Saturday, October 26, 2013


Spectacular cloud formations and lighting over Hog Island,
coupled with high winds and seas, made for an entertaining
drive during a power outage Saturday morning, Oct. 26.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Following is a short excerpt from the NOAA weather forecast for the Near Shore in our area earlier today (written Saturday, Oct. 26th):


1152 AM CDT SAT OCT 26 2013



Cloud formations layered over the lake
on a calm Saturday, October 19.
Peterson Bay is in the foreground.

Lake freighters held in port or anchored behind land forms late Friday, in response to the evening's forecast for high winds and large waves (the off shore NOAA report predicted possible waves to 28 feet in the open lake.)  Peak winds were brief, but enough to get lake swells rolling, and the Roen dredging crews were able to work through the day Saturday by locating their dredge in the harbor's northern portion of the channel, where better protection was offered.

The type of clouds seen this time of year are unique to fall, laden with moisture and updrafts.  The puffy plumes over Lake Michigan and Green Bay, even on a calm day, can bring enjoyable viewing this time of year in this latitude.  Looking out my window late Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to see sheets of ice pellets moving across the harbor in a wind-whipped squall.  But such conditions were short-lived.  I glanced away for a short time, then back again a few minutes later, and the icy screen had already lifted and winds had moderated.  

Sand Dunes Park proved to be a good vantage point to
observe "Hawaii Five-0" type combers as they ripped
into the East Channel shallows, tops blown back by
westerly winds - Sat. Oct. 26.

We took advantage of a power outage Saturday morning to skip making breakfast and to drive around the island.  Then, I recalled that the Danish Mill had a back-up generator, and so we stopped there first to buy bakery and coffee, making our leisurely wind-leaf-and-cloud drive all the more enjoyable.  Not a single car was encountered on our entire drive around the east side, from the South Shore Drive to Hemlock Drive and then along Lake View Road.  We had the morning - that time of morning, at least - to ourselves.

Within a few weeks leaves will be off the trees almost entirely and deer hunting season will begin. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays quickly follow, and the build-up of colder days that precede real winter.  Until then, the often spectacular clouds and sky provide us with a backdrop and lighting to energize the changing of the seasons on Washington Island.

 - Dick Purinton

Friday, October 25, 2013


One of approximately eight dump trucks that hauls dredging
spoils on the six-mile route to the
town gravel pit, off Gunnlaugsson Road.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The Detroit Harbor dredging project, the digging and hauling part of this project, is now in week five, and approximately 25% of the total project depth for the channel has been achieved.

That figure, 25%, is an approximation that is based on counts of barge-loads of spoils.  Actual figures will be derived from the differences calculated from pre and post-project depth contours.  But, the estimates show weekly progress in what is not necessarily straight-forward digging by the primary contractor, Roen Salvage Company of Sturgeon Bay.   When weather permits, an excavator digs on a round-the-clock basis.  Off-loading of the spoils barges and trucking occurs only between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.  This window for trucking - most of it during daylight - is intended to reduce noise for residents when the trucks pass by homes and businesses.  It also enables better and easier monitoring of loads, road conditions and dumping at the spoils site.

It's surprising and annoying that with what should be considered a positive project with the island's welfare in mind, that there are still a number of detractors.  Whether they're driven by personal business reasons, ego magnification, or just plain small-town pettiness, the complaint calls (some anonymous), whether about trucking, digging or otherwise managing this large project with many pieces, it gets old after awhile.

We've heard some rumbling about those occasional large stones that were dug from the bottom of the harbor, then set aside on the Potato Dock because they're too large to fit into dump trucks without removing the tailgates.  To whom do they belong, and, aren't they Town property?  

Perhaps the Town of Washington might wish to mark the Community Center parking lot with those beauties.  For now, at least, those stones considered too large to haul in trucks (because they would require tailgates to be removed) have been set aside along the western edge of the Potato Dock, just to get them out of the way.  Perhaps they'll be moved later, and perhaps not.  It's up to the Town.

