Thursday, April 24, 2014


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island-

The list of authors and presenters for the 2nd Island Literary Festival, sponsored in part by the Trueblood Performing Arts Center of Washington Island, was recently released by Festival Chair Betsy Wallman.

This year's Literary Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, October 2-5, similar to last year's time frame but with expanded activities for two days over last year's schedule.  Additional time on Thursday, Oct. 2nd, and Friday, Oct. 3, will be used to facilitate workshops.  (Workshop details and separate fees to be forthcoming.)

This year's Festival theme is,  Rooted in the Heartland:  Themes of Family.  Through consideration of this theme a selection of authors was made, and invitations accepted.  Those named on the announcement will center discussion and presentations throughout the weekend around this theme.  A concerted effort was made to invite authors who are from the midwest, or who write about midwestern experiences.

The primary purpose for making this announcement now, in addition to letting everyone know the dates and the basic festival outline, is to provide avid readers the opportunity to assemble a reading list.   Attendees at last year's Festival said they would have preferred advanced notice to enable them to purchase, read and absorb works by featured authors.  Greater attention will also be given this year for the on-site purchase and signing of books.

Although local, Island book stores may not open until Memorial Weekend, we presume that when they do, many of the titles listed on the Festival flyer will be stocked, in anticipation of reader interest for the coming summer months.

Knowledge of featured authors and their titles will certainly help enhance your Literary Festival experience - although I must say, it didn't detract in the least from my enjoyment as an audience member.  Each presentation was a pleasant surprise, entertaining and unexpected fun.   (Perhaps I harbored memories of sitting through college classes in Madison when I longed to be out rowing on Lake Mendota.)

This same above schedule can also be found through the website, but you'll have to search a bit in the general calendar of events to find the link.  More details are sure to be offered there in the coming weeks.

-  Dick Purinton  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Kingfisher on flagpole.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Harbor ice is now about 60% gone from the surface of Detroit Harbor, and on the route very little ice has been encountered in the past week.

Those piles of ice along the shore of Plum Island? Still there, shrunk slightly by Sunday's rain.   Ice could remain as late as Memorial Weekend,  given the density of the ice.

We've seen many more birds lately.  In Sunday morning's rain the Kingfisher (we assume its the same one as other years) sat on tall waterfront perches.  Since only the shallowest parts of the harbor were ice free, this bird's hovering and diving for food was limited.

Monday, a great white egret showed up, and blackbirds that enjoy being among the cattails.

All of this comes as a reminder to remind readers that the 8th Annual Door Islands Bird Festival is coming up very soon, May 30 - June 1, 2014.  A copy of the flyer and a registration form appear below.  Look up the website for additional details.

This event was well received by those who've previously joined Sandy Peterson, Melody Walsh, Char Rutledge and other Island birding experts.  They enjoy leading groups to their favorite, productive birding spots on Washington and Rock Islands.  (And in certain years, Plum Island.)

The Bird Festival idea originated with Sandy Peterson, and she's followed up the initial year with excellent planning for day events, plus an evening banquet where there is always an expert presenting a related topic of interest.

Interested birders are asked to register prior to May 16th.  Send your check and registration to:  Island Birding Inc.
PO Box 607
Stoughton, WI  53589
For more details and registration form, go to:   

Ice shoves

While still on the topic of birds, I spotted an eagle, a younger one in dark feathers, sitting on one of the highest points of the ice piled on Plum Island yesterday.    The day was, once again, dark and gloomy, so the ice didn't appear as blue as it might with sunlight illuminating the large pieces.

For a number of days, since ice pushed back into the bay on a southerly wind, the ferry route has changed its route to the west side of Plum Island, first time since way back in early December.  All the better for passengers to view the ice shoves.

Reading Great Lakes shipping news on the BoatNerd website gives you an instant feel for what is happening around the upper Great Lakes regarding the difficulty of ice breaking and ship movement.  The name of the game so far has been patience, waiting for available ice breakers to arrive on scene to open up tracks, or to break out harbors that have been ice-bound all winter.  Some of the worst conditions have been on the St. Mary's River and on Lake Superior.

So far, other than holding in for weather one morning a week ago, the Arni J. Richter continues to make excellent crossing time.  Conditions are also excellent for the continuation of the dredging project in the Detroit Harbor Channel.

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, April 17, 2014


 A twofer -  Snowfall plus dredging, taken at 8:35 this morning.
According to the weatherman, we'll see some sunshine later today
as this patch of moisture heads to the northeast.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Following Monday's snowfall, which let up in the early afternoon, our temperatures turned colder on the northerly wind, dipping into and staying in the 20s for several days. But, we at least saw sunshine, to help brighten our mood.

Monday evening's moon was terrific, the so-called blood moon. (I had to take Mary Jo's word for this one, a spectacular eclipse seen around 3 a.m.).  I did manage to stay up Tuesday evening (9:30 p.m.) for the moonrise, the official full moon.  It couldn't be missed because its light reflected from the slick surface of the refrozen harbor, brightening up the landscape.

I thought of the second shift crew as they dredged, and how working that evening must have been quite pleasant, given the garbage they put up with in the prior 24 hours.  Made me think of that Van Morrison song, with a local variation: "We get it almost every night, And when that moon gets big and bright, It's supernatural delight, Everybody was dancing (digging) in the moonlight." Or, for you hipsters out there, "digging the moonlight."  (Make your own variations.  It will stick in your head through this day, guaranteed.)

Tuesday evening, moonrise over Snake Island.
Dredging production since the project really got rolling Sunday has been quite good, with only short lapses for movement of the rig, and a blown hydraulic line on the excavator.  Trucks have been pounding the pavement - not an exaggeration.

The roads over which the spoils are trucked have been taking a spring beating, laden with frost and moisture.  The roadbeds are not all that deep to begin with, and as on Lakeview, bedrock isn't far beneath the surface.  Gargantuan potholes have developed, and the Town has been working to fill them with gravel, about the only remedy at this point.

Two Door County Highway dump trucks came in on today's morning ferry, and I can see another in the Northport webcam in line for the ferry, in an attempt to stockpile material for maintaining the roads.  Motorists are advised to go slowly over these roads, warned sufficiently in advance by orange Caution signs.  The toll on island blacktop is always great this time of year, but we'll see even more as the ground is still oozing moisture.

This County Highway truck, wing plow still attached,
was one of two trucks bringing gravel to
the island this morning.  
Why must road gravel be imported to an island famous for stone?

According to Town Chairman Joel Gunnlaugsson, the recommended size of aggregate for road base is larger than that which the Town has on hand (and possibly less sand content).  It is presumed - although I didn't ask - that such costs will be reimbursed with road maintenance dollars identified for road resurfacing in the dredging project funding.

Currently, there is little to no ice in the ferry route.  The large field jammed against Plum Island acts as a stopper in the bottleneck for the time being.  Pieces of drift ice that were problems last week have been blown far enough down the lakeshore that digging has not been affected, even with a southerly flow of wind last night.  A wind shift to the west later today should help to keep the channel open.

Due to the presence of ice in the route, or the threat of it, the Arni J. Richter remains the only ferry operating these days because it can navigate in ice.  And because the ferry schedule of six trips are more or less back-to-back, with little breathing room between departures, special runs for flammables such as fuel must be made in the off-hours.  This was done last evening when two tankers, one for LP, one for gasoline, were transported to the island around 6:30 p.m.

Digging Wednesday evening, without the benefit of moonlight.
This spring's extended winter touches many and varied parts of the island's economy.   In "normal" years the transport of fishermen and boats and trailers,  and of seasonal homeowners who start opening up their cottages, helps jumpstart tourism revenues.   Lacking that influx this year, dredging operations provide a needed boost for many local businesses.

-  Dick Purinton  

Monday, April 14, 2014


Wind-driven, heavy Green Bay ice piled on the western side of Plum Island
during the early morning.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

A gray, bleary Sunday turned out to be our best day of the weekend in what could otherwise be termed a stretch of poopy weather. (Is that an approved meteorological term?)

We got comfy and spent several hours yesterday watching those folks in short sleeves and shorts as they watched the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.  And, we don't golf.  We just wanted to be transported to someplace for a few hours, to see what green grass and bright spring flowers look like.  After Bubba Watson put on his new green blazer, I went outdoors to put away sleds and shovels, and raked in a few small sections of lawn where it had dried.

I had no sense, believing the TV weather picture that had the snow north of our location.  By daybreak Monday morning, rain having turned to snow during the night, winds from the NW picked up and temperatures dropped, and we looked out the window to a fresh blanket of heavy snow.  This latest snow storm, by my official boot top measurement and estimated shovel weight, put another five or so inches on the ground.

With the high winds and poor visibility, and the likelihood of ice coming out the Door passage, the morning ferries were canceled.  Although Islanders were headed down the line (to hear the Governor speak at the Door County Economic Development Corporation's Annual Banquet, among other things), the poor roads and difficult conditions reined in such impulses. School was first delayed, then canceled.   Students may have been happy to be home, indoors looking out, but that was before the other shoe dropped.  The power went out, and it remained out for three to four hours.

Tree limbs were down over power lines and roads in many locations. The Town crew tackled limbs as  the REA crew worked to restore power.  According to Mary Lynn at REA Phone Central, what was first a local problem grew as a phase was dropped from the Mainland, and one of the Island generators had a problem that caused "an imbalanced load."  Power was restored in time for a hot lunch.

Beyond these several setbacks there was good news.  The Roen crew dug today throughout the blizzard-like conditions, and as of 4 pm the tug Stephan M. Asher was pushing the third loaded scow of the day to the Potato Dock, with the possibility of a fourth scow being filled in the early evening.  Although roads were plenty sloppy in places, the main trucking routes that were plowed by the Town early in the morning seemed exceptionally dry and snow-free, thanks to melting from pavement heat.

Dredging days have been few and far between this spring.
First, ice and cold weather, then broken ice in
the channel blocked operations.   

This day marked only the second full 24 hours of dredging so far in 2014.

Tuesday, April 7th, the Detroit Harbor project resumed, only to have progress quickly curtailed by a damaged silt curtain.  Several days passed while repairs were made, during what were ideal weather and ice-free conditions.  But, by the time the crews and equipment were ready to dig once again, ice chunks filled the channel, floated in on a southerly breeze.

With no prospect for the wind to shift and the ice to leave, crews departed for a couple of days off. They reported in again Sunday morning, just as the shifting northerly breeze blew ice toward the open lake.  With April now already half over, and only two days of dredging accomplished,  in order to gain on the schedule imposed by the WDNR permit for digging, the contractor will need assistance in the form of favorable winds - meaning more northerly than any other direction.

According to Hoyt Purinton, the bay ice that blew down this morning against Plum Island was a single, large field, with nary a visible crack running through it.  Plum Island became an effective Door stop, but not before the edge of the field piled some 30 feet into the air.  (That's an estimate, as there is little but the nearby tree line for a gauge.)  The Bay of Green Bay has yet to break up into small fields.

A friend earlier this winter indicated to me that he read my blogs, but he just about had his fill of dredging photos.  Sorry!  I guess the same might be said for snow pictures. When there are few local events to mark these days, we'll keep covering the same-old.   [But really, how exciting, isn't it, to see the dredge dredge for a change?  And fresh snow fall sideways in a breeze, and then the white aftermath…]

Some day soon, summer will come along and then we'll be yawning, waiting for fall colors and another cycle of nature.

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Ice several feet thick had to be broken by machine in order
to open the approach to the Potato Dock Saturday afternoon.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

It's not over yet, Old Man Winter, and we were reminded of that fact Friday, with 4-5 inches of heavy, wet snow.  We saw a brief let-up around noon, then snowfall resumed, even harder, in the late afternoon.  Large disks of lake effect snow were whipped by high winds.

Those winds, which strengthened and backed toward the north, were enough to stream heavy ice through the Door Passage into the lake.   This, coupled with hampered visibility for what was in the ferry's route,  brought cancellation of the first Friday evening trip of 2014.  By Saturday morning the snow had ended, and the sky was sparkling clear - and ground cover sparkled, too.    Fresh snow stuck in the trees, and the air temperature was at 23 degrees at 7 a.m.

With a few passes of the shovel, clear patches here and there, the rest was left to intense sunshine.   Most of our snow was gone or on its way out by late afternoon.

The Roen crew had arrived at the end of the week to get their equipment running.  Saturday morning their tug was operational and the crew broke out their crane barge.  By Saturday afternoon they were engaged in opening up the area next to the Potato Dock, so that dredging can begin soon and scows of spoils can be pushed alongside that pier for offloading.  The channel dredging project should move forward this week if ice and wind don't interfere with the maneuvering of the scows or with the rather delicate silt curtain, a requirement while when digging takes place.  (As of Sunday afternoon, the northern half of the channel in Detroit Harbor had broken ice, floated in and held by southerly wind.)

School Navigators Unit is a success

One point I want to relate was the great success Washington Island Schools Navigators unit.   The unit began, if you'll recall, with a trip aboard the Arni J. Richter on St. Patrick's day, March 17.

This Friday afternoon, with their work completed, students and staff hosted an Open House for the community at Washington Island School.  All ages and all grade levels participated in this project.  Clearly, each class put in a great deal of work and thought on this project.  I was impressed with the quality of their end-product, and the enthusiasm the students showed for their work, which was designed to help them learn more about their community, past and present, and learn new skills in the process.

