Thursday, December 31, 2015


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We're down to counting the hours, now, some of us, to the end of the year 2015.

What's notable today?   For one thing, winter appears to have finally arrived, with a grand entrance of stormy weather.  First there were the high winds as Christmas Eve morning arrived.  This got everyone's attention.  Then, we entered back into a week of mild and calm air before the next one hit this past Monday afternoon, lasting well into the early morning of December 29.

Even higher winds than the Christmas Eve storm were sustained, over a good 12-hour period.  This most recent storm caused large windows facing the NE to flex during the highest gusts, and the winds were accompanied by moisture:  sleet, then snow.

My guess at snow levels, as I plowed and shoveled what had been clear pavement and green grass on Sunday, was a wind-drifted ten inches or so of snow.  Very hard to judge, and I guess the exact amount doesn't matter that much.   Other northeastern Wisconsin locations reported snowfall in excess of one foot.  This was a good start to getting snow cover before the temperatures drop even more.

Certain things happen when heavy snow and lower temperatures occur around open water.   Here, near the shallows at the end of Main Road, 'snow ice' began building southward during the storm, extending to the end of Snake Island.  This ice is still not safe enough to walk on, and and there are open pockets here and there.  It may not even stay, but break up, leave, and then refreeze, depending on winds and temperatures over the next few weeks.   But it's a start toward winter for those itching to ice fish, or travel over the ice by foot, skis or snowmobile, as winter gets its into its groove.

At the Island Ferry Dock, the gusting winds over open harbor waters blew spray across the piers and onto nearby objects, and it also made for slick walking.  The ferries moored in Detroit Harbor once again had their lines about to slide over the top of mooring posts.   The high water levels we're now experiencing, plus the deepened channel from dredging, allows for more sea action within the harbor near the docks.  This is one drawback apparent when there are such extremes in conditions as we experienced during in the last two storms.   Ice in the bay, and in the harbor, which we expect to see before too long, will serve to dampen such wave motion.

The photo below was taken by Paula Hedeen of Northport from her home Tuesday evening, and its a reminder of the contrasts that occur this time of year from one day to the next, with variations not only in weather, but also in the beauty of the landscape or seascape.

Ferry Washington returning home evening of December 29,
passing astern of cement carrier St. Mary's Challenger.

This blog marks the 299th that will be archived here on this website since 2010, for the benefit of those who have time on their hands and enjoy retracing steps and memories.  I should mention that, since updating my software, I seem to have lost the file and the touch for creating a Blog Notification Group.   Please consider becoming a follower, and I think then you'll have automatic notification of new postings.   Tell me if this does not work for you, and I will try something different.

Have a Happy New Year in 2016!

 - Dick Purinton

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Con McDonald, Hoyt Purinton and Joel Gunnlaugsson rehang
a tire where a mooring pipe (foreground) gave way earlier
this morning.  

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The 'Santa's Sleigh' carrying a timely shipment of UPS and FEDEX and U. S. Mail will make its appearance today, after all.

High winds during the night of the 23rd and into Christmas Eve day caused cancellation of the two morning ferries, and with it, passengers and freight anticipated to be ferried to the Island Thursday morning.

That delay in festivities will be resolved soon, when the afternoon ferries bring in the mail and freight packages delivered daily by UPS and FEDEX,  and more importantly, groceries and staples for Mann's Store.

I returned from a run to the grocery store for some salad greens. They were not to be found, because most such items were no longer in stock, purchased by those who plan ahead!   However, Jeff Mann suggested I come back around 3:30, after their grocery truck arrives and their shelves are once again stocked.  The Mann's Store truck is one of a number of vehicles backlogged from the morning's trip cancellations, until wind and seas settle down, allowing for resumed ferry crossing.

Swells from the WSW were strong, created by winds in excess of 40 mph reported during the night. A wicked sea found its way into Detroit Harbor, snapping ferry mooning lines and breaking off three mooring pipes.  The Washington, moored against the south side of the main dock, was the most vulnerable.    By 11:30, when the photo above was taken, most repairs had already been made, and the Washington was moved around to the end, ready for loading for a1:00pm departure.

Travelers waiting for a ferry to the Island were asked to be patient and to wait a bit on the Northport side of the crossing until trips resumed.  According to Janet Hanlin, who answered innumerable calls at the front desk of the Ferry Office, communications with the mainland weren't good, as the power was out for a period of time in certain peninsula locations.  

Joseph Block, rounding the sea buoy east of Pilot Island,
heading south against the lake seas.  The southern tip
of Detroit Island is at right, and view is looking across the
East Channel from the Sand Dunes Park, around noon today.

Earlier, around 10:00am, we watched from home with binoculars the white, breaking seas of the East Channel.  Several miles out in the lake, two vessels inched their way south through lake swells,  toward Porte des Morts and the relatively easier going to be encountered in the Bay of Green Bay.  The conning tower and mast of a tug could be seen, rolling its way toward the passage, seas breaking occasionally along its port side.

By 11:45, the ore carrier Joseph Block, which had been anchored, loaded, in the shelter of Washington Harbor, was observed heading eastbound through the Door toward a down-lake destination.  The Block reported dragging anchor as the wind came around westerly, prompting it to get underway.
Toward evening at our home, we're expecting a house full of relatives, young and old, and a few of whom we expect to arrive on one of the afternoon ferries.  Although we have no snow, a disappointment for some, air temperatures are still in the 30s, fine for most folks.  By nightfall, Christmas Eve will be observed once again across the land, as anticipated.

-   Dick Purinton

Sunday, December 20, 2015


A Christmas-time scene at the Ferry Dock, 1994.  L to R:
Arni Foss (who now sails as a Captain for the Interlake Fleet on the
Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder); Jon Gunnlaugson (deceased);  Mark Dewey
(Scottsdale, AZ);  Dave Johnson (retired); Erik Foss (Ferry Captain, active);
Bill Schutz (Office Manager, active); and Al Thiele (retired).


After pestering from Erik Foss to put out another blog, and then another, it so happens we've featured him several times in recent posts, and now once again.

The crew that posed that day by the old Ferry Line office had their photo taken in a setting of fresh snow covering the roof, garland and ground.

Arni and Erik are two of four Island brothers.   Dave (not shown) sails as an Engineer for Interlake.  With the dumping of foreign steel and lessened demand by U. S. mills, a number of Great Lakes freighters are tying up early this season, rather than running into January or early February as has become customary in recent decades.   Arni and Dave are home now, enjoying the Christmas holidays with their families.  Kirby, the fourth and oldest brother, who is retired from his career with the Wisconsin DNR in park management, is a Town of Washington Supervisor and farmer.

