Saturday, October 13, 2012


This was taken during a "lull" in the morning's rain.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

What can you do on a day that is only 40 degrees, raining, with a windspeed approaching 25mph from the south?

Find an activity indoors, enjoy the warmth of a wood fire, and wait for the water levels to stabilize are my personal recommendations.   Yesterday was a day of brilliant, blue sky which made the autumn leaves standout.  The island is about 50-75% in full color, with only a small percentage of leaves on the ground.  This may change after today's wind and rain, but the colors are later, and the leaves on the trees longer, than most years.

The water level continued to drop during the time I was away for two weeks.   During that time, the lake level dropped another 8 inches or so.    We're contemplating modifications not only for the approaching winter, but also for the coming year, that will enable us to load vehicles - especially low or heavy trucks - with the low water extremes.  Dredging in certain areas will also be a part of that plan, which will require a state permit and lead-time to get into motion, not to mention planning for project costs.

The ferry Robert Noble which has the lowest deck height in relation to the water, is now sidelined and is likely moored for the remainder of the season.    Additional concerns are with the ferry Arni J. Richter with its draft requirements (nearly two feet greater than that of the other ferries when loaded).   Rich Ellefson and Con McDonald began preparations at the Potato Dock, just in case, lowering tires used as fenders, improving to the dock surface, and welding braces.   There is also a need for dredging to ensure maneuvering in the dock area.   Continued drops in water levels could make the Potato Dock an option, and yet a lack of good all-around facilities at the Potato Dock would mean that small trucks and autos could be off-loaded, but that long semi-trucks might not be accommodated, should it be the only landing available.  

Channel depth will also be a concern in the late months of the year, when breaking seas can cause the ferries to dip in a trough when entering port.  This could easily mean the difference between running or not, in order to avoid the possibility of touching bottom in a surfing condition.  Prudent judgement in daily operation will need to be exercised to prevent occurrence of such an incident.

A good news item is that the steel ice hull buoys #2 and #6 were reset in the harbor by the Muskegon Coast Guard crew.  They came, reset, and headed back across the lake while the weather was good.  An October 23rd "pow-wow" on the island with Coast Guard representatives regarding Detroit Harbor aids to navigation has been scheduled, we have been told.

Outstanding maple on the post office corner, taken Friday Oct. 12.

Friday, October 12, was bright and beautiful (though still in the 40s for temperatures).  The Selvick towing company towed a McMullen & Pitz work barge to the U. S Coast Guard facility here to begin work Monday on a new pier for the Coast Guard's recently acquired 45-foot patrol vessel.   Of course, the local station is now closed for the season, but this dock work, contracted to the Manitowoc marine construction company, is intended to be ready for the coming season.

The Selvick tug towed the work barge as close as depth allowed,
then headed back to Sturgeon Bay.  A small boat then
pushed the barge into position.
Today, while hundreds of visitors mill about in Sister Bay during their annual Fall Festival looking for places to get out of the wind and rain and keep warm, we're seeing a small fraction of the traffic we'd typically serve who are bringing their autos to the island.   Today's forecast was for 100% chance of rain (and they were right), and for tomorrow it will be a 90% chance of rain.   Coupled with the rainy business bust of last weekend when it also rained, October's tourism numbers will be well off  the anticipated tally.

The good news is that it is raining hard, and if this trend should continue we may have some of our lake water back.

-  Dick Purinton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do I read this right, 8 inch drop in water level in two weeks?