Monday, November 18, 2013


-  Detroit Harbor, Washington Island

Ferry trips are running more or less on schedule this morning, which is better than expected given the gale warnings posted for the upper lake from Sunday evening through most of Monday.   A glance at our Northport webcam showed several trucks lined up to come over for the 9:30 a.m. ferry to the Island.

Two box trucks were also transported on the earlier run, one of them the Mann's Store grocery shipment that comes across each Monday to provision the shelves at our only island grocery.  When weather is questionable and we're in that time of year when there are few trips during the day, Orion Mann is considerate to put their 25-ft. box truck in line early on a Sunday (when the traffic is generally lighter).  Our crew ferries it to Northport where it sits over night.

Then, on Monday morning it's already in place - regardless of weather or other traffic that morning - for the grocery semi that arrives to transfer pallets of goods.  If Orion can't get across, his cousin, Chris Voight, positions the truck to the food semi at the highway's shoulder, and he later drives it loaded down the dock to the waiting ferry.  This routine is usually accomplished for the earliest ferry leaving Northport, so that Island grocery shelves and display cases will restocked and ready for Island shoppers.  Late Monday morning is an optimum time to shop at Mann's grocery, a few hours after their loaded truck comes off the ferry and backs up to the store's loading dock.

Roger Johnson passed away

We'd like to mention the recent death of friend and Gills Rock neighbor Roger Johnson, 77, November 12, 2013.  Roger's wife Gloria, who survives him, for many years worked behind the counter at the Ellison Bay Post Office, and we would see her when we picked up and dropped off Island mail there.  Roger's family is an old Gills Rock commercial fishing family, and he fished in his early years before taking up carpentry.  Oldest son, Rick, is one of the few remaining commercial fishermen left in the northern peninsula, fishing from the tug Freitag Bros.

Roger's father, also Richard, served for a time at the Plum Island Life Saving Station, and Roger helped identify many of the men shown in the photo (below) that appeared in Over and Back, published in 1990.

We'll remember Roger also for construction of the Northport Pier Restaurant in 1985/86, and days when we popped into his Gills Rock shop where he worked on projects, adjacent to the ferry landing.  That building was the Johnson family's net shed.

Our sympathies to Roger's family.


The northwest winds of today, and the SW winds Friday into Saturday, were forecast days in advance.  The strong southerly flow caused a suspension of dredging operations, once again, but crews and truckers were back at it once again this morning, because in Detroit Harbor's channel the northerly winds won't hamper tug and barge maneuvers.  Below are a few more recent photos taken during the past week.

Jim Rose photo taken this morning, Nov. 18.

After a day of wind-caused delay, at 7 a.m. the tug Stephen M. Asher
pushed the dredging rig into position as we passed by,
outbound, on the Eyrarbakki.

While there was a break in the weather, with excellent weather Friday to complete a big pour of
concrete, our ferry crews installed a large diameter steel pipe culvert.  Ken Berggren fabricated the drainage box with grate, and he took the plywood lid off long enough for me to photograph the layout.  The project went along smoothly until a deep concrete wall poured many decades ago was discovered beneath the blacktop, directly in the line the pipe would take.  This required the better part of a day's work to saw, jack-hammer and trench toward the steel bulkhead.

An attempt to eliminate a large puddle on the dock where traffic
lines up, this culvert was installed and concrete
was poured Thursday, Nov. 14.  Roen rig (background) laid up for wind and
installation of a new tug generator.

Friday proved to be our finest day outdoors this past week, and I traveled to Sturgeon Bay and discussed my book, Thordarson and Rock Island, on air with Eddie Allen of WDOR.

Time flies quickly during such interviews, and I wondered afterwards if I highlighted enough important things about Rock Island and Thordarson. Regardless, its over, and I appreciated the opportunity and the one phone call from listener Kay Polster who said she possessed a check made out for $24.00 and signed by Thordarson, to her dad, Hector Floyd Koyen.

Floyd and Gladys Koyen spent at least one - maybe several - winters firing the greenhouse boiler on Rock Island to preserve Thordarson's orchids and his other plants from season-to-season.  I remember Floyd commenting on that task, shaking his head about how futile it all seemed, burning cords of wood in order to keep a glass greenhouse warm throughout the winter.  But, it was gainful employment.  (Floyd was a well-driller and a plumber by trade.)  I believe that check, made out in Thordarson's hand, was from 1941, a time when the Thordarson social and family activities on Rock Island were about to winding down, in comparison with earlier years.

Kay visited with me the following day at the Greco Gallery where I was signed books that afternoon.  She brought Floyd's endorsed, cashed check along.  (Floyd must have asked Thordarson if he could keep it as a souvenir.)  It was good to see so many visitors in the Greco Gallery on Third Avenue, out on a rainy afternoon, a few of whom I hadn't seen in years.

Kay (Koyen) Polster holds check her father
received from C. H. Thordarson.
Added to the recent weeks' activities are two book reviews that I will unashamedly publish here in my next blog!  
    -  Dick Purinton

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