With unexpected warm weather, the past two days having been an exception, there is hardly any ice in the shallows of the harbors, and none to speak of around the bay of Green Bay.   Three days ago the NOAA water temperature map for Lake Michigan reported a large section of warm water that extended from mid-lake to the shoreline near Traverse City, Michigan, a substantial warm pool of water with water temps between 46 and 48 degrees F.  This wasn't only a warm topmost layer, but apparently a consistent temperature top-to-bottom.  (Hoyt noted this wasn't too far off summertime temperatures.)   Quite extraordinary to see such temperatures in early winter, and its a sure sign that even if the lake temperatures cooled dramatically starting tomorrow (which isn't in the forecast), we should not see floating or solid ice for several more weeks, at minimum.  Such a warm winter start would have made for relatively easy, late season sailing for the lakers, especially those occasions when they transit the narrows, shallows,  and sometimes ice-choked currents of the St. Mary's River while on their typical upper lake runs.

See more detail and additional Lake Michigan information

Generally speaking, mild December weather doesn't mean a lack of wind altogether, and so we still anticipate weather patterns with strong winds, such as Christmas Eve may bring a few days from now.   Best advice to Christmas ferry travelers?  Plan ahead and travel early to avoid possible difficulties with sailing delays or cancellations.    Ferry reservations become effective tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 21st.

Another Foss photo

On Thursday, I greeted Rev. James Reiff as he stepped off the ferry Washington for a brief Island visit.  Jim was Trinity Lutheran Church pastor from 1981 to 1985, and this was one of only a couple of Island visits since his tenure here decades ago.  My invitation for this visit had to do with the Stavkirke 20th anniversary year since its dedication, and with the instrumental involvement Jim had in getting that idea off the ground.

We drove to the Stavkirke where I took several photos and Jim refreshed his memories.  While we visited, Erik Foss dropped in.  Erik was one of Jim Reiff's confirmands back in the early 1980s.   When details came reluctantly to mind for Jim Reiff, Erik was able to complete a name or date quite easily, prompting further memories of the project.  This sort of recall isn't surprising for one who frequently displays the Foss family trait of a steel trap mind where local or maritime history is concerned.

Erik Foss with former Trinity Pastor Jim Reiff.

Needing to warm up from the chilly air, we walked over to the church itself and met Trinity's current Pastor Alan Schaffmeyer, Church Secretary Joan Hansen, and other familiar faces, before making a quick swing through the nave.   Hanging above the pews there is a beautiful model of the Island freighting schooner, Madonna, hailing port of Detroit Harbor on its transom.

This model was dedicated as a memorial to the young Kelly Jess, son of Karen and Butch Jess, and Jim Reiff was instrumental in obtaining the model, a symbol very typical in Scandinavian churches, Jim said, and something often positively commented about by visitors.

Some years later another sailing ship model, a Mackinac schooner made by carpenter John Herschberger as a memorial to his wife Patty's sister, Deborah, was hung in the knave of the Stavkirke.

With background information from Jim Reiff, and with details provided by others closely associated with the planning, construction and use of the Island Stavkirke, my goal is to assemble photos and supporting information into booklet form, to be available for the 2016 summer tourism season.

-  Dick Purinton

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Erik Foss turns 50 today!
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The years go by quickly, especially when you're busy.

Erik Foss turns 50 today, a fact I had overlooked until his son, Christian, told me.  Where was his dad?  He was at work.  "He likes to work on his birthday," according to Christian.  Maybe working is intended to help this day pass more quickly, and not be reminded of the additional year.

During a "survival exercise" on the Arni J. Richter in 2004,
Erik helped adjust life vests on sons Doug and Christian.
Both boys have worked as crew during their summers in
recent years.

When looking at today's Ferry Line crew, there are many faces familiar to the public since their mid-teens.  Erik is one of those who rode in the pilot house and threw the mooring line to the spile as well as anyone, when he was still in junior high.  Official records kept for continuous employment show that Erik comes in a close second to Capt. Bill Jorgensen, who (like Erik) worked for the Ferry Line several summers before joining permanently in April of 1987.   There are many trips under the belt of these two captains, with Bill holding the unofficial record of having the most crossings of the Door, of anyone, with his long work record and many trips on the ferries each year.

It's fun to look back on the years as told in photos, so here are a selection of photos showing Erik, Bill, Joel Gunnlaugsson, Jeff Cornell and Rich Ellefson.  

I'm sorry I'm not able to date each photo with accuracy.  Time has a way of wiping out memory of the year without a date having been recorded.  Perhaps the people in the photos remember.

- Dick Purinton

Bill Jorgensen at helm of Voyageur,
around 1980-81.
Bill with son, Dale, in
wheelhouse of C.G. Richter.
(Year unknown)
Captain Rich Ellefson (year unknown),
now Ferry Line vice president and operations manager.
Captain Joel Gunnlaugsson (then summer crew 1993).   
Krista and Joel, before marriage, children, Town
government, County Board, etc. (1996)

Captain Jeff Cornell (year unknown) who operates
both Karfi to Rock Island and ferries to

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

With The Holiday Season Upon Us!

My point of view and locomotion changed following surgery 12/14.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Hard to get in the mood for the coming Holiday Season when it's raining cats and dogs outside, temperatures hover in the upper 30s, and memories of last year's Christmas presents are still fresh in my mind!

Today, in fact, is the anniversary of my Holy Christmas! "double-knee" replacement surgery, and a memory of when I still looked forward with great anticipation to having a respected surgeon saw each of my leg bones in two (and each in two places), then grind, hammer and glue pieces back together, with titanium and plastic as spacers.

To say that I'm now totally "good to go" would be a stretch, but in fact we're bold enough to think a few weeks of hiking the trails of Sedona, Arizona, this February might be a panacea to winter's long days.   And, I'm itching, longing to strap on my dusty cross country skis and slide over some of the Island's most beautiful, wooded trails.   None of those activities would have been possible to partake - without considerable pain and difficulty - several years ago.   So, these notions are progress.

I've been asked by many friends, mostly persons who roughly match my age (within a decade or so,  margin of error), "What's it like?"   These friends too, have been plagued with knee problems and are likewise driven to consider modern medical joint solutions.

Let me offer some advice, as I'm always happy to do, in the interest of short-circuiting my answer for what can be both an exhilarating and debilitating experience.

First, I purposely chose to know as little about what was going on when under anesthetic as possible.  I avoided asking too many questions, refrained from knowing the intimate details of the sawing, pounding, glueing, sewing and stapling.  Instead, I chose my physician carefully for his track record, the hospital setting for the same reasons, and then I put my faith behind their successful production numbers.

Now, I would say that it would be smart, in retrospect, to be a bit more involved in the process than I was in order to ensure best results.    For instance, as the illustration above indicates, there are choices in whether or not you wish to have joints that are intended primarily for forward motion (think bowling, jogging) or the qualities of reverse (tennis, rappelling down mountainsides, politics) where back-pedaling is most useful.   Manufacturers cast small imprints in the artificial joints, a tiny "F" for primarily forward motion, and an "R" for primarily reverse motion.  An indifferent surgeon may not bother to check, in which case you could get one of each.   Choice should be made by you, prior to lying on the gurney and receiving anesthetic, or you may get whatever the soup of the day happens to be.  In my case, today I find it far less stressful walking in reverse.

