Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin -

A visit to the yard Tuesday morning found the Noble's repowering project closing in on the startup date.

Piping and hoses for engine cooling and for hydraulics have been flushed (metal filings, dirt) and pressure tested using a piece of equipment set up for that purpose on the main deck.    Fluids fills were to have begun today.  Engine room overhead insulation was well on its way to being installed, and pipe fitters had maybe half of a day left.  Electricians will need a few more days, and that will including the re-installation of new battery supply wiring.  At the last minute, this wire which is commonly approved by American Bureau of Shipping on commercial work vessels, was cited as not meeting code by U.S. Coast Guard plan review in Washington D.C.   Given the late notification, an appeal based on amperage and application was made, but in the end, the technical manual won out, as this wire type does not meet specifications for use in this installation.  Wire type with approved spec numbers will be installed as soon as the shipment arrives at the yard.

Port engine, showing yellow-coated battery supply
wires in ready-to-connect status.
Will be replaced with new wire
assured to meet USCG approval.

Device used to pressure test
hydraulic systems.

In the background of the top photo is the Spirit of Chicago, a dinner cruise and excursion vessel that homeports at Navy Pier.  This vessel began main engine changeout at about the same time as the Robert Noble, with new John Deere marine engines.  Its owner hopes to set sail soon from Sturgeon Bay to Chicago, but this vessel has the same battery supply wiring issue to contend with, prior to receiving Coast Guard approvals.

Maritime Museum 

Last evening I was invited to speak at the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, the first of the coming winter's speaker series.   My chosen topic was "Island Transportation in Winter," and I was quite pleased with the audience turnout, perhaps 75 or so persons.  Using slides and historical examples to illustrate how winter transportation here has evolved, I'm hopeful a few might have been enticed to try a winter's journey to Door County's northernmost township.  Unless you live here, work here, or have friends or relatives here, it is not the direction most people think of traveling in winter.    

Jon Gast, Dick Purinton, Bob Desh (Museum Director

The Maritime Museum's spaces have been decorated for the holidays, and so was the tug John Purves, moored along the waterfront.  I would recommend a museum visit as a great winter family outing.  There are exhibits of interest for all ages, both entertaining and educational,  and its all within a comfortable indoor setting.  Single-day individual passes may be purchased, along with tours of the tug tickets, or if repeat visits or museum membership activities are in your future, then family or corporate memberships can be purchased.  

Let the Holidays begin!       -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Island Northport Visitor Center staff at Ellison Bay
Bluff County Park.  L to R - Maggie Swanson, Patty Cornell,
Doc Westring, Mary Andersen, Janet Hanlin,
Ann Rose and Marge Frank.

Door Peninsula, Wisconsin -

Staff from the Northport Visitor Information Center, representing both the Ferry Line and the Island Chamber, spent several hours on the Door Peninsula Wednesday learning more about area businesses and tourism opportunities.

Persons who hold a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) rating are members of a program designed to provide excellent customer information.  They are encouraged to expand their local knowledge of businesses and attractions to better serve tourism customers.  Points toward ongoing certification may be accumulated in several ways, including reading articles about area activities and events.

Personal visits are also encouraged.  With this goal in mind, eight of us drove to several peninsula parks:  Liberty Grove Death's Door Town Park; Garett Bay Town Park;  Ellison Bay Bluff County Park; Murphy Park in Horseshoe Bay;  and the Egg Harbor Village Marina.  Along the way, a number of well-known area businesses and non-profit  locations were pointed out. (Birch Creek Music School and Peninsula Players among them.)

At two destinations tours had been arranged ahead of time.

One of the tours was at The Clearing, a folk school situated along wooded shore bluff property near Ellison Bay, founded in 1935 by Danish landscape architect Jens Jensen.  We received information about the school's mission, class offerings, and the type of experience a student or a day visitor might anticipate.  The second tour was of the Door County Coffee and Tea production facility, where prior to lunch in the retail store, we observed coffee beans, imported from all over the world, as they were roasted, blended and packaged for retail and wholesale markets.

