Sunday, February 10, 2019


"Notice how the lights now seem brighter?"

A joke, of course, but Hoyt may have correctly put his finger on the future dependability of the Island's power source.

As of 1:00 p.m. Friday, Lee Engstrom reported, the Island's power shifted from the old submarine cable to the new cable, and without a hitch.  Both men serve as directors of the REA Board, and they, as well as Manager Robert Cornell and other REA crew and Directors, should feel both relieved and proud of this accomplishment.  Lee accompanied contractors daily during cable repair and cable laying activities in order to properly document with photos this past year's events.

Monday, Feb. 4, Wisconsin Public Service crew spliced
new cable, connecting both old and new supply cables 
to this switch box, and to the line that runs underground,
leading to theElectric Co-op sub-station. 
 Lee Engstrom is at right, with camera.

Problems began with the unanticipated underwater cable failure in June, and the need to repair that break as quickly as possible.  This initiated multiple steps in logistics and timing:  underwater divers; a cable splicing crew; a work barge with tug to lift and cut the failed section and then reset the repaired cable back in place.

In the fall of 1980, cable arrived on a barge, but so had
winter, and it would be spring before weather permitted
laying the first underwater electric cable for the Island.

The checklist was long, the cost was unexpected, and the long-term outlook, given the old cable's status, remained one of uncertainty.

That cable had been laid in spring of 1981, but given the low draw compared to its rated capacity, and given exclusive use in fresh water, expectations were for it to have a longer life span.  However, along the relatively flat rock bottom west of Plum Island, and at a depth of 40 feet, ice nevertheless had shoved and abraded the cable over time.  Fortunately, this break resulting in an instant power outage on the Island occurred at the start of our summer and in warmer weather.  This made cable location and repair easier than if it had been mid-winter.  Generators were then started and placed on line, but at a significant cost in daily fuel consumption.  An emergency CAT generator had to be located and trucked to the Island when one of the two REA units suffered failure of an air intake casting. This series of events even further compounded the main cable repair challenge and stretched limited resources of the Co-op team.

Almost as soon as cable failure occurred and simultaneous with the on-going repairs that would stretch to ten days' time, the REA's plan of action was exercised, led by the Electric Co-op's manager, Robert Cornell.   It called for the procurement of a new cable, to be manufactured by an east coast firm.  It would be of length based on a new route, different from that previously used.  Rather than route the cable around Plum Island as was previously done, a route that might once again subject the cable to shoving ice fields, this time the cable would be laid inside a polyethylene sleeve and trenched to at least 20-foot depth, and it would run from Northport to Plum Island.  Then the cable would cross Plum Island underground, using less expensive, land-based cable material trenched in soil.  Near the old Plum Island Life Saving Station it would reenter the lake and from there cross to Washington Island. It would come ashore alongside the 1981 electric cable, in an easement adjacent to the former Goodwin Berquist property.  Now, a new switch box links both old and new underwater cables to terminals that can connect to the underground cable leading inland to the REA distribution center, on Main Road.

Island lineman Mike Jorgenson with Public Service splicing
crew, Feb. 4.   New switch box shown.  Ferry Arni J. Richter
is a dot near the horizon, background. 

Like any large project, timing is everything:  to obtain needed cable from manufacturer before freeze up, when ice covers the lake and makes waterborne construction impossible; trenches dug from shore into the water at four locations, with a ten-inch polyethylene sleeve buried and ready to accept the cable at each entry point; and also, to lay the Plum Island segment of underground cable while landing there with men and equipment was still easily managed.

The new cable arrived by truck in Sturgeon Bay, later than expected and promised, on enormous reels.  It was loaded on contractor Roen's work barge at Bay Shipbuilding.  This delay in cable delivery pushed back laying new cable until the middle of December.  But then, by good fortune, a series of windless, warm days permitted the Roen crew to successfully lay the two segments of underwater cable.  Only a few hundred feet of surplus remained on either side of the runs, in the event of course deviation while tug and barge laid cable.

A separate company monitored the laying of the cable with underwater cameras to assure the new electric cable did not pass over large, sharp rocks, or suspend, unsupported, over wide crevices.

Dec. 15 - A brief return of warm weather and light air enabled Roen 
Construction to lay the two underwater cable sections without a hitch. 
Divers connected cable ends to a loom attached to a heavy wire rope, 
then helped feed the end into the conduit as it was pulled ashore 
through the sleeve by Tom Jordan's excavator.

The splicing of cable segments to one another, and to the Wisconsin Public Service feed at Northport, was completed, then, this past week, with the new cable becoming "live" early Friday afternoon.   The old cable remains energized, just in case, under a greatly reduced load, in order to remain dry and usable.

