Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Tug Stephan M. Asher is laid up for winter along the south side
of the Ferry Line bulkhead.
Washington Island -

Winter weather has been with us for at least a month, even though officially this season began last Saturday.

At home, we've had time to get settled into a routine of shoveling, getting wood into the woodbox, and cutting new wood for next year.

Each day last week, it seemed, we received more snow. Temperatures were often in the mid-20s, with northeasterly winds, conditions that encouraged the production of lake effect snow.  Those fluffy, light flakes accumulated quickly on the ground, a good seven inches last Sunday alone.  In addition, our part of the state received moisture from a more southerly origin that became snow as it met colder, northerly air masses. An easy 10" of snow on the level now covers the landscape.

Dredging operations wrapped up Monday, December 16, and by late Tuesday the equipment had been set for winter by the Roen crew.  The silt curtain, already torn to shreds by the ice, was extracted from the harbor in pieces. The remains were loaded in the Jordan dump truck, destined for a box at the Town's recycling center.  A few Roen crew members may return during early January for maintenance work on their equipment, but otherwise the operation is shut down until warmer weather returns and ice is gone.   The

View from Ferry Line office window as shredded silt curtain
is disposed of from barge to dump truck.

The Detroit Harbor dredging project has had its share of hiccups, but overall I would say that I've been pleased with the progress made, and I'm hopeful that spring-like weather, along with WDNR permit approvals, will allow for the second half of the project to be completed before the Fourth of July.  As of the date when production stopped, 51% of the estimated total yardage had been dredged.

Bill Engelson forwarded a copy of a news clipping taken from the Door County Democrat, found when he was looking for information about his family's history.  (The Engelsons started Sunset Resort, and prior to that Torger Engelson was a commercial fisherman, first on St. Martin Island, then Washington Island, as I recall.  He noted the cost of the current project.)

I'm guessing this dredging project would have been the first such Detroit Harbor project, and it could have created the short-cut, "false channel," that runs east of the present-day channel.  This would have made entry possible, and safer, for the deeper draft sailing and power vessels that entered Detroit Harbor.  For many years - and perhaps until the later 1920s) there were no piers, or reasons to stop at what we now associate as the Ferry Dock area.  Water traffic went to the Shipyard near Jensenville, to the Ida Bo dock near the foot of Main Road, or to Richter's Point on Detroit Island, which had homes and a number of fish boats.

I wonder what sort of bottom material they encountered, and where they placed the spoils.   Chances are, they weren't hauled far from that location before being dumped.

We have a beautiful winter day going, with plenty of sunshine, in advance of another predicted three inches of snow tonight to dress up the landscape.  Why not?  It's winter.

Have a Merry Christmas!

PS - This is posting #201.   Besides those blogs archived with this site, I previously dumped about 80 blogs in 2010.   The spinning globe on this blog now has registered over 85,666 hits since it was installed several years ago.  Thanks for your continued interest.
 -   Dick Purinton

Monday, December 16, 2013


Arni J. Richter passing Roen dredge, 8:05 a.m., Dec. 16.  
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Earlier than anticipated, deep cold temperatures halted the Detroit Harbor dredging project today, and it also marks the beginning of the Arni J. Richter as the ferry of choice for the next several months.

Single-digit temperatures around Wisconsin Sunday, plus ice in the Door passage, means we're not far from seeing the bay tighten up with ice.   Before Sunday noon, when bay ice from the western shore filled in the Door passage, the Eyrarbakki was used for most ferry runs.  We may reach 32 degrees by Christmas Day, but otherwise, its been consistently cold, and snowy.

When this photo was taken last week, several
nights' ice had formed in the channel.  It was later
cleared with a ferry stern wake and northerly wind.
Here, the Eyrarbakki is
pictured underway.    The Washington
and Robert Noble (hidden behind the Washington, to the right)
were drained and winterized prior to the previous,
deep cold snap.

Colder temperatures of teens and single-digits, coupled with strong westerly winds, hampered dredging operations during the past week.   The scow shown being loaded in the photo above was receiving the last of the dredged spoils for this season.  Roen crewmen will begin to lay up their equipment later today, mooring the construction and material barges near the island ferry terminal.  The tug Stephen M. Asher will moor at the south side of the Ferry Line property, where shore power can be obtained.

