Friday, June 29, 2012


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

"Richard, can you help me create something that I can mount some shoes on - old wooden clogs - in front of my shop windows?"

The idea shopowner Ruth Gunnerson had was to provide pockets for plants: petunias, periwinkles and such.  (I have no idea what I'm talking about in flower-speak.)

I procrastinated on this project for several weeks until one afternoon, while shopping the metal pile at the Island Exchange, I  came across a thing that had been welded up from old hay rake tines.  These were tines that are about 3/8" diameter rod, hardened, and are bent with a loop in them for spring action in the event of striking a large stone in the field.

There were five such tines goobered together with weld, as if the outcome had been intended for use as an outdoor table base.

These I disassembled, having to cut them in half with a torch as I did so.  Then I rewelded the pieces into approximately 40-inch standards with loops on the top end , and with small washers welded to the loops.  Then, selecting from an ample supply of old wooden clogs saved by Ruth, I chose several with brighter colors to fasten with screws to the washers.  I pushed each finished planter into the ground the other morning and waited for Ruth to do the rest.

Fortunately, the idea seemed to work, and more importantly, Ruth seemed pleased.   Well, that's a cheap birthday gift in advance.  (Our birthdays are nearly the same day in September, as is Mary Dawn, Ruth's sister, and son Hoyt.)   Old shoes, old metal, new use.

Stop by the Kaupstadur to admire her flowers-in-clogs when you are out shopping.

- Dick Purinton

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Roen Salvage work barge No. 73 entered Detroit Harbor late Wednesday morning, and within approximately 5 hours the crew had set the two aluminum poles atop Aids to Navigation bases #4 and #5.  I had received an email or two asking about the completion of these cylinders just the previous day, and as if prompted by public curiosity, the tug and barge appeared, rounding Door Bluff on a stiff southerly breeze with the two towers on deck.

These towers appeared to be fabricated entirely of welded aluminum, built and installed to fail-proof federal government (U. S. Coast Guard) specifications, with foot pegs and a trap door for access to the light platform.  Each all-alminum platform with rails will hold a battery, solar panel, light and day boards.  These light bases are substantial, bolted to the top of robust - some have used the word "overbuilt"- concrete, steel and rock pedestals.  These massive objects take the place of the former red nun and green can floating buoys that were held on station by chain and concrete sinker.

The Roen tug Charles Asher and the work barge under command of Don Sarter, having finished their work here, then waited until the southerly winds diminished before setting a course in northern Lake Michigan for the Straits of Mackinac, St. Mary's River, and then a long tow across Lake Superior to Duluth.  There, contract work involving dredging and driving pilings awaits in Duluth harbor.

This morning, Thursday, by 10:30 a.m., U. S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation personnel from Milwaukee's Sector Lake Michigan were on hand to complete activation of the aids.  Green or red day boards were bolted to the railings, solar panels installed, and a corresponding light with battery were added to the circuit, making the aids fully functional.

Arni J. Richter approaches island dock as Coast Guard personnel
complete work on light structure #5.
Mariners are advised to keep both hands on the wheel and reduce speed when approaching these new, immoveable objects!

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Washington Island -

Retired photojournalist Ron Overdahl, Washington Island, will exhibit a sampling of his many photos at the Historic Island Dairy gallery.

The first floor gallery as well as the rest of the newly renovated former "cheese factory" or "Island chalet" (names by which this building has also been known locally over the years) will open to the public Saturday, June 30, from 4 to 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available.

Historic Island Dairy owners, Marsha Williams and Scott Sonoc, have made it possible according to Overdahl, by offering him  their space and encouragement.   For this show, he's selected nearly 100 photos, all but a few in black and white, out of thousands taken during his lifetime.
Overdahl's career as photojournalist, which began as a high school student at Milwaukee's Custer High School, included 37 years with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   Assignments have taken him to a wide variety of events, where subjects he's covered included well-known artists, politicians and sports figures, as well as the citizen-at-large.  His photo selections emphasize the human element.

He is especially proud of those photos that relate an emotion to the viewer based on an activity, its surroundings, and a greater context within local, regional or national affairs.  In all, he has thousands of negatives in boxes and these include photos that have appeared in Time, Life, Sports Illustrated and other leading publications.  Overdahl's work won acclaim for photojournalistic excellence, and he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  He believes this exhibition spans an important era in film photography.  Excepting only one enlargement, all were photographed and also developed by Overdahl,  During his career, he has not been featured in gallery shows, and he's never produced work intended to be framed for sale, which makes this island exhibit extra special.

 Many island residents may recognize Overdahl as a former Town of Washington official, a Lions Club member and a neighbor, but few may realize the breadth of his professional photographic work.  More information on Overdahl, his background and his career, will be available in the forthcoming Island Observer (available June 28th).

