Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Karen Jess smiles upon successfully breaking champagne bottle on the
Madonna's second deck
  She was coached by Project Supervisor Steve
Propsom (alongside) and Foreman Dan Petersilka.  In keeping with safety 
protocol, Karen wore protective glasses and gloves.   All
event participants and workers wore masks, a Fincantieri company
requirement since early May. (Purinton photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The new Washington Island Ferry Madonna was properly blessed and christened at the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility Monday, June 29, before a crowd of several hundred masked and socially scattered workers.  They were joined by approximately 60 invited guests, many of whom were key in the vessel's development and construction.

Rev. James Reiff, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church near Oshkosh, and a former pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Washington Island in the early 1980s, provided the christening blessing.  Karen Jess of Washington Island did the honors by breaking a champagne bottle upon the new, 124-foot Madonna.

Rev. James E. Reiff, who provided the christening blessing,
with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Vice President and
General Manager Todd Thayse.
Karen and her late husband Butch Jess, along with Rev. Reiff, commissioned a model of the Ole Christiansen schooner Madonna as a memorial to Kelly Jess, who lost his life to cancer at the age of 14, in 1980.  That ship model has hung high in the center of the nave in Trinity since 1981.  It was that model, and the historical connection with Ole Christiansen's Island trading enterprise, that brought about the decision to name the new ferry Madonna.

Several Fincantieri workforce on uppermost deck
during Monday's christening event at Bay Shipbuilding.
Setting was both dramatic and colorful, flanked with large
lake ships on either side.
(Helen Bacon photo)

Yesterday's event at Bay Shipbuilding came at a late moment in the construction of the Madonna. She is about 95% complete.  The christening celebrated the multi-skilled workforce of Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, and also contributions by key product vendors and service providers.  As an example, there were representatives of Seacraft Design (Mark Pudlo, Naval Architect), Nicolet Bank, and Palmer Johnson Power Systems (Twin Disc gears) present.   Ferry Captains Joel Gunnlaugsson and Erik Foss were also on hand, as were each of the Ferry Line's Directors, plus many owners and representatives of the Richter family.

Hoyt Purinton, Ferry Line President, thanked
the many people responsible for a high
quality vessel, including members of the
local U. S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office
who inspect and assure quality in compliance
with federal guidelines for domestic
small passenger vessels.
(Helen Bacon photo)
Monday's christening ceremony also provided an opportunity to publicly describe the successful conclusion of building a specialized product for local use, the third WIFL ferry built at Bay Shipbuilding since 1970, and the seventh in a string of ferries going back to 1950 with the C. G. Richter.  Each were built by Sturgeon Bay shipbuilders and designed by Sturgeon Bay naval architects.

Rich Ellefson followed the Madonna project
closely from day  one as on-site
Company representative.  He came to know
many of Bay Ship's workers and supservisors,
and to respect their expertise in shipbuilding.
(Helen Bacon photo)
Bay Ship's work list has a few items left to tie up, including installation of a hydraulic steering pump, a specialized (not an off-the-shelf item) pump that must mate with one of the Caterpillar main engine drives.  This pump will supply  proper flow and pressure to steering rams and components.

When completed, this task is expected to be followed with a U. S. Coast Guard underway sea trial, and upon acceptance, a Certificate of Inspection.  The new ferry should be ready to sail north to Detroit Harbor sometime in the next two-to-three weeks.  

In the meantime, out of Detroit Harbor the remaining four ferries of the WIFL fleet now sail the Door at half-hour intervals.  Since Friday the 26th, the more frequent ferry "summer" schedule has been implemented.

Over the past several weeks, vehicular traffic, along with some bicyclists and a handful of "walk-ons," has shown great promise in picking up the Island's tourism season at a critical time.

We hope that the numbers of Island guests plus residents will follow prescribed and sensible measures, helping to limit the possibilities for Coronavirus spread.  Wisconsin and Washington Island in their rather concentrated tourism season will need everything to go right in order to bring economic success to businesses relying on solid numbers.

