Saturday, August 20, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The pace of summer was upon us each day, with strong auto and passenger traffic coming to Washington Island daily since the July 4th weekend, warm, sunny summer days, with numerous events to attract the interest of visitors and locals alike.

I happened to be in Sturgeon Bay approximately two weeks ago when several of the participants in the 2016 Great Lakes Tall Ship fleet departed Green Bay, most headed for Duluth, Minnesota where they would gather in that harbor for an event scheduled this weekend (Aug. 19-21).

The Spanish vessel Galeon, and the Norwegian Draken Harald Harfargre sailed to Sturgeon Bay and moored along the waterfront just east of the Oregon Street Bridge.  Before I headed to the Department of Motor Vehicle office to renew my driver's license (early, with the intention of beating the crowd) we stopped for a close look, unencumbered by other onlookers or security barriers.  By ten o'clock that morning the two vessels would be open to receive paying visitors, $10 for adults, $5 for children.  But by then we intended to be on our way back to the Island.

Locally, hopes were raised high that Draken and crew would consider stopping at Washington Island for a night or two, based on the sincere belief that a welcoming and solidly-rooted Scandinavian community might be an enticement hard to turn down.

However, the ship's presence in U. S. waters required filing a sailing plan with the U.S. Coast Guard (in part, because of current Homeland Security rules).  So, the plan's ports of call took priority.

The Sturgeon Bay stop may also have been influenced by the fact that Draken, with her diminishing operating funds as described in various press stories, could potentially fare better in receipts from day visitors at Sturgeon Bay's waterfront than in a Washington Island harbor.

In any case, shortly before 7 a. m., Mary Jo and I strolled close to the Draken as her crew of men and women stretched, brushed teeth, ate their breakfast and prepared for the day under the ever-present eyes of dockside onlookers.

That routine of living under a microscope must make her crew long to get underway for the open seas and passage home, distancing themselves for a time from press and onlookers...even though such media and public attention is a primary reason for the construction of such replica vessels, to show how ships of centuries ago were constructed and sailed, and to demonstrate their importance in the history of world exploration and commerce.  (With superstructure like a fortress, the Spanish crew at that same hour remained belowdecks, nowhere to be seen - not even a deck watch!)

A Jackson Harbor spectacle

The following remarks are based not on my personal familiarity with the world of theater - which is minimal - but rather from a most positive reaction to last night's Island Players drama staged on the grounds near the Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum's restored John Christiansen home.

(If you read this before noon Sunday, Aug. 22, and you're on the Island, then I'd urge you to see the play "Seascape," a drama by Edward Albee.)

The setting is outdoors, seating under a tent that is nestled between the porch of the old fisherman's home and the tall rushes and brush that grow with abandon along Jackson Harbor's shore in that location.

Andy Sachs, Director, took this project on knowing there would be many hurdles to putting on such a play outdoors. (Even Andy might have been surprised by the height of the hurdles!).

However, this location proved to be an excellent setting for an aging, bickering couple who spend their day on the beach discussing their life's regrets, joined eventually, and unexpectedly, in a discussion of human evolution, human traits and time by a pair of lizards, very distant cousins from the sea.

Albee's dialog is filled with humor and pithy observations about couples, both human and human predecessors.   Most pleasant surprises were provided by these actors, with great timing of lines and physical movements on the grassy stage:  Brian Sorenson, Patti Cauldwell, Libby Evans Sachs and Terry Henkel.

You'll not find a play that provides a more continual stream of laughs.  I may have been more easily encouraged by the tall glass of Guiness I had with dinner beforehand at the Fiddler's Green. But, I'm not one to find laughter in forced humor...this was not forced, but clever, timely riposte.  This play was best entertainment!

You can likely get your tickets at the door, as we did, if you don't already have them.  This evening's performance starts at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday's matinee begins at 1:30 p.m.

Other activities

Today's Island Fair - historically one of the biggest days on the Island - looks to be a rain-out.  That's very unfortunate considering the efforts on the part of Island Lions Club members and others that goes into the set-up, entertainment and food preparation (not to mention out-of-pocket expenses by various Island organizations and individuals).

You can cap off your weekend with a bit of historical reflection.  The Island Archives sponsors its second program of the summer with Will Craig presenting:  Early Washington Island Settlers - The Second Wave, at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.   A chance to wind down in the air conditioned Trinity Fellowship hall for an hour or so before supper.  See you there!

-  Dick Purinton

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