In the 4-6 grade room, Ryan, Max and Aidan showed Mary Jo and I around their computer website, after ensuring we were property greeted, then comfortably seated, to observe their product.  Mary Jo was one of several Islanders interviewed as a former student of the old Detroit Harbor School, but there were many interviews done by the students.  They set up the interview appointments and asked the questions, and took notes, and later wrote up their notes, which can be seen on their website, along with photos.

Elementary school children listen to early
Islanders' stories onboard the Arni J. Richter.
Students, even the lower grades, became adept
interviewers, researchers and historians during the
following weeks.
You can learn about their Navigator unit, too.  Go to the school's website, and from there you'll find pages for each grade levels.   Given a close look you'll see the results of their many hours of interviews, research, and discussion.  It's a masterful job by both staff and students, and should itself be entered into the Island Archives.

Here is the web address:        click on:  WINS Spring 2014 Voyage

Birds and such

Aside from the fresh snow, the first thing I noticed Saturday morning when I looked out the window toward the harbor was a large bird with the appearance and size of a hawk struggling to subdue a duck.  This struggle took place about 15 feet from the edge of a small opening in the ice where springs keep the ice from freezing.   According to fresh tracks in the snow the larger bird and duck had already dragged about 20 feet.   The duck, using all of its remaining strength, was scooting the pair toward the opening's edge.

I was too excited at this point to grab a pair of binoculars or my camera as the drama unfolded.  I expressed an inner "Yes!" when the duck maneuvered itself into the water, large bird still firmly attached.  If it can make it to the pond, I thought, the larger bird might let go.  But, with equal grit and determination, and superior strength, the hawk-like bird pulled the duck back onto the ice.  Once on its back, the duck's feet went skyward in classical, almost cartoonish style, and they ceased to kick.

With a fleeting chance for a good Falcon photo,
my camera was set on autofocus.  As a result the foreground
branches are sharp while the bird is out of focus.
Within seconds (and this whole scene unfolded in less than two minutes) the large bird took off with its prey to one of the trees east of our home, out of sight.  This bird had a meal, and I suppose I should add deservedly so, given the work put in.

In about half an hour this same bird appeared again and roosted in a branch above spring opening.  There on the branch it preened and spread its feathers, drying them (I guessed) from the quick dip in the pond.  After 20 minutes it moved from that perch to another tree on the far side of the opening, and it resumed its preening.

Now I could see more clearly through binoculars, and I took a few photos (they turned out quite blurry, sorry). Mary Jo and I are quite certain it was a Peregrine Falcon.  (If bird experts out there differ in this opinion, please let us know.)

About an hour later, a young eagle was seen circling over the same small pond, swooping low, also looking for a duck dinner.

In the last 10 days we've seen the arrival of geese and sandhill cranes, pairs that would in past springs be swimming close to Snake Island or the old, partially submerged Ida Bo dock, or walking the shoreline looking for food.  The sandhill crane pair walked past our home on the ice during Friday afternoon's storm when snowfall was heaviest.  What they're finding to eat, with insects not yet out and ice covering the harbor, is hard to imagine.  The few openings in the ice that appear near shore, where springs keep the waters ice-free, become sought after holes for wading and swimming and finding food, maybe.

We're not the only ones anxious for warmer weather.

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, April 3, 2014


April 3 - Al Thiele with a few of the many photos and
momentos from 32 years of Coast Guard service.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

This posting won't be about Al Thiele, shown in the photo above, taken this morning.  That blog is yet to come.

In a time of year when there aren't many spring photo opportunities, however, no daffodils or tulips poking their heads above the earth in this part of Wisconsin, Al's story emerges like the freshness that is spring.

When we visited approximately one year ago at Al's home for an interview, to talk about Al's career in the U. S. Coast Guard, he was a very sick man.  He had recently received a diagnosis that, had he not questioned his options more carefully, would have provided him a new address at School House Beach Cemetery rather than his home on Swenson Road.  But question he did.  Following a trip to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion, and a fairly routine medical procedure(s), along with faith that his health would improve, Al and his wife, Nancy, continue to enjoy life with their friends, children and grandchildren.

A more detailed piece on Al and his rise from Seaman to top enlisted man, Master Chief of the Coast Guard, will be coming later this month.  It's an interesting story, and one that should be published and introduced to the Island Historical Archives now, and not as a posthumous contribution.