We should make clear, once and for all, that use of the Potato Dock facility for this project (a private property leased by Washington Island Ferry Line) is being made available at no cost to the Town or to any contractor.  The pier, given its geographic location a short distance from the channel, is a logical place to unload dredge spoils, moor barges, and position other related equipment.  We've called it "our contribution" to making this project work, and it further reduces the overall cost of the project.   WIFL does not intend to charge "tipping fee" for stones placed on the Potato Dock, whether such placement is permanent or temporary.  Perhaps the Town of Washington will offer these stone as souvenirs to interested citizens who may bid for them and pay for trucking to their properties.

Let's get real, people!

Thankfully, detractors of projects such as this  (who, by the way, always have the better solution) are a very small minority.  The majority of Island citizens and visitors plainly see the need to get this work done, and they understand that when you dig and transfer mud and stone there will always be dust, minor spillages, busted blacktop and the associated noise of engines and machinery.  All of this comes to a halt when the project depth is achieved, or it will come to a temporary halt when freezing and ice enters the picture.

Dave Hanlin runs two of the trucks for the offload.  Shown is Rich Ellefson,
unlocking the tailgate of the truck he's driving for Hanlin. 

It looks now like the change in seasons with freezing temperatures will shut down dredging operations in late December or January, before this project is completed.  If that is the case, then dredging would resume when the ice is melted and when WDNR permits allow for the continuation of digging.

Economic benefits, too

Everyone knows that without a harbor deep enough to navigate, the Island's economy and our community would be in jeopardy.  But along with this necessary and considerable work being accomplished by a number of contractors and workers, there is a positive economic spin-off.  Dollars are spent in motels, restaurants, stores and other establishments.  Workers engage in twelve-hour shifts, and during that time they eat lunches purchased locally.  When not on duty, they sleep and eat on the Island.  Lunch breaks for truckers consist of food grabbed on-the-fly, resulting in hundreds of dollars in food each week from restaurants and stores.  (Two trucks were parked briefly at the Albatross one noon, as their drivers ordered lunch-to-go.)

 A loaded material barge approaches the Potato Dock.
The shore-based crane swings the empty away from
the pier to make room.  The dredge is in the background.

We should also recognize there are Wisconsin taxpayer dollars, paid to Wisconsin contractor companies, and to their to workers and subcontractors, workers who, with few exceptions, live in our state and pay Wisconsin income taxes.  The primary contractor is Roen, Sturgeon Bay based, and most of their men are from Door County.  The trucking is nearly all by island men, and the trucks are owned by Islanders.  How much more local can we get in terms of keeping these dollars near home?   Paychecks, fees and products purchased result in multiple turnover of dollars, further helping to strengthen local and state economies.  Nowhere will the impact be appreciated, however, as much as at our local, Island level.

Remember the visit from Senator Feingold about six years ago, with whom the topic of dredging of the Detroit Harbor federal channel was first broached?

Given the long run-up to achieving a shovel-ready, fully-funded project, I count myself among those pleasantly surprised by the way things have thus far progressed.   This is a huge undertaking, with major expense, and we need to thank our lucky stars it is happening today. (We need to thank our key legislators, too, for their steadfast support resulting in funding legislation).  Future generations of Islanders and Island visitors, we hope, will not be adversely impacted by low water in Lake Michigan, such that it could jeopardize ferry transportation or drop property values.

-  Dick Purinton

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Young eagle trying to perch on a
small pipe. (photo by Atlas Beneda)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Its been nearly one month since my last post.  The days have flown by with a variety of activities.  Island colors are now approaching the full palette of greens, reds, yellow and shades in between.  Long grasses and reeds have suddenly, it seems, taken on golden colors, although the grass along roadside and in lawns has never looked greener, given the abundance of rainfall in the past weeks.

We had over three inches last weekend in occasional downpours, before seeing glorious sunshine Sunday noon.  And its been one beautiful, week since then.

The first Washington Island Literary Festival was a tremendous success in so many ways.   We had just over 80 registrants, and what was so memorable was that each participant, whether audience member or  presenter, seemed to be filled with a highly congenial spirit.  Beginning with a reception at Red Cup Coffee Friday evening, then unexpectedly entertaining and informative presentations Saturday, and excellent dinner with poetry Saturday evening at the Island Dairy, through the trips on the Karfi in rain and heavy overcast, then coming out of that for two afternoon sessions...the weekend had more the feeling of a retreat with only positives coming from our experiences.