The apparent community contribution these two very different entities exhibited created positive impressions with our group's members.

Steps to the Clearing lodge, where students
 may find relaxation, entertaining themselves
in a non-internet environment,
and enjoy meals as a group.
Quite typically, islanders traveling to the mainland are guided by a very specific list of stops for supplies and services, with a limited amount of time for "nonessential" sightseeing stops.  Seldom does the opportunity present itself to include off-the-highway stops.  But, that was Wednesday's goal, and for most members of our group, these stops were first-time encounters ... despite being near our back Door, so to speak.

Warm beans recently dropped from one of two roasters
add to the already pervasive coffee aroma at Door County
Coffee and Tea, Carlsville.
The first year of operation for Northport Visitor Center ended on the last day of October. It will reopen prior to Memorial Weekend of 2012.  Although exact numbers of visitors were impossible to record, we estimate thousands of people were aided with information answers to their questions.
 -  Dick Purinton


Robert Noble, port engine, exhaust line with insulation
blanket being installed, foreground.
Bay Shipbuilding, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin -

Work progress continues on board the Robert Noble at Bay Shipbuilding.   Piping is now nearing completion, and within a few more work days fluids will be added to cooling and hydraulic systems, prior to system testing.

Rich Ellefson reported this noon that the dry dock in which the Noble rests was flooded (filled) this morning, and barring unforeseen problems, the gates will be opened and the ferry will be escorted to a berth by tugs this afternoon for the remaining work.   As the water reaches the point where the ferry is nearly once again afloat, inspection is made of all below-deck spaces to ensure no weeping of through-hull fittings or of new welds.  This inspection is visual, and so far, the hull has proven to be dry except for the point at which propeller shafts enter the engine room.  There, slight leakage can be controlled by means of the stuffing box, which has fiber packing rings between flanges.   Dripping at the stuffing gland will continue to be monitored.   The packing will be loosened prior to initial start-up of the new CAT engines to avoid heating through excessive friction with shaft rotation.

Insulation blankets were in the process of being installed on exhaust lines when I visited the shipyard Tuesday.   Other panels will be mounted on the overhead, where work had been done to the exposed underside of the main vehicle deck.   Room to move about the engine room, once generous when this was a nearly empty space, is already reduced as the space fills with piping, new equipment, and soon wiring, as gauges and controls are connected.

Hydraulic pump made in Belgium mounted
to aft face of port transmission
will drive fire pump and
Auragen generator.
One new operational feature will be a hydraulically driven fire pump, and a hydraulically driven generator, known by brand name Auragen.   This compact generator will produce 8.5 kw and should eliminate, at least with typical operating loads, the necessity of a running the diesel genset, thus improving vessel fuel economy and lowering overall air emissions.  These main engines have sufficient reserve power to drive a sizable hydraulic pump without reducing ability to turn the propeller shaft.  Previously on the Noble,  a belt-driven pump was relied upon for fire system water pressure, and this occasionally led to alignment problems, worn belts, and the need to rev the main engine at high rpms to get the required water pressure to the hydrant (60 lbs. psi).   Shipboard electrical needs in the future should allow for a choice in power source, rather than mandatory operation of a diesel-driven generator set that ran, more-or-less, from startup to shutdown each day.  Significant dollar savings are also anticipated on generator moving parts through fewer operating hours on this piece of equipment.

Within several more working days, piping runs for coolant and hydraulic oil will be ready to be flushed, filled, and tested.

Space between forward bulkhead and port
engine shows addition of new piping.  These systems
are designed to be isolated by valves,
with removable sections for servicing.
Crawling through or standing in
this space has become prohibitive.
Then, as piping needs gradually reduce, engine room wiring and electrical installation activity will increase.  During the past several weeks, electricians have avoided competing with engine room working space with the other tradesmen, but their time has been well spent in the pilot house. New wiring harnesses connecting engine room with the operating stations on the upper deck were run earlier.  Gauge panels with associated lights, sensors and gauges will be wired in soon.

