Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Ferry Madonna, constructed with hull inverted, taken bow-on. (Rich Ellefson photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Photos shown in this posting were taken by Ferry Line VP Rich Ellefson Monday and Tuesday of this week, and they indicate significant overall progress once again.

In the shot below, Rich stood on the bottom, straddling the keel and looking forward.

The bow shape is now well-defined and soon should be completely plated over.

Hull plating of 1/2-inch thickness is being added here to the framed
bow section.  Yellow cube is a weight suspended from overhead crane
 used to flatten shell plate until it can be welded to frames.
Below, the center trunk, or pedestal, shows more definition. It will join the main vehicle deck to the upper passenger deck.  A unisex toilet, engine room entry, a locker for the U. S. Mail, and fore and aft stairways are among the features within this main enclosure that will be offset to starboard, between vehicle lanes one and two.  The difficulty encountered in painting the enclosed foredeck overhang, a narrow space (port and starboard) just large enough for a man to crawl within, poses a problem.  All possible hot work will be completed, except the underside plating, so that 95 percent of primer painting can be accomplished before enclosure.

Shown below that photo is one of the engine room overhead.  Pipes, or stanchions, help support the main deck overhead while taking up minimal space around machinery and piping.  A ladder for crew access to the machinery space is shown resting in its approximate location, not yet attached.


Bulwarks that will become vehicle deck enclosures, and the larger side curtains that also provide rigidity to the hull while supporting the superstructure above the main deck, are being fabricated separately.  They'll be attached in location once the two hull halves are upright.  With hull steelwork easier to complete in the present upside-down configuration, roll-over for the two hull halves has now been pushed back until January 6th.

This shot from overhead makes it appear ship worker is scaling the heights
when, in fact, he's lying on his side, welding an angle stiffener to what
will be the side-curtain for the superstructure.
A designed opening can be seen at right.
Below are two photos taken in the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding machine shop, showing rudder attachments (quadrants) for a bar that will connect the two rudder stocks for steering purposes.
Below that is a photo of the two rudder supports, heavy plates that project both aft and slightly outboard from each shaft centerline, so that propeller shafts can be inserted/removed from the vessel without removal of the rudders.

White cylinders are Thordon rudder bearings machined of a hard ceramic material that will accept and support each rudder's pintle, the lower end of the rudder.  The final photo shows the two rudder stocks of heavy pipe that become the basis for each rudder plane.  Above each rudder are the "palms," flat surfaces bolted together that make removal relatively easy in dry dock, should it be necessary to repair a rudder.

One final note apart from new ferry construction, and one not substantial enough to warrant a separate blog:  the morning ferry today sailed to Gills Rock due to lake seas and surging at the Northport facility.  

This is a a change of pace, certainly, and the second time in the past month when Gills Rock has been used as an outlet.  This move creates confusion for travelers and some difficulties for our crews, too.  Crew must deal with freight delivered to Northport.  Tickets can't be sold at Gills Rock for lack of computer / printer there.   Incoming traffic (without cash) wishing to use credit cards are asked to stop at our Island booth to make transactions AFTER arriving at the Island.  So, it's a bit of a hassle, but only temporary.

Winds had dropped considerably by 10 a.m., with trips resuming to Northport by then.  Later today the storm will have passed, and high pressure will cause an equally strong flow from the N/NW, with gusts predicted to reach 40 mph.  That, too, may slow things down, with the possibility of overpowering winds and seas at Northport.

Robert Noble, with Eric Foss as Captain, returned to the Island
from Gills Rock on the first trip of the morning.  The additional
distance to Gills Rock plus time communicating and waiting for 
cars directed to Gills Rock, adds minutes to the round trip, making
the ferry behind for the subsequent departure.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-  Dick Purinton

Friday, November 22, 2019


Shortly after arriving on the morning ferry on a gloomy day, Icelandic visitors
Thordur Bjarni Gudjonsson and his wife, Jorunn Kristinsdottir, posed for
a photo with Hoyt and Richard Purinton at the ferry dock.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Last week I received an email from Almar Grimsson, an Icelandic friend (and cousin to Mary Jo) who has visited here several times in the past few years.  He said we might be paid a visit by a couple from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Thordur Gudjonsson is the Icelandic Consul General, an official representative of the Icelandic government, who has been positioned in an area with perhaps the greatest concentration of Icelandic descendants of anywhere in North America.  He and his wife had driven to Minneapolis and would "drop by" for a visit if we could arrange things.   It was a pleasure getting to know them, even though their visit was just for one day.