-  Dick Purinton

Friday, June 26, 2020


Fortunately many good photographers were on hand
when the Arni J. Richter was christened at the Island
dock May23, 2003.  This one was taken by Bruce McKay
and captured the Island Festival Chorus, led by Dan Hansen, 
 and the Festival Orchestra, led by Stephen Colburn.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

We've covered considerable ground reminiscing about Washington Island Ferry Line christenings.  Our previous blog (June 23) brought us to the ferry Washington's christening in June 1989.

The Washington design was much different than any previous WIFL ferries by incorporating a large upper deck, and a "sun deck" above that, supported by both the side curtain structure and the pedestal - or trunk - located at the vessel centerline.  Fore and aft stairways offered access to upper deck spaces, including the pilot house that was elevated several feet above the passenger deck for best pilot visibility.  As with any design, kinks needed to be worked out.  Those that could not, or would not, accept modification became something we've gotten used to over time.

As an example, the 100-ft. auto deck length allows a rather easy five vehicles per lane, with four lanes, for a total of 20 vehicles.  If there are a good number of small cars, that totalcould be increased to 21 autos without too much strain.   However, those lanes squeezed alongside the center trunk tended to be narrow.  When loading large or bulky vehicles, two cannot be parked side-by-side.  Large campers, straight trucks, or semis would automatically reduce vehicle capacity in those lanes.   For semi trucks it is often a tricky maneuver to get the truck's last set of wheels as far outboard as possible, so that rear sets of wheels will track through the ramp opening during the unloading process.  Overhead dimensions were meant to accommodate standard semi trailer heights, but we soon found out that many newer over-the-road trucks pushed 70 feet in length and occasionally exceeded 13'-6" in height.  Sprinkler heads located on the main deck overhead have often been raked by those high trucks, requiring replacement.

But overall, this ferry proved to be a great addition to the fleet.

Ferry Arni J. Richter

After the one-time experiment with a center pedestal design on the Washington, in 2002 we began considering a new ferry design that reverted back to a main deck superstructure, this one tucked as tightly to starboard as possible.   This enclosure included a main deck passenger cabin, a unisex head, fore and aft stairs, an engine room access - all within that starboard structure.  While there would be two car slots forward and to starboard, the remainder of the vehicle deck had ample width for three lanes, 104 ft.  x 10-ft. width, each lane.  Vehicle loads could now consistently reach 18 units, even when a couple of straight trucks, boats on trailers, or campers boarded the ferry.

A most important feature of the new Arni J. Richter was its intended use in winter. Adequate cabin and pilot house heat (also AC), insulation and tight windows, helped support that.  Main propulsion would require ample horsepower, with stout framing, heavy propeller shafts, and stainless, ice-class propellers. Heavy rudders followed behind them.

Naming the 2003 ferry for its owner and president of many years was a foregone conclusion.  Arni Richter and his father, Carl, had purchased two wooden ferries in 1940 from William Jepson.  Over 60 years later, Arni was still intimately involved with the company, and he offered many suggestions in design and detail (some taken, some not!).  We had the extensive background and expertise of the Tim Graul Marine Design team, and that helped in designing a vessel we needed, one we intended to operate for many decades in these waters, for four seasons of the year.  Tim and his staff had already engineered many modifications on each of our existing ferries. This new ice breaker would receive their input of experienced ideas.  (Mark Pudlo, naval architect, would later purchase TGMD when Tim Graul retired, and continue his services under Seacraft Design, in Sturgeon Bay.)

The christening ceremony was held at the Island ferry dock May 24, 2003, after the boat had been delivered to WIFL, and it was attended by a largest crowd of any christening ceremony to date, some especially invited, but most just Island people who "showed up" to witness the event.  The series of photos below capture a good part of that day's crowd.

Someone photographed the crowd during the AJR
May christening.  How many people can you
identify in the photos? (unknown photographer)
The Island Festival Choir, led by Dan Hansen, sang, and members of the Island Music Festival orchestra accompanied them, besides playing several other numbers.  Island school children had been invited earlier to participate in a coloring contest.  An original poem about the new ferry Arni J. Richter was read by Bill and Liz Jorgenson's son, Dale.

