Lightkeeper at anchor

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News & News Archives
(latest entries at the top, blog style)


Annual Meeting 2016
Board Meeting of December 10, 2016
Board Meeting of November 14, 2016
Pictures of the ISEA / STEM visit
Engineers' trip
Board Meeting of October 10, 2016
Recent progress at the Station
End of Season for the 'Keeper
Operation Extension Ladder
10th Pancake Breakfast
FILA Party at Sandy's
Some FILA work trip stats
An island trip with Champagne
Port Oneida Fair
Board Meeting of August 8, 2016
National Park Service delivery
Lightkeeper back in business
Supply trip
Camper Keepers delivered
Board Meeting of July 11, 2016
Big crew, big day, and then....
Board Meeting of June 13, 2016
Ground works around the Lighthouse
Window team back home
First work trip of the season
Board Meeting of May 9, 2016
Board Meeting of April 11, 2016
Board Meeting of March 21, 2016
New Guestbook
Board Meeting of February 8, 2016 
GT Baykeeper retired 



2015 all articles
2014 all articles

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2012 all articles
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Annual Meeting 2016

The Board Meeting mentioned in the article below was part of the Annual Meeting at the Traverse Area District Library. Due to very bad road conditions there were only about fifteen guests in attendance, with occasional "Library Drifters" coming in to see what we were all about. However, it was a warm and wonderful event with food and good cheer in abundance.

John McKinney and Karen Wells with a partially restored sash
John McKinney, Karen Wells and one of the latest series of window sash being restored.

John Nelson, John McKinney and Cathy Allchin
John Nelson, John McKinney and Cathy Allchin.

Christmassy buffet
A festive buffet.

John McKinney, Cathy Allchin, Anne McKinney and John Wells
John McKinney, Cathy Allchin, Anne McKinney and John Wells.

Sandy Bradshaw
December 14, 2016

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Board Meeting of December 10, 2016

FILA's Annual Meeting at the Traverse Area District Library included a brief board meeting. Besides approving the treasurer's report, the board confirmed three board member for another 3-year term and (re-)elected the officers.

John Wells reported on the Annual Appeal, remarking that we may not quite equal last year's record but still reach a good result. The money raised will go toward a combination of operating expenses and projects.

Cathy Allchin did a fine presentation highlighting accomplishments from 2016 and outlining a number of our projects and opportunities for 2017. To view Cat's presentation in .pdf format, please click here.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Karen Wells's minutes
December 11, 2016

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Board Meeting of November 14, 2016

According to our DNR liaison officer, Ham Hobson, the additional money needed for the dock feasibility study was approved by the DNR, however, the follow-up meeting, scheduled for November 5, was postponed.

John Wells reported on the state of affairs concerning the fundraising for the restoration of the roof of the Fog Signal Building. A DNR partnership grant will be applied for, and Cathy Allchin volunteered to administer the grant. Besides that, Cathy will chair the celebration committee for the 150th anniversary of the South Fox Island Lighthouse in 2017.

John Wells also briefed the Board on the Year End Appeal and membership stats. Cathy and Ham proposed submitting an application for Visitor Amenities to the DNR Matching Grant program. The grant would include the new privy, remaining materials for the lean-to including paneling and interior doors, picnic tables and grills for the camp area, and signage.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
January 9, 2017

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Pictures of the ISEA / STEM visit

It took us quite a while to learn that the South Fox Island Ligth Station was visited by the schooner Inland Seas on August 15, 2015.

This was the biggest group of visitor our camper keepers, Lorinda and Eric Maki, welcomed, including six Chicago Yacht Club Young Women in STEM program participants, educators, and crew.