My only photos were taken Sunday morning, when some of us were waiting for the first trip (with extra chairs) to Rock Island.   That morning was a personal highlight, because I had the opportunity to talk about Thordarson and read a few pages from my book.  Our audience was just over 50, not a bad turnout considering how gloomy and wet the early morning had been.   But the crowd was enthusiastic,  considerate, and patient - and as it seemed from comments, highly appreciative of the setting for this event inside the Thordarson Boathouse.

Privileged to be named as presenters at Rock Island:
Poets Ralph Murre, Sharon Auberle of Baileys Harbor, who
read from their book of poetry, and Richard Purinton who
read about Thordarson.

For a turn-around in roles, imagine yourself reading to Norman Gilliland!  Norman, known for reading Chapter-A-Day on Wisconsin Public Radio, and who read from his newest book, Down East Ledge, Saturday afternoon, and Amanda Gilliland, were Festival participants, too, attending the Rock Island event.

"What a privilege to carry..." goes the church hymn, and it was this Sunday morning.  It was in a slightly different setting that we counted our blessings among those gathered on Rock Island.

Mary Beth Volmer and Sandy Peterson, among
those aboard the Karfi Sunday morning were
dressed for the weather.  By noon, rain had given
way to clear, blue skies.
There were so many highlights from that weekend, but the pleasant enthusiasm of everyone we encountered ranks at the top of my list.  There is no formula that can create such an atmosphere.  It just happened.  But, I believe it was fostered by the positive attitudes of Festival organizers Helene Meyer and Betsy Wallman, and then underscored with Jean Feraca's welcoming remarks Friday evening.  This wave of energy with upbeat tempo swept us along the next two days.

Other noted Island activities

Wednesday, October 9th, I took my final turn of the season aboard the Karfi as skipper.  It was another outstanding October day: sunny, blue, blue sky, temperature in the upper 60s, with a pleasant southerly wind.

Among our passengers headed to Rock Island on that first morning run were naturalists Melody Walsh and the Lukes, Roy and Charlotte.  Their mission:  to locate and measure a hemlock spotted in a previous visit several weeks ago, a new, possible Door County record.  (Eclipsing Plum Island's hemlock.)   Later that day when they boarded again, smiles indicated they were successful.  It takes time to collate measurements and have them accepted by the State, but it appears that within a few weeks we may hear Roy's announcement in his column about this tree.

Roy and Charlotte Lukes,  returning
from Rock Island.
In her lifetime, Charlotte has identified 596 different fungi species in Door County. At least,  and that was her count before this most recent field trip.

She had recently added 25 new fungi finds to her Rock Island list (now at 70 and still counting...) when she and Roy visited September 24 & 25.  Their mushroom hunting was aided, she said, by the extremely wet fall weather that increased the fungi production beyond anything previously witnessed.  She held a plastic bag of possible new fungi samples as she boarded the Karfi for the return trip to Jackson Harbor Wednesday.

Some day, Charlotte acknowledged, she may publish a book about her finds.  She photographs discovered specimens in place, then she brings a representative sample to her home for closer examination under a powerful microscope.  Each is cataloged by shape, color, spore patterns and so on, comparing each with previously noted species and reference book information.  As long as new species continue to present themselves for discovery, her book on Door County mushrooms will remain incomplete.

It is incredible to have two such naturalists in our midst who dedicate themselves to increasing the body of science about our surroundings, all with such little fanfare.

Such dedication to what we might term a "lifetime pastime" for the outdoors!   Their  passion for field and forest is uplifting.

A word about the eagle shown at the top of the page:  this young eagle had tried to capture one of the several brown trout seen in Detroit Harbor in recent weeks, but the fish was too big to pick up.  With a lack of grace and agility, it tried to perch on the top of a 3-inch pipe supporting our pier.  Later, it was observed to land on a lightly constructed kingfisher roost, a tall wooden post with a stick attached to the top.   Grandson Atlas took the eagle's photo, one of many taken over a period of ten minutes or so, while it appeared indifferent to its surroundings.

We've managed to fill another blog without even touching on the dredging project taking place in Detroit Harbor.  Next time!          -  Dick Purinton