Sunday, July 19, 2020


Completion of first round trip, 10:45 am Sunday.
Load consisted of 10 Segways and 27
autos.  (Purinton photo) 
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Saturday's thunderstorms moved on, the last occurring during the early morning hours around 4 pm, and a warm westerly breeze settled in.  It seemed to Hoyt, Rich and Erik Foss like a perfect opportunity to run the Madonna on her first official revenue-making runs.  It was to be a chance to get used to the vessel, practice handling, see how the various ramp locations matched up, and to help out with the line of traffic that was "around the corner" at Northport by 10:00 am.
Meeting Arni J. Richter in the channel as we depart
Washington Island.  At this point, all five ferries
were underway.

Capt. Erik Foss took the wheel for the first of several runs
on the Madonna's first outing.  (Purinton photo)

We arrived at the Island dock in time to see the first round trip unload, with 10 Segways and 27 vehicles disembarking at the Island dock.  Then, an easy load of 24 vehicles were flagged aboard.  Next door, at another ramp, the Eyrarbakki began to load.  After replacement of several nav light bulbs, the crew of this 1970 vessel, christened 50 years ago (nearly to the day) joined in the sequence.

For the first time in quite awhile, five ferries were underway at one time.

A few white clouds and white sails dotted the horizon as
we crossed the Door on the second official round trip.
The smoothness and quietness of the ride were two very noticeable characteristics, as was the roominess and choices of vantage point for passengers who chose to get out of their vehicles and observe their surroundings.  The blue sky, the green of nearby shorelines, and numerous white sails of competitors passing through the Door, racers in the "Hook Race" that started Saturday in Racine and ends today in Sturgeon Bay, added greatly to the color - and, may I say, the excitement - of the crossing.

Among the passengers enjoying the ride on the Madonna's
upper deck were Marty Leibforth and Katherine Gordon. 
Ferry Washington nears the course turning point
off Plum Island.
On board were Rich Ellefson and Hoyt Purinton, this time working in the capacity of deckhands, while Eric Foss got time at the controls from the Pilot House and bridge.  Heavier, and longer, there is a learning curve to mastering this ferry, and it will take some time to obtain comfort and confidence in operations, but Eric did a great job of easing in to the piers at a variety of locations, both backing in and bow-first approaches.   Upon reaching Northport Pier, and with the end of the line still not yet visible from the upper deck, a quick 28 vehicles were loaded on board, seven per lane, with room remaining at either end of the lanes, and between lanes.

Completing a 28-car load proved what had been
laid out on paper, and it was accomplished in about the
same time as a 19-auto load on our smaller ferries.
Perhaps it is the solid structural members, the added length, and the CAT 32, V-12 diesels that run so smoothly, but most likely a combination of each of those elements in concert.  The overall effect makes Madonna's performance underway seem superior from a ridership standpoint of any of our ferries.  In fact, I would put the ride experienced this morning with any of a variety of passenger vessels I've had the pleasure to ride aboard from U. S. or foreign ports!

We're hoping that, over time, similar experiences can be enjoyed by all who travel regularly between the Island and the mainland peninsula.

-   Dick Purinton

Saturday, July 18, 2020


Madonna shortly after departing Bay Shipbuilding Friday
afternoon, enroute to Detroit Harbor on delivery run.
(Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding photo)
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

When a vessel is designed, constructed, launched, sea trialed, and then sailed home, the hope is always that it will be right: feel right, look right, handle right.  Each step along the way, including the components chosen, contribute to the overall product:  engines, gears, shafts, propellers, electronics, seating, flooring, deck coatings.  If one or two elements miss the mark the whole can seem off and create disappointment.  And until the whole is assembled, sea-trialed and sailed, judgement cannot be properly given.

Madonna shadowed by Washington Island Coast Guard's
SAR vessel as she entered port.  (Tyler McGrane)
That is a part of the mystery of shipbuilding: built upon science, improved from existing examples, and put together by those who know their trade well.  Still, always a bit of a gamble as the whole comes together.

A portion of the small fleet that trailed in the Madonna's
wake.  (Tyler McGrane)
In the case of Madonna, the new ferry designed by Seacraft Design and built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, both Sturgeon Bay entities, the process and the product thus far speak of great success.

Added to the characteristics listed above is functionality, its acceptance and trust by those who sail her, by those who stand upon her decks as passengers and enjoy her services.

