Sunday, September 23, 2012


Washington Island -

Bill Crance has the knowledge, and maybe just as important, the right temperament, to restore vehicles. This project is his second since retirement two years ago.

He purchased his Model-A in pieces that were partly restored but still were a long way from completed assembly, a project began by the late Henry Nelson.  Using his knowledge and intuition for things mechanical, and by listening and learning from others, and by doing as he went along, gradually, and with characteristic patience, Bill restored his car.  He took the motor to a county machinist who specialized in reworking motors.  He and his nephew "Elvis" repaired rusted fenders and floors, then painted the parts, and, finally, he reassembled the pieces.

Son Thor and I had a chance to visit Bill and his car in his shop last December 2011.  That was a stage when the car looked quite complete from the exterior, and when Bill was partway through installation of an interior liner.  The seats had yet to be installed.  There were a few things, here and there, he pointed out to us, all of which he finished over the next several months.  The car's paint job looked professional - and it was. Bill's son-in-law is an expert who operates a custom car refinishing business in the Chicago area.

By early June Bill, had his car out on island roads, trying it out the ride, and he stopped on one such jaunt at the Ferry Line office and offered me a ride.  He and neighbor Bob Nikolai, also an avid Model-A restorer and collector, planned a road trip later that month to a national Model-A meet in Marquette, Michigan.  This would be a fair trek in two old vehicles, but they left the island confident they'd thought of everything - or could fix and repair along the way as necessary.

The only glitch in their travels came on the return leg, when Bob's exhaust manifold loosened and fell off, on Green Bay's east side (near Highway 41 Tower Drive bridge).  Bill, following in his car, retrieved it from the roadside.  They wired it back into place for the home stretch through Door County.

Here are more photos of Bill's project, both in his shop and on the road.  - Dick Purinton

Thursday, September 6, 2012


A response from the U. S. Coast Guard Ninth District stated that
buoys #2 and #6 would be reset shortly. 
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Word was received this morning that the U. S. Coast Guard Ninth District Waterways Management has reconsidered placement of #2 and #6, and will be conducting further study of Detroit Harbor aids.  The email exhange follows:

From: []
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 1:34 PM
To: Kugel, Ralph BOSN2
Cc: Hoyt Purinton; Rich Ellefson; Joel Gunnlaugsson
Subject: Re: Confrence call

Mr. Kugel -   I would like to add my thanks to your email response, for reconsidering the placement of Buoys 6 and 2 that we believe are of immense help to our ferry captains, and for your continued study and solicitation of comments regarding the Detroit Harbor waterway.  
  We understand that your organization's job, collectively, is to manage all of the Ninth District aids to navigation, no small task, and that as such it may involve more than we in our corner of Lake Michigan may appreciate.   If anything, this tells us we ought to make a more concerted effort to communicate with your office (and the other way around, too).   Again, our appreciation for your willingness to listen and solicit comment.
    -  Respectfully,  Richard Purinton, CEO, Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc.

On Sep 6, 2012, at 9:51 AM, Kugel, Ralph BOSN2 wrote:

Thank you for all your input. We are going to step back and conduct a waterway study of Detroit Harbor. The study is currently being advertised in the Great lakes Notice to Mariner.  Comments can be made to Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan in Milwaukee or myself. Your comments are very valuable in this study as they have been all along and we will continue to take comments until 01 January 2013.  We want to make sure that we get it right for all users. I have attached a survey that you could reproduce locally and hand out to marina patrons, ferry captains, other waterway users if you like. Mr. Doug Sharps contact information is located at the bottom of the survey. 

We are sending ANT Muskegon back out to put 2 and 6 back in the water. They should be there next week weather depending. 

Again, thank you for all your valuable input and local perspective. 

*****   (With thanks to all who have commented with their support and advice... Following - printed BELOW - is a form supplied by Mr. Kugel that can be used by boaters and citizens to express their thoughts about aids to navigation in Detroit Harbor.   DP)  ***

Waterway Analysis and Management System Survey

Name of Waterway:_________________________________________

User Information

___Commercial User
___Recreational User

E-mail address: ________________________________________________

Number of years in the maritime industry or number of years using this waterway:____________________________________________________
Number of transits in the waterway per year:________________________
Number of night transits of waterway:_____________________________
Seasonal Dates:      Start:______________End:____________________
Name of Vessel:________________________________________________
Vessel Description:_____________________________________________
Length:___________Beam:__________Draft:_________Gross Tons:_____
Net Tons:_________Bridge Height of Eye:___________________________
Cargo Carried:_________________________________________________

Navigational tools used: (ECDIS/ECPINS, GPS, DGPS,VISUAL, RADAR)_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What area do you believe is the most dangerous or difficult to navigate:_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are the floating aids to navigation (lighted and unlighted buoys) adequate for this waterway:_______________________________________________

Are the fixed aids to navigation (lights, ranges, lighthouses, daybeacons) adequate for this waterway:_______________________________________

Are the year round and lighted ice buoys adequate:____________________

Are there buoys that you feel should be changed to fixed aids to navigation:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are there any buoys that could be eliminated from this waterway:________

Are there any buoys with sound signals that the bell or gong could be removed:______________________________________________________

Are there any areas that require additional aids to navigation in this waterway:_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do the nautical charts, Coast Pilot, and Light List meet your needs for this waterway:____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are there private Aids to Navigation that you find misleading or interfere with the current system in the waterway:_____________________________

Any addition comments on this waterway:___________________________

Thank you for taking time to comment on this waterway.  Your input as a mariner very valuable to the U. S. Coast Guard in evaluating waterways to make them safe and as easily navigable as possible.  Please fell free to contact Mr. Doug Sharp at or (216) 902-6070 with any other questions or concerns about any aids to navigation in the Great Lakes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Rain clouds brought welcomed moisture to northern Door County
late Labor Day Monday afternoon.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

There's something about watching a thunderstorm develop in the west, the energy of white clouds lifting and rolling at the lip, dead silence for a short time before the wind shifts from the direction of the storm, then peals of thunder and torrential rain.

Its a powerful experience, one we haven't witnessed for awhile, and it came at the end of the afternoon of Labor Day.  Ferries had already delivered weekend visitors to the mainland, those returning to their homes to begin work or school the following morning, and except for golfers in the Monday men's league at Deer Run who may have scattered indoors, this storm and the moisture it delivered came with perfect timing.  The weekend - the whole preceding week, for that matter - had excellent weather, sunny skies, temperatures that ranged in the 70s.  We could smugly say how happy we were to be living here.  Then the weekend, too, was ultra-fine, the type of weather any visitor can appreciate, for any sort of activity, with a full moon - a blue moon - that beamed upon the waters of the harbors, fields and pastures.

According to several people with home rain gauges, precipitation ranged between 2-3".  John Delwiche, official Island Weather Observer for NOAA who lives near East Side Road, measured just under 2" as an official Washington Island entry.  But, John acknowledged that a mile this way or that could have easily made the difference of half an inch or more, so concentrated were the downpours.
(John's synopsis for August indicates that total Island August precipitation was 29% of the past 30-year average, and it was the 4th driest August since 1945!)

Will this rain help lake levels?   Certainly, though it was quite concentrated in the northern lake region,  will make some difference, but just how much is hard to say.  There is a lot of lake to fill, not to mention swamps, ponds, creeks, the water table underground, and so forth.   A wet fall from here on can only serve to benefit the overall level, however.

Monday, in what we observed as a good trend, the lake level increased a few inches, enough to sneak out for a sail without getting stuck.  We hope that level holds for awhile.

- Dick Purinton

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Early chart of Detroit Harbor, from 1928 Light List,
courtesy of Eric Bonow. At that time, wooden ferries

crossed the harbor to land at the shipyard.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We've been awaiting word from the U. S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation representatives in Cleveland regarding our request for them to reconsider their policy for the intended, permanent removal of several steel floating aids to navigation in Detroit Harbor.

Late this summer we learned that all of the steel "ice hull" buoys would be pulled and then replaced with lighter, floating aids on a seasonal basis.  This action would mean no floating aids to rely on for approximately five months of the year, including winter, and full reliance would necessarily shift to the two newly constructed cylinders and the long-established "tripod" entrance marker.

We had the opportunity to discuss our point of view in a phone conference with three Coast Guard officers who represented Ninth District Aids to Navigation, Cleveland, two weeks ago. We're hoping the intervening period of time brought about a change of policy regarding those buoys, aids that we consider critical for year around, daily ferry operations.

Boiled down, we requested that buoys #2 and #6 be reset for year around use.  Such steel buoys are superior radar targets in fog or snowstorms over the smaller foam buoys, we said, and they always provide important visual reference for our ferry captains.  We offered to assist with buoy setting using one of our ferries, if that were helpful, but we learned that there is a policy to not rely on such civilian help, or mix private aids with approved federal aids.

Of concern to us was that we had to repeatedly make our case, in several different ways, to be clear that those buoys are not just a nicety but critical to repeated, safe transit of the channel in varied conditions.   Those new, large cylinders will provide strong visual and radar targets, we agreed, but there is nearly a 1/3 mile gap between entrance mark and the first cylinder, a time when an operator, attentive to his compass course, depth, GPS, radar and throttles, must use all of his senses at once to maintain safe course.  Those floating buoys provided excellent visual reference when nothing else was available.  This was certainly true for #2 buoy, but equally important for #6 that marks the reef opposite the ferry dock.   Our ferries need to avoid this rock pile (now only several feet beneath the surface) each time the captain squares away on an outbound course.  High winds, occasional current, and ice in the channel can add difficulty to what is essentially a visual piloting exercise.

