He should rest a little easier this year now that a second ice-hardened ferry has joined the fleet.
“We haven’t had the luxury of a backup vessel should our primary winter boat, Arni J. Richter, have mechanical issues during the ice operating season,” said Purinton, the fourth-generation president of the ferry company based on Washington Island, Wis. “The year-round community ... depends on daily service every day of the year, and this vessel strengthens our position during the most operationally challenging period of the year.”
Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding completed the 124-foot Madonna in July using plans developed by Seacraft Design. Both firms are based in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and they are among nearly a dozen vendors and suppliers from the Badger State used in Madonna’s construction and outfitting.
The 1,600-hp double-ended newbuild is the largest and most versatile ferry in Washington Island Ferry’s five-vessel fleet. It was designed with 15 feet of overhead clearance to accommodate larger vehicles, including oversized construction equipment and special cargoes. It can hold 28 vehicles and up to 149 passengers.
As of August, the ferry line was still breaking in the new boat. But the captains have noticed some nice surprises in its performance. “Underway, it is quiet and incredibly smooth,” Purinton said. “There is absolutely no vibration. Although we haven’t had much rough weather, in a beam sea it is a comfortable ride.”
Washington Island Ferry is the sole transportation link for people, vehicles, delivery trucks, construction equipment and more between its namesake island and the Door County peninsula. The island has about 700 year-round residents, and demand for ferry service surges in the summer as seasonal visitors arrive.
The 4.5-mile route crosses Death’s Door Passage, a strait that earned its name from a Native American legend that was passed along to French explorers who visited the region in the 1600s.
Nautical charts for this section of Lake Michigan still refer to the waterway by its original French name, Porte des Morts. Numerous shipwrecks have occurred here over the years, burnishing its reputation as a difficult passage.
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Mariner's role still unknown as autonomous shipping gains speed
Mariners’ role still unknown as autonomous shipping gains speed
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