Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Madonna was lifted from blocks this morning and set
down onto a Fagioli transporter, manufactured in Italy.
This unit was shipped from Marinette Marine, a sister yard
across the Bay, also owned and operated by Fincantieri,
where it moves large vessels or vessel sections in the
U. S. Navy's LCS program.   (Rich Ellefson photo) 

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This morning Rich Ellefson sent several photos that demonstrate the move of the Madonna hull, with a good portion of superstructure now attached, back indoors.  Work will continue in Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding's Bldg. 411, a large workplace off of Third Ave., formerly owned by Palmer Johnson Yachts.   There, work will begin again in earnest once again with various tradesmen for "outfitting," which means, basically everything from painting to insulating, wiring, piping and so forth need to make this cold steel hull operable as a ferry vessel.   

The Fagioli transporter, according to Rich, has 96 tires to support significant loads.  The route through the Bay Ship yard is quite level and shouldn't be a problem, once the unit is underway.  It appears as though a worker (as seen above) uses an external control to maneuver axles.  

Easy when you have the right equipment -  (Rich Ellefson photo)

Part of the delay in moving the vessel back indoors was in the wait for this transport unit to be 
shipped in sections, and then reassembled again at the Sturgeon Bay facility.  It should be noted that, from all I've learned, while there may be common corporate ownership by Fincantieri, work at each yard is under distinct accounting procedures.   U. S. government contract work at Marinette Marine must be tracked entirely separate from commercial work by the Bay Ship yard.  (Occasionally, Bay Ship may subcontract Navy work for the Marinette yard.)

What sort of international player in shipbuilding is Fincantieri, I've often wondered?   While on a cruise of the Baltic in June aboard the Viking Sun, I noted a Fincantieri builder's plaque displayed on that ship.  And from my reading of maritime journals over the years, the name Fincantieri pops up among respected, major shipbuilders as much as any.  Certainly that is true for the cruise ship and naval vessel construction market.

Every so often I bring home from the ferry dock magazines that describe the maritime industry, both domestic and around the world.  It is apparent the Italian-based shipbuilder is a leader, having mastered complex projects, refined modular ship construction, in what seems to me a complicated process of managing shipbuilding facilities around the world.  As ship building and ship repair in other maritime markets has diminished in recent years (the North Sea and Norwegian oil supply industry being an example), opportunities have arisen for shifting facility ownership and their work forces toward Fincantieri and the still-rising cruise industry. 

Here, then, is what the November 2019 issue of Marine Log had to say about the Fincantieri order books for new vessels (by Paul Bartlett, European Correspondent):

   Vard, owned by Italy's Fincantieri, has nine shipyards, with five in Norway and others in Romania, Brazil and Vietnam.  Cruise ship construction is very much the focus at Norwegian facilities which, like other years in Norway, were previously specialists in high-end offshore vessels. Two expedition cruise vessels are under construction for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises at Vard Langsten, and five more are being buldt at Vard Soevikens, three for French cruise line Ponant SA, and two for Los Angeles-based Viking Ocean Cruises.

This piece went on to enumerate other Fincantieri ship construction work in Europe, orders that fill a 112-ship cruise orderbook at estimated worth of $67 billion, contracts that may extend 7-8 years at least.  Another 44 cruise vessels are either underway or planned for Fincantieri's Italian yards, seven at Vard (Norway) and ten at a former French shipyard.  The ability of this shipbuilder to understand the global market, and to manage complex projects, makes it understandable why this company saw opportunity in the two, former Manitowoc Marine facilities, located here on Green Bay/Lake Michigan waters.  

Ours is a very small project in light of a much larger picture, but we are often reminded, as evidenced by comments and worker attitude at Bay Ship, that this one is special for them, too, one of the few projects they have a hand in that is a home-built vessel for home-waters usage.

-  Dick Purinton  

Friday, January 17, 2020


No artsy Chamber of Commerce shoreline photo; just the opposite.
High lake levels plus settling of dock fill 
require a means of
warding off ice shoving beneath the loading ramp structure.

In order to protect hydraulic lines and rams, 30-ft. H-beams were
driven inside the line of dock sheeting.  Several beams were then
stacked, and welded, to take the brunt of ice pressure.  This is the
south loading ramp at the Island ferry dock.  (Purinton photo)
Death's Door Marine backhoe next to the old ferry office.  
Steel pipe and H-beams in the adjacent lot await improving 
the dock structure and mooring pilings.  (Purinton photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The title of this blog refers to construction progress on our new ferry at the Fincantieri  Bay Shipbuilding facility.  But high water dictates a quick look first at what's happening at our loading ramps.

Mike Kahr with his equipment, along with his helpers and Ferry Line assistance, drove beams down to bedrock just inside the line of steel sheeting, then added some horizontal beams as buffer to ice cakes.  Similar work was also undertaken at Northport, where there is even greater lake swell action and the chance of ice jamming beneath the ramp itself.

