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

No comments: