Sunday, February 26, 2012


Frieda Purinton  
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin -

What is a 'best year' in one's life, especially when there have been 95 of them?   Marriage, children, time with relatives (including her own parents), travel, meaningful contribution to others - all of these, and more, create a life well lived.

Today is Mom's 95th birthday, and with help from staff at the Skilled Nursing Facility at Door County Memorial Hospital (North Shore), and my sisters, Helen and Martha, she will become the center of attention until nap time.

She may not always remember the day or month, but when a party was mentioned for her birthday, she wished for chocolate cake.

Yesterday, when I visited her, she thought the special day had already passed, but with flowers and card in hand, I assured her that wasn't the case.    We communicated in the manner that has proven to be the most successful, given her poor hearing, of using pen and paper, constructing short phrases of conversation, from me, for her to read.  She nods, often smiles, and occasionally asks a question in reply, and this tells me she knows and remembers (maybe more than I had realized).  She can place my words into her thoughts.

Happy Birthday, Mom.   Here's a small gift for you, one who never has gone online, who never learned how to use a computer (or needed one), but for whom life still had, and has, precious moments.   (From a visit in August, 2010):


Right eye partly opened
In afternoon repose
Mother breathes easily and sleeps
And her roommate sleeps too
A few family photos are pinned to the
Wallboard beyond the foot of her bed

Top floor apartments and top floor
Offices are the most sought after
Some people work all their lives to
Achieve top floor status and never get there

By those standards Mom has it made
A mending hip at 93 bought her
This top floor hospital room
Facing sunny skies over town
Where eye level cumulus float by

Three meals are prepared if she cares to eat  
An unwatched television screen
Plays Little House On The Prairie and
A nurse frequently checks in
To determine if she sleeps and breathes
Or just sleeps  

“Have you been up for a walk today?” I ask 
Then repeat my question
Because she didn’t appear to
Hear or maybe didn’t care to hear me

Awake and alert for the moment
She turns her head toward the window
“I just watch the clouds go by”

- Dick Purinton    (This just in - photo at left by Martha Bennett)        

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We're approaching the middle of February, a time we often think of as mid-winter.  

The temperatures have been colder the past several days with an overnight low of 10 degrees last night, and also the night before according to my unofficial porch thermometer.   On the harbor the 8-10 inch ice layer may have just thickened by an inch or two, in time for ice fishermen who will participate in the 10-day Lions Club fishing derby that officially starts today.   A few inches of snow fell yesterday morning and covered up the otherwise bare, frozen ground.   It's not what we'd call a typical winter, based on our seat-of-the-pants observations.

But how did this past month of January compare with previous Januarys?   Is it just our short term memory tricking us, or was this January warmer?

For those answers we turned to local NOAA Weather Observer John Delwiche.   John keeps accurate daily records for his island location and tabulates them at the end of the month.  But, as an official observer, John's still unable to easily locate and access data from previous years.  In order to obtain past information for comparisons, he is required to register and pay a fee for access, very surprising to us considering he's doing voluntary observation in the first place and represents NOAA's meteorological network at this location. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a regional office in Green Bay.)

"The best I can do," said John, "is to say that this January's average temperature ranked somewhere in the top ten of Januarys over the 67 years of recorded data.   It didn't quite make the top five.  The average January temperature of 1990 was 26.3 degrees."   John's data for January 2012 showed an average January temperature of 24.1 degrees.  So much for my thinking it was a record month for temperature.  

How about snowfall?   I've only shoveled twice, and that activity bordered on the unnecessary.  I was only looking for the exercise.  Our January snowfall was down, according to John's measurements:  9.9" of snow this year compared to the average of 14.8" of snow.  I thought as much.  Well, my hunch based on time-behind-shovel turned out to be correct.

We did set or tie two records, however, and that was the "Warmest night (highest low) of 30 degrees on 01/27.   Also, the warmest temperature for day 01/07 was recorded this year:  43 degrees.  

"One thing we can say," John noted, "is that when we take the two months of December and January combined, we've experienced milder than normal temperatures.  But just how that compares to other years, again I'm unable to make that comparison."

We hope the data access through NOAA loosens up a bit, for John's and our curiosity's sake if nothing else.

Meanwhile, the current forecast extending beyond Sunday shows daytime temperatures will once again climb to the mid-30s, without precipitation.   Snow cover, according to a Detroit Free Press article forwarded by Fred Hankwitz, which is considered the biggest source of water for the Great Lakes as a whole, remains low.  This lack of snow cover will effect the long term lake levels.  The Corps of Engineers forecasts levels to be initially higher in spring than last year, by 5-7 inches, but this will even out by June when it will remain close to 2011 levels.      

