Saturday, December 28, 2019


Although the bow section was moved out prior to Christmas
to another building, the stern half remains in Bldg. 311 where
assembly began in September.  Work continues on the rubrail (left) while

installation of the stern tubes and appendages that will support
the rudder take place above.  (Rich Ellefson photo)
- Detroit Harbor, Washington Island

Progress continues on the Madonna construction, with special emphasis on the stern section that remains in Bldg. 311 inside the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding yard.

Rich Ellefson reported in by phone this Saturday morning to say that weld testing for pinholes continued into the weekend on the stern section.  He was standing by to witness completion of this task before coming home.  Occasionally a pinhole is discovered that must then be drilled or cleaned, and then welded again to ensure watertight integrity.  The test is anything but dramatic in that it consists of visual inspection by a U. S. Coast Guard inspector of many hundreds of feet of weld, but every so often a bubble in the soapy liquid gives clue to a pinhole similar to searching for a leak in a car tire).  When a leak is discovered, the welder standing by must clean the surface and lay another pass.  It is an essential step in the process of obtaining Coast Guard certification.  The worst might be discovering an annoying pinhole leak months later, necessitating grinding of paint coatings before correcting the problem.  It could also, if serious enough, require a dry docking to correct.  

Coast Guard Marine Inspector Jim Condra observes inch-by-inch
the integrity of shell plating welds.  
Fincantieri workmen been working overtime to have the stern section ready for turnover Monday, January 6.

One complication in that maneuver may be the projecting of the now vulnerable stern tubes  (propeller shaft enclosures), and protrusions that will become supports for the rudder stocks.

A view at the underside of the hull directly outboard from the engine room space shows an inset, rectangular box on either side of the keel.  Each pocket will hold a keel cooler, a radiator-like grid manufactured by Fernstrum of Menominee, Michigan.  The grid tubes are made of copper/nickel and will provide closed loops for engine cooling liquid on the hull's underside.  The material's softness also makes them quite vulnerable to deadheads (errant, waterlogged timbers) and also heavy pieces of ice.  For that reason, subway grids will bolt over each cooler, and heavy steel angles will line either side of the coolers to offer further ice protection.

Gridcoolers pocket with protective angle.
Basis for the skeg that will support
outer end of each propeller shaft.

Because of potential for damage to the stern tubes during turnover, should they strike the ground unintentionally, the flipping of the stern section will be a crucial evolution.  According to Rich, there might be shipyard preference for an end-for-end rotation, rather than side-to-side rollover, in order to offer less risk should the lift go awry.   The location and welding of each stern tube is so critical for shaft alignment that welding involves two opposing workers welding simultaneously on the heavy pieces of steel.  Such care is intended to avoid the distortion of stern tube alignment.

Another delicate lift event might be that of the main deck pedestal, a rather lightly constructed "box" that could be a bit "flimsy" when lifted for setting.  Temporary stiffeners will be installed as spreaders to maintain the box-like shape until set on deck in its intended position.  This lift will occur after turnover and after the joining of the two hull sections.

View from bow looking aft at the relative 
positions of the prefabricated pedestal
and starboard side curtain. 
The Madonna's engines and gears arrived at the shipyard late this week, and they will be stored out of the weather until the hull sections are turned upright and joined.

These arrived by truck from FABICK CAT in Green Bay.

-  Dick Purinton

Friday, December 20, 2019


Forward half of hull lifts clear of work table Thursday and was then
set on the transporter at left.  (Rich Ellefson photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This week was notable for the variety of milestones in the Madonna construction progress.

Wednesday Rich Ellefson visited Fabick CAT in Green Bay, where Twin Disc reduction gears were on the floor, awaiting painting to match the CAT yellow of the engines.  Once hydraulic pumps and coolant piping connections are verified, the units will be mated and then trucked to the Sturgeon Bay shipyard.  Shipyard Engine installation plans call for lifting each engine/gear unit into the hull by means of the large graving dock gantry crane, immediately after the stern section has been turned to its upright position.  Actual engine installation with bolting and alignment may come much later, but the lift will be opportune while the crane and the hull are side-by-side.  This should be accomplished early in the week of January 6th.

Vessel name, Madonna, and hailing port, Washington Island,
have been applied to the hull transom.
A major move took place from Bldg. 311 on Thursday, Dec. 19, when lifting pads and cables were attached to hull of the forward half.  According to calculations, the lift strain was # 230,000.   As each welded connection to the underlying construction table was cut through by torch, an audible "bang" resulted, according to Rich.  That sound accompanied the release of inner tension and stresses from welding and heating that had accumulated gradually throughout the hull.

View of the starboard bow and one of several hinges used to attach
the bow ramp.  Two U-shaped channels (at right) provide rub rail
(fender) protection around
 the vessel rail.

Once hovering above the shop table, the bow section was maneuvered by overhead crane to a nearby, multi-axle transporter.  From there, the transporter rolled through the yard's South Gate to the former Palmer Johnson construction building off Second Street (now a part of Fincantieri's production facilities.)

The next morning letters that had been cut for the vessel name and hailing port were tacked in place on the transom.

That name, MADONNA, is now official!