After nearly an hour of remarks, music and testimonials on the new ferry's future, Arni stepped to the side gate and smashed the bottle to christen his own vessel.  (A second swing of the bottle was required to do the job!)

Arni J. Richter christens the Arni J. Richter.
(photo by Bruce McKay)
For these past 17 years, the ferries Eyrarbakki, Robert Noble, Washington and Arni J. Richter have been essential in carrying people, vehicles and cargo on a daily basis across the Door.  During the latter years of that time span summer traffic gradually increased, with long lines building at Northport in the mid-day, and the same on the island side in late afternoon.

Our WIFL Board of Directors, after considering several remodeling options, decided to build a new ferry.  Seacraft Design was chosen to provide the engineering and blueprints, and Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding was selected to build the new ferry.  It would be named Madonna, for delivery in late May, 2020.  That date is now extended into late June, and possibly July, due to parts needed to satisfactorily complete the hydraulic steering system.

The christening ceremony is now scheduled for June 29 at the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding yard.  Only a small number of guests will be invited due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

More on this event in a few days.

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Madonna name boards ready to go,
in basement workshop. 

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

The act of christening a vessel is an ancient tradition, intended to bring good luck, safe voyages, and blessings to those who sail on board.

Not necessary?  Maybe...but who would like to take the chance?

Then, too, there is the awkward choice to go against tradition by denying a vessel to be properly christened, blessed and named.

For centuries this ceremony preceded the launch, a time when the vessel first transferred from land to sea.

Traditions change with the times.  The laying of a keel was once of great shipbuilding importance, not so many years ago, particularly in wooden shipbuilding when the keel member became the basis of construction.  Today's vessels - especially those made of steel or aluminum - can be constructed upside down and  in modules.  There is no recognized singular moment when a full-length keel is accomplished.  Instead, recognition has been given to the first cuts of plates and frames as a noteworthy start to construction.

Monday, June 29th, there will be a christening of the new Washington Island Ferry Line vessel Madonna.  This public recognition of the vessel's completion, and its given name (in this case, it will have religious connotations for the Mother of Jesus...but not for the Paul McCartney song, Lady Madonna, or for the pop singer from Bay City, Michigan, Madonna Louise Ciccone.)

This new ferry's name derives from the schooner of the same name, built by an Irishman, Aylward, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1871.  Quite certainly he took the name in reference to the Holy Mother of Jesus. Not just any "My Lady" but the Lady.

One intended reference in the christening of our Madonna will be a tip of the hat to Ole Christiansen, Norwegian immigrant, and his schooner of the same name.  He bought the shooter from Aylward in 1894.  As a merchant vessel, Christiansen's schooner carried commercial products, lumber and potatoes mostly, between Detroit Harbor and other Lake Michigan ports.

In order to properly honor Ole Christiansen and the original Madonna, we asked his family if they could nominate a representative to perform the christening.  We received a "Yes" from Sarah Maines-Bandiera of British Columbia, in early March.

Certain hurdles needed to be overcome, including setting a date when the ferry might be finished and ready to christen.   After it would be launched, delivered and then moored in Detroit Harbor, it would await christening before placement into regular service.  That was tentatively planned for the end of May, or early June, so we hoped.

Then Covid-19 came along and it no longer seemed prudent to plan a public christening event, or to ask Sarah to travel a long distance for a short ceremony.  Pandemic travel rules created more hurdles.  We both agreed to reconsider, and instead we named Sarah as our Honorary Guest for the christening.  Then we began looking closer to home for another candidate who might perform the christening.  (The name of our stand-in will soon be publicly revealed.)

Sarah Maines-Bandiera, great granddaughter of Ole
Christiansen, graciously accepted our offer to christen
the new
 Madonna...until the pandemic made that an 
improbable plan. (photo by Sarah)
There is also the matter of finishing this vessel completely, to the required and agreed upon standards, fit for service and acceptable to the U. S. Coast Guard federal guidelines and owner expectations.

As the weeks passed by in spring, the estimated delivery date was pushed further back into June.  This later date wasn't of great concern to us, because we wanted the vessel to be right and not rushed or lacking in completeness.

