Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Although I don't believe it was officially announced to the general public, our trip to Iceland in early June was cancelled.   This move was made in mid-March, at a time when the forecast for travel and group activities suddenly was limited, or shut down.

Unfortunately for members of our group who had already obtained flight tickets and lodging, this has meant unwinding reservations for which refunds are not readily obtained.  That's a huge hit, and a disappointment.  A few folks have held on, hoping to perhaps defer their travel to later in the season, shifting their reservations.  I hope this can happen.

In the planning build-up for Celebrate Iceland 2020, I took it upon myself to design a commemorative medallion that would be distinctive, and one that could be worn by our group when in Iceland, or displayed at home otherwise.

I now confess to having a need to peddle approximately 25 medallions with neck ribbons, as modeled by Mary Jo and me (above), and approximately 100 "coins."  Since retail shops are not up and running at this time, I'm offering them through my personal website for originally set up to retai my books:


Cost is $30 each (plus sales tax and shipping). Please specify if a neck ribbon is preferred (limited number), or as a coin (comes in a small plastic case).  

I dealt with a local, Green Bay company, Medalcraft Mint Inc., and I can say that the detail and the quality is even better than I had hoped.  A die was created from which the medallions were struck, an additional manufacturing step with additional cost. These were hand-painted with enamel for the flag of Iceland, overlaying the outline of Iceland.  A tiny star represents the the seacoast village of Eyrarbakki, along the southern coastline.    On the reverse side are names of the four first Icelandic immigrants, tucked under the southern shore of Washington Island.

The medallions are a meaningful souvenir of this 150th anniversary year, and hopefully we will be able to display / wear them with pride when, and if, our Icelandic guests visit us in early October.

Our opportunity to be host remains to be seen, but for the present we're still planning an evening at the TPAC for one and all.  This program will be sponsored by the Island Archives, intended as both commemoration and fun.  

Let's hope we can make this happen!    -   Dick Purinton

Monday, April 27, 2020


Madonna being towed into the slip where work
will continue in readiness for sea trials in mid-May.
(Jeff Cornell photo)
Detroit Harbor -

Friday, April 24, Washington Island Ferry Captain Jeff Cornell visited the Fincantieri shipyard to witness the launch - in this case a gradual dip - of the new ferry Madonna.  

He was there as a guest, and as such he had the opportunity to be on board as the ferry floated free and was later towed from the floating dry dock to a mooring spot in the slip, just south of the Bay Shipbuilding main offices.  Since Jeff was there as a guest observer, and not in a working capacity, I think we can say that Jeff became Madonna's unofficial, first "passenger."  He later sent me several photos of the day's activities.  - Dick Purinton
Madonna pierside, early Saturday morning.
(Rich Ellefson photo)
Closing the pier where Madonna will moor
 for the next several weeks, Selvick tug on
 bow towline. Rich Ellefson ready on deck to
handle mooring line. (Jeff Cornell photo)

Friday, April 24, 2020


Steve Propsom photo of dry dock submergence.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

What can be termed the "launch" of the new ferry Madonna took place in the floating dry dock at the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility, just before 10:00 a.m. today.   Photos sent by Steve Propsom showed water beginning to flood the dock, then rising up the sides of the hull prior to floating.

First wetting of the hull.  (Steve Propsom)
Selvick Towing tug awaits the hull to float free from blocks before towing the vessel pier side in slip #9, just south of the main Ship Building office building.  Work will continue as soon as the vessel is moored and a gangway for workers set in place.    -  Dick Purinton

Preparations were made late Thursday to clear the dry dock floor
of equipment, making the vessel ready for entering the water early
Friday.   Last-minute paint touch-ups were still ongoing, at left.
(Rich Ellefson photo)


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -  

Rich Ellefson sent me another report last evening, along with photos he'd taken late in the day.

While this posting is being put together (7:30 a.m.) it is likely the flooding, or sinking, of the floating dry dock is underway.  Flooding of the dock floor will be done in measured steps to ensure no leaks are within the vessel, i.e., valves left open, connections not tight, and so forth.  When the water level on the hull reaches approximately a three-foot depth, each below decks space will be entered and carefully examined to determine if bilges remain dry.