Here are some photos from Captain Ben Hale's big collection:

Weighing the anchor

Watching the sunset 

Sunset behind South Fox Island

Dinner aboard the Inland Seas

Schooner Inland Seas and dinghy

On the west beach

Two of the visitors in the dunes

The whole group minus Captain plus Camper Keepers

 ISEA girls in the 1897 Lighthouse 

ISEA visitors on the beach

Thank you Captain Ben for sharing these great pictures!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
November 2, 2016

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Engineers' trip

Yesterday, October 13, 2016, 6 brave souls took a very rough ride (6'+ seas) to make a late trip to the station to gather data for the dock feasibility study. Four people from Edgewood Resources, one captain - Jimmy Munos Jr., and myself as FILA rep. The morning started cold and rainy as we departed from Leland harbor 10am. The winds were strong out of the NW and the ride in a 30' Pursuit was adventurous and very wet. As we approached the island there was a beautiful bald eagle circling the lighthouse, then flying over head as if to welcome us ashore.

We arrived at the station after a 1.5 hour ride and the rain stopped, sun came out and the harbor area was well protected so dingy survey went quickly. Aside from the grass needing to be cut the building and grounds looked good. Measurements were taken of the two indoor doorways in the lean-to, and rodent deterrent was placed throughout the lighthouse and workshop. The small garden planted earlier in the season was still growing strong after weeding some ferns out of the way.

 Cathy at the DNR sign
Cathy at the DNR sign on the walkway from the Boat House to the "core area" of the Light Station.

 The winterized 1867 Lighthouse.
The 1867 Lighthouse with the winter shutters installed last summer.  

 Survey work
Survey work in front of the 1867 Lighthouse.

 Our little kitchen garden
The little kitchen garden started by the Rollins.

Berries are still to be found, and the rare Rusty Blackbird was observed in a strong group of 10-12, which was very exciting.  Rusty Blackbirds have experienced one of the most significant declines ever documented among North American birds in recent times: a staggering 85-95% since the mid-1900's.

1867 Lighthouse with winter shutters
Another view of the winter shutters installed in summer.

Dighy on the beach
The landing site of the dinghy north of the Boat House.

Work wrapped up around 3:45 and we headed back to the harbor with following seas (W) and arrived just before 5pm. More data will have to be gathered as the archeologist and soil samples require a permit that takes 45 days to acquire, so another early spring trip will happen.

Cathy Allchin
October 14, 2016

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Board Meeting of October 10, 2016

Ham Hobson, our DNR man, reported on the kick-off meeting of September 30 concerning the dock feasibility study. A follow-up meeting will be held on November 5. John Wells briefed the board on the fundraising for the roofs of the Fog Signal Building and the Asisstant Keepers' Quarters as well as the concept for the 2016 Year End Appeal.

Important dates for the 150th anniversary of the Fox Island Lighthouse in 2017 are the GTLH Lighthouse Celebration Day on June 16th-17th (165th anniversary of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse with participation by FILA) and the Pancake Breakfast on August 19th.

The Annual Meeting is set for December 10, 2016 at 1:00 - 3:00 at the Traverse Area District Library, including a board meeting with (re-)election of officers and a potluck get-together. Mark the date!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
November 14, 2016

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Recent progress at the Station

Here are a few photos of work recently accomplished at the Light Station:

Boat House with open doors
Now the Boat House doors can be opened, and the internal shear walls got removed. It's one big room now, a real boat house, just without a boat. Yet.

Boat House back door
A new back door got installed on the freshly painted Boat House.

Eric installing the hinges on the Boat House back door
Camper Keeper Eric Maki chiseling groves
for the back door hinges.

Hinge on the new Boat House back door
One of the wrought-iron back door hinges.
Traditional black-smith work at its best.

Bruce with fresh-water pump
Camper Keeper Bruce Rollins demonstrating
the donated fresh-water barrel and pump.

Kathleen painting a window frame on the lean-to
Camper Keeper Kathleen Rowland Rollins
painting a window frame on the workshop.

 Installing new windows
 More restored windows being installed on the 1867 Lighthouse.

Restored windows and new winter shutters on the west wall of the Lighthouse
Restored windows and new winter shutters on the west wall of the 1867 Lighthouse and the new lean-to (left).

Lighthouse with restored windows
Entire front side of the Lighthouse with
restored windows.

 New lean-to door
One of the two new back doors on the

 New lean-to with new doors
The new lean-to, built last year, with freshly installed doors. Oh, and restored bedroom windows too!

 Lighthouse with boarded-up window
New winter covers on the staircase windows and winter shutters on the other windows. 

