Wednesday, May 29, 2013


View from the ranks as Legion Color Guard led procession to
the Island Cemetery Monday morning. 
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Visitors and residents of Washington Island enjoyed a near-perfect Memorial Day Weekend, with fine weather Friday through Monday.  Nearly any outdoor activity could be enjoyed, except for swimming or laying on the beach, since just one month ago the ice was leaving our harbors and the lake water is too cold for swimming.

The traditional Memorial Day Program with ceremonies at the cemetery and School House Beach afterward, sponsored by the local Gislason-Richter American Legion Post 402, was held at Bethel Evangelical Free Church.  Student Americanism Essays were read, selected war poems were recited by men of the Post, and the community turnout and support was again gratifying.

Approach to Rock Island, Saturday, May 25.

With the holiday over, we returned immediately to cooler, wetter weather Tuesday morning.  This year, with the addition of the small passenger ferry Karfi to the Ferry Line Fleet, I am under instruction with Jeff Cornell, who practically trained as a toddler under his Grampa Jim Cornell years ago.  Although a small vessel, rather straightforward in many ways, nevertheless there are characteristics and idiosyncrasies in this ferry not found on the larger vessels in Detroit Harbor.

This change of scenery is a welcomed one for me, and propitious, too, as I am just completing a book under the title, Thordarson and Rock Island.  This is a coincidental convergence of my earlier goal of completing this local history book, with the recent and unplanned acquisition of the Karfi by the Ferry Line company.  I am now  allowed the pleasure of working a few days each week on the Rock Island run.

After reading intently and organizing letter and document materials that were Thordarson's, with a steady, concentrated writing effort since January 1st, it is now a pleasure to set course for the Thordarson's stone edifice, the Rock Island State Park Boathouse.  It is Thordarson's best known structure and a most convenient point on which to steer when departing Jackson Harbor.

Jeff is particular as to how his operation should be managed, following years of safe and reliable transportation. I'm slowly gaining the needed skills.  If Jeff is to get his day off each week, my improved abilities will give him that opportunity.

There are two contrasting photos shown here of the Karfi's recent operations.  One was taken Saturday on the noon trip to Rock Island.  The other was yesterday morning when we had cool temperatures and a light rain.   I'm amazed, given that weather, that we had any passengers for a day of hiking and exploring on Rock Island.  It shows the possibilities when sunnier, warmer days arrive.

-  Dick Purinton   (Note:  Thordarson and Rock Island is a reasonable 4-6 weeks away from printing.  Estimated pages:  435; 100+ images with maps; paperback.   Price:  $27 + tax + S + H)

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Chef Zander approves his "love toast."  (Evy photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Its hard to beat food that's fresh, from the backyard.

The Beneda boys are enjoying fresh eggs.  Atlas whipped up a 5-egg omlet for lunch, and a few days ago, Zander, 5, made French toast with eggs from his chicken, Icey.  He calls it "love toast" because it was made exclusively from eggs Icey laid.   A photo with a selection of eggs recently gathered are shown below, and Icey laid the light cream eggs.  Two fell out of Zander's hands onto the cement walk, but the numbers are evidence there is good egg production these days.

While we wrapped up supper at the Benedas, Atlas got on his bike and rode around the yard picking asparagus in his favorite spots.  Before we were ready to head out the door for home, he had washed the ten or so asparagus stalks, cut them into small chunks, and sauteed them on the stove.  We tried a few pieces and they were delicious.

Atlas, age 10,  prepared a spring delicacy.
Foraging about in the yard, as far as Main Road at times, is the flock of chickens that produced the eggs shown in the photo below.  Several were tiny chicks last spring, in 2012.  Added recently, after a natural attrition of several of the original hens, were larger hens courtesy of Don Johnson's boys.  There were more hens than they could manage, so two were added to the Beneda's coop.

The personality differences between hens is remarkable. New chickens deserve new names, and based on their apparent characteristics (I think) they were given names of family great-grandmothers.  Frieda is the golden hen, very sociable...knows all the hymns, according to Evy.  Nellie is a bit reclusive, stays inside by herself much of the time and takes extended smoke breaks, much as did Chad's grandmother.

The only one who seems able to pick up any hen at will, without a fuss from them, is Zander.

All this free-range and farm-fresh business made us feel guilty in bringing a box of sugared donut holes for desert.      -  Dick Purinton

Eggs  from several days laying.  Icey's eggs, Zander's
favorite, are in dish at top, left.

Monday, May 13, 2013


What is this vessel at the boathouse dock?
Rock Island, Wisconsin -

 Photos of at least half a dozen different vessels of substantial length shown at the Rock Island dock are archived in the Thordarson collection.

Here is another head-scratcher, as it doesn't look at all familiar as a Washington Island vessel.