Given continued progress, the new engines should be ready for startup the week after Thanksgiving.  We are looking realistically for operational testing, pier side and then underway, to be completed for Coast Guard and owner approval, in the early days of December.

  -  Dick Purinton

Sunday, November 13, 2011


American Legion Post 402 Commander, Bill Nauta, led the program that
featured speaker Tim Raymond, Island Schools Administrator,
and island elementary children.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Veterans Day, previously known as Armistice Day, was observed by community members at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center this past Friday morning.

This day of national observance has also had island traditions that, with the exception of a different speaker each year, few changes from one year to the next.  The program format over time came to include a certain predictability, beginning with the clanking of metal folding chairs as they were set up by Legion members in the Community Center, and the same annual list of audience sing-along numbers that included dusty relics from the WWI.  (Who among us identify with WWI era songs that have lyrics such as:  "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile; while you've a lucifer to light your fag, smile boys, that's the style; What's the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, So pack up your troubles etc. etc."?)  It was time for change!

The 2011 program shifted to the newly remodeled TPAC, a comfortable setting that permitted easy audience access and easy presentation of program elements from the stage.  This shift from the traditional program at the Community Center could be said to have actually started with completion of a walkway installation one week earlier.  A crew poured a new concrete sidewalk between school and the auditorium, removing the old chain link fence at the same time along the school's southern boundary. This installation is a welcoming feature both from a practical and symbolic viewpoint, as it opens up the north-to-south contiguous properties of Community Center, Rec Center, School and TPAC, now one "campus."

This year's program injected fresh elements.  Speaker was School Administrator Tim Raymond, new to Washington Island in August.  Elementary school children followed, whose voices led the audience in "My County 'Tis of Thee."  The large, rear-projection screen behind the speaker and the school children ran a slide show of military images, old and new.

Comments afterwards indicated that the setting and the active participation by schoolchildren were well received.  The program was short and to the point, starting at 10:30, ending by 11:15.

  - Dick Purinton

Friday, November 11, 2011


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Back on September 17, I had posted information about a piece of old machinery, thought to be associated with a steam vessel that might have repowered at Richter's Point on Detroit Island.

That location is where it was uncovered in sandy soil by Dr. Rod Johnson, property owner, who then offered it to the Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum.   It would be, judging from old photos, at least 100 years old, as that was when this tip of Detroit Island directly across from the present island ferry docks was active with fishermen and their craft.

We could only guess at how the heavy cast iron piece was used, and so I asked if readers had any ideas.

Responses came from several people, each with experience and background in marine matters (well, one is a lawyer with an avid interest in all things maritime, old and new).

David Foss, engineer for the Interlake fleet and retired Senior Chief Engineer, U.S. Navy, identified it as a steam pump, and went further to guess it might have been removed from the L.P. Hill.   I suspect David might have had a photo that identified the Hill moored at the Detroit Island dock.  There are several old Detroit Island photos (copy machine copies, actually) I have that show many fishing craft moored to the Richter Point fishing docks, and in one, a very large steam tug.  Other, much larger, cast iron parts are half-buried beneath the existing dock, too heavy and awkward to move.

Lew Clarke, retired attorney with a great deal of time on the water as a kid riding along with Chris Anderson on the Wisconsin, did recognize it as a pump, and he recited some working pressures that passed me by.  Lew did not think such a piece was ever used as a boiler feed water pump, however, and for that we will give him only a B+.

Eric Bonow, also a Great Lakes sailor and mate on Interlake ships, looked up some helpful information and sent along copies from that literature describing the type of pump found on Detroit Island.  Most surprising is that this design is apparently so timeless in marine applications (and elsewhere, too) that nearly the identical pump to the one now at the Jackson Harbor museum can be ordered from the internet.  According to a Gardner Denver site, this Duplex Steam Pump can be air, steam or gas driven, and has application for boiler feed, oil service, water service, or general service, with pistons and valves of different materials depending upon specific intended use.