We got the impression though our prolonged discussion that we needed to toughen up and get used to relying on the Colusus of Rhodes columns that stand tall over our harbor. We regret having sounded argumentative during the 75-minute phone conference, but when it turned into a debate on what the purpose of a buoy is, and how we ought to be able to safely navigate the channel without floating aids, was there a better way we could have gotten our points across?

The two buoys (#6 and #2) that we described as essential for our safe operations are already here on the island with their sinkers.  The vessel that services them from Muskegon, and the sailors who man that vessel, are available and have already been funded.  That leaves the cost of fuel and the orders to sail a 46-foot vessel across the lake every two years for buoy maintenance as the sole "obstacle," apparently.  That vessel has limitations placed on its scope of service that make such a voyage in open water a violation of its intended use in protected waters.

It may indeed be time to toughen up.

In this photo the C. G Richter was still the winter
ferry, but it does point out the rather small, constricting
basin in which  to turn around or maneuver.  At the
top right of the oval is the red nun #6, marking
the shallow reef.
Others used to do it!  Why can't we?

Back in the days of sail and small mechanized freight boats, called hookers, there were but a few channel aids to assist them. That channel was natural, like a river, and not mechanically dredged.

Eric Bonow, as he has done many other times, sent along information in the form of a chart of the Detroit Harbor entrance from the 1928 Light List.  It may be one of the earliest that depicts buoys marking the West Channel.  At the outer end is the gas buoy with bell which then marked the south end of the shallow reef (rather than sitting on top of the north end as does the present day entrance buoy.)   A bit farther in was a black can where the channel took a slight dipsy-doodle.

Another aid, called the "elbow light" on the old chart where the channel crooked off to the east, marked what Nathan Gunnlaugsson called the "false channel."  A crib of stones marked this naturally deep route, and the mark's remains, a rock pile with a single, upright timber protruding from it, still shows itself to this day east of the dredged channel.  To the west of that crib and the false channel is a two-foot shoal, presently marked by the #6 red nun foam buoy.

From my perspective, the channel then was minimally marked, and it must have been a tense time when vessel masters entered or left port.  Maybe they produced greater testosterone than we do today.
The frequency of modern day ferry travel to and from Detroit Harbor, and the consequences for striking bottom (which includes reporting such incidents to the Coast Guard, and the possibility of haul-out for repairs) won't be satisfied by an old-fashioned spit of plug juice over the side or the vow to do it better the next time.

If we read our regulators' remarks correctly, now is the time for us to toughen up, sharpen our boat handling skills, and be thankful for all we've been given from our federal government!

We hope to bring good news to our readers when such news is available. - Dick Purinton

A few additional thoughts...

Several comments have already been received by direct communication regarding the above essay, and one of them was a comment on the Coast Guard's preference for the installation of "gated" buoys whenever possible.  And while in general this practice may be a proven benefit to navigation, providing a guide for both sides of the waterway, in the case of Detroit Harbor there were only the red floating buoys, for decades, in addition to the green entrance buoy.  (And also the exception of #9 placed at the north end of the channel in the turning basin, now replaced with a white and red striped buoy).   Later, about the year 2001- which happened to coincide with a completed, major dredging project in front of our island ferry terminal - green can #5 was installed.   It proved beneficial as a turning mark for our ferries, marking the shallows along the west side of the channel much in the same manner #6 now marks the hump on the east side of the channel.  But, cost and engineering overkill aside, that new cylinder #5 does not appreciably aid navigation because even though such a "gate" of cylinders may look good on paper, it becomes an immovable obstacle both for vessels and for ice.  And when you're coming into the harbor in low visibility, by the time you're near #5 you've already got a visual bead on the end of the ferry pier.   We're hoping winter ice will not be held back by that cylinder.

The other comment had to do with the new, foam buoy #6A placed approximately one month ago at the north end of the "hump," opposite the ferry landing.    This buoy #6A was installed as a response to several groundings by sailboats as they cut #6 too close to starboard and headed directly for #8 buoy over the top of the hump, with the intention of motoring into the harbor itself.   We don't object to #6A being added, if it helps recreational boaters.  But when asked our opinion during our conference call, we suggested moving #8 further west, so that navigators of recreational craft could, more or less, continue on course beyond #6 to #8 and thereby miss the shallows.  Instead, it appears the Coast Guard proposes the reposition #6 (thus "saving" another foam buoy, #6A).  This proposal, we emphasize, is an entirely wrong and is a potentially dangerous move as it will expose the south end of the shallow hump, which our ferry captains depend upon for visual positioning as they come into or leave their landing area, in both instances while engaged in a major turn.

We spoke up, and we hope notes were taken in Cleveland, because we did not acquiesce on this point regarding the importance of #6 being where it now is, for here and evermore, winter and summer, using a steel "ice hull" buoy.   -  DP