Here we are on June 23, with a soft "maybe" for sea trials later this week.  Current status centers around a steering glitch: three steering options under two, completely separate, systems.  It is complicated, and not easily resolved.  The answer may require more parts (and expertise), with lead time in order to rectify.

One way or another, whether the ferry Madonna comes home this coming week or not, we will join Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding workforce Monday in a combination ceremony.

There will be two parts to this event:  one will be to recognize the Bay Shipbuilding workforce for their achievement in turning out a great product, the ferry Madonna, that will sail in these local waters for the next half-century or more.  The second will be to christen this vessel, a formal, prescribed occasion in which we ask for God's blessings on this vessel, its crew, passengers and cargo in years to come.

Sprinkled throughout this blog and one to follow we'll post a number of photos recounting christening events for Washington Island Ferry Line vessels.

A synopsis of past WIFL christening events

The first ferry built and launched for WIFL, Arni and Carl Richter owners, was the Griffin, built at Krauss Kraft in Kewaunee, Wisconsin in 1946.  I've never come across a christening photo for this ferry, only pre-launch snapshots of owner Arni Richter standing on the shore with the Griffin in the background.  I believe Mary Richter had a hand in naming this ferry, as she was an avid follower of local history.

Then in 1950 the C. G. Richter, named for Carl Godfrey Richter, was built by the Sturgeon Bay Ship Building and Dry Dock yard. (This yard property was taken up 20 years by Bay Shipbuilding Corporation in 1970.)  Just prior to the C. G. Richter launch, cousins Carol Richter and Jeannie Leasum shared christening honors.

1950 christening of C. G. Richter prior to launch:
(top)  Maggie and Carl Richter; Carol Richter and 

Jeannie Leasum; Arni and Mary Richter; Margaret Leasum; 
Em andPaul Richter.  (unknown photographer / WIFL files)
Ten years later, in 1960, on nearly the same waterfrontage in Sturgeon Bay, Richter twins Adele and Estelle did the honors for the new ferry Voyageur.  A professional photographer (perhaps Herb Reynolds) captured the moment the champagne bottle smashed against the bow, prior to launch, a classic in WIFL "christening annals." As far as we know, only family members, and perhaps a few friends, were on hand for this occasion.  The Voyageur was launched following the christening that day.  It would be weeks before the ferry was finished, at homeport, and ready for operation.

Adele (L) and Estelle Richter performed the Voyageur
christening at the SBSB & DD yard prior to launch
in 1960.  (Herb Reynolds / WIFL archives)

In 1970 WIFL shifted from a private christening ceremony in the shipyard on launch day to a public ceremony held at the ferry dock in Detroit Harbor, Washington Island.  The occasion that brought about this change was the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the first Icelanders coming to Washington Island.  The new ferry's name, Eyrarbakki, would draw attention to this Island's many familial ties with Iceland.  Gertrude Andersen, then 94, was considered the first child born here of Icelandic immigrant parents, and she broke the bottle that day.
Gertrude Andersen swinging bottle against 
king post of Eyrarbakki in 1970.

Special invited guests had connections with the Icelandic consul in Chicago.  Well water from Eyrarbakki, Iceland was flown for the christening, rather than using champagne. It was a meaningful day for the Island, and it was also a great day for Arni and Mary Richter who sought to expand and improve Washington Island's tourism through marketing.  This Iceland tie was both genuine and unique. (This year's plans were dashed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but we remind readers of that christening occasion, just as we now highlight the 150th Anniversary Celebration in 2020.)

Estelle Richter took this launch photo of Hull #709 at
the Manitowoc Corp. Bay Shipbuilding yard in
1970.  This vessel was among the first to be
completed by the Bay Ship yard after the move
to Sturgeon Bay from Manitowoc.
The acceleration in tourism traffic would soon include fishing boats on trailers, motor homes, and larger vehicles in general - vans and pickup trucks - and the timing seemed right in 1979 to build a new ferry with increased dimensions over the Eyrarbakki of 1970.  Arni fondly looked at the photos of vessels sailed as ferries by Robert Noble across Sturgeon Bay, and he decided to name the new ferry for that first mechanically propelled ferry in Door County, Robert Noble.  Of course, there was also the unforgettable story of the struggle of Noble who tried to cross the Door at the onset of winter in 1863, and who lost his fingers and lower legs to frostbite.

