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.    

1 comment:

Bill Tobey said...

Dick, nicely penned ...... as always.

Quite a cluster of milestones! Bucket list check marks for many.