchor, and this brought delays of goods to stores near us, especially around holiday time.  Despite this, in 2014 the number of TEUs was up in November, and for the year.  2014 brought an estimated total of 17.2 TEUs to U. S. shores, according to Global Port Tracking, a 6% increase over 2013.

I'm not sure who to thank for this photo, but obviously a pilot.  This one
was taken in the fall of 1987, when the all-time high water level
for Lake Michigan was recorded.

We often enjoy looking back on yesteryear, thinking they were "golden" years, if only because we're removed from them by time and further filtered by our romantic imaginations.  In this pursuit, I'm adding a few paragraphs written by Christopher Morley, a writer and editor well known in his day who was especially good at, among other things, writing about his home town which happened to be New York City.   He was especially knowledgeable when it came to waterfronts and vessel activities, aided by first-hand experiences when he and his friends (loosely formed into what he liked to call the "Three Hour Lunch Club") took excursions on one of the Moran Towing tugs.  It was shortly after the First World War, and there were all sorts of freighters and wayward vessels still visiting the harbor.

Here are a few samples from a compilation of his essays entitled, Christopher Morley's New York (published by Fordham University Press, 1988).  I didn't just happen to find this in the library.  A copy was loaned to me by Tony Woodruff, who besides being a deck companion on the Karfi in summer, is a grandson of Christopher Morley!

From an entry titled, "Alice and the Aquitania":

Shipping business is bad; it is grievous to see so many good vessels laid up in the Erie Basin and in the alcoves of the Gowanus Canal.  But Alice M. Moran, "of 29 net tons measurement," says her certificate, still puts in a lively twelve-hour day.

We are not the first to raise a small chantey of praise in honor of Alice, for her skipper, Anton Huseby, proudly showed us an admirable article written about her…Alice had already done a good five hours' work when we boarded her.  We were hardly in the roomy pilot house before sturdy Alice was again about her affairs.  The first thing one noticed was that tugboats, by old tradition, steer backward:  unlike social craft the wheel preserved the old theory of the tiller.  When the wheel is turned to starboard, the tugboat turns to port.  So the ordinary merchant seaman or yachtsman is a dangerous fellow at a tugboat helm until he has learned this difference by instinct.

And after a most entertaining account of a shift aboard the Alice M. Moran during which time they assisted numerous ships to and from the New York harbor, Morely closed with:

While do people build or buy big steam yachts, we wondered.  Surely a tugboat is the perfect craft.  They build them on the Great Lakes -  Green Bay, I think they said, was where Alice came from.  You can get one like her for something like $100,000.  A maiden voyage in a tugboat from Green Bay to New York would be a good trip to take.

Aquitania lay there, a blaze of lights, stewards busy carrying off baggage.  Alice backed off with a curtseying motion, and vanished into the dark.  She sleeps in Brooklyn.

 - Dick Purinton

Friday, January 30, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - Part II

Ole Christiansen's boatyard, with the Flotilla in the foreground on
blocks, and the Wisconsin moored at the edge of the solid ice.
Quite possibly this photo was one of Bill Jepson's, taken around 1930, prior to
his purchase of the dock property.  Today vehicles
drive out onto this pier to board over what we
refer to as the "south ramp."

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Watching Mike Kahr drive steel sheets with his reciprocating hydraulic hammer yesterday, and noting the relative ease with which the sheets were driven into the bottom, caused me to think back on some of the other projects we've had over the years.

Many feet of steel sheeting were driven, especially at Northport around 1982-3, when John Fitzgerald and his crew extended the Northport Pier by some 70 feet, adding a slight wedge to the north corner, the design intention being to lessen lake swell action curling around the northern side of the pier.   That project came 11 years before the stone break wall was constructed with the aid of a Wisconsin DOT grant to Door County.   Prior to the breakwater of 1994, the pier projected unprotected approximately 100 yards from shore, an obstacle to waves and moving ice.

Welder Mike Brown fabricates the corner piece
from two sheets that can't be interlocked due
to the degree of bend.  In the background, Mike
Kahr uses a hydraulic hammer to drive steel sheets.

In order to accomplish the work of extending the pier in 1982, contractor Fitzgerald rented a diesel hammer.   The solid, heavy steel head slid up and down in a steel framework, powered at the bottom of the downstroke by an explosion (combustion chamber) that caused it to rise back up several feet in the air, then drop again to repeat the process.  The hammer head rig was positioned over the sheet being driven, and the whole works was held in place by a crane.  Before that project, John used a pile driver block that was repeatedly raised by crane cable 8-10 feet and then let free-fall, with gravity doing the pounding, one tap at a time.