  Sections of plastic conduit were bolted together into approx. 
500-ft. lengths and laid out on the Potato Dock prior to being 
towed into position and sunk into trenches dug at each exit/entry point.  
Red conduit is for fiber-optic cable. (Taken in early December.)

Congratulations on a major effort, a "well done" to all involved.

Now, what about the fiber optic cable laid alongside the new electrical cable?  It's caused Co-op manager Robert Cornell the least concern, up until now.   As this project winds up (some back-filling still necessary where the cable enters/exits near shore at Northport) it, too, will get attention.

 -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, January 31, 2019


     Detroit Harbor, Washington Island  - A snowstorm blew through the upper Great Lakes Monday, driven by 30-40 mph winds.  Because of drifting, snow amounts were hard to estimate, but I'll guess we received around ten inches, some of it lake effect snow picked up by the southerly flow.  Monday's midday temperature was eight degrees, and that made being outdoors for any length of time a miserable experience, although you wouldn't know it from the expression of ferry captains Joel Gunnlaugsson and Erik Foss.  I waited on the pier as they walked toward me, to the AJR after lunch in the ferry terminal, and it was hard just to see them, given the blizzard in progress.

By webcam that morning, I observed the ferry at Northport, the loading of Mann's grocery truck and the mail van and one other car.  Most vehicle reservations resulted in either cancellations or no-shows.  Now, at 12:45, smiling despite crummy conditions, Joel and Erik posed long enough for me to take their photo before starting up the engines and preparing for their second run of the day.  On this trip they would carry the U. S. mail van and one car with passengers.  Other reservations, understandably, had once again cancelled.  Joel said that he heard that the hill on Hwy. 42 in south Sister Bay was closed, at least to truck traffic.

Summer is a picnic by comparison, for both passengers and ferry crew, working in shirtsleeves in mostly pleasant conditions.  I asked how the ice conditions were in the Door and inside the breakwater.  "Slush ice partway through the Door," Joel answered.

"Was it hard to turn around inside the break wall, given the strong southeast winds and ice, as it appeared on the webcam?"

"Not bad," Erik said. "We made the turn in one swing."

They would have another opportunity in the coming hour to do it again, this time bringing FedEx and UPS packages back home, but probably not much else.

School closed on the Island Monday, as they did in most of northeastern Wisconsin, but the Island school reopened for one day, Tuesday. This turned out to be a brief back-to-normal school day, while road crews and shovelers worked to clean up the previous day's mess.

However, Wednesday's forecast for below zero temperatures closed schools once again, and it discouraged travelers.  The same held for this Thursday morning, when our thermometer read -18 F.

This turned out to be our coldest morning so far, and as of noon the temperature was still in the minus column.  Social and community activities cancelled once again.  Some Door County schools remained closed during the entire week.

Despite this cold air, we anticipate mid-30s by the weekend, even rain, perhaps, in some locations.  That would be a shame, since there's decent snow cover now, and winter outdoor enthusiasts have earned the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors after withstanding days of harsh weather to reach this point.

While I waited for the 1:00 p.m. ferry to depart, I noted the ingenuity of Kenny Koyen who moors his gill net tug Seediver in the adjacent ferry slip.  Winter mooring lines become frozen, and knots are almost impossible to untie.  But with this clever arrangement, the dock line is spared chaffing, and the line can be cast off by slipping the stick from the loop.

  - Dick Purinton

Thursday, January 24, 2019


After a winter with little snowfall and above average temperatures and mostly bare ground, we received at least six inches of fluffy snow yesterday.  The snow stopped by dusk Wednesday and we awoke this morning to a bright sun, with snow cover all around and on the limbs of trees alongside our home.  I went outdoors to complete snow removal begun yesterday.  

However, I just looked outdoors from my basement office window, and I see that it's SNOWING ONCE AGAIN.

Closed in and comfortable while watching the snowfall through thermal pane windows, all of Tuesday and most of Wednesday, was an enjoyable pastime.   Snow that fell was light and fluffy, not wind driven, and this made removal all that much easier.

We hosted a meeting of the Archives Committee at our home late Tuesday afternoon.  Our agenda included discussion of finances and coming activities,  but we also took this opportunity to recognize Jeanie Young for her 20 years as a committee member.  She retired from her role during Tuesday's meeting.

"How long were you the treasurer," we asked?   "From the very first meeting," she replied.

Jeanie was manager at Bay Lake Bank here on the Island at one time, and I suspect she was selected, in part, for her book keeping abilities.  But in addition to being treasurer, Jeanie was interested in local history, and she volunteered afternoons in the Archives, assisting those who dropped in, and by helping to organize files and new materials.

