Thursday, May 28, 2020


Madonna engine room with pump switch boxes, upper left,
and wiring still to be connected. (Rich Ellefson photos)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

One of the more interesting things to observe over a period of several months' construction is how the many pieces and parts, and skills and know-how of the builders, come together.  What seems at times a maze of wires, piping, and materials, gains order day-by-day until it becomes a workable (and one could almost say, "living") vessel.

In today's post, Rich Ellefson's photos show what to the casual observer's eye is still apparent chaos.  And yet, it will soon be sorted out, put in place.  Within another three weeks, this vessel will be underway, sea trialed, and delivered.

The photo above shows the Madonna after deck, with various fluids soon to be introduced into the ship.  Red barrels hold lube oil for engines and gears.  Black barrels hold coolant for the engine cooling loops, having special additives to reduce internal corrosion.  The red barrels hold hydraulic oil for various pumps and systems including steering and ramps.  The six boxes in the foreground are welding machines.  Deck fans--one is at lower left--help ventilate below deck spaces and bring fresh air to workers.

Passen ger cabin finish work continues. A filler product has
been added to level and smooth the steel deck inside
Hydraulic manifold for fire and ramp systems.   
This morning, Thursday May 28 according to Rich Ellefson, the Madonna will be towed by tug from one berth to another, making room for another of Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding's projects, a vessel for Interlake.  Remaining finish work for our ferry will take place at berth #2, at the south end of the shipyard.

Within the next week or so, a truck load of diesel fuel will be dropped into the fuel tank, after which generators can be started.  Main engine start-up will follow a bit later.  For safety reasons, fuel will not be introduced to the fuel tank and engine room lines until hot work there has been completed.

- Dick Purinton

Friday, May 22, 2020


A concrete pour--the approach to the Island readjusted
north ramp was in progress early Thursday afternoon.
At left, Jon Mann floats thesurface; Rich Ellefson and
Brien Jordan trowel and smooth, at top.   Surface will require
a minimum several days to set before lighter
loads can be driven across.  (Purinton photos)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

We're beginning Memorial Day Weekend, usually the first brush with tourism volume of any significance.  This year, we don't know what this year's holiday weekend might bring.

Today (Thursday, May 21) began an escalation to six round trips (still five less than the standard number of trips this time of year) and so far, the ferry capacity seems to have matched the lineup of traffic at Northport.  Nearly all passengers boarded with vehicles, still---although there were a few "walk-on" passengers.  We think this trend with few walk-on passengers will continue through the holiday weekend, given the continuation coronavirus concerns and fewer travelers in general.

Tonite the first evening trip of the season will begin, a "nite trip" leaving the Island at 7:00 pm, and leaving Northport at 7:45 pm.   As with most holiday weekends during warm weather months, there may be additional trips to accommodate traffic lined up at Northport, should that be the case.

At the Island's north ramp, Rich Ellefson, Brien Jordan, Jon Mann and Jed Ellefson floated and smoothed cement pour.  This will take several days to set up.  Even then, heavy loads will cross the ramp at the end of the pier, giving the new incline time to set and harden.  

This just about completes a major ramp project begun in early January.   Pipe pilings were driven to bedrock (about 30 feet) to establish a solid base for the ramp's foundation.   Steel sheeting was added, and trimmed, to protect the new foundation and shore up the sagging surfaces surrounding the ramp.    In the process, the entire ramp, which was never "square" with the Standard Oil pier, is now more in line.   Longer pipes, from which hang new tires along the south face of that pier, will help in landings, especially during strong southerly winds.

This slip location may be used more than in recent years, given the improvements made to the ramp, and the opportunity it gives the operator to avoid the stream of current and side-winds that can sweep down the channel and challenge docking maneuvers at the pier's outermost end.   It will also provide a secure mooring spot for the new and longer ferry Madonna, when it arrives in mid-June.

   -  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

After nearly 48 hours of rain and strong NE winds, we now have sunshine, warmer air (and still strong NE winds.)  The day has shaped up, however, and as we approach the Memorial Day weekend,   the first holiday weekend since this Covid-19 business began, and since people have stayed in or very close to home, and businesses have remained, for the most part, closed, we do anticipate seeing more traffic coming to Washington Island.

Ferry trip frequency may be fluid during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  In mid-to-late June other adjustments may be made, in accordance with general traffic patterns.