The hydraulic hammer arrangement used today by Mike Kahr is rapid and flexible.  It seems to do a good job until progress is stopped by a large stone, and that was the case with several sheets on the inside of the slip.  Another improvement in equipment, too, is that this hammer head can be shifted quickly from one sheet to another by just lifting the arm of the excavator.   Kahr can use the excavator arm to pull or push plates to achieve the best vertical alignment.  And, it takes only minutes to detach the breaker head and install the backhoe's bucket for other work.

Contractor John Fitzgerald extended the
Northport pier, shown here in the summer of
1982 with a diesel hammer for driving sheets.

In all, over 200 linear feet of pier were enclosed with
sheeting at Northport in 1982.  Here, worker Don Beckstrom
cuts sheets to length.  Some sheets were driven in water depths
of 16 feet.
It was 1975 (now 40 years ago this June)  that the first hydraulic ramp was installed for easier, and safer, loading of ferries with bow ramps.  At that time, only the north slip was suitable for bow-loading of vehicles, in particular large trucks, buses, or trailers.   In 1960, when the first bow-loading ferry Voyageur was brought into service, enabling carriage of trucks longer than 25-feet for the first time, a pile of gravel was sculpted to roughly accommodate variations in water levels from season-to-season.  A thick rubber mat on the crest of the pile kept the steel ramp from rubbing against the gravel.   It was crude, but it worked, along with procedures that kept the vessel in  trim during loading.  Often this would mean shifting a few vehicles fore or aft to keep the bow height (and thus the bow ramp angle) in adjustment, sparing mufflers and tail pipes.

Myron LaPlant operated machinery for
John Fitzgerald.  
Ferry captain Dave Johnson backed this auto
onto the ferry (about 1972-73) over the gravel mound with rubber mat.
Mound accounted for height differences between
boat decks and dock, and with some work could be
seasonally adjusted by grading or adding more fill.

With a greater number of motor coaches, campers, trailered pleasure boats and heavy trucks, as well as an increase in general tourism traffic in summer, by the 1970s the gravel pile was no longer a good option.  

Arni Richter wanted to install a hydraulic ramp strong enough to hold a loaded semi.   R. A. Stearn Naval Architects, Sturgeon Bay, supplied engineering for the hydraulics (based, in part, on experience gained with engineering early Travelift units) and my father,  Harry Purinton, provided a fair amount of time - some personal and some through R. A. Stearn where he worked with hull and structure - to design the ramp details and footings.

Once steel was ordered, ferry captain John Hanlin cut and welded, and assembled the ramp in a level opening near the bike shop garage.  Kermit Jorgenson operated Njord Heim's crane to lift, and then turn over, the ramp.   Few pieces of equipment were available on the island at that time for such tasks, whereas now there are numerous loaders and excavators with the lifting capacity and reach for such an operation.

While the steel work progressed, a hole was excavated near the water for footings.  By late June, the foundation was ready to receive the ramp, and by the weekend of the Fourth of July, the ramp was in a pinned position, ready to be driven across, but it took several more days to complete electrical connections (Earl Frank was the electrician) and pipe the hydraulics (work by ferry crew), making the ramp fully adjustable at last.

During the construction of the foundation, ferries landed at the end of the south dock.  Today at that location, a wider, longer and heavier ramp is available,  installed in 2001.   The rams on this newer ramp permit adjustment under heavy loads, whereas the original 1975 ramp was incapable of adjustment under load, due to smaller rams and lower pump pressures.  

Kermit Jorgenson operated the crane as
Dick Hanlin offered advice.  Eldred
Ellefson, who loaned the crane from Njord Heim,
 observed in foreground as the
20 x 20 ft. ramp was turned over.

Setting wooden forms for pouring the first hydraulic ramp footings,
late June, 1975.    (l to r) Jensen brothers Norbert, Rich and Emil with
John Herschberger and Harvey Jensen, uncle of the brothers.
(Unknown observer.) 