The next piece of advice I would give is to ask for gradually lessened dosages of medication.   Let's be honest:  you can try to mask pain with narcotics, but a by-product of this application of meds to cover up what is basically a brutal operation is that your system comes to an unexpected stop… joined with nausea, depression and an unrealistic view of the world of hospitals, rehab centers and an invalid's life, while your bones mend.

I chose to remove myself from those nasty pills only after I realized I wasn't who I thought I was.

I began to examine my behavior, why I no longer cared to use the bathroom, and the downturn in my activity levels, while my appetite waned.  And, I knew this wasn't characteristically me!    The photo below (taken one week into the opioid regimen) illustrates my experiments measuring my intake with output.    (Apple juice in glass; used apple juice in the decanter.  The toast was a tray garnish I could not eat.)

One week following surgery, as a patient in a DePere rehab
facility, regularly taking opioids.   I had achieved a sort of
physical balance, but the rest of me was still out of whack.

But, for each person, such experiences might be entirely different.   I've talked with several people who not only weathered the experience but were overjoyed with the advantages of one knee replacement, and they willingly returned to the operating table to repeat that experience on knee #2.  

My hat's off to them.  But I say (and did say), "Do it and get it over with!"

So, as I prepare this blog and consider the personal encouragement I can give others,  I'm also thankful for the advent of modern medicine that has given me increased mobility, the objective of my efforts.   Maybe, one day, with practice, I'll be able to jump and run again in forward, as I do now in reverse.

-  Dick Purinton

Friday, November 27, 2015


Fall weather at its best, with wind gusts topping 40 mph,
Thursday, Nov. 19.     Eric Foss guided the Robert Noble
through 6-8 ft. swells.   A rare cancellation was made
for the last trip of the day, with darkness adding to
operational challenges.  

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Erik Foss reminded me a week or two ago, as I drove onboard the Washington for a trip down the peninsula, that my last blog was posted in late September, the equivalent of internet eons ago.  Such a deterioration in communications.

So I'd better get with the program.

If you happened to watch Channel 5 weather at the 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm on Nov. 12th, you may have seen the ferry Washington lurching through seas in the Door.  Erik Foss happened to be at the wheel, and he was comfortable enough on camera to crack a joke with the reporter, a reference I was unable to hear.    Nearly all ferry trips are made without television crews along for the ride.  Their film, however, showed a more realistic look at ferry travel to and from Washington Island, at least in the fall.  And, in more recent days the conditions were far windier.

But overall the 2015 Fall season was mild with moderate wind conditions, and the fall colors held on well into October with plenty of unexpected, bonus days that enabled us to accomplish outdoor activities.   In addition to picking up fallen leaves, many of my outdoor hours were spent glazing windows and touching up the paint on old buildings.   Unless it warms up again, I'll move on to brushing and woodcutting for a few weeks, before the snow and consistently colder temperatures stay with us.

This morning, following a light rain most of Thanksgiving day, we awoke to a light cover of snow on the ground.   The thermometer hasn't budged off the 30-degree mark.
  *     *     *     *     *

Jim Rose sent along photos of an improvement for the Percy Johnson County Park (formerly, Eastside Park.)   The transportation of this modern day outhouse to the Island was shipped on two separate semi trucks, along with a large, portable crane to lift and set each section.

This dandy crapper came in ready-to-assemble sections:   the upper structure for above-ground, walk-in patrons, and the vault for below ground waste storage.   Wonder what Percy would think about the improvement, in particular the cost?

In the interest of a more complete story, I need to take a photo of the finished product, learn where it was manufactured, approximate cost, and its success as a public improvement.

      *      *     *     *

Thanksgiving blessings

With Thanksgiving leftovers still on hand, and appreciation for the bounty so many of us enjoy in terms of food, shelter and the essentials of life, I'm also reminded of the different approaches individuals choose to take.

Back in mid-September (while waiting in line for an order at the Albatross) I had a conversation about the seemingly late turn of colors, and of the eventual coming of winter.

"It might be warm now, but just wait," the man said. "If you watch squirrel activity,  they've been quite busy lately, and that's a sign it's going to be a hard winter."

I've heard it said before by old timers (Jack Hagen, among others) that squirrel activity is an indicator of the severity of winter to come.   (It could also have to do with the abundance of acorns produced in a particular year that spurs such activity, not unlike shoppers scurrying after bargains on the day following Thanksgiving.)   The gist of the old adage is,  we can learn from observing squirrels, that they sense things we don't.

Earlier this fall, we observed squirrel-like human activity, too, the storing away of tons of canned food, dry goods, and essentials tools and equipment.

Was this storing of "nuts" the conscious preparation for an impending disaster that regionally and nationally might cripple communications, supply lines, transportation routes and electric grids?  

Almost everything we use depends upon electronics that are susceptible to hacking and interruption, whether by villainous perpetrators or natural causes.  A major disaster would make such private storehouses of goods an essential element for survival of the few who have the foresight, wealth and gumption to see into and prepare for the future, so the logic goes.

This way of thinking - to my mind negative, and almost nutty -  me wonder if the rest of us are just naive to forces beyond our shores?    Those who properly prepare, as I understand it, are people who act on knowledge and a healthy fear of things to come by laying in supplies for the impending disaster.

As I was about to dismiss the notion to follow the lead of squirrels, I read a short piece in an AARP magazine (that's right, my undisputed source of information!) where television journalist Ted Koppel was interviewed regarding his theories of what might happen if the nation's electric grid goes down.  Less than a week later, I listened to Koppel on the CBS Sunday Morning program as he elaborated on his investigations.  As he sees it, a major electrical grid failure is inevitable, just a matter of when, a belief he outlines in his book, Lights Out!   No one in government is prepared, or looking out for our interests in such a scenario, according to Koppel.     

Then, I read a piece in the October 26 issue of The Waterways Journal, a weekly magazine of maritime trade and transportation on North America's inland waterways:

   Navy To Reinstate Celestial Navigation
After an absence of nine years from the curriculum of the Unites States Naval Academy at Annapolis and a 15-year absence from Naval ROTC programs, U.S. naval officers are once again learning to navigate by the stars, the Navy announced.   
The class of 2017 will be the first in many years to graduate with a basic knowledge of celestial navigation.   

This article went on to announce that the U. S. Navy was reintroducing sextant skills to its cadets, due to the increased concerns about the vulnerability to errors and possible hacking of government high-tech instruments and satellites.   It was also possible, it was noted, that during a national emergency our government might elect to shut down the GPS system, because it might be used to advantage by potential enemies.