The four-trip per day schedule, which has been sufficient, for the most part, is about to be expanded.  This change will begin Thursday, May 21, with six scheduled round trips--which was actually the ferry schedule that we had intended to run through April into early May, before bumping up to 11 round trips daily.

We're increasing trips, according to Hoyt Purinton, but not getting carried away.

Ferry schedule effective Thursday, May 21, 2020

Lv. Island                               Lv. Northport
  7:00 am                                   8:00 am
  8:45 am                                   9:30 am
10:15 am                                  11:00 am
NOON                                       1:00 pm
  2:00 pm                                   3:00 pm
  4:00 pm                                   5:00 pm

FRIDAY NITE TRIP SCHEDULE (begins May 22, 2020)
    7:00 pm                                 7:45 pm

Its advisable to look at the drop-down box on the website  in order to get the latest schedule information.

Anticipating there will be more folks showing up at Northport, and not knowing just what that traffic volume might look like, a second boat and crew will be ready to follow up.  If need be, a third ferry will be available Saturday through Monday to jump in when necessary.  All crew and shore staff will wear masks, gloves, and will try to reduce interaction with members of the public to the extent possible.  We would appreciate it if the public takes the same measure of safety:   keep a generous distance whenever possible; be considerate and wear a mask in close proximity to others;  stay in your vehicle for the ride across, if you boarded in an auto;  and be patient!  These are like baby steps, ones that are a long time in coming, still a bit unsteady on our feet.

What about the Karfi to Rock Island?

Aside from high water and potentially dangerous landing situations ( the dock surface potentially being swept by waves), which is daunting enough, we are uncertain at this point to what extent the State Park will be up and running.  If, for instance, the buildings are not open, that might be a disappointment to the general public, especially those who count on going up in the lighthouse, or looking around in the Thordarson Boathouse.  But, we should remember how difficult it will be to keep surfaces sanitized, and by placing the public feet, or even inches, away from docents and Park employees, a potentially hazardous situation may ensue regarding transfer of the coronavirus.  The same can be said for the small, close-quartered Karfi, where passengers mingle, and camping gear and picnic baskets mingle, and our vapors can also mingle.   How can we do this and maintain best social distancing practice, even while wearing masks and rubber gloves, and sanitizing seating after each run?  I'm not sure, and I have misgivings about schlepping hundreds of pounds of camping gear across the rail to the foredeck (where, due to space, it is co-mingled with the gear of others).

For those reasons, a decision regarding service via the Karfi to Rock Island won't be made until June 15th.  By then, we hope the picture will become clearer to us and to the State Park management.

What else is happening on Washington Island?
As one who seldom strays beyond the intersection with Main Road these days, I'm hardly one to offer advice.  There are restaurants serving from a takeout menu.  Not sure what taverns are doing, locally.  Mann's grocery and the Mercantile have been open throughout the winter, making it possible to live here through a time period through little or no off-island travel, and we're fortunate to have both of those businesses.  Island churches remain closed to services and group activities as of this date, but we know that congregations are anxious to begin holding worship services again, once a way is figured to safely bring people together again.

With no locking hardware (never locked
since it was built in 1995)
the only way to secure the Stavkirke,
is with screws and strips of wood.

Speaking of churches being closed for worship, public visitation and regular church activities, the Stavkirke building is now officially closed.  This comes as a result of discussion, and a new policy adopted by the Trinity Church Council Monday, May 18.

With Mary Jo's assistance, I fastened wooden strips across each side door, and to the inside of the church front door.  The Stavkirke grounds will remain open and available for meditation and enjoyment of the paths, but visitors will not be allowed inside the Stavkirke proper until a future date.  This has to do with the difficulty of assuring that interior surfaces will be sanitized and safe.  Even if very few visitors appeared each day (which has not been the case during tourism season) cleaning tasks would still require a full-time effort to keep the building--chairs, guestbook and so forth--sanitized.

It may well be that some, or maybe even a good number of Island visitors will wish the summer activities were open and going strong, like in past summers.  We don't quite see that happening, nor do we think it's in the public's interest to encourage open buildings and facilities that cater to the public.

It may not be good tourism practice, but it's probably not going to happen this summer.