Their visit comes as plans were being developed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Icelandic settlement on Washington Island in 2020, a date with worthy potential both here and in Iceland, we're hoping to provide the framework for an exchange of citizens.   A contingent from Washington Island plans to visit Iceland in early June, and, in reciprocation, a group from Iceland will visit here in early October, when we will be the hosts.  Almar Grimsson has been my primary contact in planning activities for those occasions.

However, our visit with Thordur and Jorunn was only coincidentally related to our 2020 plans.  In his Consul General role, Thordur travels to many places in Canada and the U. S., primarily to assist in such celebrations or functions that are intended to help preserve Icelandic culture through activities, including language, poetry, music, food, dress and customs practiced by those who immigrated in the late 1800s.

Over 20,000 Icelanders are believed to have emigrated from Iceland over a period of 40 years, starting in 1870 and ending with the onset of WWI.   Among the very first were four young men who traveled from Eyrarbakki to Washington Island (via Milwaukee).  They were soon followed by others, adding to the numbers of pioneer immigrants already living here from other nations.

Explaining our Island's particular heritage, and in describing what those connections might mean for today's Island descendants, was my goal during their one-day visit.  Washington Island's story of Icelandic settlement has been largely overlooked beyond the midwestern United States.  But the story of this little island enclave is a good story, and one worth elevating through documentation.  This is not my opinion alone.  It has also been echoed in recent years by noted Islanders such as  Hannes Andersen, Ted Jessen, Jeanine Ronning and Arni Richter, to name a few.  A challenge is keeping those connections with Washington Island and Iceland fresh and in the forefront of today's Washington Island citizenry, through preservation of history and culture.

Aside from making numerous stops at Island points of interest (and many were closed in this late season), we also stopped at the Island Archives prior to their departure for the ferry and their long drive back to Winnipeg.  Steve Reiss had graciously laid out several early plat maps and photos, and he explained to our guests what might be found within our Washington Island Archives in terms of Icelandic history.  Thordur and Jorunn have each been exposed to similar materials and artifacts during their stay in the Winnipeg and Gimli centers of Icelandic culture.  Gimli is often considered "Little Iceland," one of the first places settled in Canada by those immigrants.  Their visit to our Archives might encourage communication with archival facilities in Canada, enhancing knowledge for each organization.

Archivist Steve Reiss (R) and I posed with Thordur Gudjonsson
with an "pioneer quilt" as backdrop, made by Dee Brown.  
Prominent Island family names and their corresponding decades 
are represented on the quilt. (photo by Jorunn)

This December will bring to a close Thordur's four-year posting as Consul General in Winnipeg.  The couple will prepare to return to Iceland soon after their return to Winnipeg. Thordur will continue his work within the Ministry of Culture in Iceland, until such time as another overseas position is offered.

I encourage anyone interested in traveling to Iceland early next June (2020) to get in touch with me. Or, please read my blog postings of late winter and early spring of this year.  We encourage not only those of Icelandic descent, but anyone with an interest in a cultural exchange, to consider spending two days within their larger vacation block to learn more about Iceland, and to be a representative of Washington Island for this notable, 150th anniversary, occasion!

-  Dick Purinton


Workers at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding tack down a hull plate in the bow.
A heavy weight (yellow cube) is used to coax half-inch plating to lay
tight against the framing.  (Steve Propsom photo)

Shipyard work on new ferry sails along smoothly

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Its always wonderful to report on good news and smooth sailing, and that is the report once again
on the new ferry MADONNA construction project.

Photos taken several days ago by Fincantieri Project Supervisor Steve Propsom show considerable progress since our last report of two weeks ago.

The work schedule has now been adjusted, once again, to promote completion of several simultaneous tasks while the two hull sections remain in the "upside-down" position, according to Ferry Line VP Rich Ellefson. He spends a good share of Monday and Tuesday each week tracking work progress at the Sturgeon Bay ship facility. Steel priming and installation of overhead insulation (above the engine room) are two activities done more easily given the current positioning.  Insulation of a prescribed type and thickness is a U. S. Coast Guard requirement to isolate the car deck from heat should there be an engine room fire, but it will also benefit reduction of machinery noise for passengers.  In winter the insulation can help retain warmth in the machinery spaces overnight, allowing for easier start-up of diesels and the avoidance of frozen piping.

Given these various tasks, by tradesmen from different shops within the shipyard, it was decided by shipyard supervisors that the two hull halves might as well remain inverted and inside the fabrication building, until some time after Christmas.  There, in the relative comfort of the enclosure, work can  continue on several fronts toward the goal of greater production efficiency.
Shown lying on its side is the basic structure of the main deck island, or stairway trunk.
This piece will provide means of access to the upper deck, enclosure for a main deck toilet,
and room for piping and wiring runs, etc.   A second, side-benefit, will be the solid support
such a trunk provides the overhead passenger deck. 