Helene Meyer continues to improve

Word of Helene Meyer's steady recovery continues to be received on Washington Island.  Following a very serious auto crash, Helene's guarded condition initially could only be considered a long and upward climb.  And yet, while we are assured her situation is no picnic, she continues to mend, as breaks in her bones begin to heal.  Her mind and her disposition have escaped trauma, it seems, and she's been asking for books to read, activity to occupy her mind while the physical mending takes place.

So, it wasn't surprising to see a photo taken recently of Helene, her arms outstretched, welcoming a photographer.  Cards may now be welcomed, a way to enhance her day in addition to expressing our concerns and gratitude.

You may send your cards to:   (the address given below was updated 4/4/14 to reflect Helene's move from the hospital to this recovery center - another sign of progress)

Helene Meyer
Rennes Health & Rehab Center
325 East Florida Ave.
Appleton, WI  54911

Not an April's fool joke

I avoided producing a blog on April 1st because, I thought, some readers might confuse validity with bogus information.

But, now, I want to express my genuine thanks for your faithful readership, both ferrycabinnews Followers and occasional readers.  The fact that there are hits from just about every continent and country on the globe, as shown on the revolving Globe, I'd have to guess that many of these visits are accidental blog landings.  On the other hand, I also know there are intentional readers from exotic locations, and some are friends who live in or visit these places.  Each such visitor, in my mind, produces a special "ping" of distinction.

Yesterday, just before the noon whistle blew for lunch, my Globe meter turned the 100,000 mark.  Now, if that individual (Mr. or Mrs. 100,000) can identify themselves as being the 100,000th visitor, and offer me reasonable proof, I'll buy them a hot dog and soda at the Jackson Harbor Time Out Concession in July.  (I was visitor 100,103... so that number is taken.)

This "blog site visitor tally" began, if I recall correctly, about three years ago when the counter with globe was introduced to my site.  This was several years after I began the blog.  While there must be some weblogs that get this many hits on a daily basis, for me 100,000 represents a milestone.  I remember back to March of 2008, following the inaugural posting, how I was thrilled just to reach 20 readers.  And that number grew, but mostly on days when fresh, new blogs were posted.

Gradually, over several years' time, the hits counter crept to the 40-50/day range, then 75-80/day, and finally, 100 or more hits on a regular, daily basis.  All-time peak activity came in early March of this year, with over 1400 hits in one 24-hour period.  That was when the U. S. Coast Guard helicopter landed in deep snow on the Island's eastern shore, a precautionary landing, then was removed on trailer the following day.

I know many readers are brought to my site by Facebook mentions, a social media phenomena that I've not paid much personal attention to.  I have to acknowledge Facebook's power to get word out quickly about people and events.  Social networking's just not been my cup of tea.

Maybe the next 100,000 hits will come more quickly.  It really doesn't matter, except to salve my ego when I get discouraged.  (The inverse also happens.  I get down when the hits don't rise to my expectations.)   I track blog hits on a daily basis to see what topics or presentations strike people's fancy, and in this endeavor I still can't predict what captures people's interest most intensely.  Postings I consider "duds," not much more than filler,  sometimes get higher responses than those I've worked on the hardest, proud to finally hit the "publish" button.

Blog comments have also increased, and perhaps that's a better measure of the reader's interest.  It lets me know people are quite engaged in a variety of topics related to Washington Island.

In a round-about way, I believe that by providing this tether to the Washington Island community, the occasional blogs, means something to people.  It may even be that blogs, communications about the Island, have helped steer decision making for those considering buying land or settling down here in retirement, rather than some other community.   It works in this way as a soft marketing tool for the local economy, tying together people through positive attributes of community life on this small island.

Of course, there are many who don't read this blog, or who seldom look at the internet, and they may reach similar conclusions from entirely different sets of information.  Its hard to measure the reach, but I have this feeling, and it's based on pieces of conversation and correspondence.  (That's why I also believe its important to have a good Island newspaper, the Island Observer, and it can serve a real purpose beyond the delivery of 'hard' news.)

Another by-product of this blog is that it keeps me closer to the streets, the woods and harbors, especially now that I'm in a semi-retirement mode.  Thinking on paper, informing, entertaining myself and others - whatever it is people might find worthwhile in reading such posts - requires continual consideration of Island events, politics, history and its future.

As the list of blog Followers and site visitors continues to grow, so does my sense of responsibility to provide columns worthwhile to read.

And the best part, of course, is that it's free to the reader!  No pop-up ads or distracting, crashing videos.  But, those might be directions to consider for another day.

Thanks for your continued interest!  -    Dick Purinton

A peak rose from the plain of the average daily readership in early March.