The Coast Guard approved the rudder and propeller installations, and so the vessel can be floated. Normally a major step in vessel construction, often combined with a christening ceremony, breaking of a bottle on the bow and so on, today's "launch" becomes anticlimactic in comparison to the amazing progress shown toward finishing this vessel, preparing it for underway sea trials.  Much work is yet to be done, and the quickened pace continues.

Here is Rich's report (and I've just received his note that the walk-thru of spaces is now complete):

Well it looks like we hit the necessary milestones for our launch tomorrow. Both ramps are on and chained in the vertical position. The strong backs you see on the back side of the ramps are being removed tonight and the welds will get ground flat. The stripes on each side are done and the second shift painters are touching up the black on the sides as well as around the stern where the anodes were attached. 

USCG was out here today three different times for final inspections on rudders, engine room entryway weld inspection and then to oversee the tonnage measurements. The final measurements came in very close to spec., we were a quarter inch short on overall length and a quarter inch long on overall height which is measured keel to car deck at midship. The beam measurement came in exactly 40 ft. as per the spec. These measurements needed to be verified for getting our Tonnage Certificate. The prop nut straps are welded to the end of the shaft, similar to our other vessels. 

Billy Lemieux wanted to also bolt the sides of the strap to prop nuts, preventing any chance of the straps being able to spread. Lots of activity in the engine room, steering void and the forepeak with all the piping and electrical work going on. 

The pilothouse is set in location and just needs to slide 1 inch aft, which will take place in the days to come. The insulators are insulating the engine room entryway tonight, so the electrician's can start pulling wires up to the upper levels. The engine room still has a long way to go with all the piping that remains as well as hydraulic tank foundations. 

Our schedule for tomorrow is to be onboard at 0700 for a final walkthrough of all voids and engine room, followed by a walkthrough of drydock to make sure everything is secured and all painting below water level that was disturbed is touched up. They will start flooding at 0800 and stop flooding when we have three feet of water on the hull. At that point there will be another walkthrough to make sure everything still looks good internally. After that walkthrough they will continue to flood until we float free. Selvick is scheduled to arrive at 0900 for towing us to berth 9 where we will remain until sea trials in late May. 

Steve has asked Mark (Mark Pudlo, naval architect) to be here at 10:00 or at least available once we are dockside for the initial freeboard readings. That is the plan they have as of now and hopefully everything goes well...  (above text and all photos by Rich Ellefson)

The engine rooms and wiring remain as a major task.  With insulation installed in companion ways, wiring runs can be completed.  Faith Electric of Green Bay is the subcontractor hired by Bay Shipbuilding.  - Dick Purinton

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Around 12 noon Thursday (today) the newly painted
Madonna pilot house was lifted onto its intended 

upper deck location.  (all photos by Rich Ellefson)


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Last evening Rich Ellefson sent a report on the day's progress, and he also outlined the many tasks to be tackled and completed today and tomorrow on the Madonna ferry project at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.  The fact that so much is being accomplished this week is quite stunning, many facets of the construction project all undertaken at once, by different trades, in different vessel locations.

Despite heavy frost the past few nights, paint crews continue
with touch-ups on the Madonna exterior.
Here is Rich's notes on Madonna work list, along with photos of the various activities:

 Lots of progress today on the Madonna. Here are a few of the highlights
1) Rudders with pintle bearings are installed 
2) Aluminum anodes installed
3) Steering jockey bar got installed
4) Working on pipe layout to ramp winches and through deck penetrations
5) First wiring got pulled top side for the bow shore power pedestal
6) Stern ramp is all tacked together in a jig and will be getting installed first thing in the morning
7) Bow ramp is tacked together in a jig and should be ready by morning for install
 8) Lots of progress in the engine room on piping and electrical, spent most of my time today on finalizing layout and routing questions
9) CO2 system layout had a few glitches and am currently working with the pipefitters on optional piping layout, manifold for the CO2 interferes with toilet drain line. Mark designed the sewage system but not the CO2 system, that was Hiller, so interference just became apparent today. Should be a minor correction on Bayship's part and no cost to us

In the previous blog, ramp sections were laid out on the shop
floor.  Here, they've been temporarily fastened together with
steel angle, to facilitate installation.  A long round bar will
insert from one end, providing the hinge to hold
the sections in place.