With ever-decreasing production this past week, and already down to one shift, it was a matter of time before the call was made by Roen and Foth to stand down.

When it was still possible to do so last week, the Roen crew dragged the channel to assure uniform depths, and to determine if any large, upturned stones were missed by the excavator operator.  Errant stones lying above project depth could be struck inadvertently by ferry propellers this winter when transiting the channel.   However, none were found.  In the accompanying photo are stones recently dug from the channel depths.   They will be added to the upland pile of stones previously separated from the more easily trucked spoils.

Blocks of stone three-by-four feet in dimension, like the one above, have been encountered all too frequently. 
Exactly when this project might resume is anyone's guess.  This will be determined in part by the WDNR's allowance for dredging after March 15th -  a date when, the claim is made, fish may begin to spawn.  When the heaviest ice disappears is another factor.   If ice remains well into April, and permit approval is not forthcoming from WDNR to continue in April and May, then the project may stall until late summer or fall.  This, in turn, will have impact in delaying repair of island roads.  Road repairs won't be made until the trucking ends.

An update on the dredging project progress will appear in the next issue of the Island Observer.

Note:   In the most recent Island Observer I carelessly wrote that Foth Construction Manager Ken Aukerman patrolled the trucking route and tossed spilled stones from the pavement into the grassy roadside.  That was incorrect.  Aukerman brings them to the dumping site where he hands them over to Tom Jordan, making the point that truckers should pick up after themselves, or be more careful. 

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Steam rose from the lake with single-digit temperatures Friday. 
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Temperatures dipped in to single digits and teens the past several days.  Steam rose from open water.  In the shallower harbor, ice crept outward farther each day, solid now except for a few holes from warm currents, here and there.  This Sunday morning skim ice formed out the channel, a first for this season.  Dredging moves forward, but the project's close-down gets closer as extra-cold temperatures
create more difficulties for dredging and trucking operations.

Channel dredging, Monday, Dec. 2.
Just last Monday, following the Thanksgiving weekend, we experienced a calm, relatively mild day.  Hardly a ripple was seen on the water, and low cloud cover created a green cast to the water as we headed out the channel.   Equipment on the crane barge reflected in the calm surface.  By Thursday, Dec. 5th, with sharply dropping temperatures and gale winds from the WNW, only the first ferry trip of the day was made.  The day's remaining trips were cancelled.

Interview with WPR

I traveled to Green Bay with Mary Jo last week for appointments and shopping, and while in a motel room Thursday afternoon, I phoned in for an interview with the hosts of "Central Time," Wisconsin Public Radio's weekday afternoon time slot.  (Find interview at WPR Archives - Dec. 5th, 3 p.m.)  The 15-minute discussion was to be on "Thordarson and Rock Island," but initial questions posed by the hosts began with a statement that Rock Island was an Icelandic village, and that the buildings there reflected Icelandic architecture.

So, before we got rolling, I interjected with clarifications.  I explained that the buildings incorporated unique design elements, including Mediterranean-style tiled roofs, but they were not "Icelandic" in any way.  It was not Thordarson's intentions to create an "Icelandic village."

True, details are found in the Rock Island boathouse today, most notably on the carved furniture, that give the visitor an impression this building was heavily influenced by its Icelandic owner, Thordarson.  Icelandic wood carver Halldor Einarsson furthered Thordarson's Icelandic interests by carrying out Norse mythological themes in his furniture carvings.  However, the furniture pieces displayed there now were built and carved for use in his Chicago office.  Only later, toward the end-years of his life in 1941, did Thordarson move those furniture pieces to Rock Island.

For anyone who reads my book, trying to straighten out such "myths" about Rock Island was a stated incentive behind my writing efforts.  The best that can be said is that Thordarson, with his Icelandic roots, influenced how he wished his estate to look, based on things seen and read, with perhaps a strong desire to use materials that were as practical and durable as possible.  (Stone walls, concrete sills, cypress window frames, and tile roofs were used in many of his 1920s era buildings.)

I'm more convinced than before, given the initial direction of this recent WPR interview, that the historical signage found on the Rock Island grounds (and on similar signs located on the State Park Dock in Jackson Harbor) may be at fault.  Information provided on those boards - despite all of the useful information they do provide - perpetuates certain errors through statements that incorrectly reflect Rock Island's development under Thordarson.

