Friday, January 27, 2012


Old barge slowly reduced to pieces with
work aided by warm weather.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This month must be going down on the books as one of the mildest Januarys on record.

We've had a few light snow falls, hardly enough to shovel or plow.  I've picked up a snow shovel once - no, twice, if I count dragging it from the tool shed in mid-December.   Ice finally covered Detroit Harbor, after fits and starts, and early last week with water temperature on the verge of making ice, several nights and days in lower teens and then a dose of single digits, froze the channel entrance.

It was at that point, January 17, the Arni J. Richter began making the regularly scheduled trips and the Washington was sidelined.  Ice formed overnight along the route to Northrop, three to four inches at most, but it was soon layered by wind and current, with some stretches that slowed down the ferry's forward progress.  There are many large openings of open water, however, and it looks questionable now whether or not the Bay itself will freeze over into one solid sheet.  More likely, the ice patches will continue to shift with the wind.  This coming weekend we expect to have colder temperatures, low 20s, perhaps, then back into the mid 30s for nearly all of next week.   This has not been a good January for skiers, snowmobilers, or ice fishermen.

The old barge shown above has been reduced by more than half original size within a week or so to scrap. One large dumpster bin is filled with foam, and an empty stands by to receive more.  And, there is a stack of hull plating awaiting pickup by a semi.   The old barge had been foamed quite a few years ago in bow and stern sections, in an effort to maintain flotation, and there is mud inside every bottom frame section.  Surprising, that much of the hull is made of quarter-inch steel plate, considering the beating its taken over time.

With the Packers having tossed in the season's towel several weekends back, attention locally now turns to life in general, how to stay warm, how to make a dollar, how not to lose the dollars you have any more slowly than is possible.  For towns and municipalities, such as the Town of Washington, the lack of snow could mean a nice savings on the monies normally allocated for snow plowing.  Some years, cities and towns have blown through those budgets within the first 45 days of winter.  Not this year!

And yet, plans for the future need to be made, with details and execution starting on schedule.   There are several public dredging projects in the works for Washington Island, and we expect to hear more about those shortly.  The ferry Arni J. Richter, as soon as its winter duties are over, will go to the shipyard for a five year Coast Guard hull inspection, and for some maintenance to the underbody in the vicinity of the skegs.

For the present, the going by ferry is good, but we do hope for more ice to satisfy participants in the Lions Club Annual Ice Fishing Derby.   This is considered a great mid-winter mark, a week that encourages a variety of shore-side and on-ice activity, bringing visitors here and occupying the pent-up energies of islanders.
  - Dick Purinton

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