At the Island's north ramp, which was installed in 1975 as the first hydraulic, adjustable ramp, several goals are sought.  The floor of the ramp "box" is a concrete mud slab, and it's now under 3-4 feet of water.  While there's not much chance of ice cakes pushing into the slip there, the concrete structure along the bulkhead line gradually settled over the years, along with old wooden cribbing and fill.   And, while the equipment is handy, the ramp will be slightly reoriented, squared up, with new pilings driven along the face to better accommodate mooring tires.   All of this work can be done from shore, at a time when use of the ramp isn't essential.


Anyone taking a drive along North Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay and past the Bay Shipbuilding facility can still see the Madonna sitting outdoors on blocks.  After the two halves were turned upright and placed together on blocks, and welded as one, the main CAT engines with gears were lowered in place.  Next came a lube oil tank; then the two Northern Lights generators.  The two main deck access holes were then covered, while welding below decks continued.

Late last week, large sections of superstructure were transported outdoors from Bldg. 311 and set in place, and lightly secured, and adjusted for exact placement before being tacked to the main deck.

Starboard side structure to support the upper passenger deck 
is being lifted into position here.  (Rich Ellefson)
Starboard side panel stood upright, in the approximate,
designed location.

What has been happening this past week, then, is the adjustment of the sections, and the trimming of the additional metal from the bottom of each piece.

With the workforce assigned to the Madonna now cut back, at least temporarily, the vessel is scheduled to be moved back indoors next week.   At that point, other trades besides welders and fitters should begin their work.

With several months of winter remaining and lots of work yet to be accomplished, it will be done more efficiently once the vessel is back indoors.

-  Dick Purinton

Upper passenger deck section swung into position 
by the Bay Ship gantry crane.  (Rich Ellefson)
Deck and ship's starboard side sections, joined.  (Rich Ellefson)

Saturday, January 11, 2020


Starboard main engine, with transmission attached, is lowered to
the Madonna machinery space.  In future years, and through the life of the 

vessel, it is unlikely the entire unit as seen here will need to be extracted, except 
when dismantled in parts.  The complete engine/gear package as received 
from FABICK CAT of Green Bay, is easily lowered here through the deck 
opening (designed for that purpose) as a single unit. The Twin Disc gear alone 
weighs approximately 4500 lbs. (Rich Ellefson photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island

More major milestones were met this week immediately following turnover and joining of the two hull sections Tuesday, Jan. 8.

With the one-piece hull sitting on blocks outdoors near the Fincantieri graving dock, welding to securely fasten the two sections as one began in earnest.  First, there was an alignment process, or "regulating," of the two sections, to make certain they were in perfect position:  no gaps, no buckling, only fair and smooth flow of the deck and hull lines.  This was achieved, in part, through use of strings, measuring devices, but also by eye, before welders began their work permanently connecting the two sections.  The fact these two halves had been built in the shed, touching one another, meant they had been manufactured in alignment at the earlier building stage.  (I reported in error in an earlier blog by indicating some 4-6 inches gap remained between the two. In fact, although the hull  and deck plates were never joined, several smaller steel members ran from one half continuously into the other.  These were snipped before the two sections were separated.)

Northern Lights gensets engine frames
(in white) on shop floor, awaiting


Once the hull was sufficiently joined, main engine/gear packages were lowered by gantry crane into main deck openings and clamped securely in place to avoid shifting when the hull is once again moved indoors.  (Patches fabricated for closing those main deck openings were set down later, to keep out snow and rain, and to make a safer surface for workers.  Once access from above is no longer required - sometime before an April launch - those hatch covers will be securely bolted, making them a continuation of the vehicle deck structure.)

Following main engine installation, and a lube oil tank, two generators were lowered to the machinery space.  These were pre-mounted to frames, ready for setting.

Pedestal structure on transporter,
exiting Bldg. 311 for installation.

Friday afternoon the pedestal with cabin superstructure was brought out from Bldg. 311 where it had been assembled.  Before this piece was set, welding of deck seams in that area was completed.  Watertight testing of the voids beneath, as observed by a U. S. Coast Guard Safety Inspector, passed certification.  The pedestal "skirt," where vertical sheets met the deck, had been cut with excess material, and once set down on the main deck marks the unit was leveled and the base scribed to follow the curvature of the main deck plates.  All of this took place prior to the final welding in place of the superstructure.

All of the above photos were taken by Rich Ellefson, who has put in long hours at the yard, following construction progress and details, helping to resolve construction questions, and smoothing the coordination and flow between owner, designer, builder and regulator.

Pedestal structure was set Friday afternoon on Madonna deck.  It will 
enclose fore and aft stairways, engine room access, unisex toilet, storage, as 
well as wiring and piping runs.  Location is port side, aft.  One auto lane with 
restricted overhead runs outboard of the pedestal and beneath the mezzanine 
cabin.  An uppermost passenger deck, open to weather, will be supported 
by this structure and by a side curtain to starboard
of similar height.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


Tuesday evening, Jan. 7:  the two Madonna hull sections positioned
on blocks in upright position.  Bay Shipbuilding graving dock and bulk carrier
Edgar B. Speer are in background.  (Rich Ellefson photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

We'll begin with a photo showing the two hull sections now in their upright position, abutting one another, and following fine adjustment, ready for several days of welding that will tie the sections together as one hull, one vessel.

I took the opportunity to visit Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility this week, my first such visit since the first cutting of steel began in August.  The turnover of hull sections that had been scheduled for January 6th took place pretty much on track.  When I arrived at the yard Monday morning, greeted by Rich Ellefson (WIFL) and Steve Propsom (Fincantieri Sr. Project Manager), preparations were underway to get the transporter to Bldg. 311, where the stern section was still being worked on.  A large module for the Interlake company's new freighter had to be moved first, to allow access to the Washington Island stern section.  The move of our ferry section from Building 311 to a site near the graving dock would take place later in the afternoon.

In the meantime, I was shown the hull progress, with explanations for various challenges met and overcome in design and construction, and in Coast Guard certification of welds.  One thing learned:  besides a water pressure test for the hull, or an air pressure test, there was also use of a UT device, like an ultrasound sensor, that was utilized in areas where there were heavy structural members and multiple welding passes.  The UT scan, with skilled use by a technician, can determine if porosity exists within an area of heavy weld.  An example of this was use in the area of the two skegs, where heavy plate intersected the hull, and where the stern tube pipe was fastened into the skeg.  There was also a thick (6 x 4 ") bar that will become the support piece (or "shoe") for each rudder.

Fincantieri Senior Project Manager Steve Propsom
and the port skeg, an enclosure that provides solid
support to the stern tube and propeller shaft.  On many
vessels such a skeg is omitted and bearing struts are used
  Our experience has shown the added structure 
protects the shaft and bearing, and it also aides tracking
in a sea. (Purinton photo)   
Nearby was the pedestal structure with a number of steel workers engaged in welding, fitting, and preparing this piece for move-out from Bldg. 311, either later this week or early next week, to be set upon the deck of the upright hull.

In the nearby former Palmer Johnson shed, a large facility at the south end of the Fincantieri yard, we saw the CAT engines with gears attached, and the forward section of the ferry (approximately an 80-foot section resting on supports) awaiting transport. We toured through the pipe and machine shops, viewing engine coolant expansion tanks and the lube oil tank, and mooring bitts and the pair of rudders. The rudders, owing to deep, concentrated welds, required special care with preheating of the rudder stock to 350 degrees, welders working opposing sides of the stock to eliminate heat distortion.

It was 3:00 pm when the stern section was rolled outdoors and positioned for lifting Tuesday morning, after blocks had been set and measured for appropriate height.  We returned that next morning, and after lifting cables were attached to pick points welded to the hull section, lifting began. The large overhead gantry crane assumed the primary weight, assisted by a large Manitowoc crane on tracks.

Stern section rolled into position on the transporter Monday afternoon
for lift and turnover Tuesday morning. (Purinton)

Sequence shows stern section being lifted clear;  then in vertical position
just above ground (lower right) and, finally, lowered in upright position onto preset blocks.

Once clear of the transporter, a slow and steady lift was coordinated from rigging observers, and in a matter of 20 minutes or so, the hull section was stern to the sun, with engine room facing earth.  The hull was then rotated 180 in the air to facilitate a change of pick points for the Manitowoc crane, and a gradual lowering to a new, upright, horizontal attitude was achieved.  By 10:00 am, the stern section was inches above the blocks, as workers leveled supports to later accommodate the bow section, a separate move that would occur that afternoon.   Unable to remain in town longer for that evolution, I headed north for the ferry, but here is the report from Rich Ellefson received later:

   The setting of the bow half to the stern went very well last night, and by the time Steve and I left at
10:30, the two halves were lined up pretty close.  At 5:30 this morning, when I got back to the yard, they had it completely tight and the bow was supported still from the gantry.  There were no carpenters to set blocks last night so it was decided too pull it together tight and just use the gantry to support the forward portion of the bow until morning.  In talks with Dan Petersilka this morning, he felt that it may take a (work) shift to get the hull regulated and aligned.  Once that is complete, they will tack the whole erection joint, girders and stiffeners.  The hope is to have it locked together by the end of the first shift today.  Once that is accomplished, they will have the second and third shift concentrate on putting in the root pass on the whole erection joint.  Once that joint has a root pass, the plan would be to install the main engines and gears, which is planned for midday tomorrow (Thursday), with the superstructure to be installed and assembled on Friday.  -  Rich

With the target dates for these tasks soon to be met, the project remains on track, if not slightly ahead, and a delivery date for the end of May remains an achievable goal.

 -  DIck Purinton