Shown is the starboard engine bed frame (looking aft), fabricated in the upright position.
 suction piping and water lines are already inserted through transverse framing,
inboard of the engine bed.  According to Hoyt Purinton, engine supports must be within

several thousandths of an inch in order to avoid large shims beneath engine mounts.
Because of close tolerances and varied steel thicknesses used, this particular section

was fabricated separate from the two hull halves.  

This shot was taken from the same point of view as several earlier photos
so that visual progress can easily be measured.   A majority of the smaller,
flat bar framing in the bow has already been installed in preparation for shell

plating.  The 1/3 bow and stern hull portions receive 1/2" plating,
as well as the ice-belting, a band roughly several feet wide running the vessel's 
length at the waterline.  Midships section will receive 3/8" hull plating.
-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Madonna hull shape apparent here,
with considerable car deck overhang in the bow the most
apparent feature.
  Since this photo was taken Monday, Nov. 4
by Steve Propsom, 
the first two hull plates were added
midships, in the vicinity of the worker wearing a light green shirt.
(Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Rich Ellefson, Ferry Line VP and Operations Manager, has begun making regular trips to the shipyard to observe construction progress, and to confer with Construction Supervisor Steve Propsom, Seacraft Design Naval Architect Mark Pudlo, and U. S. Coast Guard Marine Inspection Supervisor Sarah Reid.  With the exception of the lead photo all other photos were taken by Rich  November 5.

During the past several weeks a great deal of progress has been made with hull construction.  A second shift, mostly welders, began working on the hull.  When large ship sections for Van Ekenvort Tug and Barge of Bark River, Michigan, were recently moved to the graving dock, surplus manpower was shifted over to the Madonna, for a total of 30 assigned steelworkers.

As more steel is added the number of corners and confinement 
increases.  A welder is shown here between frames.
(Each of following photos taken by Rich Ellefson.)

Piping runs for bilges shown here.  Openings
are looking aft toward engine room.

Piping manifold (in white paint) shown in approximate location on forward
engine room bulkhead.  Open square in foreground minus flatbar stiffeners
will be for openings ("soft patches") cut later, to give engine room access
for engines and  transmissions. Removable patches will be
framed with heavy girders that will carry deck load. 

The forward half of the vessel is coming along nicely.  The bow section, up to the first bulkhead, will soon be ready for visual weld inspection by the Coast Guard.  Once that has been successfully completed, cleaning of welds and seams will be followed by priming.  That general routine will be repeated in the coming weeks, working bow-to-stern, as sections between bulkheads are completed.

Decisions on the order of work are based on the yard supervisor's weekly and daily assessments, him order to keep the project moving steadily ahead, yet allowing the various trades optimum work opportunity without interfering with one another.  As of this date, the completion of the two hull halves could be ready for removal from the building for roll-over by Nov. 27.  Then the joining of the two halves will take place.  This work is estimated to happen during the last week in November and will represent a gain of several weeks in time from the original estimate.

Piping has also begun with runs of two-inch bilge piping and stainless hydraulic lines (for ramp winches), and the placement of the Engine Room manifold.  The piping manifold becomes a junction for bilge and fire piping, and the controlling valves that lead to belowdeck voids and ballast areas.  From that one location, pumps can dewater one or more spaces (or fill a ballast section).

This would be the starboard bow corner (inverted here during construction) 
and the flat rail section, temporarily held in place with tabs and come-along,
later will become the rub rail.  Two C-shaped sections are being 
fabricated to run the entire length of the vessel, continuous
from bow to stern.
 Other ongoing work in preparation for later stages of construction include items such as:

  a) Stainless propellers and shafts are in house at Kahlenberg Bros., Two Rivers, for machining.
  b) Main CAT engines have been received at Fabick, Green Bay, and await the arrival of Twin Disc transmissions later this month.
   c) Northern Lights gensets were recently delivered to Burger Boat, Manitowoc distributor.
   d) A number of plans were submitted to the U. S. Coast Guard Plan Review Office in Washington and await approval;  other prints with detail have either been produced, or will soon be, by Seacraft Design of Sturgeon Bay.  These steps are critical for continuation of the brisk construction pace at Bay Shipbuilding, and for a final product that will meet federal passenger vessel design and construction guidelines.  (Materials, systems and equipment must also meet federal standards.)

-  Dick Purinton