These may seem like finely-shaved points to talk show hosts, but at some point a corrected version needs to be emphasized.  The reality of what exists is quite interesting and captivating without such embellishment, whether intended or not.  

More musings from the Weed patch

Nikki Weed has gone underground for the time being, at least as far as Washington Island communications are concerned.   But before disappearing, she wrote a short piece for the "Sandlappers" newsletter, for a chapter of BMW car owners.


Weed's style can be characterized as lacking in both accuracy and substance.  But, imagination she does have, like when she describe the "long" ferry ride.  (I presume she meant it was too long for her attention span.  Not that the distance (4.5 miles) or time (less than 30 minutes) would be considered long by most standards.

Well, judge for yourself.  I suppose - even though she insinuates rather than identifies - that hers is the red car parked alongside the Island Observer office.  Was Weed double-parked?   Had she consumed too much alcohol before getting behind the wheel for her return trip by ferry?  Did alcohol intake, losing track of time, or combined disfunction cause her to miss that last scheduled ferry?

Armed with good intentions to fellow Beamers, Weed forewarns them about taking ferry boats to small "scenic" islands.  She boldly recycles her observations and opinions in the following piece (the image is a photo of my computer's screen with the offending page shown).

As fellow boatman Don Kilpela commented regarding my blog of last Sunday- and Kiilpela's family DOES operate a long passenger route, to Isle Royale on Lake Superior):
    "BMW magazine?  Haha.  Move along.  Move along."        -  Dick Purinton

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The image above is of a page from the BMW owner's magazine (Roundel - Nov. 2013), of  a column written by Nikki Weed titled, "The 1 Series travels to Devil's Island."

As poorly researched, written and disguised a journalism piece as that is, it is even more surprising that the reputable carmaker BMW's magazine editors would print her submission.

But, we'll let you read it for yourself, as many Islanders already have.  (You may want to go to the Roundel website and print your own copy for easier reading.)

In the interest of fairness, and at least the resemblance of balance, Weed and her editors ought to retract their words with an apology, and perhaps print a selection of some of the comments representing a more realistic (and positive) side of Washington Island, not just the thinly distorted slice presented by Weed.

A well-written, solid response to Ms. Weed was written by youngest son, Thor Purinton, visiting over Thanksgiving.  He "penned" his first draft using an iPhone, while waiting in line for the ferry at Northport.   His comments (Nov. 30, 2013) follow:

Dear Ms. Weed:

I write to you today regarding a column you wrote entitled, "The 1 Series travels to Devil's Island," published in Roundel magazine, November 2013.  What you said in that column about the people of Washington Island, and ferry captains in particular, was insulting and offensive.   I demand - and expect - an apology from you and your editor.  It's unfortunate that you seem to have had a bad experience there, and I do not presume to tell you how to feel.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, whether or not I find it offensive, but your editor should certainly know better.  "Devils Island" is a pretty thin veil - enough to protect your publication from accusations of libel, perhaps, but transparent to any reader familiar with Door County geography.  There is, after all, only one island in Door County with regular car ferry service, and the list of ferry captains in Door County is a short one.  All of the people on that list I call friend, and two of them are members of my immediate family.  It may surprise you to learn that at least one of them is an accomplished author.   I'll let you use your sharp journalistic skill to figure out who that may be…

It's difficult, as I write this, to avoid attacking you personally, as I did just now.  I apologize for that, and for those quips that may slip through hereafter.  Such is the visceral nature of my reaction to your column.  But let me be clear:  I want to be your friend, Ms. Weed, and in the spirit of friendship I'd like to try to clear up some of the obvious misunderstandings in your piece.  First and foremost, the only ill will you will find on the island is that which you bring with you.  In your column, you adopt a tone of being in some sense better than the locals you encountered.  Now, looking down your nose at every one you meet is hardly the way to make friends, is it?  I think all of us, yourself included, tend to get defensive in perhaps an abrasive way when confronted by a stranger who considers himself - or herself - their better.  That's just human nature.