The topmost illustration was copied by Eric from the Audel Power Plant Engineers Guide c. 1945, 1948.

From pages of a book titled Practical Marine Engineering, c. 1918, also sent by Eric, we learn more about this type of pump and why it was versatile in steam application:


In early marine practice the flywheel pump was a favorite type, and was used for all ordinary purposes where an independent pump was required, as for boiler feed, fire purposes, or for general purposes on shipboard.  This pump consisted essentially of horizontal steam and water cylinders with the piston and plunger on a common rod and moving together.  Attached to the rod was a crosshead with connecting rod leading to a crank and shaft carrying a fly wheel.  The fly wheel served to carry the pump past the dead points, and the shaft served to carry an eccentric which actuated a simple slide valve on the steam cylinder.
  This type of pump, however, has almost entirely disappeared from modern practice, its place being taken by the direct acting pump with its greater compactness of form and better adaptation to the conditions of service.
  Now consider briefly the essential features of this type of pump, with a few examples drawn from modern practice.
  As illustrated in Fig. 325, the pump is horizontal and consists of two cylinders, one for steam and one for water, carried on a common piston rod.  The steam end is operated by means of a suitable valve gear as a simple reciprocating engine, and this communicates the same movement to the pump plunger or piston.  Each end of the water cylinder is provided with both inflow and outflow valves, as shown, and thus the pump becomes double acting --- that is delivering on each stroke alternately from one end and then the other.
  For operating the steam ends of pumps of this type, a great variety of ingenious valve gears have been devised.
  The need of especial devices arises from the fact that there is no rotating part and no chance to use an eccentric, and that the valve cannot be operated directly from the main piston rod.  Where it is thus required that a single set of principal moving parts be self operating, the valve gear usually consists of the following features:   (listed) ..."

Complete copies of the literature provided by Eric were passed along to Kathleen Morris, Director for the Jackson Harbor museum.

There you have it:  more than you ever cared to know about this steam pump, a design for the ages!
  -  Dick Purinton

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Second of two CAT C-18 engines with Twin Disc
marine gear, ready to
be lowered through a main deck opening
Bay Ship Building, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin -

Catching up with some of the photos I took last week of the Robert Noble repowering project, I've posted several of them here.  Since that date, much has been accomplished.

Both engines have been set on engine bed framing and aligned, and by now a hard resin known as Chock-Fast has likely been poured beneath the mounting plates.  Piping of cooling lines has begun.   Keel coolers have been installed, from the underside of the hull.   The new props were mounted on reinstalled shafts and secured with large brass nuts.  Rudders that were slightly enlarged were reattached.  The hull exterior was spot-blasted where needed, and painting over those areas was completed.

As of today, nearly all work has been completed outside the hull.   In the near future, the ferry will be floated from the dry dock.  Then, remaining interior work will be done while moored to the pier.  A solid two-to-three weeks of piping, wiring (including gauge panels in the PH), insulating, painting and dockside testing are necessary before the ferry will be ready for a sea trial.

Rich Ellefson has monitored work there since the ferry went into dry dock, Monday October 17, and has spent long hours on board each day following up on details.  Results, though far from complete, already indicate wise choices in use of the limited engine room space.   Equipment placement, wiring run locations, and essential piping that can avoid traffic areas is considered carefully for later ease of service and maintenance.   Regulation governing small passenger vessel design adds to the volume of valves and wiring, for example, but the engines themselves are more compact than the engines they replaced.

Starting battery banks, separate and distinct for each engine, were shifted to a seldom-used alcove, one example of how sensible redesign can save space in the more frequented walkways.  Main engine exhaust lines, essential to carrying away hot emissions, grew from 6" diameter pipe to 8" pipe, are another challenge because they will hang directly above the shaft alleys, limiting side-to-side movement for service in the engine room.   However, on the port side which is near the engine room entrance, round pipe will be replaced by a flattened, rectangular tube, so that crew members can more easily duck  beneath.  