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 12, 2016

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End of season for the 'Keeper

What Phil politely kept mum about in his report right below was the fact that the Lightkeeper experienced two technical problems immediately after unloading crew and equipment at the Northport Marina. Those problems were totally independent of each other but occurred almost simultaneously on the very short way to the gas dock and while departing from it.

Anyway, a few days later the boat made it safely to the lift bay at the Northport Bay Boat Yard, where she got lifted out and readied for winterizing. Meanwhile she's in her winter storage place in Ahgosatown, waiting for her shrink wrap cocoon.

She had a brief yet successful season and will be back next summer. We are proud to be able to keep her available for FILA's heavy duty projects, despite her immense thirst for gasoline.

The Lightkeeper being lifted out
Up, up and aloft: on the way out....

The Lightkeeper on her trailer
 Ready to be moved to her winter storage.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 9, 2016

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Operation Extension Ladder (work trip #8 of the season)

On August 25th, Joerg Rothenberger, Don Stauffer and I traveled to the Light station. Once more we traveled on the Lightkeeper to accommodate a heavy and bulky load, in this case a heavy fiberglass extension ladder and four chairs for the lean-to.

 Extension ladder on Lightkeeper's transom
Briefly after leaving Northport Marina: good thing we had the old workhorse to carry
this crazy load!

In addition to that payload, the three of us packed in gear and supplies for a three day stay. The crossing was a bit rough resulting from the remanent southerly swell and a freshening westerly. We arrived in early afternoon and anchored off the Boat House. Our first challenge was to get the ladder offloaded. Clearly it was too big and heavy for the dingy.

We had brought an extra 100' of line and used it to pull it over to an inshore buoy I had placed early in the season. Then Eric and Lorinda Maki, our Camper Keepers, appeared on the Boat House beach to the strange spectacle of the ladder afloat under two jumbo fenders.

 Towing the floating ladder to the buoy
Don watching the ladder being towed to the buoy.

 Dragging the ladder ashore
Don and Eric landing the monster by the Boat House.

New Boat House doors from inside
The new Boat House doors from the inside, an almost surreal sight.

 Joerg and Laddie in front of the 1867 Lighthouse
Joerg with Laddie, the latter still proudly sporting his CFD (Canine Floating Device).

With the ladder out of the way we, together with the Makis, unloaded the boat and moved the loads up to the Lighthouse. Then we hauled the ladder ashore and stored it in the Boat House. During this time we also had the help of Scott and Suzette of Traverse City, who had anchored their sailboat on the SE side. I then gave them the full station tour.

At dinner time we discussed the various projects for the next day. As the sun had set most of us called it a day and turned in. Joerg motored out to check the Lightkeeper anchor.

The day started early for all of us. Eric installed the newly delivered lock sets and door latch. Lorinda gave the emergent poison ivy one last herbicide spraying. The old captains moved the lighthouse lumber pile into the Fog Signal Building and the new paneling up from the Boat House into the recently roughed-in lean-to summer kitchen reconstruction.

 Don & Phil hauling lumber
Don and Phil moving old lumber to the Fog Signal Building.

 Lunch in front of the Workshop
Little lunch by the Workshop: Phil, Eric, Lorinda and Don.

After lunch most of us pitched in to install winter covers over all the windows in the 1867 Lighthouse, while Joerg shot a bunch of video material all over the Light Station and the dunes. We also packaged five more sashes for transport to be rebuilt over the winter. We got it all done and just had time for a great swim in the westerly surf, dinner by the workshop and s'mores by the campfire.

 Winter shutters installed
Winter shutters installed but not shut yet.

 Don, Eric and Lorinda at the campfire
Don, Eric and Lorinda at the fire pit in the Nickerson Fire Circle, waiting for the s'mores.

Saturday morning we all packed up, closed up the buildings, loaded up the boat and departed at 10:00.

 Invasion og gnats on the Flybridge
What had happened to the
Islander in spring 2013 now was occurring aboard the Lightkeeper too: an invasion of thousands of (non-biting) gnats waiting for a ride!

 Aft deck of the Lightkeeper heavily loaded
A stack of sashes, camping stuff and South Fox Island in the background.