Please join in meeting Ron Overdahl and his wife Faith (they met as staff members of their high school year book) at the Historic Island Dairy gallery.  This inaugural exhibit is one well worth seeing.
 -  Dick Purinton

Friday, June 22, 2012


Town Line and Range Line Roads, Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The Historic Island Dairy, known to islanders over the years as the “cheese factory” or “Thor’s Chalet,” has been extensively remodeled by Marsha Williams and Scott Sonoc.  An opening public reception will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 30, with both floors of the building open for viewing. 
Their island home is near Little Islands, on Figenschau Bay, and they own and have restored several other island properties, prior to the Historic Island Dairy.   Marsha serves on several corporate boards, and she is semi-retired, and Scott is an architect heading a Chicago architectural firm. 
They bought the former island dairy property because it was central to the island in location, and had at one time reflected the heart of the island's dairy business, with a significant history. 

 According to Marsha, what appealed to her was the fact that the old dairy “was located in the center of the island, and it reflected the beauty of the island.  It was pretty, and it needed some TLC.”

Scott added, “This is what we can do, like ‘planting an apple tree’.  Others might take photos or bake, for example, but this is what we know how to do - in serving the community, the public interest.”  

Complying with state and local permits, the Historic Island Dairy property can host a wide variety of public uses.  Initially, a gallery will occupy the first floor space, open to the public on weekends, or when docents are available.  (A photography exhibit by former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photographer Ron Overdahl will be featured this summer.)  The second floor has an open, comfortable space for large gatherings, open to an outer deck with a view to fields in the west.  This building is  fully accessible, and it is the first on the island to have an elevator.
Flexibility in the design will allow for creating smaller spaces in the future, such as offices on the lower level.  The building has high-energy efficiency, and it is zoned so that the first floor can be heated independently. But, if a special winter event comes along, the second floor space can be quickly heated.  
There are many pleasant, advanced features to be found in this building.  Overall, this is a beautiful structure with wonderful history, and it will add to Washington Island's interest and diversity. 

As a long term goal, Marsha and Scott hope that Islanders will appreciate and enjoy this building, incorporating it into community life, much as when it was an active Island Dairy.

- Dick Purinton 


This chart was one several purchased on e-Bay by Eric Bonow.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

In the mail the other day was an envelope from Eric Bonow that contained a copy of a chart of Death's Door waters, by the U. S. Navy Hydrographic Office, that was published as a Notice to Mariners in 1895.   Eric had purchased several of these Great Lakes Notice to Mariner charts through eBay.

This mapping effort apparently satisfied requests by maritime interests for more accurate information about Nine Foot Shoals, adjacent to what is now the Waverly Shoals buoy, and the Middle Shoals located midway between Plum and Detroit Islands.  This is referred to locally as the "Middle Ground."

Eric went one better and researched old Door County Advocates to find out more about the two wrecks shown on the Middle Shoals.  His findings are as follows:

Door Co. Advocate, 3/23/1895:  Detroit Harbor Notes. The rocky shoal about half way between Plum and Detroit Islands and marked by a red spar buoy during the months of navigation is made more dangerous since the schooner H. M. Scove went to pieces there.  Her entire bottom is anchored there on the shallowest spot by a lot of cobble stones placed between her frames to stiffen her while sailing.  They now keep the bottom there intact so there is only six feet four inches of water over the bottom with high water, while there would be considerably less with low water or a high sea running.

Door Co. Advocate,  10/3/1919:  MARQUETTE IN TROUBLE
Steamer Brought Here For Removal of Old Schooner Scove Cables Which Were Wrapped Up In Wheel.
   The passenger and freight steamer City of Marquette, owned by W.W. Hill, which has been on the Green Bay run the last couple of years, was towed into port Saturday by the tug Search of Washington Island and docked at the Universal yard for the purpose of having an old shroud cable taken off her wheel.
   The entire top rigging of the old wrecked schooner Scove was wound up in the Marquette's wheel as the steamer lay at the Richter dock at Detroit Harbor.  When the Marquette attempted to swing around the cable was picked up.  Diver Pearl Purdy and assistant Ed. Donovan went to the Island Tuesday of last week to relieve the steamer but the job was too big for Diver Purdy.  There were scores of strands of the cable wrapped about the wheel.  An acetelyne (sic) torch was used to cut the wire away and the job was completed in 55 minutes.  The Marquette left the same day for Detroit Harbor.
   The Scove was wrecked on a reef off Plum Island nearly 30 years ago and when her spars fell several years later fishermen towed the top works  into Detroit Harbor and dropped it near the Richter dock expecting to salvage it at some time.  In recent years it was forgotten and it was thought the ice had taken hold of the old topmast and dragged it off into the bay.