This information was, again, something I hadn't considered.  I agree there are real benefits for teaching celestial navigation as a back-up to electronics (as was the practice for a number of decades), and I hadn't even realized that celestial navigational had been dropped from the curriculum for future Naval officers.

When adding these various things up, a conscientious squirrel begins to wonder if we're far enough out of the mainstream of life to ignore the signs?   Will our household  in a disaster fail to provide health and happiness?  Should we continue in belief in the American system, as we've known it?

Surely there are thousands of brilliant people who. through their concern for prosperity and survival, have given a great deal of thought to the consequences?   If so, we're in good company continuing along our path of "productive citizenship."   Projects, contracts, planning and financing for the future …  continues apace in all manner of scale, nationally and globally.   Preparing for an eventuality that may never come is a risk analysis of the highest order.   It can seem silly, like the practice of ducking beneath classroom desks in the late 50s to avoid nuclear annihilation.

It's been suggested to me that what others do is none of my business, that one can spend hard-earned income however he or she wishes, even if that wish is to stockpile the goods of this earth to extend our days.  Maybe they're right.   I shouldn't puzzle over the lives and decisions of those I can't understand.

But, another question bothers me:   How will those individuals during a major disaster - the ones with foresight and capital to cache food and supplies:   a) Hold off friends, neighbors and relatives at gunpoint when desperation sets in;  or,  b) Share food and supplies equitably with those same neighbors, friends or relatives, thereby limiting their own longevity?

We might take action from another observation in nature.  Every so often squirrels are observed jumping into the lake and swimming away from shore, perhaps when populations exceed nut supply.

Should we follow one another, like squirrels over the edge of the bluff, or continue to stand on firm ground, building on the foundations laid before us?    Do we allow squirrel observations to rule our lives?

-  Dick Purinton


Tuesday, September 29, 2015


John Hildebrand, Eau Claire, author of
"The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac,"
visited with other passengers aboard
the Karfi, enroute to Rock Island.
Washington Island -

The recent 2015 Washington Island Literary Festival (also referred to in shorthand as the 'Lit Fest') was successful in many ways.

The number of participants is growing, the quality of author/presenters was outstanding, and the variety of venues made the weekend most enjoyable for both readers and writers.

September's weather during that weekend was also accommodating, allowing for pleasant outdoor events.

Comments received from writers and readers, and also from those who consider themselves readers and aspiring writers, praised what blended to become an intimate, enlightening and entertaining weekend.

Friday afternoon the Door County Land Trust co-sponsored an event
titled, Nature & Poetry Walk.  Madison poet Alice D'Alessio read from
her book "A Blessing of Trees" as several groups
made their way along wooded paths near the Stavkirke.

This prevalent, positive mood began with Friday's several workshops, optional opportunities to delve into fiction, poetry and life-writing, and an outdoor Nature & Poetry Walk that began at the Stavkirke.
A warm reception in the Farm Museum Barn brought together those from the workshops and the balance of the weekend's participants.  The centerpiece were Saturday and Sunday presentations by invited writers, with readings interspersed with personal comments about their work, several supporting slide shows, and back-and-forth with audience members.  Books by featured authors and poets were available for purchase at the Back Stage Bookstore (managed by Deb Wayman of Fair Isle Books).  Book signing opportunities with the writers were at an adjacent table.

Author panel led the Saturday morning presentations at
the Trueblood Performing Arts Center.  From left:
Peter Geye; Danielle Sosin; Lin Enger;  Hampton Sides.

Sunday morning's two presentations were held in the hall of the Rock Island Boat House, following coffee on the Jackson Harbor pier and a pleasant ride on the Karfi.   For those who participated in Sunday's event, the beauty and warmth of the Lake Michigan day were infused with author readings of Lake Superior-themes, and the sum total was certainly one of the weekend's highlights.   (Most photos shown here were taken during the Sunday event.)

Author Danielle Sosin read from
her book "The Long Shining Waters"
Sunday at Rock Island.

Next year's theme and dates

"Mystery and Mystique of the Midwest" is the theme selected for the 2016 Literary Festival, and as might be guessed, invited authors will include leading Midwest mystery writers.  This author list is currently being developed, and we hope to have word soon on the invited and accepting authors for public announcement.

The calendar dates chosen for the third weekend in September will generally follow this year's format, with an effort to hold the festival while outdoor events might be warm and inviting.

Workshops will expand, hallmarked by longer individual workshop length.  These will begin Thursday around mid-day on September 15 and continue Friday morning and afternoon, September 16.   The Festival itself will begin with an Opening Reception Friday evening.  Author presentations are scheduled Saturday Sep. 17 and Sunday morning Sep. 18, with longer breaks between presentations.   One committee goal will be to announce 2016 Lit Fest authors on a dedicated website page along with program outline and registration information, no later than early November.

Fees will increase slightly for 2016.   Workshops registration will be $75 (a reduction to $65 per workshop if two or more workshops are selected).  Lit Fest Weekend registration fee in 2016 will be $85.  A "late registration" deadline will be set for July 15th, and that fee increases to $100 for later registrations.  This, in part, is an effort to encourage earlier sign-ups and more efficient planning.

Visiting on the deck of  Rock Island's Thordarson Boat House Sunday
morning were:  Marianne Fons;  Bob and Deb Wayman (Fair Isle Books);
author Capt. Don, and Betty Kilpela, of Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Good vibes, positive comments

I've read several comments by invited authors who also mingled with attendees.  I think these are worth passing along to a general readership here, because of their unsolicited, supportive content.  These comments are well received, given that many of the authors are well-traveled, having attended larger, better established, and presumably more prestigious, literary festivals elsewhere.

John Hildebrand (The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac): 

   “This festival had a sense of fellowship that extends beyond the readings and workshops.  There was a sense of everyone being at the same table that I suppose comes from being on an island.”

Anne-Marie Oomen (Love, Sex and 4-H, Pulling Down the Barn and House of Fields.):
   “This is a conference for readers and writers, for nurturing that connection and building a literary culture.  
  “Participants in my seminar (Life Writing Made Easy) were of the highest caliber.  And that’s exciting as a teacher to have that kind of commitment.”

Sue Wentz (Festival participant and winner of the first Norbert Blei Literary Award for Short Story;  author of The Bluff):
  “This was a great conference.  People have been wonderful.”

Peter Geye (The Lighthouse Road, Safe from the Sea):
   "I attend quite a few book festivals.  It's one of the joys of being an author.  But rarely have I enjoyed myself so much as I did on Washington and Rock Islands.  Between the graciousness of my hosts and the smartness and enthusiasm of the attendees and the generousness of the other presenting authors, I'd have to rank this experience among the very best of festivals.  Put on top of that the gorgeous islands and venues, and readers and writers of all stripes would be crazy not to consider attending the Washington Island Book Festival in the coming years."

