Thursday, May 31, 2012

Buoys Replaced By Structures

Detroit Harbor -

Two of the floating aids in the Detroit Harbor channel, buoys number 4 and 5, are being replaced by permanent structures.  The new aids to navigation will be solid cylinders of steel, cement and stone, anchored by nine H-piles into bedrock, and topped with a steel pole upon which will be a light, solar panel and battery.

This contract, estimated to be in the half-million dollar range, was bid to the Rock company of Pontiac, Michigan.  Door County marine contractor Roen Salvage, of Sturgeon Bay, is the major sub-contractor.  Other subcontractors include the drilling company that bored the holes for the pilings, and suppliers of the buoy cylinders and light towers.

Two of Roen's work barges are shown in the photo here shortly after they began the project.   Pipes of 14" diameter were set into the bottom a the buoy locations, then used as guides as they were drilled out, down three feet into bedrock.  Nine H-piles per navigation aid were then inserted into the drilled holes inside each pipe, and then epoxied into place using a special grout mixed with sand.   The pipes were removed once the epoxy was set

These permanent aids to navigation had been proposed for several years by the U. S. Coast Guard, but funding wasn't in hand until this fiscal year.   The new aids should eliminate drift from station (something that did occur with the older, floating buoys, especially as ice forced against them).  Batteries, solar panels and bulbs can be accessed easily for servicing by Coast Guard Aids to Navigation team members by small boat.  Formerly, a shallow-draft Coast Guard vessel would cross the lake from its home port in Muskegon to lift the floating aids with an A-frame, and its crew would inspect each chain and sinker.  The buoys would then be repainted, with chain replaced, if needed, before being reset on station.  

The tops of the new 12-ft. diameter cylinders will stand approximately 7 1/2 feet above water level, and  have a nearly 20-ft. mast on top of that.  These will make a strong target on radar scopes, and they will also be more easily seen during nighttime or low visibility by vessel operators.  (One of two cylinders is shown in the photo below as it is lifted from the semi to the Roen work barge, alongside Northport Pier.)

Roen Salvage is the largest and oldest marine contractor in the area.  This company typically bids on  marine construction projects such as dredging, break wall and dock construction around the Great Lakes.  From Detroit Harbor, this rig will prepare to sail to the upper St. Mary's River, where several similar, but larger, navigational aids will be constructed.  When that job is completed, the construction equipment will be towed to Duluth harbor at the western end of Lake Superior for another project that will include dredging of 200,000 cu. yds. and driving pilings for commercial shipping.

Actual work on the Detroit Harbor aids to navigation began Monday, May 24, after the equipment had been mobilized to the island. Work is expected to be completed - barring delays in supply of the light towers - by Friday, June 8th.   The steel cylinders that shape the base of the aids and the light pole assemblies are pre-fab items subbed to another company in the Fox Valley.  Delays in receiving those items could possibly prolong the project's completion.

Shown below is Don Sarter, Construction Supervisor and a 39-year Roen employee, who also operates the tug Stephan M. Asher that tows and positions the work barges.

Not yet known, but to be determined soon, is the fate of the dredging application by the Town of Washington for the Detroit Harbor channel.  This application, submitted earlier this calendar year, is believed to have cleared the citizen's committee that reviews such applications.  If so, it now awaits further review for approval by the WISDOT secretary, and finally, approval and signature must be given by Wisconsin's governor.   If approval is given and funding is released, this would mean a huge improvement for Washington Island, a major dredging operation that will widen and deepen a  navigation channel last touched in 1937!

This project could possibly be undertaken yet this calendar year.  However, approval and funding dollars through a Wisconsin Harbor Assistance Program Grant to the Town of Washington must first receive approval in order for any dollars to be allocated.  There were four or five other Wisconsin commercial port applicants, each with worthy projects competing for those same dollars.