As more equipment is piped and wired, remaining open spaces will gradually close in, but the intended result is to maintain sufficient room to move and to service the equipment that may be superior to the original layout.

Following are more photos that show progress as of 11/1/11, which was the approximate starting point for putting the engine room back together.    -  Dick Purinton

Rich Ellefson and Bay Ship machinist discuss
cooling water connections.
Engine room, starboard side looking aft:  new waste holding tank
is outboard, at left; bulkhead plating with round access hatch 

to steering room was cut, then flipped 180 degrees and reinstalled to 
avoid new exhaust run.  Exhaust pipe will penetrate 
bulkhead to left of stanchion shown in foreground.
Starboard rudder, foreground, with additional surface 
added to trailing edge, hangs from chain fall, ready
to be reinstalled.  New starboard prop is
already mounted and secured to shaft.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


West Harbor Hotel - date unknown, but thought to
be 1900 or shortly thereafter.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

So many memories accumulate around a piece of property and the people who own, manage and offer hospitality, that it is hard to accept sudden interruption in that flow of history.  We think ... and this is only conjecture, knowing the resilience and resolve of the Gibson family and their close association with their home, property, business and community...that there is more than even chance it will be rebuilt.

But that is a decision that will come after close examination of future plans, including what is possible and practical given today's design and structural codes.  We do know there are a good many people pulling for the Gibsons who still have vivid memories of vacations spent there, playing in the water, tasting the most wonderful chicken dinners, shooting pool or horseshoes (free lessons from the "master"), and visiting with Marianna and the Gibson children, (and before that, with Pearl and Frank.)

My own memories include such arcane blasts from the past as:   our own honeymoon night in room #8 (where else could you get away from wedding revelers?);  playing bunco during the holidays with the American Legion and Auxilary members, and observing a near-fight between hostess Pearl Gibson and other senior bunco fanatics as to which table was the "head" and which one was the "foot;" escorting a frail Florence Bell out the back door to her car one evening during an early December snowfall wearing my leather-soled shoes, departing from a party hosted by Arni and Mary, then slipping and nearly crushing Florence as I fell on top of her;  numerous Ferry Line Christmas parties, most always centered around those delicious meals with games afterward;  knocking on Marianna's kitchen door after driving through West Harbor ice in a pickup truck with Tom Wilson;  and a family Fourth of July in one of the Gibson cabins in 1955, when swimming and flipping over in inner tubes was just about the coolest thing I could imagine.

I understand one or more dining room tables remain relatively untouched from the fire, and maybe even those old dining room chairs, save for smears of watery char, because the intense heat during the balze concentrated upward in the ceiling and attic cavities, not the main floor below.

Our memories are only a very small slice of the nonstop family and community activity that took place for over a century at West Harbor.  I was reminded in checking back that it was in June 2007 when the 60th anniversary of Gibson family presence at the resort was celebrated, an event attended by over 500 people.  And before the Gibsons were the Sorensons, and before them, the Paulsens.

The West Harbor Hotel image (top) is from an Archives post card and we think it was from the Paulsen era, given the squareness and trim of the porch, the look of the windows.   A Paulsen calling card noting special instructions for getting there was also in the archives file for West Harbor.

At some point the Door County Advocate featured an article written by Herb Gibson (date unknown but the HS indicates it may have been Herb's high school history project) about West Harbor Resort.  It was very well done, and given yesterday's events, I'll reprint it here as a refresher on the progression of ownership that took place on that property.

[I would also recommend looking at a video interview with Herb who recounts this history on the Island Chamber web page in story-teller fashion.  With pride, Herb talks conversationally about his family's roots there and those who preceded the Gibsons.]

