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


Bill Tobey said...

Speaking of performance underway and passenger comfort, I predict the Madonna will virtually immedately become the ferry of choice when heavier weather provides challenging sea states. Her added length, weight and moments of inertia will always provide a smoother ride than her sister vessels, likely enabling WIFL service under some weather conditions which have curtailed ferry operations in the past.

All in all, her arrival has been well worth waiting for. The team that ran her today probably felt like kids again, with a fabulous new toy, but being very VERY careful!

Dan H. said...

Great job by all! Waiting for my first trip on her.

Bill Tobey said...

Creeping up on two months of Madonna's runs as part of the WIFL fleet ....... and two months of Dick taking well-deserved time away from this blog. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's missed his posts. Dick, I hope you and yours are doing fine!

I wonder how many quirks/bugs have shown up in these early Madonna days. "Still under warranty" I'm sure. The only thing I noticed early on was the slack starboard ramp raising/lowering cable in the top picture above. Watching her on the webcams shows the crews are handling her beautifully. A couple of days ago there was a stiff breeze out of the north in the morning, with whitecaps splashing over the Northport breakwalls on occasion. I was hoping to see Madonna head north into those waves to see how she behaved, but the crew ducked behind Plum Island as is normally done with the older/smaller ferries.

Best wishes to all!

Dan H. said...

We were on the Madonna last Thursday, yes what a ride! The spray coming over the bow got us wet on the upper deck and all the cars got a good wash. My opinion the Madonna took it in stride and the crew did a great job!

Bill Tobey said...

Interesting comment, Dan! Thanks! I've speculated Madonna will be a smoother ride (less pitching) heading into the wind since she's longer. It sounds like that smoother ride could be accompanied by more spray coming over the bow since it doesn't pitch as much.

Historical note: When my brothers and I were kids, we'd always root for heavier weather when we boarded the tubby Welcome at Gills Rock. We never got spray over the bow due to her elevated profile, but there could be lots of pitching and spray coming in through the side-loading gap. The adults on board didn't necessarily share our delights.