In order to properly thank her and remember her service, we presented Jeanie with framed family photos of Gunnlaugsson family members, headed by Peter and Magnena.  I might be imagining things, but I think I can see strong family resemblances in the faces of Gunnlaugssons living here today.

Below you'll find our Archives Committee members who were present, and also an image of the Gunnlaugsson family members in one of the photos presented to Jeanie.

Jan. 22 Archives Committee members present (Jewel Lee Grandy and Eric Greenfeldt were absent):  Dick Purinton, Karen Jess, Merrill Lundberg, Archivist Steve Reiss, Judi Yamamoto, Julie Anderson, Connie Sena, Kirby Foss,
and seated, Jeanie Young, holding framed photos of her Gunnlaugsson family ancestors.

      In the photo below (also center in the above frame), top row:  Peter Jr.,  Stephen, Magnus.  Bottom row:  Louis, Mrs. Peter Gunnlaugsson (Magnena), Bjarn, Peter, Dagmar and Magnena.  Magnena was a Magnusson, and her marriage with Peter joined two Island families of Icelandic heritage, now with many descendants.


This photo also appears in the blue cover book by Mrs. Anne Whitney, first published in 1950 on the occasion of the Town of Washington's Centennial.  It was titled, "Let's Talk About Washington Island."  This book was later republished by Kurt Meyer, and copies are still available at the Washington Island Archives.

Here's to another snowy day...    Dick Purinton

Monday, January 21, 2019

Start New Year on right foot

Start New Year on right foot

We're well into January of 2019.    

Ice fishing shanties are out on the harbor.  Four-wheelers, or walking are the preferred methods of accessing the ice at this point.  It may be a few more days before pickup trucks and their drivers venture from shore.

It's been one year and a few months since my last entry, I realize, and with such a lapse there may be no one who reads this or cares to get started as a follower once again.   But, barring unforeseen incidents, I shall in the future continue to grind out some light news from our home on Detroit Harbor.

In August of 2017, I had just announced my new book, Island Stavkirke - Washington Island's Norwegian replica.   Initial, local sales went over pretty well, as I had hoped when I ordered (and then stored in our basement) over 2,000 copies from the printer.  These things take time to catch on, I remind myself.  Lacking backing for marketing, because I self-publish, I depend on word of mouth and my own limitations in contacts.

Well, here's a cover from my most recent book, entries compiled while I worked on the Stavkirke book and received from the printer this recent mid-December.

Words on Water II - Island Journal 2017. 

Because I received this publication at a time when the Christmas season was upon us, several copies were then sold as gifts.  A few more were sold via my website,  All sales at this time of year are appreciated, because book sales remain light until weather warms and tourism returns.  

I've had the distinction, and perhaps an added sales push, of having my title "Words on Water," which appeared on my ferry journal book of 2007, chosen to describe two separate, local literary events.

Last September, the sixth Washington Island Literary Festival borrowed the theme "Words on Water," having first asked my approval.  Unfortunately my new book, Words on Water II, wasn't yet ready, and potential readers came away disappointed.
In another few weeks, on Saturday, Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, a poetry and musical event guided by Write On! Door County is scheduled for the Door County Auditorium.  It will also be titled, "Words on Water."  All poems submitted to a selection panel were to have water as a main poem theme.  How my title came to be chosen, again, I'm not sure.  I first read about this event in a Peninsula Pulse notice in December.  

Just to be clear (for readers who might be confused), I didn't take my most recent book title from either of these events!  

If you enjoy reading about local, Island happenings, or learning how events beyond our shores might have local impact, then this newest book, based on my 2017 journal, might provide you with insights, connections, and just maybe, a bit of humor.  Lots of images, too, both in color and B & W, over 50 all told.  

A major inspiration in writing these blogs is to start with a photograph.  That usually gets me off-and-running, and excited to put the topic at hand into words.  Today, I began without such benefit - other than the book cover - because I've not taken as many photos of late.  Maybe in the future I'll come up with a historic photo or two, something that "relates and resonates."  

In the meantime, I'll state that Mary Jo and I plan to remain in place this winter in our Detroit Harbor home, imagining what it might be like to be elsewhere.  

I have several writing project ideas, still in the wings, to keep me busy, and also several wood carving projects. Some are intended for the Stavkirke, others are just for the fun of it.
It's good to be back after such an absence, and I must say, getting back wasn't easy.  I had to ask a friend for technical advice in how to get recognized by Google, in order to access the administrative side of this blog.  My old password was no longer recognized, for some reason, and it took a bit of sleuthing, trial and error, to figure it out the right combination.

With my absence from writing and posting a blog, I've had to re-learn the tricks in getting a blog into shape for posting, all in a rather reasonable time frame.

Here's to another winter and the beginning of a new year, along with resolve to continue the posting of these blogs.
  -  Dick Purinton