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Framed by the lightening holes in the main fore and aft structural bulkhead,
Con McDonald and Hoyt Purinton install foam blocks
in the aftermost compartment of the ferry
Robert Noble.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Spring at the Detroit Harbor ferry dock typically means painting, cleaning, assembling systems drained over winter, and minor modifications in readiness for daily operations.  This spring has been different in that there were several, major projects to complete.   By mid-May, we're nearly there.

Pete Nikolai and Eric Brodersen
open a mold containing newly
expanded, closed-cell foam block.

Hoyt Purinton with pile of blocks
in workshop.

Robert Noble

This ferry was at Bay Ship for all of November in late 2011 for new engines and gears and new cooling, hydraulic and fire systems. This was extensive work resulting from the replacement of original (1979) Cummins diesels with CAT engines.  The major emphasis was to reduce emissions levels and lower the gallons of fuel consumed per hour of running time.  (So far, fuel consumption is under 7 gallons per hour, per engine, at running speed of 1100 to 1200 rpms.)

Once back in her Detroit Harbor berth, our crew cleaned and repainted the entire Noble engine room.    In late February, as a result of the Coast Guard recalculating vessel stability for the Robert Noble, it was determined that due to a newer formula than that under which it was designed in 1979, additional measures would be needed to conform with required stability.

While there were several options, the one least invasive and least costly involved adding inert, light foam material to the aftermost compartment.  That is what we chose to do, and in the accompanying photos, block production and installation are shown.  The objective is to displace water that might, in an extreme flooding situation, fill the after compartment.

We were fortunate in this project to have new soft patches, removable covers over each main engine. These were installed as a part of the re-power project.  With the starboard hatch removed, eight-foot long blocks could be maneuvered into the after compartment.  Steel flatbars, 1/4" x 3", will be bolted to frames, securing the foam blocks between the frames.  

Starboard, aft void with foam blocks installed.

Robert Noble deck, with hatch over starboard
engine removed.

The Robert Noble had been used during the first week of May under a provisional Coast Guard certificate, while a warranty repair was in progress on the Washington.  The Washington's starboard engine had a bad rear crankshaft oil seal, the second time this seal had failed in two years, for a two-year old engine. The flywheel housing was determined to be the cause, ever-so-slightly out of round, and a new one was located to replace the original.  (The casting was slightly off from the factory, unusual, but not unheard of, and a new one was located in Germany with identical bolt hole characteristics. It was air-freighted to Green Bay where our engine awaited at the CAT/FABCO shop.)  The repaired engine was then delivered to the island last Thursday morning and lowered in place through the soft patch opening.  It was in running order by late afternoon, and the Washington was immediately placed back on the line.  Crossing our fingers, we believe this ferry is now in top mechanical order for the upcoming season!

Arni J. Richter

During the latter part of February 2009 while routinely inspecting the Arni J. Richter's aft below deck compartment, crew members discovered what proved to be a slight trickle of water.  (This was determined over a period of several weeks, as there can also be tiny leaks under gaskets surrounding deck hatch covers, as well as condensation collected on the shell plating.)  Closer inspection, monitoring of the suspected area, and conference with the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Sturgeon Bay led to a determination that several small weld fractures had occurred above the starboard skeg.  The two skegs on the Arni J. are fin-like structures attached to the underside of the hull, through which the propeller shaft protrudes.

Worker prepares skeg for new shell plate, an area of
convergence of multiple planes, and which requires extra care
to avoid shaft log movement during heating, cooling
of welded members.
A crew from Bay Shipbuilding came to the island on an afternoon ferry, bringing with them grinding and welding gear and steel plate, and they spent the next fifteen hours, until early dawn, welding the fractures and installing framing stiffeners.   These repairs were intended to be temporary, only.  In two years, the plate in the area of concern would need to be cropped and repaired to Coast Guard satisfaction.  That is when the next scheduled dry docking exam for the Arni J. came due.  That required hull inspection and repair period took place this spring, during which time the affected areas surrounding both port and starboard skegs were addressed.   Substantial  5 ft. x 5 ft.  x  1" inch plates were inserted above each skeg to better carry the weight and absorb stresses.  New interior framing running both fore and aft and thwartships (side-to-side) was also added.

