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 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.
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
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
|Although the life ring says U. S. Coast Guard, this small lifeboat,|
according to Eric Bonow, came from the American Girl, which
is now displayed in the Gills Rock Maritime Museum.
(Eric Bonow photo)
Washington Island, Wisconsin -
When a topic presents itself, as did Jim Anderson's stories of freighting with his close family members on the vessel American Girl, research and information can take unusual turns, and that's a fun side benefit to doing such projects.
I'm referring to the work done with Jim Anderson for his book, Memories of the American Girl - Stories of a Washington Island family freighting business. Although the print run wasn't large, sales have been unexpectedly, pleasantly brisk in the past several weeks, encouraging me to reorder from Seaway, the Green Bay printer we worked with.
An interest I had in doing this book was to learn a bit more about the American Girl as a vessel, both before and after the Andersons owned and sailed her from Washington Island. And, too, the Oil Queen, their tank barge built especially for hauling oil products from the Green Bay terminal to Sturgeon Bay and Washington Island.
I often go to Eric Bonow for answers to my questions, and even when he's out on the lakes in his capacity as a mate aboard one of the Great Lakes ore boats, he generally responds within a day or less, providing me with helpful direction, additional information, photos, maps or charts, and other connecting bits. Such were the two photos he took of the old American Girl lifeboat, now on display at the Gills Rock Maritime Museum. I'm also looking at an old photo of the American Girl - on file with the Bowling Green University's Collection of the Great Lakes - when she was new, in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
It appears to be the same lifeboat boat that is shown on the top deck, judging by lines, length, and so on.
Later photos of when the Andersons sailed her depict a smaller, newer model tucked behind the pilot house of the American Girl, probably lighter, easier to handle, and less prone to leaking. Here is one photo, from the mid-1960s, with Jim Anderson on the upper deck, with the newer lifeboat version secured in the background.
|Jim Anderson on top deck of American Girl.|
(Jim Anderson photo)
Trip to Ironton
In order to see the American Girl as she looks today, and to obtain a comparison photo or two for Jim's book, I rode the Badger car ferry with Tom Wilson on a wet day in mid-May.
I was fortunate to able to first connect with owner Matt Fogg by phone to set up a visit for Saturday morning. On the previous day he had been working at North Fox Island and just returned to his docks at Ironton, Michigan.
Matt met us at his landing property a few hundred yards west of the Ironton cable ferry. This ferry provides a shortcut across an arm of Lake Charlevoix that leads to East Jordan, Michigan. This location was, conveniently, a mere 20-minute drive from son Thor's home in Boyne City.
The exterior of the American Girl looked great, as did the wheel house and interior spaces above decks.
Much maintenance work was done by Matt and his crew to keep her useful and operational during his years of ownership.
Below decks, the former wooden bulkheads that separated the machinery space from the rest of the vessel have been mostly removed. (Those bulkheads also served as vertical points to stack freight against to keep it from shifting when underway, according to Jim Anderson.)
Standing near the Caterpillar engine, one can look fore and aft to see both stem and stern. It is one, long and open space.
Original, riveted shell plating clearly shows without any sort of inner liner to cover it up. The general look reminded me of a gill net tug, only much larger.
The American Girl wasn't used much in recent years because Matt nicely refitted a former U. S. Army tugboat he acquired on the east coast a year or two ago. This new tug has more power (a single, Cat 3508 engine), with more speed, a good towing winch, and spacious accommodations for himself and his crew when they engage in long tows or contract construction work where they're away from home for long periods of time. The Fogg landing in Ironton provides room for staging and loading materials and large pieces of equipment, much of it destined for Beaver or nearby Michigan islands. This is a niche business that also hauls up cargo that the Beaver Island ferry is unable to carry.
|With owner, Capt. Matt Fogg, on the American Girl.|
A part of the former bulkhead can still be seen at left.
The American Girl, should anyone be seriously interested, is for sale, according to Fogg.
Her hull is sound. The pilot house appears to be well-appointed and ideally set up for long transits.
Matt is presently working on an overhaul of the engine, and several system components, such as the sewage holding tank, will be modified. But, the basics are certainly there, and the vessel is in near-ready to sail status.
All of this is quite amazing, I find, for a vessel that has seen her share of hard work in all sorts of conditions, and has wintered in ice, most of her 94 years.
And, finally, thanks to Eric Bonow who stuck his camera lens through the Basic shipyard facility chainlink fence one day, on a pleasure walk from the Escanaba ore docks. His photo shows the Oil Queen resting in a field. As far as we know, this is still her home and it will likely remain so until she's cut up for scrap. The deep hull was built for holding liquid product is not readily adaptable for other work, and with today's current requirements for double-skin tankers, it is obsolete and non-compliant as a product tanker.
|American Girl, below decks, looking aft.|
|After a second career on Beaver Island under the ownership of the Gillespie|
family members, Oil Queen was retired. Today, a new tanker that meets
U. S. Coast Guard requirements hauls oil products to Beaver Island.
(Eric Bonow photo)
These are but a few of the side trips made to learn more about the vessels used in the Anderson freighting business.
- Dick Purinton