Catherine Jagoe, poet, and winner of the first Norbert Blei Award for Poetry:
  "One of the things that struck me as so successful about this festival was the sense of community and ease between all of us there.  I was apprehensive about not knowing anyone before I went, but people were open to one another and it was easy to talk to strangers and get to know one another.
  "I hope you all feel very proud of how things went.  This was a jewel of a festival.  It will be a hard act to follow!"

- Dick Purinton

Baraboo writer Sue Wentz, winner
of the Norbert Blei Short Story Award.

In addition to a cash prize,
winners of the Norbert Blei Poetry and Short Story Awards (and
runners-up)  each received a framed print of Norbert's
"Angel of Literature" painting.

(Jude Genereaux photo)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Archivist Janet Berggren's page, ADVENTURES IN THE ARCHIVES,
became my favorite page in the Island Observer.

Washington Island -

I attended a meeting of the Washington Island Archives last Tuesday afternoon (which by coincidence also happened to be my birthday).

Everything went smoothly and routinely initially, my first meeting as committee chair since Eric Greenfeldt resigned as our long-term chairman in May, due to personal obligations that take him away from the Island. (Eric stayed on as a committee member, however.)

But, as Janet Berggren concluded her Archivist's report, she looked quietly first at the table top, then at the ceiling lights, and drew a deep breath before announcing that she would retire at year's end.  

This was quite a shocker to those around the table, let me say!  (I have to admit it was "right up there" with the time I was elected American Legion Post Commander when attending my second meeting in 1975 (the other four or five men in attendance already had their turn and were waiting for new blood)... or the time I consented to take the role of Church Council President, only to have the minister resign a few months later, followed by the church furnace giving up a few months after that.   Unforgettable times, all.)  

We'll miss Janet when she leaves in late December.  She said she's looking "to carve out some 'retirement' time.  One can never stop learning, and I've learned that when it comes to Island history, the road is a seemingly endless path leading from one treasure to another."  I can't help but agree with her inclinations, and wish her nothing but the best.

Janet has great skills, including the talent to put together an outstanding, polished Archives page in the Observer, drawing us in with her humor and light mystery.  She'll be with us a few more months, and during that time we hope to select her replacement, someone who can benefit by working alongside Janet before she goes skiing, or whatever she has in mind!

On another note, the Island Archives lost a friend and a great volunteer in David Raup this summer, a man with tremendous career accomplishments in paleontology, yet someone most of us hardly knew because he was quiet and unassuming.  He kept the Archives computers humming by updating software and looking for suitable machines that still ran on his favored XP software.   Janet's remarks, delivered at Dave's Memorial Gathering on Saturday, Sep. 19, titled "Remembering Dave Raup," will be published in the next Island Observer issue.

Never static

Organizations are dynamic, always changing, and the Island Archives is no different.  It would be a mistake to believe Island events and committees run on auto pilot, seldom deviating from course, with little effort expended to keep the ship moving forward.

Established routines, understood job descriptions, and a history built around successful events helps, but in the end it is the plain, hard work of many members and participants that makes a success of Island events.   These highlights make a significant contribution to our "tourism summer":   the Birding Festival; Paddlefest; the Lions Club Fly-In Fishboil, and the Fair;  the Women's Club International Food Festival; Art In The Park at the ANC;   Scandinavian Dance Festival;  the Music Festival;  the Rec Run and Walk;  the American Legion Memorial Day Program and Fish Boils;  Death's Door BBQ;  the Friends of Rock Island picnic;  and the recently held Literary Festival.  I know I've forgotten many others, for which I apologize.

These are but the tip of the iceberg.  Lots of work goes into putting on these events, and I believe each one of those named above is sponsored by a non-profit organization and staffed by volunteers.  The cumulative effect is an Island that bustles with energy, ideas, creativity and promise.  It's captivating and contagious, and not just for first time visitors.   Residents often make up the bulk of the patronage at these events, both pitching in to help and enjoying the activity.

There's good reason we choose living here, beyond the beauty and awe of this natural world.   The closeness of a working community is a strong part of that reason.  There's nothing better than to be invested in your community, knowing that your work, using your hands and head, contributes to the overall economic and social well-being of the Island.

-  Dick Purinton    

Monday, September 7, 2015


Rock Island Park Manager Randy Holm posed with
summer-time naturalist and historian Richard Frost
before Frost returned to his LaCrosse home.
Washington Island -

The summer finale that is Labor Day Weekend is itself coming to a close.

The line of traffic leaving the island yesterday indicated there were lots of day visitors Sunday, the middle day of this holiday weekend.

Ferry crews managed to clean up the line by dark, but we'll see a repeat today when those who've stayed here overnight head back home for school and for the remaining days of the work week.

All of this bodes well, we believe, for the Ferry Line and the Island economy, a peak weekend of the year when all crews, all ferries run at full bore bringing people and vehicles back and forth.

I had the pleasure of operating the Karfi to Rock Island this weekend, and by a rare circumstance in scheduling I worked with son, Hoyt, who was my crew.  Saturday we spent the most time together since traveling to Iceland in June!

On the boathouse pier, waiting with backpack and belongings to depart the island, was Richard Frost. Richard was the naturalist and historian on Rock Island this past summer.  His enthusiasm, patient manner of teaching, and his ability to listen and learn quickly made him an asset to Rock Island's visitors and campers.   Evenings he slept on Rock Island, where he also served as campground host and point of contact when Randy Holm and his staff completed their work day.

I had the pleasure to visit with Richard on several occasions, during which time we exchanged information about Thordarson and Rock Island history.   I do hope the Wisconsin DNR park management people recognize the contributions Richard added through enhancing the experience for campers and day visitors.

The same can be said for the many Friends of Rock Island volunteers who take turns occupying the lighthouse one week at a time, in exchange for receiving and guiding visitors through this historic home, daily from 10-4.   Although anticipated, the stream of visitors is no small interruption of one's daily "vacation" routine, accompanied by frequent and often repeated visitor questions.   The rewards, however, (I should think) might include observing the expressions of surprise and reverence on the faces of those who enter the building for the first time, the finely remodeled and furnished home of Rock Island's light keepers.

Heading up this state park and its many facets - and this job includes occasional unpleasantness such as trash hauling (it all goes to the Washington Island recycling station), toilet pumping, and people management (not everyone listens, obeys, or is docile!), and public safety - is Park Manager Randy Holm.   I've come to respect not only Randy's range of activities and responsibilities, but also his proven understanding of Rock Island's history.

While Randy's responsibilities are wide-ranging, with a restricted park budget he's often short-handed, and for that reason you'll find Randy on the Island most days throughout the season (including many of his days off) during the park's generally accepted open/closing dates.   He's made it a point to be on the pier to personally greet arrivals - or ensure that one of his people are present - to welcome visitors and also to set the tone, should there be misconceptions that this is not a managed park experience.