The  schedule for tomorrow morning is to set the stern ramp at 0700, they are figuring a few hours to get it installed. The bow ramp will be installed right after the stern ramp mid-morning. The pilothouse is getting the last coat of paint tonight and is scheduled to come out of the shop around 10am tomorrow. They will be setting the pilothouse on board around lunchtime.

This photo, just added during Thursday's noon hour, 
shows the stern ramp suspended from an overhead crane, 
awaiting the fastening pin to secure it in place.
While all this is going on they will be finishing all the black painting on the side from manlifts and then Steve wants the red and  blue stripes painted by tomorrow night. We are scheduled to launch the Madonna early Friday morning and get towed around to berth 9 (right by Steve's office). I have a tentative time for Mark Pudlo to come out after lunch on Friday (weather permitting) to get all the initial freeboard measurements. Steve feels we are still in good shape to hit all these milestones in the next 48 hours. They really want to be ready for the concrete ballast by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. They need the concrete installed for final engine alignment to begin, which is scheduled to take 5 days. I'm heading back out to the drydock to meet with the second shift workers and answer any layout questions. Bayship has definitely put their foot on the gas this week and the questions are coming a lot faster than in any previous week. We probably had 20 folks working on the vessel today. It is really starting to look amazing and the workers are taking a lot of pride in the boat, which is really nice to see and hear from them.

You're in the engine room here, looking down
at one of the
 propeller shafts.  A soft strap and
chain wrapped around the shaft help to coax the shaft
flange - and support it - against the output flange
of the gear (at left) as engine alignment is achieved 
to within hundredths.  A chock fast product will then
support the engine in place on the engine frame.
You're in the steering room, the sternmost compartment, looking across
from one rudder postto another.  They are connected by a strong square tube,
called a "jockey bar," that will enforce simultaneous movement of both rudders.
 In recent years, Coast Guard regs require a main steering system,
and then an independent, back-up system, i.e.,  second
steering pump and PH controls.

Close-up of jockey bar (steering bar) attached to the
top of the rudder post.
A rather benign photo, but the cable end shown above represents
hours of pulling, bending, and laying out of what will be the
shore power 
connection in the bow, leading to an engine room
junction box 
where power can be distributed for lighting, fans, etc.
when the ferry is moored.

In the past I've posted one blog per week, at the very most, in order to capture progress.  This is the third posting this week, and it may not be the last!   

There's been amazing production over a very short time, owing to the many tradesmen being assigned, to pre-planning, and the coordination of various components, suppliers and yard shops.       - Dick Purinton

Port rudder installed, with one of several "zincs"
 - in this case aluminum anodes - are bolted to the ice horn.  
These are sacrificial metals
to help reduce the threat of electrolysis pitting
and removal of  essential elements in hull or propeller. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Ferry Line Board of Directors met Monday evening,
April 20, at the Ferry Line office. "This is no way
to celebrate our company's 80th year in business,"
observed President Hoyt Purinton.
Washington Island -

The opening shot I selected for this posting is of our Monday, April 20 Board of Directors meeting, held in the WIFL office.  Bill Schutz, Rich Ellefson, myself, and Hoyt Purinton are seated in rather close quarters, masks on, while three other board members are on a conference line. (Ed Graf, Joel Lueking, John McClaren.)

The thumbs up were to indicate OK, ready to begin, and not that our meeting discussion points were as we preferred them.

How does a business that thrived in the previous year, and actually through the beginning of this calendar year, suddenly face threats of survivability, solvency, and the ability to continue life-line transportation services into the future?

Such questions came in many shapes and forms, along with a picture of future profitability severely cropped, highlighted by extremely low revenues during the past month.  Through Sunday, April 19: 82 round trips produced an average of 6 passengers and five autos per round trip.  While there is additional revenue gained from carrying the U. S. Mail and freight, it doesn't require a business degree to see that such ferry service is not a sustainable activity, and that the current picture must change by late June or July in order to produce revenues that will sustain needed equipment, properties and labor required to provide even limited measures of service.  As of Wednesday last week, the ferry Washington is the only vessel for making daily trips.  The three other ferries currently are sidelined, that is, removed from service unless or until traffic demands more hulls.