Since we're already on the subject, I'd like to talk a little more about your tone and your intended audience.  Your tone seems to be that of an urban, upper-middle-class automobile enthusiast who looks down on those in less "civilized" areas, in tougher economic circumstance, or who don't happen to bear a striking resemblance to Ann Coulter.  I'm worried that you, by writing from the perspective of a typically urbane BMW owner out for an adventure among the rustics, are doing a disservice to other BMW owners, many of whom are in actuality well-adjusted adults.  That your editor read and approved the piece before publishing speaks to the contrary, and is a condemnation of his or her diligence.

The other misunderstandings are relatively straightforward. Calling the Island uncivilized is perhaps obvious to someone from an urban area, and let's face it, what most others would call a small town seems big to an islander.  But what exactly were you expecting to find there?  Curbs?   Traffic signals? A Starbucks nestled at the foot of a twenty-story office building?  I would argue that the bedrock of civilization is a sense of community, a cooperative spirit.  These qualities are necessary for a community that relies mainly on tourism for its economic well being in a climate that permits at best a five-month tourist season, and I'm sure you can understand that a column such as yours, even in a reasonably obscure car club newsletter, raises our hackles a bit.

Also worth noting, Old Style is not the libation of choice on the island.  It's probably a close race between Anheuser Busch and Miller products, just like the rest of America, but you may be surprised to learn that Capital Brewery, of Madison, Wisconsin, brews a number of beers exclusively from grain grown on the island.  There is also a line of spirits, under the moniker of "Death's Door,"  distilled near Middleton, Wisconsin, from Island-grown ingredients.  Both beer and spirits are quite tasty, and I invite you to try them at your leisure.   If none can be had where you are, I'd be happy to mail you a sampler.

And now to your jab at ferry captains, your coup de grace as it were.  You begin by saying that you missed the last ferry.  If you like, I'd be happy to explain what a schedule is and how it works, and answer any questions you may have about what time the 5:00 boat actually leaves.  I suspect you may have been a little angry at yourself for missing it.  All of us who call ourselves islanders know how that feels.  It certainly was lucky that there was an extra trip that night, or some innkeeper or there would likely have had to square off against a crafty, fast, multisyllabic speaker armed with such vertiginous and obtuse bits of thrasymachian sophistry as to make Plato himself blush in frustration.

In summation, I am not happy that a self-described "random blonde" came to the place I call home, insulted it and the people with whom I share it, and then went out of her way to insult a captain who was certainly my friend, and may also have been my brother or father.  For that, I require an apology. As you may expect, an island full of American steel is pretty short on subscriptions to Roundel.  I suggest a heartfelt, concise apology be sent to the local paper, the (Washington Island) Observer, at:
    Washington Island Observer
    1253 Main Road
    Washington Island, WI  54246

Going forward from there, I'd like to invite you to visit the Island again.   I would relish the opportunity to prove to you how wrong you were, to show you the places and introduce you to the people that make this island so special.  

Very Sincerely Yours, Thor Purinton   

PS:  I've taken the liberty of reading the portions of your blog that aren't password protected, in an effort to get a better sense of your background and writing style.  You'll find I am follower number twenty-two.  It occurred to me that your column was maybe a misguided attempt at humor, which to be perfectly honest, is a whole lot more troubling than a simple bad experience or misunderstanding.  Make no mistake, Ms. Weed, to make game of a community in that manner is mean-spirited, and belies a profound insecurity on the part of the author.  So, I wasn't all that surprised to learn that you have had trouble with eating disorders, it being the case that those disorders are often rooted in one's self-image.  Battling that sort of thing takes no small amount of courage, and you have my sympathy and support. But, I promise you, your road to happiness will be much smoother if you can find more positive ways to express yourself.

Cheers - Thor

A few observations on the craft of English composition:   You will find that readers take what you have to say more seriously if you can refrain from describing things, and especially yourself, as random.  You will also find that relying less heavily on parenthetical interjections will force you to structure sentences in a way that is clearer and more direct.  It's a habit that's hard to break, I know.   I once went through a phase when I thought that frequent use of semicolons made me sound more intelligent. It certainly did not.  Good, sound, inexpensive advice on the nuts and bolts of writing can be had at many community colleges all across this great nation of ours, and I am confident that you would be pleasantly surprised at how rewarding mentorship in the areas of creative and expository writing and poetry can be.    

-   T

[A "well-done" to youngest son, Thor, who originally learned about the Roundel piece from Facebook connections with Island friends and was inspired to try to balance the record. - Pops]

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