Pearl Purdy was a name I had just become familiar with a day or two earlier, when reading parts of FOUR ISLANDS: A History of Detroit, Rock, St. Martins, and Washington Islands (published in 1984), by former Jackson Harbor resident and island commercial fisherman Raymond E. McDonald.  McDonald recounted an incident involving the steam tug Kate Williams:

"A bad blow came up one day, from the north, and blew very hard that night.  It was too much for the anchor chain and it parted, letting her drift in between Washington Island and Rock Island.  The seas pushed her up quite high on the rocks, and she was soon lying over on her side with not much water under her.
"The tug "Leathem Smith" came up from Sturgeon Bay with a barge and all necessary equipment to release and salvage her.  Although this was a big and powerful tug, they could not release her.  This happened in 1909.  They gave up the attempt but they recovered the steam boiler and the engine and all pumps, etc. that were useful.
"A new tug was built at Sturgeon Bay and all this machinery was used to power it.  They named her the "John Hunsader."
"Pearl Purdy was the diver who was used in the effort to salvage the "Kate Williams."  He was form Sturgeon Bay and quite a young man and of very slight build.  The tug "Leathem Smith" was over 100 feet long - - not a small tug. Hank Tuft was captain.  Ed Weber and Pat Writt were the engineers.  They were all from Sturgeon Bay.  The "Leathem Smith" had living quarters for the whole crew and carried a cook.   She would run up in the mud near McDonald's dock and lay there, no need for an anchor.
"Pearl Purdy had used dynamite on the "Kate Williams" to free some of the shafts, etc.  He would sometimes set off a dynamite cap in the water near the "Leathem Smith" in Jackson Harbor.  This would stun the perch and they would float to the top.  Then they could be gathered in and there was plenty of nice perch for dinner.  One day he made a mistake some place, and instead of perch he blew off three of his fingers.  They brought him into McDonald's, who hitched up the horse to the buggy and rushed him right to the doctor, seven miles away.  The doctor trimmed up the stumps and sewed him up. They did not have much of anything then to kill the pain, but on the way out they stopped in at Mrs. Charlie Johnson's to see if she had some whiskey.  She did and they gave Pearl a generous amount, which no doubt was a great help.
"Pearl Purdy followed shipping for the rest of his life, out of Sturgeon Bay, until one fatal trip on the steamer "Clifton" out of Sturgeon Bay in the fall of 1924, when she foundered in a bad storm on Lake Huron.  The entire crew was lost.  Most of this crew was from Sturgeon Bay."

So, several interesting connections.  But, back to the chart shown at the top of the page.   You might have a hard time reading the fine print, but alongside the dotted line to the north of Pilot Island is this notation (I'm guessing at letters where chart paper is torn):

Track recommended by Lighthouse Keeper for all vessels during strong southerly winds.

The track to the south of Pilot has the note:  General Track

In October of 1892, in the course of three days, three sailing ships wrecked on Pilot Island. The Light Keeper's advisory to sail north of the island in a strong southerly wind may have resulted from that occasion and was subsequently issued as advice to mariners.  From personal experience, I've always been surprised at just how far the lobe of shelf rock extends southward from the island, while to the north it possible to nearly place a bow against the island.

This chart does not show the Plum Island range lights, but that project was in the funding pipeline when this chart was developed.  According to information from Door County lighthouse historian Steve Karges, Congress appropriated funding in 1895, and in August of 1896 a crew of 30 men began work clearing forest in preparation for erection of the range lights and associated U. S. Lighthouse Service buildings.  By May of 1897, the range lights were exhibited for the first time, under the supervision of Martin Knudsen, the same man who was Keeper on Pilot Island during the 1892 incidents, for which he received a commendation.

Our appreciation to Eric Bonow for passing along the Death's Door chart.

-   Dick Purinton

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Essar steel mill in Canadian Soo.
Here 'n there -

Tom Wilson, Island dentist, and I went on our second annual U.P. road trip this past weekend, which took us to Sault Ste. Marie, among other places.   Friday evening's rain, much needed in the eastern Upper Peninsula where there have been many wooded acres burned in the past month, gave way to sunshine as we cruised on the upper St. Mary's river in Le Voyageur, a craft operated by Soo Locks Tours that closely resembled our old C. G. Richter.  Not surprising, the Naval Architect was the same Walter Haertel, and the builder for each vessel was Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock.

Laker Cason J. Calloway approaches
lock loaded with ore.  Great Lakes Maritime
Academy training vessel follows.

Our weekend tour continued with a drive to the maritime museum at Whitefish Point, then Tequamenon Falls, with time to scoot to Boyne City on the mitten (yes, Michigan has a real mitten shape down-state) and dinner with our youngest son, Thor, at a fantastic Italian restaurant.  This is in the same neighborhood as Hemingway's old haunt of Horton's Bay.