 -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Treasure Seeker on a balmy St. Thomas day.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Yesterday I received two pieces of email with information on the former island ferry C.G. Richter, now mored alongside a harbor boulevard in Charlotte Amalie Harbour, St. Thomas as the Treasure Seeker.  It was spotted by Washington Island property owner and cruise ship passenger Charlie Imig who forwarded the above photo.  Charlie recognized the Walter Haertel designed hull under disguise of pirate facade and tomato-red paint.  The other pertinent email came from David Wright in Washington state, who forwarded a link with photos of the Treasure Seeker from a different angle.

Ten years ago, this ferry was snorting diesel and bucking February ice in the Door passage, making the necessary trip to the mainland and back.  The single Cummins K-19 (500 hp) that powers the Treasure Seeker today worked hard to keep the propeller turning through chunks of ice, maintaining way through fields that sometimes were sliding toward the open lake.   Inside the cabin, passengers visited elbow-to-elbow as the boat sometimes ran freely in open water and other times slowed in deep, rugged ridges, or stews of fine, compressed ice.   Nostalgia comes in many forms, and anyone who thinks of the good old days on board the C.G. Richter will also recall there were many trips that either took hours, or were cancelled, due to overwhelming ice conditions.

Well, you can relive such days in your short sleeves if you sign on to one of the Treasure Seeker's cruises around the harbor to drink rum and cokes and play pirate before going back to the comfort of your cruise ship.  The Hixon family, after fits and starts and a Bahamian grounding that took off the rudder and anchor, motored the final leg in late 2011 from the Puerto Rican shipyard, where repairs were undertaken, to St. Thomas.  (See photos in blog link below.)

Arni, if he were still around, would caution about the exposure to the concrete quay and apparent lack of large fenders.   Its a tough hull, and so we'll wait for more follow-ups to learn how its doing, both pier side and underway with would-be pirates in charge.  It's big, it's red and it's waiting for the next cruise ship to pull in with customers for a pirate ship ride.

For more photos, including some shots of the former Washington Island ferry sitting on blocks in the Puerto Rico shipyard, use this link:

Meanwhile, here's what it looked like a decade or more back in time.  -  Dick Purinton

Life as a ferry:   A load of groceries for the
 island on board  Mann's Store truck.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Minutes away from the start of the Super Bowl, I took this photo.

If you'd like to simulate what ice fishing was like, for me at least, then stare at this photo for a couple of hours.   The bottom,  8 feet below the 10-inch ice cover, was carpeted with dormant weeds.  I had an especially live minnow on my hook, and good tunes on my headset which made the time pass quickly, but during this two-hour outing I saw no fish and had no bites on the two tip-ups set outside my shelter.

But, in case you think it might have been a dull afternoon, consider the bright sunlight against the shoreline and the moon as it began to rise in the east.   I had uninterrupted time to review what I need to do, what I want to do, what I recently did, this morning's church sermon, that the Packers won't play in the big game today, but that Aaron Rodgers is MVP, the continued, consistently warm temperatures, and how months, seasons and years fly by.  Too much to contemplate for one session on the ice, really.

Had a phone call from Mary Gunnerson this morning.   How thoughtful she is of others, and she called to just say "Hello," and that she remembered this day was Arni's birthday.   Her own situation?  Not good, really, but you'd never know from Mary's voice.   If liver transplants were a fingersnap, and cost was not an issue, Mary would be healthy again.

The fact nothing but my minnow wiggled beneath the ice hole between by boots was immaterial.   The day was beautiful, and around me there was beauty, life, the universe up close and far away.

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, February 2, 2012


L to R - Magnus, Aidan, Zander, Atlas

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

For the record, it was cloudy this morning and it stayed overcast all day.

We don't have groundhogs on Washington Island, or burrowing gophers, either.  Maybe the deepwater following the glacial melt kept them from our shores.  (These mammals are found on the peninsula, however.)  If it weren't for the news media repeating the results of several staged February 2nd groundhog events held around the country, I doubt I would know what one looked like.

Our grandsons could have cared less as they ignored the outdoor weather and came straight to our room, crowding in our bed to watch cartoons and play Angry Birds on my iPad.  Their attention was trained on  TV cartoons until a new cartoon show began that the oldest two claimed was "for girls."  Once they made this declaration, not even the youngest two cared to watch and the bedroom emptied quickly.

But about that creaky groundhog folk tale.  I suppose it was originally based on actual observations made by pioneers, or perhaps it was a European tradition carried overseas to the New World.  Given what seems a thin connection between the whims of a groundhog and predictions for more or fewer weeks of winter, (there is disagreement between StormFax and Accuweather as to the accuracy record of the leading groundhog's predictions) we could just as well make up our own traditions, starting today, regarding climate and weather conditions, and link them to the economy, as a fun example. (Low Lake Water correlates to Low Economic Activity, etc.)  There are also believers that industrious, fat fall squirrels portend a rough winter ahead. (Squirrels that are not fat in December probably won't be around for the census in the spring.)

I'm going out on the limb, of course, but I will say that four well-fed grandsons in our bed before 6:30 a.m. means we are blessed grandparents.   Groundhogs be damned.

- Dick Purinton