The Ferry Line business dilemma is one that many other small businesses currently face.  We're not alone in that.  And yet, it remains a critical business for this community, our Township,  residents, taxpayers and owners of Island properties.

Among the questions raised at our meeting, with no ready answers:  "When will it change?  Will the Covid-19 threat diminish enough to provide salvation of the coming summer season?"  Signs currently point to a cautious approach for opening up the economy.  This will mean continuation of low to well-below-average traffic numbers.  Even if we'll experience a more open and optimistic economy, social distancing may still require or at least encourage cautious travel.

The Ferry Line will endure for another month and, maybe, two at current levels of activity.  By June 15th decisions will be made regarding ancillary public services.  The Karfi to Rock Island State Park may be a superfluous business, one where passengers "by nature" find themselves in close quarters on a small vessel, and where personal gear of all sorts is handled back and forth.  The Cherry Train Tour has similar challenges:  close bench seating (even if in open air) and the touching of surfaces by many persons in a given day.

For the time being, passenger traffic boarding the ferry has almost exclusively ridden aboard in their vehicles, and those persons are encouraged to remain within their vehicles.  Will warmer weather bring more foot passengers, encourage the outdoors experience with lesser concern for the Coronavirus?  By July Fourth holiday time period will Island visitors find services open and available?  We can't gauge at this point how the tourism and visitor traffic might look for our local economy.

   *       *        *        *

Rich Ellefson reported this morning that "wheels were slugged
and ready to install pintle base bearings." Meaning, the propellers
were tightened on the shaft tapers using a slugging wrench and heavy hammer
on the large brass nuts.  A bearing in a removable shoe
will support the lower end of the rudder.  Some vessels have
free-hanging rudders.  WIFL has had good success employing
both above-and-below attachments.  Ice guards are seen
above each rudder, added protection when backing in ice.

Top of one rudder stock inside the stern compartment.

Let's move to a more positive topic - positive, that is, if we don't concern ourselves with vessel construction payments.

We're happy to report, through photos provided by Rich Ellefson, the finishing stages of the Madonna project at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding continue to move rapidly forward.  In little time since entering the dry dock,  shafts were installed and propellers slid onto tapers at the outer ends of each shaft.  Rudder installation came next.

Each keel cooler, one for each engine, is then
protected by a grid from ice passing by.

Keel coolers were installed at the hull exterior, beneath the engine room, and they will undergo system air pressure testing.  Paint touch-ups are ongoing to the vessel exterior, including characteristic red and blue striping, applied by means of aerial lifts rolling over the dry dock floor.
One of several engine room electrical panels. Fiberglass
blankets shield adjacent boxes from weld splatter.

There is much work yet to be done in the engine room, connecting wiring and piping.  Some of the wiring runs, such as for engine and transmission controls, run continuously from engine room to the pilot house on the upper most deck.

In one of the photos shown you will see the uppermost deck with an area that is primed but not finish coated, where the pilot house will soon be installed.  The short extensions on the deck will be for mounting passenger benches.

The current shipyard work schedule calls for the pilot house structure to be set in place late Thursday or early Friday of this week.  The wetting of the hull may yet be accomplished Friday, with the gradual flooding of the dry dock in stages, enabling the monitoring for inadvertent leaks.
  -  Dick Purinton

Main deck view looking aft.

If all goes according to schedule (and often it does!) the pilot
house wil be spray painted today and installed later Thursday
on the open square area shown above.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

MADONNA - 24.5

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Todd Thayse, President, and Steve Propsom, Senior Project Manager, were on hand early Friday morning at the Bay Shipbuilding facility to observe the Madonna as it was transported from the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding paint shop to the nearby floating dry dock.

Madonna arrives at floating dry dock.  Vessel
will be turned then rolled on to the dock floor.
Whether these photos should be credited to Todd, or to Steve, I'm not certain, but they were forwarded to me by Rich Ellefson who was at work here on the Island at the time.  The move was on schedule, undertaken early in the day so that other work to complete the vessel could begin at once.

Specialized Fagioli transport units make such 
a move relatively easy.  Work accomplished, they
will be shipped 
back to Fincantieri's Marinette yard.

With exception of the pilot house, shafts, propellers 
and rudders, which will be
installed soon, all major components are onboard.

Fagioli units removed, Madonna is now on blocks within the floating dry dock
at south end of the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding yard.  Five more weeks, maybe six,
and the new Washington Island ferry should be ready for delivery.
Since there is little I'm able to add to this step of the project, I'll let the Fincantieri photos speak for themselves.    -  Dick Purinton

Added note:  This Monday morning I received several more photos from Steve Propsom that I will include below.  -  DP

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


All hull and superstructure spray painting was finished
by Wednesday, April 14.  Upper decks and main
deck non-skid finish will be rolled before Friday.
(all photos by Rich Ellefson)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This morning I typed up a blog, imported five photos, all of which took me about an hour.  Then I thought I uploaded the completed blog to the internet.  I didn't realize until some time later that only the last photo and last sentence made the internet (even though I had seen the posting in both a "preview" and what I thought was a "finished" or published state.)   All of which is to say, I need to recreate this piece as best I can now.

Main deck looking aft.
Rich Ellefson went down to the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility on Easter Sunday afternoon, anticipating high winds that could possibly keep him from a meeting Monday morning with a project manager.  (As it turned out the wind was brisk but didn't stop ferry runs on Monday.)

He then sent me a number of photos that show further painting progress.  Spray painting of hull, bulwarks and upper structure is nearly complete, save for touch-ups here and there.  The upper deck had about 50% of its surface rolled with a non-skid paint and may possibly be finished by now.  The main deck, which gets the most aggressive texture, will be rolled today and tomorrow (Wednesday & Thursday).

View from upper passenger deck toward bow.
The Madonna is now slated to be rolled out of the paint shop Friday and onto a floating dry dock positioned at the yard's south end.  The pilot house will be set sometime next week.  Propeller shafts will be installed, then propellers, and then rudders.  Propeller couplings will be mated to the output flanges of the reduction gears.  That will enable engine alignment to take place.

While still in dry dock, keel coolers will be snugged into place and the protective ice guards will be bolted over them.  The cooling system will be air pressure tested and verified by the Coast Guard before the dry dock is flooded and the hull set in water.  The transducer (depth sounding device) will also be installed in the hull.

Work will continue: wiring, piping, fitting out of equipment, installation of benches, heaters, toilet fixtures, fire fighting gear and so on.  Windows and doors will also be installed.  

Once the vessel is floating and major equipment in place (but not yet fueled), Naval Architect Mark Pudlo will take draft readings to verify load lines and judge whether the calculated amount of ballast called for still stands.  As of now, 9.3 cu. yds. of cement, roughly 37,600 lbs., will be poured into a starboard void to counter port heel caused by superstructure on that side that supports the upper decks.

As stated in previous postings, the fact that the new launch date (in this case the gradual flooding of the dry dock) of the Madonna will occur about one week later than the scheduled date of months ago,  and is of little consequence to the Ferry Line in the scheme of things.  It is imperative that painting be finished indoors, as modern epoxy coatings are sensitive to temperature and humidity.  The cold outdoor temperatures experienced during the past week would not have been at all good for any kind of outdoor painting.

Main deck looking forward.
It's hard to believe there are but seven weeks remaining, at most, before the ferry is ready to be delivered.  Just what will our corner of the world have in store for us by then is anyone's guess. Will lodging and dining businesses be open?   Will there be some degree of tourism, people able and willing to travel, by then?  

One bright spot today was the order for a load of fuel placed in the ferry this morning: lowest price per gallon for diesel in decades.
-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

For several weeks now we've been home and indoors much of the time, for reasons having as much to do with weather as anything.  There's still plenty of raking to do, and other spring yard work, should the temperatures warm up.  Last night, the 20s brought skim ice in this corner of the harbor, and shaded ponds and hollows are still iced over.  Looking across the harbor now in the late afternoon we see snow squalls, brief, intermittent, but enough to discourage us from getting back to that yard work.