The underside of the hull's stern section shown with "subway" grating over the
pockets that contain Fernstrum Gridcoolers, copper-nickel
tubes that function as compact radiators, exchanging heat from
engine and gear coolant to the lake water.

Friday morning, Dec. 20th, Rich and Hoyt toured general construction progress.  One challenge moving forward will be testing of the watertight integrity of bulkhead and hull welds, to determine there are no leaks.  Such testing can be accomplished by yard personnel providing air pressure to a closed space, or training a stream of water from a fire hose against the hull's exterior.  Visual examination ensues, inch by inch where each critical weld exists, using the method preferred by the U. S. Coast Guard inspector on site.  Each test can be hours long in both set-up and execution.  They are critical in obtaining Coast Guard approval, and must be done before painting of seam welds can begin.  Tasks that may "bury" areas from inspection, such as piping, wiring or insulation, must come after such inspection.  Testing procedures employed on the bow half will be applied similarly to the stern half after roll-out.  

View into the inverted engine room of stern half of hull, after
the bow section  was removed and transported to another
Main construction target dates continue to be met, and the few minor glitches thus far discovered were dealt with quickly, keeping the overall project moving ahead on schedule.  

Rich Ellefson inspects the stairway
leading from main to upper deck.

  - Dick Purinton

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


The entire forward half of the Madonna's hull is plated over now,
and seams are being welded tight. (Hoyt Purinton photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

December's middle days bring us continuation of wintry weather.  Another six inches of snow in the past week, and not much settling or melting of the 10-12 inches already on the ground.  Homeowners become attentive to their roofs, mounds of snow to be cleared above icy gutters, in order to expose shingles to sunlight.  Detroit Harbor remains partially frozen, since Thanksgiving, with ice cover to Snake Island's south end.  It looks like winter's here to stay, with single digits predicted for tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 18.

There are daily deliveries of cards and letters, bills and catalogs to our mail box at the post office. Most impressive.  We've done our Christmas shopping by internet recently, and what follows is an abundance of cardboard boxes delivered daily by ferry from Northport, then sorted and set into piles at the Ferry Office for recipient pick-up in late afternoon.  There is no parcel home delivery on Washington Island for either Fed Ex or UPS (as there is by U. S. Postal rural delivery), and so auto traffic steadily streams to the Ferry Terminal building in the very late afternoon, and again the following morning, as customers retrieve their retrieve packages.

There have been full deck loads of vehicles, and sometimes more than one ferry runs to accommodate traffic leaving the Island.  Return trips in the late afternoon from Northport are equally busy, as Islanders return from a day of shopping, medical appointments and errands.  Soon enough there will be the imposition of vehicle reservations (starting Dec. 20th), a management tool that helps ensure those who intend to travel will have a vehicle space onboard.  Reservations become extra work for the Ferry Line office staff, and it's awkward for travelers, too, but auto reservations smooth out the loading process when vehicle slots are limited and ice prevents use of a ferry other than the icebreaker.

Looking at the transom, the flat stern of the Madonna. New shell plating is added each day.
Turnover of the two halves is still scheduled during January's first full workweek.  

Inside Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding's large fabrication building in Sturgeon Bay, work continues on the new ferry Madonna.  Today's photos again indicate substantial progress toward hull completion, the welding of plating seams, the addition of new shell plates to the stern half of the vessel, and continued finish steelwork on the pedestal piece that will provide structural support and access for the upper passenger decks and pilot house.  (Starts lead to a mid-level, mezzanine cabin, in addition to the uppermost open passenger deck, not dissimilar to the Arni J. Richter's design.)   Photos shown here were taken Monday, Dec. 16 by Hoyt Purinton.

Heavy keel plate runs fore and aft along hull centerline.
View here is of the bow, looking aft. 

Pedestal with aft stairway leading to second deck, 
positioned on the port side, with one auto lane outboard
and three lanes to starboard.  View looks forward.
Shell plating on port side near stern is
bent inward to follow the designed hull curvature,  
just forward of the transom.
 -  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Bow-on shot taken Monday, December 1st, by Rich Ellefson 

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Heavy rain, sleet and high winds from the ENE on Wednesday did little to slow construction on the Madonna, nor did the blizzard that followed, Saturday, Nov. 30 into late Sunday, Dec. 1 that dropped between 12 and 15 inches of wet snow on much of Door County.  Shown above in one of several photos taken by Rich Ellefson on his weekly visit to the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility, all bow plates are now tacked in place, awaiting welds to fill gaps and connect the plating.

A view of the Madonna engine room (in the still-inverted position) shows scale of worker in the soon-to-be machinery space.  He stands on what appears to be the through-bulkhead section of the port main engine exhaust pipe.  This would be the port side of the engine room looking aft, if I have it right.
Overhead photo shows substantial car deck overhang, port and starboard,
with scaffolding set up that allows welders to begin stitching
hull plating together.  

If it seems confusing enough interpreting such a photo, real credit goes
to shipyard work force who construct the entire hull in the upside-down
orientation, with close tolerances using pre-cut plates.  Exhaust piping
beneath worker shown above runs through aft engine room buklhead and
the void space below car deck, eventually exiting the
shell plating just forward of the transom.

-  Dick Purinton