A slightly different angle showing turning of the first adjustable ramp,
with Kermit Jorgenson at the crane controls.  Ferry crew Tim Jutila and John Hanlin
are on far side, and John Herschberger has his back to camera.  (June 1975)

Crowded near to the old office building, the foundation was poured for the
ramp.  Here, Earl Frank runs wire (far left), John Herschberger backfills
with a shovel, and at the rear of the box Arni Richter and John Hanlin
discuss installation of ramp hinges.  (June 1975)

Ferry captain John Hanlin, who was
also skilled working with steel.

Such improvements as shore ramps are quickly absorbed into the operation, becoming one more slight adjustment before loading or unloading, and a major adjustment when the load is long, low or exceedingly heavy.   The general public may not realize the benefits, but the advent of one, good hydraulic ramp on the island meant quicker and easier loading of each ferry using the bow ramp (the C. G. Richter still required side loading, until about 1989 when the Washington (dis)placed it into passenger only status).  In a few years' time, by 1980, a similar ramp was installed at Gills Rock, and early in the summer of 1985, the north ramp at Northport was installed.  In time, smaller ramps also went in at the island's south landing, and at Northport's winter landing slot.  All later ramps were based on the original 1975 structural design, with modifications made as needed.

-  Dick Purinton

Saturday, January 24, 2015



- Washington Island, Wisconsin

After my last post and the photos that showed how piers in Detroit Harbor looked a few years ago, I decided it's a good time to go into more detail - as much as possible, that is.  A great deal of information has been lost, and as a result we use conjecture to reconstruct the way we thought things were.

This year will be the 75th for the Washington Island Ferry Line, hence the logo with the dates at the top.   If nothing else, this provides further excuse for delving into the past, something I always enjoy doing, especially when it involves old photos.  And in the case of Island harbor docks and activities, in many cased these photos seem to do more to tell the story than available written information.  So, I'll liberally illustrate the way things were in the harbors using photos available.   A few of these may look familiar.  Either I've already used them in earlier blogs, or they've appeared in Over and Back - A History of Washington Island Transportation (a book published in 1990, in timing with the Ferry Line's 50th Anniversary, and out of print since about 1997).

The pier photo shown in my previous posting was taken by Bob Williams in 1949 (related, I believe, to Dede Rollo, who had a cottage in Jensenville), and it showed the Chris Andersen freighter WISCONSIN, at the location we now know as the Island Outpost dock.  I believe that earlier this was the dock developed by J. W. Cornell, where he moored his fishing boats.

Because of the interest expressed, below are several more photos of the WISCONSIN during her earlier days of ferrying cars (most likely the mid-to-late 1920s).  The pier location at which she is loading, in my opinion, appears to be near the present day Shipyard Marina.  Perhaps the base of this pier was the former Gislason dock, used by the store's owners at the turn of the last century for receiving shipment of goods for their store.

This photo was taken of the J. W. Cornell family when four identical
autos were loaded aboard the WISCONSIN (maybe just arriving
at the island for the first time).  This photo also speaks of a
time when money was to be made in commercial fishing, as the
autos were purchased by sons of Clara and J.W. Cornell.  Sons

Claude and George are believed to be in the white hats, standing behind 
their parents.   They, and another son, Bill, we believe were the owners 
of new Hudsons.   Daughter Mary (Richter) is in the back row, 
right hand side, with dark hair, and her sister, Audrey, is in
front, blond hair, looking at the camera.  According to the Door County 
Advocate issue of June 24, 1927,  an article clipped by Eric Greenfeldt 
(grandson of Bill and Harriet Cornell):  " It is quite surprising how many
high priced autos have been sold on the Island recently.  George
Mann sold three Hudson cars in one day, which is suggestive
of the business being done in that line here."

This early photo showing folks dressed in
fashionable wear

speaks to an early tourism trade.
The end of this pier as shown is broad and smoothly decked-over, suitable for maneuvering and loading automobiles, passengers, or for stacking freight.  That was the location William Jepson, one of the early ferry operators, used until the very early 1930s, at which point he transferred landings to the present Lobdell Point ferry landing location.  Jepson purchased and then developed the boatyard property formerly owned and managed by Ole Christiansen.

