Monday, November 26, 2012


EYRARBAKKI headed toward Northport Friday afternoon, Nov. 23rd,
with lake freighter on the horizon.
Jim Rose photo.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We received our first snowfall of the season Saturday night, a couple of inches.  It was the first measurable snowfall since early last March, according to the Channel 5 meteorologist.   A cold air mass followed on the low pressure cell that produced strong westerly winds Friday and Saturday.

Friday's trips became more difficult as seas in the Door approached 8-10 feet, short and steep.  The day's last round trip was cancelled as a result.  Shown above is a photo taken by ticket seller Jim Rose from the Northport dock, around 3 pm.   This is what Jim wrote:

     The gales of November are not just part of the lyrics to a song, but were a real occurrence on Friday, November 23rd.  The Washington Island Ferry Line provided service all day, but was forced to cancel just the last trip of the day.  Winds at Northport were recorded as high as 32 knots, with 44 knot gusts, on that day.  In terms of miles per hour, that is about 35 and 50 mph.  Info from the Northport NOAA weather station may be accessed on line at:
Photos show the spray over the breakwall, and the Eyrarbakki heading toward Northport, with Pilot Island in the background, and a lake freighter off in the distance. 

The high winds depleted water from the shallows of Detroit Harbor once again, with a measurement Saturday morning indicating we reached a new low, even if it is temporary record.   Water levels in Detroit Harbor are now at their lowest point, with several weeks before the time in early January when the annual low is often recorded.

This puts the channel depth now at something like 13 feet, or only two feet of water beneath the Arni J. Richter's keel in a loaded condition.  This is one reason the Arni J. Richter won't be used until ice enroute makes it our only choice.   This morning our crew made a dry run using the side ramp of the AJR at the Potato Dock to determine if levels will work for autos and short trucks.  A shoal area about 50 feet north of and parallel to the pier must be dredged before we dare place the ferry bow-in to shore. (And the stern ramp is already too low for loading.)  Dredging arrangements are being made, and the WDNR expedited our permit application for this project.   We hope to have our marine contractor here within a few weeks to begin work.

Crew members made adjustments to the Potato Dock pier following
a trial run using the side ramp.   In foreground Rich Ellefson
smooths gravel.  At midships, Jim Hanson cuts a piece of steel.
Near the stern, Ken Berggren and Con McDonald adjust the
height of a tire.  (Purinton photo)
 As long as its feasible we'll use the Eyrarbakki, which draws less water.  But this ferry can't tolerate ice navigation.   It could well be that side loading, the only way to load the former winter ferry, C. G. Richter, will once again become a regular winter feature.  Both numbers and size of vehicles that can be carried would be affected.

Among the impacts to be realized by shifting to the Potato Dock and the use of side loading:  Trucks over 30 feet in length could not be carried due to their length.   There would be no possibility, with side loading, to load or unload a vehicle such as long as a semi.

In preparation for the very real prospect that ferry operations could well shift to the Potato Dock for part, or most, of this coming winter, operating guidelines are being developed to meet passenger, vehicle and freight logistics from that location.

In the final photos (also by Jim Rose) heavy and oversize equipment is featured.  We transported the Gersek Construction gravel crushing equipment from the island days prior to the opening weekend of hunting (approximately Nov. 15-16).  The crusher represents one of the heaviest, most concentrated loads we carry, at approximately 100,000 lbs.  

Crusher/screening plant backing from the AJR foredeck.  (Jim Rose photo)
The only way this unit could be loaded was to drive the tractor beneath the Arni J. Richter's wheelhouse, entering over the bow, where the greatest freeboard, or height above water, is found.  At Northport, the rig was then backed from the foredeck to the dock.  This ramp that was installed a few years ago at the end of the Northport pier has a lower height and an incline more gradual than any of the others.   A long conveyor was also ferried to Northport on the Eyrarbakki deck.

These loads represented two extremes of concentrated weight and dimension.   Their transport was at the limits of what is currently possible, given water levels.

Elevator takes up deck space, and then some.
(Jim Rose photo)

-  Dick Purinton


Anonymous said...

Channel depth today is L.W.D. -21" which makes the 14' channel actually 12'3". The Arni J.Richter loaded under forced draft draws 11'4" in calm conditions.

Bill Tobey said...

VERY interesting post, Dick, though I'll note I enjoy all of them.

That crusher/screener is impressive. I chuckle when I think about what the North Shore and Welcome could transport "back in the day", both side loaders.

Thanks, and Happy Holidays to all!