From the Door County Advocate, by Herbert Gibson, Washington Island HS:

 "My home, West Harbor Resort, has a very interesting history.  It is one of the oldest buildings still standing on the Island.  The main building and the property started out as the headquarters for a lumber camp. After that it was converted into a general store, and then in to a summer resort, which it still is today.
  "About 1860 Frieburg's Lumber Company, one of Wisconsin's leading wood companies of the time, bought a timber contract for removing all the virgin pine from the island.  At that time the island was very sparsely populated, and nearby all  the island was covered by huge virgin pine.
  "The so-called "big pine" of the island which was cut down several years ago was estimated to be about 500 years old and was about five feet in diameter and illustrates the immense size the trees must have been.
  "That particular pine was one of the few survivors of that great lumber boom 100 years ago.  That sawmill was set up at the point of land north of the entrance to West Harbor. 
 "A boarding house for the lumberjacks was constructed from some of the first products of the sawmill, and that building is still standing today although several additions have been added.  A large dock, built out into Green Bay next to the mill, served the ships hauling lumber to all the large cities on the Great Lakes.
  "Traces of that dock can still be found.  The lumber jacks used oxen mostly to haul the logs to the mill.  From dawn until dusk all that could be heard was the ringing of axes and the buzzing of saws. The whole point on which the mill was located became a mass of slabs and sawdust. Even today if you walk on this point the ground is spongy from that sawdust, and if you ever fish in West Harbor, there is seldom a day goes by without hooking into one of the thousands of waterlogged slabs or deadheads that abound in the water.
  "Most of the activity of the mill ceased in the winter.  The lake froze over early and no shipping could get through, also the heavy snows that used to prevail made work in the woods almost impossible in spring.
  "Eventually it became unprofitable to keep the mill running.  All the pine had been cleared off and there was no profit shipping other types of lumber.  Frieburg, still owning the small piece of property on which the mill and boarding house were located, decided to convert the boarding house into a general store.  The upstairs was used for storing 100 pound sacks of flour and feed.  With all this weight continually being stored there, dips in the floor developed, and even today as you walk down the upstairs hall it is like walking over a series of hills.
  "In the store's early days people came from all corners of the island to trade at Frieburg's general store.  They would come for a weekly and sometimes monthly trip in their horse and buggy or horse an sleigh depending on the time of year, and stock up.  But as the population increased, other stores sprang up nearer the centers of population, and began taking the business away from Frieburg's, and it became unprofitable to keep the store running.
 "The store was boarded up and stood empty and deserted for a number of years.  Then, about the year 1900, a fellow by the name of Paulson with the idea of turning the store into a resort bought it from Frieburg. Since that time, it has never shut its door to summer tourists. The only other owners of the resort beside Paulson are Jens Sorenson and Frank Gibson.  Many additions and improvements have been added to make the resort what it is today.  It isn't a fancy or expensive resort, but the people who come there enjoy themselves and a large percent come back every year.  Its purpose is, and has been, to serve the tourist and hopes to go on doing so for many years."

   -  Dick Purinton

Friday, November 4, 2011


Island Fire Chief Pete Nehlsen confers with resort owner Herb Gibson
on plan of action following return of equipment to
fire station.  Nehlsen and several men stayed on scene with one
truck as fire watch.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

By 9 a.m. this Friday morning, nearly all equipment and volunteer fire fighters had been released from the scene.  Fire Chief Peter Nehlsen, one truck, and a few men as fire watch remained.

"It was the smoke alarm that saved us," Herb said.  "Without the alarms, who knows?"    Herb, his wife Marianna, and one daughter, Sara, were sleeping when the smoke alarms sounded, around 4:30 a.m., and he immediately placed the fire call.  With soot on his lips and face, still very much absorbing the impact of events of the early morning, Herb expressed relief that his family was safe.