Because of this work, the Arni J. Richter was in the yard from early April to early May while subject areas were prepared for new plating and framing.  Examination of the existing areas led to various discussions regarding proposals to fix problem areas, and this, too, added to overall time at the yard.

In the end, it can be said that the fractures found in welds were likely a result of several different factors, not just one.   Vibration, plate movement and stresses at various points can be expected in a vessel that runs through ice.  Ice encountered in the Door can be heavy and hard, and there are times underway when it passes continuously between the two skegs, funneled into the blender-like mix as it passes through the propellers.   Had this ferry never operated in winter, it is likely the problems seen would not have developed.

The framing structure in surrounding areas over the skegs, in retrospect, appeared relatively light, given this vessel's mission on a year-in, year-out basis.  There were also signs that a closer fit of plating and higher quality welds may have forestalled or prevented failure.

Interior shell in areas over skegs received extensive,
deep framing to carry stress and reduce plate movement.
During the entire time the Arni J. Richter  was operated, following the  initial recognition of the problem in March 2009, the intermediate measures we adopted under Coast Guard and naval architect direction proved to be prudent and satisfactory.

Now, each of our ferries, upon completion of the foam block project, will be in excellent shape for summer operations.  By mid-June, a ferry may operate 10-12 hours each day, for the next three to four months, before the schedule begins to wind down.

- Dick Purinton

Machinists (man at right) took hourly readings to
determine change in shaft log
alignment. Welders and fitters tailored
their work to minimize movement.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Springtime means renewal, and at the Beneda "farm" there are baby chicks, seven of them.

In time, they'll produce eggs of varied colors, something Evy, and now her boys, will look forward to in the months to come.

Shown are Zander with Nerf gun, Atlas holding his chick, Henny Penny, and Evy with Zander's chick, Penny Henny.  ("Ya, it's confusing," Zander says.)   Cousins Aidan and Magnus also have chicks, which they named Nothing and Goldie Miner.

Keeping chickens is one step in moving from a city environment to the island country side, a learning experience for all of the boys.

Down on the Bayou

When warm weather came along in March, the snapping turtle population buried in the mud of the bayou came to life, much earlier than we've typically seen.

The turtles were sluggish at first, some with a five-inch cake-layer of muck on their backs as they emerged from winter's hibernation.  The turtles warmed themselves each day in the sun, if the sun was out, floating on the water's surface or crawling into the nearby grasses, warming to a point where they might exhibit fairly brisk movement in the latter hours of the day.  When nighttime and cold temperatures came on, they ducked back into the mud, or under the weedy banks where they've created underwater dens.

On the warmest, sunny days, we witnessed males briefly clashing, and males and females in a reproductive attitude.  These creatures have been living in muck, reproducing in mucky water, and perpetuating their species much as they've done for the past three million years.  Reptiles that have not perceptibly changed over such a span of time are to be admired for their ability to survive, and the bayou harbors a sizable population of perhaps several dozen adults that winter in relatively close quarters.

-  Dick Purinton

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Washington Island -

Although it may seem like old news in today's 24-hour news cycle, the birth of twins April 22 to the Gunnlaugsson family is still big island news.

Shown above is a proud  dad, Joel Gunnlaugsson, with daughter Tillie Ann.  Tug Allen is in the family car behind him with his mom, Krista, and big sister, Greta, age four.  Paternal grandparents are Jeanie and Kirby Gunnlaugsson, who were in Green Bay for the arrival of the twins.

This was already second or third ferry ride for the twins who, besides their initial homecoming, required several health check-ups in their first ten days.  The newborns each weighed over five pounds at birth, and they are healthy and doing well.