At an Island coffee shop one morning in June, I met two ladies who had crossed on the Karfi a few days earlier to Rock Island.  One commented to me how surprisingly pleasant it was upon her arrival to be welcomed to Rock Island State Park.  She couldn't get over that gesture, which Randy has made into a hallmark of his tenure as Park Manager.  A seemingly small thing, but it can mean a great deal to visitors, and it may encourage repeat visits in future years.  (We encounter many campers who are proud to let us know the number of consecutive years their family - now in the fourth or fifth generations - have camped on Rock Island, a sign of how deep the experience runs.)

This morning hundreds of families or couples are packing up their cars at the conclusion of breakfast (or folding their tents, if camping on Rock Island) and heading toward the ferry dock for the first leg of their drive home.

We appreciate all of these Island visitors, for their participation in the various planned activities that in turn boost our local economy, and for planting seeds for future visits.

 - Dick Purinton

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Author and captain,Don Kilpela and
his wife Betty in Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

It's been nearly five weeks since my last blog entry.  Several readers expressed concern for my health (I'm fine) and other were just curious as to "What gives?"

Busy with things, is my best answer…tours; trips on the Karfi; scraping and painting; getting my motorcycle back in order after a flat rear tire when riding below the hill, near Bethel Church; family gatherings; presentations and readings; selling a few books... and all of the activities typical in summer.

Hey, I'm retired!  I'll do what is necessary only for so long!

But having first vented, with this blog I'd like to highlight the upcoming Washington Island Literary Festival, of which I've become both a supporter and an active committee member (co-chair this year).  We have a fine slate of authors who will develop this year's theme in poetry, fiction and non-fiction:

I've placed a photo of friends Don and Betty Kilpela at the head of this blog, mostly because I think it's a handsome photo of one of the featured authors and his wife.   I took this on their Copper Harbor pier in front of Betty's shop a few years back, when Mary Jo and I were starting our 'round Lake Superior motorcycle trip.

Don has been primarily a commercial passenger vessel owner & operator with a file full of humorous events and customer comments concerning their 60-mile, open water trip between Copper Harbor and Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior.  I believe it's the longest off-shore small domestic passenger vessel trip in the U. S.  (If I'm wrong here, please correct me!)  But he's also an excellent writer, as well as dabbler in several business ventures during his lifetime.

Don had the itch to buy an oil tanker in the Caribbean years ago, and the impact of multiple, sometimes seemingly unavoidable, decisions on his family's future are clearly and unabashedly outlined in his book: "So You Want To Own An Oil Tanker."  Don's example shows show far chutzpah and self-confidence can take you, but it resulted in a nearly disastrous outcome for his family and their financial future.   It was his ability to resolve his mistakes, and even the events that happened beyond his control, that make this memoir a good guide for anyone with an impulsive itch to change their life's direction.

But Don Kilpela is just one of many fine authors who will join with readers and fellow writers at this third Washington Island Literary Festival.   For the full program and registration information, go to

Click on the Literary Festival link highlighted in blue.

Featured author this year is Hampton Sides, who is also an editor for Outdoor Magazine.  We're most excited to welcome Hampton to the TPAC stage.   Hampton wrote, In The Kingdom of Ice, a gripping story of Arctic exploration at a time in the 1800s when at least a few significant scholars believed there was a warm Arctic sea inside a ring of icebergs.   With this misinformation as their beginning point, explorers, who we today believe should have intuitively known better, set off for one of the globe's few remaining unexplored locations.   Hampton will present his book along with audio/visual on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 19th.

Workshops, too!

Registrants who are also poets and writers may find one of four workshops offered Friday Sept. 18 to be of interest.  An additional workshop fee is made based upon the length of each offering.

The reason for underscoring workshop registration here is that several workshop leaders offer the opportunity to review work submitted in advance for evaluation.   Information concerning those workshops follows:

The Washington Island Literary Festival:  Workshops, 2015

The Washington Island Literary Festival, now in its third year, will offer four writing/poetry workshops on Friday, September 18, in addition to the Sep. 19 & 20 weekend presentations by noted authors.

Participants can register now for these workshops by going online at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC) website.   Workshop descriptions and times, along with associated fees, are as follows.  (Registrants will be informed of locations on the Island Festival sites prior to Sep. 18, 2015)

Five Rivers:  Life Writing Made Easy (Sept. 18, 10:30-12:30) – Anne-Marie Oomen
This workshop is for anyone who wishes to explore the past. Using their five senses, Anne-Marie will guide participants through a clear and simple approach to writing a life story, and development of structure for memoir.  For all ages, all walks of life.  Participants are encouraged to bring pens, notebooks, and laptops (if they wish) to  embark on life writing.   Workshop fee:   $45

Discovering Your Inner Poet (Sep. 18, 10:30-12:30) – Poet Alice D’Alessio
This workshop is for beginner and intermediate writers.  Alice will lead discussions of water and woods as sources of inspiration, what makes a poem, what provides inspiration, and how poems differ from prose.   Write a few lines or a complete  poem, inspired by your surroundings.  Learn about special touches to lift your poem above the ordinary.  Bring along several of your poems, if you wish, for critique and editing.   Workshop fee:  $45

Fiction Workshop:  Share Your Story, and Improve Your Craft with Tools that Work (Sep. 18, 1:30-4:30) – Fiction Writer Elizabeth Sachs
Have you ever wondered, “How could this story work better?”  Fiction doesn’t just happen; it’s also shaped, with strategies anyone can learn, apply, and improve.  In this forum, participants will submit work in advance, and read work of fellow workshop members sent to them.  Then, in a directed workshop, all members will learn strategies applied to their own, particular situations.  Dr. Elizabeth Sachs is a published, agented author, and a professor of creative writing and literature.  Target date for submission of work in advance is 20 August, but later-coming work is also welcome.  Contact Elizabeth Sachs ( for further details.  Workshop fee:   $60

Poetry Workshop:  Share your Poetry, and Improve Your Craft with Tools that Work (Sep. 18, 1:30-4:30) – Poet Rebekah Keaton
Craft tools can easily be applied to poetry, to improve its impact dramatically.  Dr. Keaton, a professor of poetry and literature, has published work in numerous literary journals and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.  Participants are encouraged to submit 3-5 poems in advance, which will be mailed to the whole group, for workshop attention applied to your work in particular.  Target date for submission of work in advance is 20 August, but later-coming work is also acceptable.  Contact Rebekah Keaton ( for further details. Workshop fee:  $60

*       *       *

We hope to see many of you here for the Island Literary Festival.  It's great fun, and also a good learning experience, in addition to the opportunity to meet and visit with notable authors and poets.

Please consider your registration today!     -  Dick Purinton

Monday, July 13, 2015


Photo of the Green Bay chart reprint includes (top left) the early
settlement at the mouth of the Fox River with symbols representing
dwellings along the east bank of the river, and
Fort Howard shown on the west bank. 

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

This morning we awoke to rain and overcast, a perfect morning to straighten out my desk and to report on a package we received late last week from Eric Bonow.