We know some unknowns await to be answered, but many major hurdles have been crossed.  Gauging by initial crowd reactions, for there were several hundred who came out last evening by boat and by car to see the new ferry, it meets the criteria of a winning vessel so far.

Madonna and Coast Guard escort.
(Kim Toro)
Last-minute items had been sorted out during this past week, a press to resolve "head scratchers" such as improvement of the steering system (check!) and the suction for pumps that energize the fire mains and sprinkler systems (check! yet again).   Yard personnel, vessel designer, and WIFL personnel put their heads together to best resolve those issues.

A Certificate of Inspection was granted by the U. S. Coast Guard, required before carrying vehicles and passengers.  A check was exchanged, a signature of ownership given to mark the transfer. and hands were shaken by Todd Thayse, Fincantieri General Manager and Vice President, and Rich Ellefson, WIFL Construction Representative and Company Vice President.  That was late on Friday morning.

A mild breeze blew from the south as Rich
Ellefson made his approach, then swung the
Madonna's stern 180 degrees to nail this first
landing at the Island dock.  (Jim Rose photo)

By 2:00 pm a number of vehicles were run aboard the car deck, mooring lines were cast off, and Madonna headed north for home port.

On board were Hoyt and Rich and their two young sons, Magnus and Brody, observer Terri Moore (who in a "normal summer" would drive the Cherry Train), and a number of key Bay Shipbuilding personnel.

Among the latter was Steve Propsom who was on a "final lap" over the waters of Green Bay aboard his last project assignment as shipbuilder and project manager.  Upon mooring at the Island, lines were made fast to the Island pier and Steve's 46-year career in local shipbuilding came to a close.  Retirement adventures would next deserve his full attention.

Along with approximately 15 other small craft, we on the Moby Dick fell in behind the Washington Island Coast Guard in helping to escort Madonna in her last mile to port.  We were thrilled by the sight, and we absorbed each authoritative air horn blast as Rich Ellefson issued the "long salute".  Such moments in one's life (and career) are rare, especially when they happen on such a beautiful Friday evening, joined by several hundred onlookers. We sensed community pride in product, and not just our own.  We are convinced this vessel will continue to meet expectations.  

Madonna, positioned for backing in to south ramp.
Rich stands at the stern controls, but there's also
great PH 
visibility, should the operator chooses to remain
in the wheel house throughout the landing evolution.

(Jim Rose)
No sooner had Rich swung the Madonna's stern to the pier, pressing the rub rail against the dock tires, and the ramp was lowered and vehicles on board were driven off.  Dozens of folks on the pier, most wearing face masks and mindful of the Covid-19 threat, had by that time lined up to come aboard for closer inspection.  This parade of viewing lasted for the better part of an hour, before the crowd thinned.  The crew then removed pallets of paint, lube oil and spare parts from the deck, stores intended for future maintenance and repair projects, before laying the new ferry port side to the pier for the evening.

First line over, secured by Hoyt Purinton, approximately 6:30 pm.
(Jim Rose)

This morning, as a line of thunderstorms approached, Mary Jo and I got up early, still dreaming about the evening before.  We drove out to the ferry dock to see if the Madonna, a longtime dream, was still moored securely at the Island pier.  She was.

We returned home satisfied, but excited for her future appearance on local waters.  We look forward, as do crew members of the Ferry Line and our many customers, to its first regular service.

Steve Propsom (Bay Shipbuilding), Magnus and Hoyt Purinton,
and Rich Ellefson, upon arrival, relieved and satisfied at successful
delivery, and to be joined by well-wishers.
(Kim Toro photo)
Madonna is about to enter dedicated ferry service, for what we anticipate will be decades of faithful operations--winter and summer--for Washington Island, its residents and visitors.

All off this has happened during the 80th anniversary of Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc., an additional reason to celebrate.

      -  Dick Purinton

PS -  I was busy steering the Moby Dick last evening and wasn't able to take photos.  Thanks to all who sent me a selection from which to choose.

Steve Propsom with author.  Steve retires after
46 years in area shipbuilding.  One note: this writer also
celebrates 46 years with the Ferry Line, in late October.
Jim Rose, WIFL employee (and the photographer here)
reminded us that his first day as a Ferry Line ticket seller
was the
 day of the Robert Noble christening, June of 1979.
Steve began his career as a part of the Peterson Builder's work
force on that ferry project.
We've each had the pleasure of observing the bay freezing
over--and then thawing once again--
many times.    