The name Tillie is from a relative of Joel's, Aunt Tillie, and Tug is Scandinavian for "strong," a unique name with a likable sound.  It is not hard to imagine Tug with a career on the water.

Joel is a ferry captain, the Town of Washington Chairman and County Board Supervisor for northernmost Door County, in addition to his duties as father of three.  Krista, always smiling, even when running, as she often did along Main Road in recent years, is now fully engaged again as a mom.

Congratulations to the Gunnlaugssons on their new additions.

What's in store for island children and families?

Tug and Tillie join an elite, dwindling group of island youngsters approaching school age - a group that has grown smaller with each recent decade.  An aging population is a hallmark of this community as much as a declining school enrollment.  The cost of education per pupil is already high, with 65-70 students in K through 12, despite the doubled-up classes in each room.   The traditional island model that employs a full-time teaching staff for a handful of children at some point approaches one-on-one tutoring.   Even classes that, for the most part, have already doubled-up for efficiency, have declining numbers of students per teacher.  For that reason, new ways of looking at island education are being considered by the school district and staff.   It has led educators to consider the declining class size as an asset - rather than a disappointing yardstick - for future learning opportunities.

At a recent school board meeting, the sentiment "go forth and multiply" was expressed, in so many words, by an enthusiastic audience member.  But this edict would be a tall order for young, married couples, and maybe, an unfair pressure to place upon them!   Wishing for population increases also presumes there will be employment opportunities and the means required to raise children.

Population, economic health, and job stability are among the key challenges impacting the island community's health looking ahead.  Would diminished educational opportunities discourage those same young families with children who could help to bolster the island's school system?

It is like the old adage, Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?    Increasing family size may enlarge the school, making local education more efficient.  A balanced population could also help the island economy to grow over time, provide young business leaders and the necessary skilled service providers.  However, good jobs and job opportunities, a challenge in any community much less one with sharp seasonal swings in activity, remain elusive for families who might otherwise relocate here if those opportunities were present.

The island community needs to be supportive of the young families we do have by listening to their needs and goals, and by providing resources when possible to encourage and include them as part of the larger island family.
  -  Dick Purinton

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We're in the middle of the spring turkey hunt, and island hunters have been out prior to sunup, sneaking into field and forest before the birds get down from their tree roosts to set up hunting blinds and decoys, and to get themselves situated for approaching birds.

What else might motivate a hunter to load his gear in an open aluminum boat - a long-barreled shotgun, backpack with decoy and turkey calls and a bicycle - and then motor over to Detroit Island before the sun was up, ride his bicycle a mile or so down the rough dirt road, listening for tom turkeys calling as he rode?  

The hunting on Washington Island has been pretty good, or so the reports seem to indicate, but after several unsuccessful outings near home, Hoyt decided to try Detroit Island.

Shortly after bicycling south, to a point approximately 2/3 of the island's length from the boat landing, and having heard several turkeys, he got off his bicycle and successfully called a tom to within shooting range.

Then, with his bird in hand (approximately 25 pounds), shotgun and backpack filled with gear, he pedaled back to the boat landing and motored home.  He was back on Washington Island by 7:30 a.m., where these photos were taken.  

Hoyt pointed out two middle tail feathers that weren't yet fully developed in pattern, and he guessed his bird was perhaps two years old.  The spur length, half an inch at most, seemed to confirm this.  But as for weight, this bird was a handful to lift, and must not have been an easy partner for riding double.

Turkeys are wary, having excellent eye sight and very sharp instincts, and yet it is hard to refer to them as being smart.  A case in point:  several weeks ago I looked out my window to see a tom turkey challenging its image in the chrome fender of my pickup truck.  This activity went on for over an hour, until dark, with occasional pecking at the bumper and the lifting of his beard in what seemed to be an aggressive, self-promoting manner.  During this time, he left a dozen or more deposits, littering the asphalt at the truck's rear bumper.

-  Dick Purinton