Eric seems to have a nose for out-of-the-way documents and maps and in his searching he came across a very early "Chart of Green Bay" that was based on surveys under the direction of CAPT. W. G. Williams, assisted by Lieut. J. W. Gunnison, Corps of Topograhical Engineers, in 1845.  This chart was then "Reduced from the original Map in the Topographical Bureau" by W. B. Franklin, Lieut. Corps Topographical Bureau, in 1846.

The body of water of Green Bay is shown horizontally in order to include as much of the bay from the settlement at the mouth of the Fox River (Green Bay) to the very southern point on Washington Island, including the all-important passage of Porte Des Morts.   It's a shame Rock Island was not included, as it would have shown the first federal lighthouse in the northern Lake Michigan area, Pottawatomie Light, established in 1836.

Rock Island at the time this chart was published quite likely had a more sizable population with people of European origin than any other location north of Green Bay.  Large encampments of natives along peninsula shores of the bay had already disappeared following a treaty between the Menominee Indians and the United States, ceding a huge area which included present day Door County and "all the islands on Green Bay…"  (Rock Island, p.8, published 1969, Conan Bryant Eaton, Washington Island, Wisconsin.)

According to the late Island historian Conan Eaton,  by the time this 1846 chart was published, shipping would have relied on the lighthouse built on Rock Island's northern bluff.   The settlement of Rock Island's fishermen around that time, though small, would continue to grow over the next ten-to-fifteen year period, making Rock Island the setting where Washington Township was then organized in 1850 before the population rapidly declined in the late 1860s and 1870s.

Aside from the Green Bay settlement, long a trading center and a military fortification, no other settlements are shown or named along the entire peninsula.   There is a "Little Sturgeon Bay" and a "Big Sturgeon Bay" to denote shoreline indentations, but no villages named.  For instance, you will find "Eagle Bay" and "Eagle Hard" (the bluff that we know as Eagle Bluff), but as of that date no Ephraim.  

Bay water depths are shown with quite extensive soundings, and navigational features that showing bays, outcroppings and rocky shoals, well-depicted but generally without names.   Exceptions that are shown are:  Hat Island; Chambers Island; Strawberry Islands; Horseshoe Island and "The Sisters."   In Porte Des Morts we see the early name given to today's Plum Island but with the original and correct spelling of "Plumb Island."   This word "Plumb" which can be found on other early charts, denotes this island's location as dead-center, in the middle of the passage, between the peninsula and Washington Island.

The only named feature shown on the 1846 chart on the Lake Michigan shoreline was Baileys Harbor, "discovered" as a harbor of refuge a few years earlier by a Capt. Bailey, who then bought land there for the purpose of logging and quarrying.

The Sturgeon Bay Portage is depicted using a horizontal
scale of "1000 feet to an inch," while the
vertical scale is "20 feet to an inch."   The
highest elevation separating the two waters
was about 20 feet, then, and nearly all sand.

An interesting feature added to the chart was the "Profile of the dividing Ridge at Sturgeon Portage."  We conjecture that by 1846 not many travelers found it necessary or productive to portage across the sandy separation between Lake Michigan and the eastern end of "Big Sturgeon Bay." In earlier centuries, natives and then French voyageurs and pioneers would have carried their canoes or small boats from one waterway to the other.

It would be approximately 35 more years before a canal would be dug and completed to connect the two waterways, providing an economic boost to Sturgeon Bay's prominence in trading and shipbuilding, short-cutting the longer and sometimes treacherous route around the tip of the peninsula. In 1846 the peninsula itself was not yet named "Door Peninsula," but rather, "Wisconsin T.y" for Wisconsin Territory.

The 1846 sailing route around the peninsula and through the Door passage could easily have added a day or more to reach a point but a few miles to the west of Sturgeon Bay, a sailing route that also required avoiding many islands and shoals, none of which were yet marked by federal navigational buoys or markers.

 - Dick Purinton

Friday, July 3, 2015


Ken and Barbie go camping!  A sampling of the
toys and gear hauled to Rock Island on the Karfi
to make a family's camping experience complete.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Schools are out, weather has finally warmed (although it was in the 40s two days ago), families are here on vacation, and our ferries are on their full summer schedule.

Karfi, loaded with gear, campers and hikers
for Rock Island State Park.

Aboard the Karfi we carried many families headed to campsites for their Fourth of July weekend.  Saturday, near the Thordarson boathouse, there will be a picnic for the public, sponsored by Friends of Rock Island.  It's their annual fund raiser and opportunity to attract new members and supporters.

This noon picnic follows a popular morning pancake and sausage breakfast held at the Island Fire House, an annual event sponsored by the Washington Island Fire Department and Rescue Squad, as much a social event as fund raiser.

Then, there's a ball game scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Island Ball Park.  This is a departure from the traditional Sunday afternoon ballgame.   If you still have an appetite when the last inning's been played, you might want to drop by the annual Fourth of July Fish Boil at the American Legion Hall, a little further up Main Road, serving from 4:30 to 7:00 pm.  When the Legion fish boil winds down, children will begin to line-up for the Fourth of July Children's Parade, on the roadside in front of the Legion Hall.   Parade time this year is 8 pm, which assured time enough for Legionnaires to change from serving attire into uniform, and to position themselves as standard bearers at the head of the parade.

Four ferries ran steadily from Northport
Thursday in the buildup to the Fourth weekend.
Around 9:30 pm, once darkness finally sets in, nearly an hour of fire works begins, volleys lit off by Volunteer Firemen from locations behind centerfield fence, and a few of the largest mortars from the depths of the nearby Hagen gravel pit.  In all, this will be a day filled with activities, with hopefully enough time in between to rest or enjoy other activities.

Wherever you are, enjoy the Fourth of July celebrations in your communities!

-  Dick Purinton

Crews were ready to receive early Friday morning traffic.
Coulton Valdez and Christian Foss decked on the first shift
aboard the Arni J. Richter for Capt. Joel Gunnlaugsson. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Westman Islands are spectacular, especially when well-lit
as they were by the June sun on this day.  Birds nest in the
cliffs, and sheep are seen grazing on the uppermost
grasslands. The town of Heimaey with its well-protected
harbor is seen within.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Here's more about our trip to Iceland.

So many have commented on how they enjoyed the photos and commentary I posted on our trip to Iceland that I've decided to extend this topic.

Many points of interest are within an easy several hours' drive from Reykjavik.  Many tour companies will pick you up and return you to your hotel after an outing in the countryside.  But I would encourage any traveler to Iceland, if you have time, to also overnight outside of the capital city.  The major roads are good roads and are paved, sometimes with small or no shoulders.  Graveled roads that we encountered were a bit rough, but not unexpectedly so.  You drive on the right hand side, which makes it easy.   Icelanders speak English and Danish as second and third languages.  You'll have no problem communicating.