The new Robert Noble was completed at Peterson Builders, Inc., ion June of 1979, and it heralded a  shift to a different builder, due in part to the building boom in large bulk carriers being constructed at the Manitowoc Bay Shipbuilding yard.  They had no more building room, and no need for a small ferry contract, whereas PBI was just winding down naval contracts and was open to general commercial work.

Harrison Noble, in his early 90s, spoke before
christening the ferry named for his uncle, Robert.
(photographer not known.  WIFL files)
The ferry came home to Detroit Harbor in early June for the christening.  After a bit of sleuthing, we located Robert's nephew, Harrison Noble, a retired County Agent in his early 90s, who lived in the Stevens Point area.  Harrison came to Washington Island, and he became the first male to christen one of our ferries, the new 90-foot Robert Noble.
Arni Richter, Ferry Line president, with
author on day of christening in 1979.

Light drizzle fell, but despite uncooperative weather that day, dozens of people turned out to witness the occasion.  A photo was taken of guests gathered that afternoon on the main deck, looking upward toward the speaker, and it provides a real challenge to the memory.  Naming as many people as possible in the crowd is a fun activity. (I'll add that photo when I find it!)

Mary and Arni Richter are between Mert Dedecker,
Mary's sister, and Bob Thompson of Tim Graul
Marine Design, naval architects for the
Washington.  (Arni Orman photo)
We'll take one more event before breaking the story into a second part.

Peterson Builders was awarded the contract for another new ferry, launched in 1989.  The Washington would be larger in deck and passenger capacity than any previous WIFL ferry, a fact that remains true today for automobile loads of a certain mix.

She's not a winter ferry, as she doesn't have the necessary structure or power for ice breaking, but it has been used more and more into late fall-to-freeze-up, and again in early spring.

This ferry was launched in late April, and it arrived on the Island in early June.   Our daughter, Evy, at age 13, christened the new ferry that year.  One of the notable events that day was the Boy Scout Troop from Maplewood, under scoutmaster  Dennis LeFevre, that led the Pledge of Allegiance that day.

Boy Scout troop from Maplewood led guests in
the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the christening.
(Al Belz Jr. photo)

That christening crowd was the largest to date, with many people onboard, on the pier, and a few in their boats nearby.  The weather was beautiful.  Congressman Toby Roth of Appleton, who was good friends with Islander Sarah Magnusson, sat next to her that day, on folding chairs set up on the main deck.

Evy Purinton broke the champagne bottle
against the Washington's kingpost in 1989.
Future ferry captain, Town Chair, County
Board Supervisor and father of four,
Joel Gunnlaugsson, stands in middle
(photographer unknown)

In another seven years, PBI would be out of business.  It would be a number of years after that before the level of seasonal ferry traffic, our need for a new winter replacement ferry, and our ability to handle the cost of a more expensive ice breaking vessel, would converge to a point where a new ferry contract would be signed in 2002.

(To be continued...).  Dick Purinton  

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Madonna underway off the stone quarry, outer bay,
during builder's trial, Friday afternoon, June 19.
(Photo by Erich Pfeifer)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

After long days of chasing down and correcting details, some small, some large, Rich Ellefson reported that Madonna would sail from the dock for the first time.  This would be the "builder's trial" in which various components and equipment would be tried and tested, including running main engines up to temperature while various systems were monitored.   Apparently things went well (or, I just didn't hear about the glitches!).
Bay Ship and Ferry Line representatives gathered for
briefing on main deck prior to leaving pier, and again
upon their return dockside.  (Hoyt Purinton)
Hoyt Purinton, Erik Foss, Joel Gunnlaugsson and Jeff Cornell joined Rich for the day, their first opportunity to see and experience the vessel underway.  A few photos are shown here of the Bay Shipbuilding and WIFL crew members in conference, and on the bridge.   With a few more days' work, the vessel could be ready for U. S. Coast Guard sea trials by mid-week.