The building appears to have extensive damage, in particular the easternmost  portion of the building.  This section contained a dining room, game room, large living room area and a staircase leading to upstairs guest rooms.  These spaces were used primarily by resort guests, although the Gibson family welcomed many island visitors who made themselves at home for various club and private functions over the years.  The building's west end, also two stories, had been remodeled within the past ten years and was living quarters for the Gibson family.   From the exterior, it appears to have been spared from direct flame, but it will undoubtedly have smoke and water damage.

How important a role did the Island Fire Department's new ladder truck play in battling the blaze?

"The aerial pumper saved what is left of the building," according to Fire Chief Nehlsen.  "Unequivocally, without it, the rest of the building would be gone."  Heat had blown out window glass in the older section of the resort building.

Perry Jorgenson and Herb
examine damage.
And, from the accounts of several firemen I spoke with, each agreed that the timely arrival of island men and equipment, in particular the aerial truck, were key in knocking down the fire, keeping it from spreading and consuming the entire building.   Nehlsen, who was in the attic pulling down smoldering insulation when I arrived, said the entire attic the length of the building had been on fire at one point, but water directed downward from the aerial pumper stopped the advance in short order.

Nehlsen credited Liberty Grove's firefighters who, wearing Scott air packs, spelled Island firemen when it came to working inside the structure, assisting in extinguishing remaining hot spots, in particular the overhauling, tearing down of interior walls and ceilings.   "That's the dirty work," he said, "the real physical work."  Each LG fireman cycled twice through the structure's interior, he noted, before heading back to the mainland.

Nehsen had already contacted the State Fire Marshall to conduct  a post-fire investigation, routine procedure for such events, he said, and he expected an investigator would arrive later today.

New sheets of OSB were already stacked on the lawn, along with 2 x 4s and tarps, in preparation for closing the building's openings once the fire is out with certainty.   While the early morning  had been calm and frost was everywhere before sunup, southerly winds are anticipated this afternoon.  Island firemen will return around 3 pm to assist in buttoning up the remains of the structure.

-  Dick Purinton  - 11 a.m.


Washington Island Fire Department volunteers responded to fire
at West Harbor Resort, called in at approx. 4:30 this morning.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -
  Gibson's West Harbor Resort, an island landmark wood frame building and one of the oldest commercial structures on the island, experienced a major fire early this morning.   Volunteer firefighters responded quickly, using the newly acquired aerial pumper truck (purchased from neighboring Liberty Grove Fire Dept.) to knock down flames.  Members of the Gibson family, including owners Herb and Marianna, were reported to have safely exited the building shortly after the fire was discovered.

No details of how or where the fire began are yet available, but it appeared as though damage was greatest next to the chimney, the east end of the building.   There are rental rooms on the second floor, and family living quarters in the western end of the building.

By 6 a.m. exterior flames appeared to have been checked, and firemen were about to attack the internal parts of the building to further extinguish burning material.   All units of the Island Fire Department were on scene, including pumper units at the Ferry Dock, where the tankers were being refilled.

Offering to assist, Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht sent approximately eight volunteers, led by Liberty Grove Fire Captain, Lee Telfer, across the Door.  They arrived at the Island dock on Jeff Weborg's trap net boat from Gills Rock around 5:45 a.m. and joined Island firefighters at the West Harbor scene.   (Note:  By 7:40 a.m. they were on their way back to Gills Rock via Weborg's trap net boat.)

By the time the 7 a.m. ferry Washington began loading for the first trip leaving the island, water demand had slowed.

The hope is that damage will be confined to the eastern end of the structure, but that may be better determined in the next hour or two with daylight and a better assessment of damage from the interior.

This building, before it became a resort, had at one time housed men working in a West Harbor sawmill operation, prior to 1900.   The property, situated on a beautiful site along the island's western shoreline and also on the small inlet known as West Harbor, has provided rooms, meals, and hospitality to generations of guests for decades.  For over 50 of those most recent years, it has been operated by members of the Gibson family.

  -  Dick Purinton  -  7:40 am