Shown is the early beginnings of the ferry dock at Lobdell
Point.  Logs piled on ice show work is in progress.
A small shack in the background is on the
Standard Oil pier, where barrels can be
seen lined up along that pier.  Bill Jepson, who was

responsible for this dock work,
was an avid photographer, and so it is likely
this photo, as well as many other early 

ferry photos, were taken by him.
Ole's name popped up a number of times when I researched the Thordarson book.  At one time Ole had a pier in Jackson Harbor for the purpose of loading timber products.   I'm just guessing, but I think his pier may have been located in the fairly deep water tucked inside the northeast corner of that harbor (the remains of old cribs can still be seen there along the shore).  Ole, who was quite enterprising, also owned - and was the last owner  of - the schooner MADONNA.   In later years (about 1915 or so) this vessel was grounded and abandoned in Detroit Harbor, in the area immediately west of the old Ida Bo (or Holiday Inn) pier.   Bits and pieces of the MADONNA still are mired in the bottom in that general location.

Summer fun with a rowboat, taken in front of
the cottage currently occupied by
Connie Essig.  MADONNA remains are
in the background.
A photograph from old Koken photos show children (perhaps Koken grandchildren?) playing in a rowboat, with the remains of the Madonna visible in the background.   For general interest, I've included here another Koken photo, one of their motor launch BERYLUNE, shown loaded to the scuppers with cedar shakes.  Where those shakes came from is anyone's guess, but very likely they were transported to the island by ferry to the shipyard location, and then reloaded by the Kokens for transport across the harbor to … the bayou estuary, where the Kokens owned what became later on the Arni and Mary Richter property.  The Kokens had a small pier and, later, a boathouse with marine railway.   Many of the buildings on this piece of property were - and still are - sided with cedar shakes.

BERYLUNE is a fine little boat with classy lines, and if you'd like to see her in a beautifully restored condition, please visit the Gills Rock Maritime Museum where she's a featured display, complete with her 1-cyl. Straubel engine.  How this craft wound up in the Gills Rock museum, and what the trail of ownership might have been after the Kokens owned it would be a good research project.  (Perhaps a reader may know the answer?)

BERYLUNE at Bayou dock in Detroit Harbor,
loaded with bundles of cedar shakes. (photo
taken perhaps late 'teens or early 1920s)
But, back to the early ferry WISCONSIN, a wooden vessel pressed into service as an auto / passenger ferry back when only freight boats were available for such trade.   We can see that loading was no picnic, but with the use of planks three or four autos could be squeezed side-by-side, thwartships (or rail-to-rail, rather than fore and aft).   This worked for a number of years, with several different in service.

Next time I'll use information from early county newspaper accounts that detailed the efforts of several operators to start an island ferry service, sent to me by Eric Greenfeldt.

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Detroit Harbor scene.  In foreground, the Standard Oil pier,
later Hansen Oil, and as of late 2014, Ferry Line north dock
Behind that is the former Cornell dock, now Island Outpost,
with Chris Andersen and his freight boat Wisconsin.
(photo taken in 1949 by Bob Williams)
In the background are several abandoned vessels in the shallows,
near what was the Chambers dock, now  the location of the Town's
launch ramps and the Island Clipper pier.

- Washington Island, Wisconsin

Like many waterfronts, Detroit Harbor changed over time, but many of those same appendages that were fishing or freight piers years ago remain in place, raised up and shored up over time as better materials and construction techniques, and capital to make improvements became available.

The dock in the foreground was owned at one time by Standard Oil.  It looks quite trim, capped with concrete, and it was used as a platform for unloading barrels of petroleum products, as well as transfer and other freight from the Anderson Transit's American Girl and barge Oil Queen.  (The Island Electric Co-op, with diesels placed into service in 1946, was using several hundred thousand gallons of diesel annually, and the Oil Queen helped to fill the tanks that kept those engines working.)

In the 1960s a good portion of the Standard Oil pier was enclosed with steel, with sheets driven outside the existing timber cribs.

Over time, the timbers that made up the old pier deteriorated, and so have the steel tie-backs and whaler supports that hold the sheets from tipping outward shown significant corrosion.  Much of the pier's interior wooden cribs and steel tie backs will need removal, or replacing, in a shoring up process designed to strengthen the dock before new fill and a concrete cap are added.

Detroit Harbor is frozen solid, and has been for the past
several weeks.   Here, Rich Ellefson and Joel Gunnlaugsson
are shown on the pier.   Several openings were made along
the pier face for examination of existing
dock structure.

Steel arrived Monday by semi, and work is now underway, much of it undertaken by ferry crew as a winter project.  So far, they've been favored with mild and sunny January weather.   Tom Jordan, Island contractor, has some of his equipment on site to help break up the old concrete cap into smaller pieces, eventually to be trucked away.  Mike Kahr of Death's Door Marine will bring a larger machine later today, for driving sheets into the bottom.   This is an ideal time of year to get this sort of work done, as all of it can be done from the existing pier structure - and of course, there are few, if any, onlookers to get underfoot.