Ferry line captains Jeff Cornell, Erik Foss, Rich Ellefson
and Joel Gunnlaugsson on upper deck.

Christening plans

In a departure from christening of the last several ferries, a ceremony will take place within the shipyard, with members of the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding workforce present, along with a few invited guests.

We'll hold details of the christening back a few more days as we reflect back on other ferries and the christening ceremonies that took place, both at the shipyard and here on Washington Island, when the public was invited to take part in the festivities.

A few panels and wires yet to be made permanent,
but the pilot house was functional for builder's trial.
(Hoyt Purinton)
Several reasons led to our decision to hold the christening at the shipyard.  One, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding wishes to recognize its workforce for a job well-done on a product that will sail in their "backyard," so to speak.  We will join the yard management in offering our thanks, and congratulations for a job well done.  A substantial amount of pride has been evident in workers who participated in this vessel construction, intended for Door County service, what could easily be 4-5 decades or more of continuous use for ferry transportation.  This occasion also highlights the importance of shipbuilding to the area's economy, and the contribution building such a vessel adds to Door County and the region.  Another reason for holding the christening within the shipyard confines is that with Covid-19 as a threat to public health it becomes easier to hold the christening in a controlled setting.  All participants will be asked to wear a mask (the Bay Ship workforce has been doing this for five weeks or more).

In wheelhouse:  WIFL construction supervisor and vice-president Rich Ellefson
with Steve Propsom, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Senior Project Supervisor.
(Hoyt Purinton photo)
We'll provide more detail in a few days' time.  -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, June 11, 2020


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This year has so far been one that requires patience and waiting:  waiting for the pandemic to cool down, for the economy to open up, and for a return to broadened horizons.   And for a moderation in water levels.

So far, success on these fronts is only partial.  Sidelined Great Lakes freighters Wilfred Sykes and H. Lee White, their crews gone home on an unexpected mid-season break, framed the nearly finished ferry Madonna at the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding yard in Sturgeon Bay.  The Covid-19 pandemic and greatly slowed economy has led to a sufficient supply of ore pellets and other materials, and that, in turn, caused layup of several freighters.

I spent several hours Tuesday morning inspecting the Madonna's progress, along with Hoyt.  Numerous details that would otherwise not have been noticed were pointed out by Rich Ellefson.  Rich has followed the project as close as anyone since first frames and shell plating were assembled indoors last fall.

At present, most work is either in the engine room, pilot house, or
main deck, as seen here.  Much of the electrical wiring has been
run but needs tucking in, bundling and connecting to lights
and outlets along the bulwarks and over head (which will
have slightly more than 15-ft. clearance for trucks and

This project, now a few weeks beyond original planned delivery, is down to details - important details to be sure - with hopes that main engine start-ups will happen yet this week.  If wiring and several other tasks fall in line, according to Fincantieri Project Supervisor Steve Propsom, an underway sea trial may yet happen toward the end of next week.  But, those numerous important details must first be checked off the work list.

Pilot house wiring requires the most time remaining to
completion, it seems, and with only so much room,
electricians are in close quarters as they 

complete their work.

Slowly making my rounds on board, and careful not to get in the way of workers, wet paint or equipment, I observed the final flushing of hydraulic piping for the ramps/fire pump loops.   One painter touched up along the starboard bulwarks and waterways.  Another painter made final touch-ups to the aft stairway.  Treads were being installed on the upper deck stairway.  Two workers, one with garden hose, applied water pressure to cabin windows and checking for leaks around the window casing perimeters.   Inside the pilot house, two Faith Electric electricians sorted out the gobbledegook of wiring for gauges and switches.  Most pilot house windows remained covered, protecting them from paint, welding sparks, and so forth.  Much work has yet to be done in that space, but only so many workers can productively fit into the confines.

Just the same, I could gauge the relationship between adjoining upper deck spaces and the number of steps leading to the wheel house, a distance operator and crew will have to cover on a regular basis. The commanding view of bow and stern from that vantage was evident.

On the stern deck, hydraulic lines are being flushed
by circulating oil under pressure through a fine micron
filter until little or no grit remains.  The reel of ramp 
wire is in foreground.
Later that day, engine soft patches were to be tested
for water tightness, as would deck access cover
gasketing for the below decks spaces.
The bow ramps and operating hydraulics seemed nearly set.  A reel of ramp cable was nearby, on deck, wire ready to be inserted through the sheave system, one end fastened to a below-decks winch and the other to be dead-ended on a nearby king post.

Rich pointed out the man overboard winch and the anchoring equipment in the starboard bow.  The anchor selected is a very light (67 pounds) Danforth-style anchor.   Anchors on our other ferries weigh in at around 200#, and most are connected to several hundred feet of heavy chain.  Madonna's anchor (like the ferry Washington) will be tethered to the ship by a stout nylon anchor line.

Rich also pointed out numerous features along the starboard rail, where a sewage pumpout station, lube oil fill, and a diesel fueling station were tucked in as closely as possible to the bulwarks, out of the way from vehicles and passenger feet.  Such details seem matter-of-fact, but each one requires special consideration in their placement, from designers, welders, pipe fitters and electricians, oil order to keep the rail as "clean" as possible, yet allowing functional, operating equipment.

In the engine room, FABICK CAT representative Don Toyne and service technicians wired up the main CAT engines, a process estimated to take 2-3 days prior to initial startup.   Don has been front and center on numerous ferry projects for WIFL, including repowering the Robert Noble and Washington,  and also during regular tweaking and software updates for Arni J. Richter engines.  Once again, even though this engine room has a fairly generous amount of room, with four or five technicians it's best to give them room to work.
I went above.

Steve Propsom, Hoyt Purinton and Rich Ellefson
discuss details yet to be completed.

I went above, and there I met with Steve Propsom and his daughter, Stephanie, an attorney for Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.  Steve has been with this project as Bay Shipbuilding's senior supervisor.  He postponed his retirement date when June 1 passed and with it thje estimated delivery date.  There is a reasonable certainty the delivery will be prior to July 1st, but regardless, Steve is prepared to stay on longer, if necessary, to see the project through, completing 46 years in his Sturgeon Bay shipbuilding career.

Is it safe to begin thinking more seriously about a christening date, I wondered?  Not quite.  But closer, ever closer!  -  Dick Purinton

Saturday, June 6, 2020


Pilot house console is in finishing stages but with a substantial amount
of wiring for switches and controls yet to be finished.
(All photos by Rich Ellefson/WIFL)


Here we are in early June, and the ten-month-long construction project of the ferry Madonna at the Sturgeon Bay Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding facility is
nearing the final stages. Engines and shipboard systems are ready to be energized and tested.  Those evolutions will take place at pier side this coming week.

Once those accomplishments and adjustments have met with approvals, the new Washington Island Ferry Madonna should be cleared for underway sea trials.

A small winch and the block above it, shackled to
the ramp king post, are pieces of gear used in
assisting crew in a "man overboard" situation.
Ore boat moored in background is one of several
Great Lakes bulk carriers returned to port
during this prolonged economic slow down.
There is still, undeniably, a ways to go.  Wrinkles along the way can be expected, a part of such a project with this many pieces.  We're optimistically looking for a delivery sometime in the week of June 22.

 When will the Madonna be accepted by and then delivered to Washington Island Ferry Line?

Soon.  Very soon!

This set-up is for flushing and pressure testing the
various hydraulic lines.   (I had mistakenly indicated
in my first caption that it was for flushing the fuel tank: Not so!) 
Hydraulic valves and pumps operate under pressure of at least
several hundred pounds.  Small particles or slivers of metal
can ruin close tolerance ports.

-  Dick Purinton

The ship's anchoring system, like man overboard
 must be examined and proven effective  to
a U. S. Coast Guard Marine Inspection
Office representative.

Graduated fuel level stick.

Just before sunup Thursday morning, a fuel truck dropped in a load of fuel to the 
freshly cleaned and calibrated fuel tank. This will enable start-up of generators
and main engines over the next few work days.

Shiny aluminum deck plates span framing
and provide safe engine room walkways.
Racor fuel filters are mounted at left.
Ramp hydraulics are connected and
ready for testing.