Friday, February 28, 2020

MADONNA - 17.5

You are looking into the port shaft log with a small circle of light reflecting the
machined section nearest the outer end of the tube where the aftermost bearing will
go, held in place by bolts. These are hard rubber, "cutlass" bearings in which
the shaft spins, lubricated and cooled by lake water.  

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

I received several more photos in the early evening from Rich Ellefson.  One is  of the port shaft log, bored and ready for the fit of the stern bearing, to be inserted from aft, then bolted in place.   A second, similar bearing, will be inserted into the stern tube from within the engine room, with a packing gland (also referred to as a "stuffing box") just forward of the bearing, to control water from entering the engine room.

The propeller shafts are six inches in diameter and made of a stainless alloy under the trade name Aquamet-17.   Slightly less than 27 feet in length, these propeller shafts will be supported at the outer end, taking the full weight of the propeller, and then also at about the 20-foot mark where it enters the engine room.  The remaining seven feet or so will be visible to the eye, and by means of a coupling be mated to the rear end of the Twin Disc transmission.   The thick-walled pipe, or stern tube, was shaved to fit the outer diameter of the stern bearing at each end of the tube, and the reflection of that cut can be seen in the after end of the tube in the above photo.  It is critical that the boring, and then the bearings, follow a straight line, directing the center of the shaft to the center of the output end of the transmission, else vibration or whip may occur.

Once the two bearings are in place, shafts can be inserted, propellors added as work schedule dictates (perhaps later on), and the rudders might also be installed.

Shafts in machine shop await installation.
Rich also sent several views taken from the upper passenger deck, showing work continuing along the bulwarks.  He noted there were some 25 yard workers on the first shift, scattered over various parts of the ship, and approximately a dozen on the second, evening shift.

-  Dick Purinton

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Thursday, February 27, 2020


Starboard bow. (Rich Ellefson photo)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The harbor ice presently covers only 2/3 of Detroit Harbor, but yet it's plentiful enough, ten inches or so in thickness, to support ice fishermen, and for the more adventurous, their pickup trucks.  Perch must be in the equation in order to promote highway usage to fishing grounds.

Across the globe, and inching closer to home, the corona virus makes itself known, perhaps more on fear than actual impact, although impact, too, begins to not only worry us about the near future, but the impact it has on business for companies relying on international travel, or product sales, or who must otherwise plan for what may yet become a full-blown pandemic.

Shaft tube boring requires special equipment, and in this case experts
who perform this task were sub-contracted by Fincantieri.  Here,
a boring tool has been set up within the engine room.  The over-sized pipe
thickness is reduced, providing ample room for the shaft, but most
importantly, correct alignment with engine and reduction
gear centerline, to within several thousandths tolerance.  The key is to
have an accurate target for the laser-guided machining tool.
(Rich Ellefson photo)   
Despite happenings within this island's harbor, or afar, work continues briskly inside the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding building that houses the new ferry Madonna.  Rich Ellefson sends more weekly photos to keep us abreast of the project's progress, and, once again, changes made in recent weeks are largely unnoticeable to the casual observer.

For those who enjoy seeing physical progress, though, there is the mounted name MADONNA set off by a pair of stars, on the port and starboard bows.  If you look closely, the name is also welded in even larger letters to the "fashion plate" fronting the upper passenger deck.  They're pleasing features, but they have no effect on performance or for Coast Guard approvals, as compared with the boring of the propeller stern tubes or rudder stock tubes.  Machining done by sub-contracted specialists with a specialized machining tool, aimed by laser, are critical to proper shaft alignment, and they become critical to smooth operation underway.

Lube oil tank, looking outboard,
starboard forward corner of
engine room.

There is continuation of painting within the hull, the engine room in particular which receives a finish coat of gloss white over primer, and the insulation of certain below-decks spaces, as well as passenger cabin and pilot house.  Concerning the pilot house, I have no idea of its present status, but we can suppose that rough steel work is ready for interior priming, and insulation, windows, and other finishing details, in addition to a great amount of wiring.

Within a few weeks' time, according to Rich, the Madonna will be moved from Bldg. 411 to the paint shed across the street, where it becomes available to the paint shop crew for exterior hull painting and main deck non-skid preparations.  This process, undertaken within a controlled environment critical for today's epoxy paint application, might take a good three weeks or so to complete.

Beams that are potential head knockers are marked with strips of
orange tape.  The close overhead requires that the pilot house be
attached in a separate, later step once the ferry is outdoors. 
Stainless ice-class propellers and stainless alloy shafts
have been delivered to the Bay Ship machine shop
from Kahlenberg Bros. of Two Rivers.

Once painting is completed, we should find ourselves entering the month of April, along with warmer weather and the likelihood of moving of the ship to a space within the yard where the pilot house can then be set and attached, along with installation of fire fighting equipment, life saving equipment, and passenger benches, while final wiring and piping connections are made--all prior to easing the hull into the water before initial start-up, perhaps as early as mid-April.
-  Dick Purinton

Friday, February 14, 2020


Washington Island ferry captains visit shipyard Feb. 12. 
With Madonna as backdrop:  Con McDonald, Kraig Krueger,
Erik Foss, Pete Nilolai, Rich Ellefson, Hoyt Purinton
and Dave Heath.  (WIFL photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Construction of the new Washington Island ferry Madonna continues within the large shed #411, a former Palmer Johnson Yachts building now owned by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, located at the south end of the shipyard facility.

Hoyt and Rich were away last week, attending a meeting, and with their absence my photo source was lacking.  However, the work product moved ahead, although it may not show the obvious visual changes seen during the steel erection process, where frames, plating and hull shape shifted dramatically week-to-week.  But progress is there, and in ways that may be obvious only upon closer examination.

Several days ago, a portion of the ferry crew visited the shipyard for a close-up look at the new ferry for the first time (topmost photo).  When they left the Island, a skeletal crew remained to operate the Arni J. Richter, and yesterday the remaining men went to the shipyard, touring both the hull inside and out.  They were guided by Rich Ellefson, Hoyt Purinton and Fincantieri Senior Project Supervisor Steve Propsom, who have been with the project closely from the start.

Madonna main deck, looking aft, on Feb. 13 - Rich Ellefson,
Hoyt Purinton, Joel Gunnlaugsson, Jake Dahlke,
 Jeff Cornell and Tully Ellefson. Insulation materials
are stacked on deck.  (WIFL photo)
A fair amount of time has been spent assembling and adjusting the sundeck, in order to achieve the proper rake and smoothness.  The rather light steel plating that becomes the upper passenger deck can dish and warp, through the welding and fitting process, if steps are not made to eliminate such rippling.  The second of two photos (below) was taken from the upper deck looking aft over the main deck.  Carpenters, electricians, and painters now work daily in various sections of the vessel, staying out of one another's way as much as possible. The soft patch, a steel cover for one of the engine room openings, rests in the center of the deck.
U. S. Coast Guard inspector, shipyard personnel and Ferry Line
representative Rich Ellefson discuss plan details.

In this photo taken from the sundeck, main deck bulwarks, 
the solid ship's rails, are in place. (WIFL photo)

Two workers fit aft bulwarks to match curvature of the deck's shape.
Surface of the sundeck, made of lighter steel, reveals
effort to get smooth surface.  Disk welded to the deck
will help absorb welding heat when passenger
benches are installed, later on.
Although nearly all of today's photos were of work above-deck,
here is a shot of the starboard main engine, through the
main deck access opening. Piping is well along, and the engines
have been mounted in close-to-final position on rails, awaiting
boring of stern tube and  final alignment. 
Compressed air hoses, oxygen and acetylene
hoses, and electrical lines run to various work
stations on the ferry. (WIFL photos)

- Dick Purinton

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Magnus and Hoyt Purinton at the new steel foundation box
formed for the Island's north ramp, adjacent to the Standard
Oil pier.  (R. Purinton)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

When we had extremely low lake levels - January 2013 was the record low - we dredged to allow for ferry maneuvering.  Then the level of Lake Michigan began to rise, so that on numerous occasions by 2019 we were at near-record highs.

At least a dozen times water overtopped the Island docks - which are lower in elevation than the pier at Northport - and that created ankle-deep ponding for pedestrians trying to access the ferries.  Most of the time such extremes were brief, driven by winds or created by low pressure cells.  But the forecast for the coming year indicates a likely return to high, dock flooding levels, perhaps even a few inches higher than in 2019.

"Indications are we could easily see eight inches more in lake level this summer," Hoyt Purinton said, "and of course, more than that if its a wind-driven event."

What can be done about it, from a ferry operator's point of view?

Several feet of water currently flow beneath the
Island's south ramp. A steel ice barrier was
created using stacked H-beams that can be
removed when water levels drop.

A new, longer approach for the adjustable, south loading ramp at north port was completed last summer.  This winter, work began in December on several loading sites.  In December 2019, the ramp at the end of the Island pier, used most frequently for landing since it was installed in 2001, had footings driven.  This December, two long pipes, approximately 30-ft. each, were driven inside the steel sheeting, and the gap beneath the ramp was filled with stacked H-beams.  This was done to prevent ice from sliding beneath the ramp, possibly damaging hydraulic lines or cylinders.  (Similar work was accomplished at the pier end-ramp at Northport, where the ramp structure is exposed to lake swells and sloshing winter ice.

Following those two preventative measures, a major job of improving the north ramp began.

This adjustable ramp was originally installed in 1975.  Several minor improvements have been made from time to time,  but high water dictates more work be done now.  High water, gradually sinking dock fill and concrete, slight misalignments between dock face and ramp centerline, and the need for a quality, dependable landing for the new, 124-ft. Madonna dictated more extreme measures be taken.   

Thirty or more years ago, sheeting and pipes were driven 8-10 feet into the bottom, less if a large boulder was struck first.  Now, Mike Kahr has driven new, 30-ft. pipes to bedrock where mooring tires will be hung.   Interlocking sheets 25-ft. in length were driven along the face of the pier to square it up with the Standard Oil pier.  Along the face of that pier, where the side of the ferries moor, additional, heavier steel pipes were driven to provide mooring tire supports and absorb side-forces as ferries come up against them in stiff southerly winds.   The new Madonna has a 40'-7" beam, and that will require a slightly wider berthing area, another reason for the southerly shift in orientation of the north ramp.

Ferry Line crew welded (Con McDonald, top) cut and
bolted steel sheeting for the Island's north ramp.
(Jake Dahlke and Dave Heath, foreground)
Taken several weeks ago.
All of this takes a great deal of work, along with a long range plan for what might still work should the water level continue to rise.  Right now, according to Hoyt, winter's precipitation has been less than anticipated, so that by April we might find the level down a few more inches.  But, with lots of liquid still ready to flow downstream in the Upper Great Lakes, that may not be long-lasting, and no quick remedy is foreseen to combat every circumstance.

Changes to ferry landings are one thing: concrete, steel and lots of labor can make them serviceable for the coming summer.  But, what about dock surfaces?  They could be at or below water level, and that's not a good thing for pedestrian traffic heading to or from the ferries.  Fill of some sort can be helpful - it would have to be stone or gravel to avoid washouts - but too much fill can trap dock overflow, becoming isolated ponds.

Such remedies have their limitations in engineering solutions, cost and practicality.  No single solution seems to meet all foreseen challenges. Only a gradual drop in Lake Michigan water levels brings a certain solution to this problem.

-  Dick Purinton