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Capt. Joel Gunnlaugsson with Fincantieri
Senior Project Supervisor Steve Propsom, upon
return to port after sea trials.  Broom signifies
a "clean sweep", the satisfaction of
requirements for U. S. Coast Guard Certificate
of Inspection.  (Purinton photos in all cases)

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Having been absent here for a few weeks in reporting on construction, during which time the christening took place at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, we're now back to continue the story, with particulars of where the new ferry Madonna stands in terms of finishing and delivery.

First, we need to update statements regarding the steering system, because the first assessment for remedy didn't prove out.

One of many details added in the past weeks:
a step for crew to reach and tie mooring lines.
During Builder's Trials, a test run of the vessel's systems, its engines, electronics, etc., it was discovered that steering responsiveness seemed to lessen over time.  Greater revolution of the pilot house helm was required to move the rudder just a few degrees. The cause was determined to be hydraulic oil heating and thinning with longer running time time.  The probable fix appeared to be reduction of heating by means of installing a lower volume output hydraulic pump, and by enlarging the diameter of the piping from pump/reservoir to pilot house and to the steering rams back aft, a rather long run with many angles and turns in the piping.

Fincantieri pipe fitters began work right away and installed larger inside diameter piping.  But as for a lower output, CAT engine-compatible hydraulic pump, none was found in the marketplace.  Instead, a flow valve was installed, along with an oil cooler (fed by the same pump that flushes stern tubes). During a second Builder's Trial, performed two days ago on Monday, July 13, the steering seemed to perform well.

As can often happen with more time spent underway, a few more items also came to light, and they were highlighted on the punch list.

After Monday's successful underway trial, a second sea trial was then scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, this time with a U. S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment observer on board.   This sea trial fell almost exactly 1-1/2 months beyond the original estimated Madonna delivery date, a point of secondary importance to getting steering, as well as other vessel functions, to where they needed to be.

In this photo, you're looking up the ladder
that leads from engine room to main deck.
Madonna engine room has come a long way:
a complex space of piping, wiring and machinery,
but with room to move about.  A Bay Ship
mechanic can just be seen between generators,
monitoring fluids and temperatures.
Clean bilge; CAT engine control boxes;
bilge piping manifold beneath.  One example of
well-laid out, yet separate, systems.

We departed the Bay Shipbuilding slip at 10:00 a.m. and proceeded to the outer bay, with approximately a dozen yard personnel plus five Ferry Line representatives on board.

Enroute to sea trials, Madonna passed
Cason J. Calloway, inbound to Bay
Shipbuilding for repairs.

At the conclusion of several drills and with Joel Gunnlaugsson
at the wheel in the pilot house:
Rich Ellefson, Steve Propsom, Jeff Cornell, Dan Petersilka and
Hoyt Purinton.
By the time we reached Sherwood Point light, having passed port-to-port in the entrance channel the Cason J. Calloway, inbound to the shipyard for repairs, the Madonna's engines and fluids were warmed to anticipated operational temperatures.  Steering maneuvers, the shifting of generator loads, "crash stops" (full back while carrying typical forward momentum), a man overboard drill, and demonstration of good water pressure on main deck fire hydrants, were among items checked off during the several hours underway.  The sea trial was termed a success, and the number of items on the "to-do list" were trimmed even further.

A man overboard drill was conducted using a dummy
designed for such an evolution (approx. 150# with water
weight).  Shown:  Coast Guard observer Tom Hunninger,
Jeff Cornell, and Hoyt Purinton on bow ramp.

Another day or so will be used to tie up remaining loose ends, and to reconcile our standing with the Fincantieri yard regarding "who pays for what."  Those discussions may continue for some time, but a general understanding must be met in order to transfer ownership, and satisfy builder and owner product expectations, contractual items met, and with an appropriate USCG Certificate of Inspection forthcoming (like having a motor vehicle license plate, only with particulars of operation spelled out in detail).

A view of mezzanine cabin passenger seating.

When can we expect Madonna to be underway for Detroit Harbor?  Perhaps Friday.  We'll have to see.

  -  Dick Purinton

Upper deck passenger seating and pilot house.