Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Soft, late afternoon light is characteristic
of an island winter.  Here, looking toward
Door Bluff from the Potato Dock.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

December 21st marked Winter Solstice, and those days were overcast and dark, but with temperatures that were quite mild.

This changed as the middle portion of the nation, and upper Wisconsin, consistently experienced cold air over the past four days, with temperatures slightly above zero, sometimes dipping below zero, with accompanying winds that made getting outdoors miserable.

Sunday's high pressure system brought gale force winds, and light snowfall early that morning.   Ferries that morning were cancelled.  Winds abated slightly by mid-day and the two scheduled afternoon trips were run, taking holiday visitors to the mainland and back home.   Monday brought even more cold air, and the Island schools - like many in northeastern Wisconsin - closed for the day.   It takes a day or two of such temperatures for everyone to get acclimated, it seems, as temperatures become more acceptable and manageable.   School was back in session Tuesday, and this morning, even with the thermometer reading -3 degrees, and biting winds, school was open.

Along the ferry route ice blew in from northern Green Bay waters Sunday evening, filling the span between Door Bluff and the island, stopping against the western shore of Plum Island.   Ice lays off the west side now as far as the eye can see, and it is setting up a bit more with each passing hour.  Monday morning, as timing would have it, marked the official beginning of our "Winter Ferry Schedule" -  just two scheduled round trips per day.   Given the ice conditions and the light traffic, this schedule change is good timing.

All ferries are now in winter layup, with the exception of the
Arni J. Richter (shown at end of pier).   Ice covers all of Detroit Harbor
and the West Channel, extending to Plum Island
and Door Bluff and beyond to the west.

For the first time since December 1st, the morning I shoved off to Green Bay for double knee surgery, I  paid a visit to the Ferry Line office, walking gingerly across mostly dry sidewalk to the customer door.  Warm smiles greeted me from the office staff (I had just missed the boat crews who departed for home about ten minutes earlier.)    This was my second time out of the house since coming home from the Rennes Rehab facility Dec. 19th, and it felt mighty good to see such friendly faces and familiar surroundings.  So good that we repeated the exercise yesterday, complete with an added look-see from the Potato Dock and a slow cruise around Green Bay Road before returning home once again.

Office crew in late afternoon:   (front) Bill Schutz,  Intern Chris Cornell, 
and Janet Hanlin.  (back)  Hoyt Purinton and Rich Ellefson.  
On desk in foreground is theFerry Reservation "Bible,"
 referred to thousands of times during the
three winter reservation months.

Happy Birthday! is in order for Bill Schutz, Ferry Line Office Manager who turns 58 years old today.  Bill has been a stalwart of the Ferry Line since his first day of work, tutored by Percy Johnson back in 1979, as I recall.   How the time has flown!   Bill will spend most of this special day harnessed in his familiar traces, quietly pulling the load from behind his desk, and we hope, enjoying the bright sunshine this day brings.

Joining our ferry crew this winter is high school student Chris Cornell, son of Mike and Sue Cornell, who is an intern during the afternoon with the Ferry Line.   Chris is a good worker, has a pleasant disposition, and he seems to be enjoying and benefitting from the experience.

Note:   Although we didn't make special mention earlier, the WIFL Board voted to keep rates for passengers and autos the same for the coming year.  (Effective at end of March 2015)  Ever-lower fuel prices - the lowest per gallon for bulk diesel in years - plays a key part in making this possible.

-  Dick Purinton

No comments: