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

1 comment:

Bill Tobey said...

Thumbs up and thank you, Dick, for all of your christening writings!