One activity I've done more of this winter is carving.  I can go to the basement and, while listening to a book on CD, design, carve and, depending on the project, add color paints.  The time goes quickly and it's soon late afternoon.

 I use a basswood board, trace my design using carbon paper, and begin making small wood chips.   Ten, 20 or more hours later I reach a point where I've done enough, the detail is what I hoped it might be, or I just get tired of the same theme and want to move on.  Maybe it's time to write, walk or take a nap instead.

There is no time clock structure to my day, these days.

Shown is an example of an early stage in carving the voting piece. The concept uses old-style voting booths with curtains, but with the modern-day addition of voters wearing face masks for protection against contracting or spreading the coronavirus.

The long lines of Wisconsin voters we saw on April 7 on TV, snaking down the sidewalks and around the corner in very unpleasant weather, amazed me.  Citizens displayed an unbelievably strong desire to vote, despite challenges that included the lurking danger of corona virus infection.

I began with a couple of ideas for a caption, spoken by the lady at lower left:

1).   "I think he's confused.  He asked me, 'Who should I vote for?' and I said, 'Just vote your conscience'."

2). "We've been standing in line since 8:00 am."

3.). "Shouldn't he be wearing a mask?"

Still in the early drawing/concept stages, I asked for help.  Daughter Evy quickly responded with these:

4).  New virus symptoms discovered at polling center.

5).  A new Write-in this go-round.

6).  Polling centers lure in voters with full rolls of TP.

7). If the candidates look like crap, sound like crap, and smell like crap, it's probably crap.

8).  Politics have taken a real dump lately.

     Thor got in on the fun one day later with his suggestions:

9).  "Aren't they glad we didn't vote by mail?"

10).   "Participating in this process is just so liberating!"

11).  "What can I say?  He always speaks truth to power."

Maybe you have other suggestions?  Let's hear them!

And now, before closing, I'll post a close-up of the previous piece, a summer beach scene titled, "Norskies at the beach."

I was inspired by a story the late Dr. Rod Johnson told me of his childhood on a Minnesota farm when he and a brother visited an old Norwegian bachelor who lived in a one-room shack.  Inside, in one of the dark corners, was a huge pile of empty sardine cans.

Enjoy these days while they last!  -  Dick Purinton

Friday, April 10, 2020


Steve Propsom emailed this photo minutes after I finished 
the blog below, and he said that all black had been given
one coat. Workers were starting a second.
Detroit Harbor -

A little raking, a walk in the nearby woods, wood carving, then time at the computer.  Pretty soon the sun begins to set and another day is nearly done.  One similar day after another.   But, we're doing well, practicing what is important for us and the larger whole, at least that's what we tell ourselves.  When I spoke this morning with friend Jim Legault, at his home near Merida, Mexico where he's been for the last three months, his situation is quite similar.  Most businesses are shut down there, too.

Fincantieri's work schedule calls for painting the ferry this week. That, and the idea of less exposure to others, induced Rich to remain on the Island this week.  The photos here, and today's short report, come from Bay Ship Senior Project Manager Steve Propsom.  Painters are at it inside the paint shop, and I will let Steve's email tell the story:

Plans always change, so much for the half day today, working all day. I will try to snap a few shots this morning of the paint in process which is making good headway. White is nearly all on and working the black on the hull today. Plan to non-skid the decks next week. Our plan is to set up for the rollout mid next week and to roll onto the floating dry dock next Friday the 17th. We want to take advantage of being inside the paint building where we have ideal paint conditions. 

Yes we are in full force here in the yard and on the project. 

As I stated in my last posting the project may be running just a few days behind planned launch target date, but that is not of major consequence to the Ferry Line at this juncture.

For the shipyard, though, it is important to set this vessel in the floating dry dock, ready for wetting the hull.  With that move accomplished, the specialized transporter needed to roll the vessel through the yard and to the dry dock can be shipped back to Marinette.

Here on the Island traffic continues with the four trips per day, light loads but that's OK for now.

Happy Easter, everyone.  -  Dick Purinton