-  Dick Purinton

Monday, May 18, 2020


Windows have been installed in the wheel house, and here 
a worker installs the ship's bell, not merely a shiny, brass
doo-dad, but an essential piece of equipment, to be 
rung when anchored in fog to alert other 
vessels, or when aground.
(all photos by Rich Ellefson)

Work continues on the Madonna in many different areas.
Equipment has been mounted on the pilot
house roof: an A/C unit;  Kahlenberg air horns;
Simrad radar; and  a searchlight are seen in the above photo. 

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island

We're in the ninth month of construction, and details that will enable this ferry vessel to be ready for sea trials, for the U. S. Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection, and acceptance by Washington Island Ferry Line, continue to be addressed by the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding work force.

One item was accomplished early Saturday morning, at a time when few workers would be in the yard.  On board Madonna, naval architect Mark Pudlo and several workers affirmed the placement of known weights on the main deck, set a prescribed distance from vessel centerline.  The degree of heel was then noted by plum bob, and also the waterline changes on the hull's exterior.  Then the same known weights (a total of over 28,000 pounds) were moved further outboard a prescribed distance from centerline, and additional readings were taken.

Calculations using those figures give the naval architect the vessel's heeling moment, which will denote either the "tenderness" or the "stiffness." the vessel's tendency to remain sufficiently stable under load and resist heeling, and the inherent tendency to return to a level, static condition.  (This, in layman's terms!).

Known weights like the one above
 were placed in a line, at exact distances from
vessel centerline, to give heeling measurement.

Each of our other ferries have had excellent stability, by design and then through experience, which in turn enable us to carry two fully-loaded semis at 90,000 lbs. each.  This will also be reflected in the vessel's Certificate of Inspection which limits the deck loads and their arrangement on board.  (Today's stability rules hearken back to the Eastland disaster in 1915 in the Chicago River, where insufficient stability caused the vessel to roll over when numbers of passengers moved in concert to one side to view a passing vessel.)

The Arni J. Richter has, we think, a preponderance to roll a bit more in a sea, due to rounded bilge vs. a very hard chine, unlike our other ferries, and yet this ferry has proven to be a very stable vessel overall, and verified in actual practice through transporting heavy deck loads.

Plum bob with strip of masking tape measures
number of inches of movement,
upon shifting known weight
outboard a known distance from centerline.
 In the engine room, wires have been fed into control panels, and this has given visual order to the seeming chaos below.  

Wiring the AC panel.

Certain fire safety standards have to be met.  One is to have a method to control a fire in the engine room space, the place onboard a vessel where there are statistically more opportunities for fires to break out.

 A fire suppression system using CO2 was the method selected, and here a row of 100# bottles are arranged in a manner so as to be piped into the engine room and dispersed in a uniform manner.(An alarm will sound before release, to alert any persons within that space to get topside).

  This installation is made through a subcontracted specialist, with yard personnel assisting in fitting and welding.  The system will be tested in accordance with Coast Guard standards, and regular testing will be conducted throughout the life of the vessel.

Carpenters insulate and panel the passenger
cabin (above) and pilot house.
On the exterior uppermost deck (sun deck) passenger benches are being installed.  On the foredeck, 200-feet of 3-strand nylon anchor rode is ready to be fed to a reel below decks, near the bow where the ship's anchor is mounted.

One photo here shows the piping to the fuel tank, where water will be slowly fed by garden hose and levels are accurately measured in the tank with a calibrated stick.  (This, after stability measurements have been made.)  Then the water will be removed, the fuel tank wiped clean, and a fill of fresh diesel (at approx. 95 cents/gal. under current pricing) will be added.

These are some of the continuing activities on the new Washington Island Ferry Madonna, at the Bay Shipbuilding facility.  -  Dick Purinton


Friday, May 8, 2020


Current Madonna appearance from bow
looking aft.  Brass Kahlenberg air horns
are mounted on pilot house.  (all photos
by Rich Ellefson)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

We're in the closing weeks of construction, and the smaller details, every bit as important as the larger ones, take center stage.   Many tradesmen work to complete their checklist of items yet to be accomplished, even as they sometimes compete for work space.

The engine room is one example where a great deal of work is concentrated now, workers coming to and fro, a bit of welding, wiring being run.  The soft patch was lifted onto one of the openings, with two expansion tanks for the generator sets cooling systems already mounted on the underside.

What starts out seeming to be a generous space is soon filled with tanks, motors, venting, wiring and piping.   In the end, it must all not only work, but give reasonable access for servicing down the road. With that in mind, Rich Ellefson has spent each day of the past two weeks at the yard (except for Saturdays and Sundays), following up on details, ensuring best locations for various equipment pieces and their connections.

Many feet of wire yet to be run, for switches, alarms and vital
connection for engine and pump operations.  Battery box
foundations in center of photo.
Stairs leading from engine room to main deck.  Fresh water
pressure tank shown in center.
Workers at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding began wearing masks as of Wednesday, May 6, a feature not always practical or easy to adjust to.   Welders and fitters, who often wear face shields in their work, can wear them as a substitute for cloth masks, helping to maintain moisture-free views of their work.  The shipyard work force remains at a good number, two dozen or more, as various tasks continue at a brisk pace.

Door to Main Deck head.
Sliding door to engine room.

The time table for when work is estimated to be completed for Tasks A,  B, etc., has slipped a bit, and with several details taking more time it now looks as though the finish will be in "mid-June," when the vessel will be ready for delivery.

Insulating finish panel for cabin is cut to

In part, this is also based on our Company decision that we are not in an all-fire hurry to put the vessel in service, and that an overtime push to finish at the original deadline of late May is not necessary.  This  decision is both practical and cost-effective for the builder.

There will always be a few snags beyond anyone's ability to control.  Such is the electric motor from Mexico for a bilge back-up system. The manufacturer's work force is currently held from production by orders based on concerns for the Corona Virus spread.  A second motor will be installed temporarily as a noted deficiency by the U. S. Coast Guard, to be corrected later, so that the vessel can continue with its functions until the new and approved motor arrives weeks or months from now.  That is but one example in the construction flow that the yard, owner, and the inspecting body, U. S. Coast Guard, have coordinated to maintain production.

Soft patch over one of two deck openings (semi-permanent main
engine hatches) is lifted into place. Genset expansion tanks are
    fastened to the underside.
Within two weeks' time, the generators will be lit, with main engines to follow.  At this point, all electrical services are brought to the vessel via Bay Shipbuilding cords and lines.  Once the ship's wiring is completed, service will shift to the Madonna's shore power connection.  As seen in Rich's photos, much work is yet to be done, in particular with the pilot house, where framework is still being assembled for cabinets and finish treatment of the bulkheads.

An insulating, finish panel for cabin is
cut to length.

A peek inside the roughed-in wheelhouse, with much work
yet to be done. 

The fuel tank, with enough capacity for a bulk tanker load of fuel, will first be filled with water to inspect for leaks, but also to mark gauges for accurate measurement of liquid levels.  Once drained of water, the space will be wiped down, cleaned, and topped with diesel fuel.  That activity is still a few weeks down the road.

If all goes well, we will likely look at a date in the week of June 15th for delivery.

-  DIck Purinton

Saturday, May 2, 2020


Shown here, a concrete pumper is in position to add
27,000 lbs.  ballast to a void on the starboard side,
offsetting list due to greater superstructure to
port.   Also shown, aluminum benches for outer,
upper deck seating, and a work bench for the
engine room.  (Rich Ellefson photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Last week's accomplishments will be hard to beat in terms of visual milestones in the Madonna construction project.   The vessel rolled out of the paint shed and is now afloat in finishing stages, a mere two weeks later.  But there are many ongoing activities remaining, each requiring time in preparation and completion.

Photographs depict just one element that took place early this past work week at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.  Rich Ellefson spent the week at the yard, following up on a variety of work being done, answering questions, ensuring that piping, wiring, hydraulic lines and brackets will enable reasonable clearances and access for maintenance in years ahead.

Benches for the uppermost deck had been out-sourced by Bay Shipbuilding to local fabricator Hi-Tech.  We've purchased similar outer deck benches from Hi-Tech before for other ferries. They arrived powder coated in white and ready to bolt in place on the sun deck.

Wiring for lighting and pumps, the various switches and controls that lead to the pilot house...all of this is time consuming work.  Nearly every pipe, tube and wire leads to or from the engine room.

Within two weeks or thereabouts, the Madonna should be in shape for start-up and testing of engines, the hydraulic, fire and bilge systems, with sea trials shortly thereafter in the outer bay.

Lots of work yet to be done, nearly all of it out of sight to the casual observer unless you are a tradesman, supervisor, or inspector.

-  Dick Purinton