Not everyone enjoys riding, or riding on trails along steep cliffs,
but just the same, you have to admire the view.  Evy was the only one
in our group to see a Puffin that day, and a first for the season
according to her trail guide.  A tour boat is in
the distance, and other islands of the volcanic grouping
of Westman Islands.  (Taken by her trail guide.)

Our general impression of Iceland was one of extremely friendly and helpful people.

There must be exceptions, but we didn't encounter them during our stay, although we passed close by Iceland's national prison at Litla Hraun, less than a mile from Eyrarbakki and, coincidentally, the  address used in letters mailed to Arni Gudmundsen by his sister in the 1880s when it was farmland.

This prison might well be the major local employer.  This is where Iceland's most hardened criminals are housed, and razor wire and fencing aside, the prison farmyard gives off the look of a work farm.  We learned later from our driver on our way to the airport that there are about 80 cells in this prison, with another 40 being planned for the future closer to Reykjavik.

Reading online information, Iceland has 137 prisoners in all, on average, per day, some held in smaller prisons elsewhere than Eyrarbakki.  The average is 43 per 100,000 population, as compared with USA's 756 per 100,000.  Why the rather low number of incarcerated prisoners, we wonder?  One reason may be, if you are given a prison term, you could wait from several days or weeks up to five years to serve your term, whenever a cell opens up.  Descriptions I've read for the prison facilities posted on line describe it as "not quite four-star," but not rough, either.  Prisoners are encouraged to make the best of their time by either working or enrolling in education classes.

The women's prison in Reykjavik has approximately 40 cells, we were told, and until recently women prisoners were allowed out on Fridays, from 9 to 4, for shopping.

Our driver translated a couple of expressions into English for us.  Here is one:  If I say I want to "kick his ass," I say, "I'm going to take him to the bakery."  Putting it into English, that's about as sweet a deliverance could be.

Years ago, according to the sagas, vicious crimes were settled through agreed payment of silver, cattle or horses to the offended surviving family, and ultimately, banishment by the Althing court, sending the violent offender from Iceland for three years.  Could there still be an unwritten form of societal banishment practiced, in lieu of incarceration?

Horse riding - a popular pastime

Horse riding is one of the easiest ways to get around such a rough and tumble countryside, and stables can be found in many locations.   Evy took the opportunity to trail ride on our trip to Westman Islands. As it happened, she was the only rider that afternoon.  She was picked up and dropped off at the ferry by the woman whose family has the stable, maximizing her time on the trail.   And because of her experience, she was given a chance to ride one of the owner's personal mounts.  Along the trail there was plenty of time to compare the similarities of life on Washington Island with Heimaey, the largest of the islands in the chain.  (With approx. 5,000 population)  As it happened, along one trail Evy came within 20 feet of a Puffin.  It was the only Puffin the owner has seen this season thus far.  More birds will arrive later in summer for nesting.

Birding is a popular activity, both for locals and for visitors.  Besides sighting birds, there is a tradition on Heimaey and neighboring (and otherwise uninhabited) islands to collect Puffin eggs, and also Puffins.  This tradition goes back many years, and it appears to be closely regulated.   Young men practice swinging on ropes, a technique they use to gather eggs.   Puffin is served on some restaurant menus, although we didn't try it.  During their tour of the island, our grandsons had the chance to try the rope swing, tutored by their guide.

On our way to and from the port we did see many sea birds that I thought were terns or gulls nesting in the thousands of pockets within the cliffs.   The lone houses built on top of the cliffs are there as dwellings for the sheepherders and egg collectors, and establishment of a dwelling also goes with ownership, the right to collect birds and eggs.

This Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit was looking
for food in the tall grasses near the top of the crater,
along a trail frequented by hikers.  Cropping the
original photo has reduced the definition.

A day or so earlier, while overlooking a crater, I spotted an unfamiliar bird with my binoculars.   Later, I learned it was an Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, fairly rare, at least to non-Icelanders.  This is a long-legged, long-beaked coastal wader that nests in grasses, usually in the lowlands.  Judging by its bright, rust-colored head, this one was a male.

According to a birding site at, this bird has a most unusual migration characteristic that allows it to mate:

"Black-tailed godwits meet in Iceland from mid-May to mid-June to breed, and in an amazing act of fidelity and timing, faithful pairs meet after over-wintering up to 600 miles apart. Arriving within three days of each other, pairs mate, breed and incubate their eggs together. The male remains with the hatchlings for a short time after the female has left to migrate back to her winter home. At the point the male leaves, he is unaware of the location of his partner, and so migrates elsewhere. This monogamous lifestyle can continue for up to 25 years and is only broken if the male and female fail to arrive within the same three days. There is, as yet, no understanding of how the pairs time their migrations with such accuracy."

Hot dogs, anyone?

Said to be a modern day Icelandic national food, our family members found the excellent Icelandic hot dogs available at small stands in various locations.   One such place was a franchise stand in the center of Selfoss, discovered accidentally one day while on the way to the grocery store, and altogether six return trips were made by Hoyt, Thor and Chad.  These hot dogs (we think they may be lamb hot dogs) are typically served with mayonnaise, onions, sweet mustard, and maybe ketchup, on a toasted bun.

Thor had to have one last hot dog at the
Keflavik airport before flying home.
The only thing better than biting into one of these is to have a second hot dog at the ready, for when the first one disappears.

Woolen goods

Few who live in warmer climates can resist the beautiful woolen wear one finds for sale in many Icelandic shops.  The wool is known for its high lanolin content, it is soft, and the colors are generally natural, undyed colors.  Look carefully, though, as some sweater garments we found were knitted in China, or elsewhere, using Icelandic wool.  Nice, but nothing like having a sweater knit by Icelandic fingers.

Co-ops, in addition to many retailers, sell woolen goods produced by local knitters.  Prices may seem steep, but not for a warm sweater that will wear like iron, shed water and sleet, and help keep the wearer dry by wicking away body moisture.  There are no fleece products quite their equal.  There are fine wool dresses, jackets, and other stylish wear for ladies, in addition to the unisex sweaters.  You will see these sweaters worn everywhere, especially outdoors and when horse riding.  (Rain clouds are never far away.)   I got mine, a 3X found in a rack at the Gullfoss (waterfall) souvenir shop.   Here are Evy and son Atlas sporting hooded sweaters.

Thor, Mary Jo and Evy alongside the Gullfoss gorge.

Evy with son, Atlas.
So, we'll wrap up this extended Iceland visit with a few more photos, encouraging anyone who is able to visit Iceland.

Looking toward Westman Islands from black sand beach near the ferry jetty.

A poem by Eggert Olafsson (1726-1768) -

  We have traveled far across the land
  deserts, lava, sand, 
  glaciers, rivers, mountains steep, 
  caves, cliffs and chasms deep 
  - a comfortable journey from start to end.

-  Dick Purinton

View toward Eyjafjallajokull glacier.