After a night in St. Ignace, we hit the road again for home Sunday morning and stopped briefly in the early afternoon at the Peshtigo Fire Museum.  Over 1200 lives were lost in an evening firestorm, we learned.  I've always wanted to stop at this museum (and did once on my motorcycle, but it had closed) and compare notes with southern Door County's Williamsonville fire of the same date in October 1871.
Williamsonville was a settlement within the Town of Brussels, actually a shingle mill owned by the Williamson brothers.  A much more broad area than the Town of Brussels and parts of southern Door County that were burned on the east side of the Bay, but even more lives and acres were burned in the country surrounding Peshtigo.

We covered a lot of ground in three days, surpassing, by my estimate, the 1200 driving miles we put on during last year's excursion.  Among the memorable sights was Canada's Essar mill.  Somehow, the billowing smoke and piles of raw materials gave me a warm and friendly feeling:  the essence of production with the piles of taconite, coal and limestone, and even more impressive were the enormous piles of slag.  A truck dumped a load of orange, molten slag as we cruised, and exposure to oxygen brought on an eruption of smoke, causing a youngster to point and exclaim to his parents, "Look, a volcano!"  He was right, it had that appearance.

And while that industrial setting may no longer be observed in the U.S. - due to environmental laws and the times, as well as imported steel - there was an endearing quality about this example of heavy industry (with its 4000+ jobs, according to our narrator), and the tangible, finished coils of rolled steel at the end of the pier, waiting to be shipped to customers.

There's a lot to be seen and learned by visiting our Great Lakes waterway neighbors.

May's weather -

Island weather observer John Delwiche dropped off his monthly synopsis for May the other day, and here are a few of the highlights:  
   A record high was recorded of 78 on 05/16, which also happened to be the first 70 degree day in 2012.  I'm not sure if we hit 70 again since then - just kidding - but it has been on the cool side of late.   Our May precipitation total was 1.80".  That figure is less than half the average precipitation of 2.87".   We remain nearly two inches off the precipitation average for the year.

Lake levels, as had been predicted by the Army Corps, fell off slightly rather than continuing to rise, as would be expected up to July, given normal snowmelt and spring rains.

Wisconsin said "No" to Town's application -

We heard via Town Chairman Joel Gunnlaugsson late last Thursday that the Town of Washington's Harbor Assistance Program grant application was NOT selected for approval.   There were other applicants, and we understand that Washington Island did not receive a funding recommendation.  In fact, we were at the bottom of the list.   Where does that leave us, given continued low water and the prospect for perhaps even lower future lake levels?    

We're bound to learn more details during the next week.  A renewed application effort is one possibility.

Eagles eat, too -

Eagles are seen more frequently along these shores, from Rock Island to Washington, Plum and along the peninsula, to the point where sightings are no longer considered unusual.  However, they're still fun to watch and exciting to see, flying or sitting, and part of this has to do with their size and their habits.

We watched six immature eagles, in varying degrees of white and brownish-black feathers, roosting in one tree last Sunday afternoon.  Below them, at water's edge, were three egrets.  And just beyond the egrets was a pair of white (black-tipped wings) pelicans. Nearby, geese swam with their young.

The resident great blue heron had taken the afternoon off, and he was absent from the scene, but neighbor Connie sees him - or her - often, sometimes with a snake wrapped in its bill.

A rather incredible Detroit Harbor sight, all of these birds seen together.

This noon, while eating lunch at our kitchen table, I looked out the window and watched an eagle doing the same, only with a dead fish, among the grasses near shore.  A seagull and a second eagle waited above to claim the leftovers.

It's never too late to get a good pair of binoculars and enjoy spotting these impressive birds.

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Cylinder base for Detroit Harbor aid #5,  filled with rock to create mass.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -  

The second of two steel cylinders was transported to Washington Island Friday afternoon, June 1st, and was lowered over H-piles where buoy #5 had previously been tethered on chain and concrete sinker.  Roen crews began filling each cylinder with stone from their second work barge, and by late Monday, both #4 and #5 cylinders were ready for concrete.

A stationary mixer truck on deck was used to combine gravel, sand and cement, then the product was pumped into the cylinder. (photo below)

Concrete mixer (L) and crew ready to add to cylinder.
Below - Ferry Eyrarbakki shown outbound from the island dock,
alongside Roen's construction barge.

The bulkiness of these new harbor additions will be hard to overlook, even without their 20-foot or so tall light towers, yet to be added.

By Thursday, June 7th, if work on the two cylinder bases is completed, the Roen work barges and crew may depart this location in preparation for their next contract.  The final stage of light pedestal installation will follow later, after shipment of the units is received from the fabricator.

-  Dick Purinton