Con McDonald (L) and Tully Ellefson
cut steel for new dock brackets to support
tire fenders.      
With mild weather and relatively modest winds, recent ferry crossings have been excellent.

Other than a few fishermen on weekends, traffic is made up primarily of service providers, suppliers and Islanders who need to travel back and forth.

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, January 11, 2015


We drove to Jackson Harbor Saturday afternoon
and found everything in place,
exactly as anticipated.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

For the past week temperatures have not varied more than a few degrees above or below zero.

Each day seems like a replay of the one before, although its been sunny and bright, and I suppose that alone makes it seem better if you're indoors safe and warm or in a spot outdoors sheltered from the wind.  

Recent ferry trips have gone like clockwork.  Ice to the west of the Door passage dampens the sea,  even when, like the other day, a large bite of ice left the waters in the Door and sailed out to the lake.  The exposed warmer water produced sea smoke or steam against the much colder air.   Because of ice upwind a mile or two from Plum Island, the brisk westerly winds didn't produce much of a sea.   The Potato Dock, loaded up from spray a few weeks back, received another light coating to freshen the glistening ice banks.

Arni J. Richter enroute to Northport, Saturday afternoon, Jan. 10.

We've taken to making short drives in the car to break up the tedium, with Mary Jo chauffeuring and me coiled up in the back seat.  It's an impossibility at this point to bend my knees tightly enough to get in the front passenger seat, and so we're imitating "Driving Miss Daisy" with me in the back seat offering suggestions on when to turn, what to see next.  It's in the grand tradition of Esther Bjarnarson and her green Checker taxi, with Oliver contentedly in the passenger seat, a fixture on the Island for many years.  

"You can dictate to Mary Jo, and she can
type your blog," Erik suggested.   

After several tries with my camera, I got a shot of the elusive Erik Foss who nearly always manages to duck, weave or otherwise put himself out of camera range.  Erik wondered why I hadn't done a new blog.  

"I posted one yesterday," I said.  "What'll I write about, anyway?  Any news you can give me?"

They spotted a snowy owl on the ice, and then an eagle, Erik said, but his curiosity soon switched to the topic of my knees and why I was sprawled in the back passenger seat.  My explanation included a display of the 9-inch scar over my right knee.

Bill Jorgenson and Pete Nikolai, who together with Erik were the Arni J's crew, nearing 1 p.m. rolled the UPS cart aboard, then pulled up the stern ramp and applied power to the screws.  The wash thrown up by the propellers was mixed with ground ice as the ferry started for Northport on its afternoon run.

How good it would feel to be to be able to join them, I thought, but slippery decks, multiple sets of stairs and weather elements presented barriers I'd never before considered obstacles.  I'm thankful the daily job of operating in winter is in the hands of such capable men.

We've taken to watching the ferry load up and then leave the island pier while parked along the side of the old office - an activity I'd never expected I'd be doing, or something that would give me such pleasure.  We were reminded of Arni's daily routine of parking his car at the ferry dock while in his nineties, observing the ferries come and go and reminiscing on how things had changed from the old days.

From Mary Jo's perspective - and she's been a saint - our current routine might seem more like, "You're driving me crazy," rather than "Driving Miss Daisy."  

At home, indoors, we're on our seventh jig-saw puzzle (tough ones with 1000 pieces).  WPR provides background music throughout the day.   Mary Jo helps me with physical therapy and fills the woodbox, stokes the fireplace, and fixes meals.    Her world has shrunken in scope along with my own these past weeks.  Visits from grandsons become highlights of our day, along with a leisurely spin in the Toyota along snowy Island roads.  It's become one way to relieve January's tedium.

The big football game - Packers vs. Cowboys at Lambeau field - begins at noon today.  This is the day for which many fans have waited, and it becomes the high point of not only their season of football, but of the winter itself.   We could say there might be disappointment on the part of some fans that the game time temperature time won't be colder than +17 degrees, when we've just experienced much colder days.   Talking about the weather and describing the effects of cold temperatures seems to describe best where we live and how we've chosen to live, even though most of us are content to watch such football games from the comfort and warmth of our living room recliners.

With Jackson Harbor frozen solid, the old
Welcome's mooring lines become window dressing.

-  Dick Purinton