In early April we asked friend Eric Bonow, once again, to give us his opinion.  From the James L. Oberstar, while crossing Lake Erie, he sent this information:

     "Well, that's not too hard a mystery.  That looks like the Marold II, originally Alexander Winton's yacht LaBelle.  He was a Cleveland industrialist, early in the auto and engine business.  The yacht was sold and eventually converted to a freighter in 1925.  It was owned by the Hill family from Fish Creek and elsewhere, including Washington Island, and ended her days when they were salvaging gasoline off a tanker grounded across the lake near Beaver Island.  That explosion in 1937 finished her off.  I've included the data sheet from the archival collection at Bowling Green, which has a picture of it as a freighter, but not in the original configuration.

     "The internet has slowed to a crawl here, but I hope to find an appropriate picture to include. --- It is now "later" and while the internet is somewhat faster I was unable to find a picture of the LaBelle as the LaBelle.  However, if you discount the cabin in the photos, the hull us very much like many of the early, large steam (and in this case gasoline / diesel) yachts.  Long, low, skinny, with masts and a central stack.

     "There were quite a few of these yachts put to use.  The Thistle of the Hart Line was one, and another was the Winyah that ran the north shore of Lake Superior to drop off supplies at commercial fishing camps and bring the fish to Duluth for shipment to market.  that boat had been Andrew Carnagie's yacht."

Thanks to one of our readers, here is a link to the Marold disaster that you may find interesting:

-  Dick Purinton

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Long underwear and patience were the order of the day 
back in early March when Mike Kahr's barge returned to Detroit Harbor to 
dredge near the island docks.   Hoyt Purinton will be in short sleeves, and smiling, 
when he sees the Roen Company construction barge
enter port later this summer.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

There was never a certainty, but quiet optimism prevailed until the moment when the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved a measure yesterday in the state's budget bill for $5.2 million to dredge the Detroit Harbor channel.  This is believed to be the most difficult hurdle to funding the channel dredging project.

Rep. Garey Bies said, “This is great news for the residents of Washington Island.   I’m thankful to the members of the committee who listened to my concerns and prioritized funding for the project."

Bies also commented on the potential economic loss should the channel impede regular ferry transit:

"While the safety of the residents of the Island is the biggest concern, I was also worried about the significant economic impact a loss of ferry access would mean to the Island and our district as a whole. Year-round access generates more than $16 million in annual economic activity through the transportation of passengers, vehicles and cargo." 

This is about the best news we've had in this corner of Lake Michigan since an effort was begun in August of 2007 to gain the attention of government officials. At that time, beginning with an historic, in-person visit by then sitting Senator Russel Feingold, the project was posed but water levels weren't as extreme as they soon became during late 2012.   Several meetings attended by local, state and federal officials brought sympathy for our situation, and behind-the-scenes conversations took place, but the effort didn't seem to be of a serious nature until work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Harbor Assistance Program (HAP) began in 2011.

Last June, as you may recall, Washington Island's 2012 HAP grant was turned down, and for several good reasons.  Efforts were made to provide better engineering data, and this was augmented by a Wisconsin HAP grant for approximately $150,000 late in 2012.  Bottom core samples, exacting yardage fignure - in short, a project ready for bids, resulted from that grant, and it culminated in three contractor bids for the actual project last month.  While no official selection has been made, the Roen Salvage Company of Sturgeon Bay was low bidder and is expected to be awarded the contract once the HAP funds are officially secured.   The $5.2 million figure represented the combined total of the Roen bid, plus engineering fees, plus contingency, plus anticipated island road repair costs from heavy truck traffic.

The Joint Finance Committee's vote (12 to 4) won't be the final hurdle.   Action is still needed in the State Senate and Assembly, with the governor's signature after that.    The earliest possible formal, final approval would take place in late June as the state's two-year budget is approved.

The significance of this recent action, put forward by our State Senator Frank Lasee and his staff members, and Garey Bies and his staff on behalf of Washington Island, is that the money is marked for Detroit Harbor.   Other ports will have a chance to apply for other available money in the HAP grant pool, but Washington Island's project has been underscored as being essential and not to be upstaged by other needed commercial port work.

Thanks through email, phone call or letter is due Senator Lasee, Rep. Bies for their legislative work, and to members of the Town of Washington Board who stuck with the HAP program application process through a second round.   
Contact information for Rep. Garey Bies:  
         Toll free phone:   888482-0001     or email:
                     P.O. Box 8952    Madison, Wisconsin   53718-8952
State Senator Frank Lasee's contact information:  
         Phone:   608-266-3512                       email:        
                       State Capitol Rm. 3165, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, Wisconsin  53708

Town Chairman Joel Gunnlaugsson took
the call with the good news from Rep. Garey Bies at the Northport
pier late Tuesday afternoon.
Other good news coupled with this extraordinary legislative action for Washington Island is that Lake Michigan's level continues to rise slightly each week.   In yesterday's brisk, southerly breeze, water levels were at their highest since sometime in early August of 2012.

-   Dick Purinton