On the trip back we enjoyed our lunches underway just as the rain returned. It ceased by the time we reached Northport. A good ending to an excellent season highlighted the six weeks of continuous resident Keepers and all their contributions to maintaining and improving the station.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 29, 2016

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10th Pancake Breakfast at the GT Lighthouse Museum

Due to several scheduling conflicts, FILA's traditional Pancake Breakfast next to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the Leelanau State Park was moved from September as in former years to August 20.

Cathy Allchin, Don Stauffer, John Wells, Pamela Nickerson, Jeff Broderick, Sandy Bradshaw and H. Joerg Rothenberger, kindly assisted by Rachel Gaulthier of the State Park, manned the stations that provided guests with pancakes, sausages, berries and various beverages. The weather did not look very inviting, but it spared us from rain, and attendance was fairly good.

 Don & Cathy
Don and Cathy ready for flipping pancakes.

 Pamela & Jeff
Pamela and Jeff preparing the sausage counter.

Line at the pancake counter
 Waiting line at the pancake counter.

 Jeff and John
Jeff and John.

 Pancake dish close-up

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 6, 2016

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FILA Party at Sandy's

The traditional FILA party at the home of Sandy Bradshaw and H. Joerg Rothenberger (formerly known as the "Joerg Roast") saw a house full with FILA representatives and guests from the neighborhood.

Joerg barely made it to his own party: Phil von Voigtlander gave him a ride home from Omena Harbor immediately after returning from South Fox, just enough for a quick shower while the guests were already arriving.  

Anyway, the potluck provided great food, no one went thirsty, and the house was buzzing. Yeah, and the Rollins, just returned from South Fox, kindly attended the party too.

Guests raiding the buffet
Sheryll and John Rust, Barbara Keegan, Diane Paré, Anne and John McKinney, Phil von Voigtlander, Victor Goldschmidt, John Wells and Kathleen Rollins (from left to right, as usual).

Lots of party guests talking
Denice and Victor Goldschmidt, Anne McKinney, Phil von Voigtlander, John McKinney, Bruce Rollins (very partial view), Kathleen Rollins and John McKinney.

Another group of guests
Frank Keegan (with Maisie), Bruce Rollins, John and Sheryll Rust and Barb Keegan.

 Guests in the living room
Victor and Denice Goldschmidt, John McKinney, Cathy Allchin, Kathleen Rollins (foreground), Karen Wells, Anne McKinney, Sandy Bradshaw with Laddie, Sheryll and John Rust.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 17, 2016

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Some FILA work trip stats

As briefly mentioned by Phil in his report below, the trip to South Fox Island of August 13 was special one. According to my logs, it was the 75th trip to the Light Station made by or on behalf of FILA, be it by boats operated by FILA members, borrowed private boats, NPS or DNR boats or boats whose owners volunteered to take crew or materials to the Station or back.

However, due to a nice coincidence, it also marked the 5000th nautical mile covered on behalf of the restoration of the South Fox Island Light Station. I got excited when I started adding all the figures since we began actively working on the island in 2006. Trips where people or materials were brought to or picked up at the Station by volunteer boats, in passing so to say, were factored in as one-way trips only, and connecting legs such as getting the Lightkeeper from her home port in Omena to Northport Marina were not taken into account at all.

It eventually became clear that the 5000th nautical mile would be reached somewhere close to the middle of the Manitou Passage on said trip, with a pretty small margin of error. That's why I made sure there was a bottle of genuine French sparkly stuff aboard. My apologies for the plastic cups! I hope we can do better when the celebration of nm #10,000 is due.

Folks, 5000 nm, that's about 5754 statute miles for landlubbers, in other words, almost one quarter around the globe! Isn't that amazing? And all that just for "the little light we all love," as John Wells would put it.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 27, 2016

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An island trip with Champagne

On August 13, 2016, we enjoyed a special trip out to South Fox (once the rain stopped). Lorinda and Eric Maki and I were guests of Captain Joerg aboard the refurbished Lightkeeper. Joerg noted that this was the seventy-fifth FILA trip and encompassed the 5000th nautical mile traveled by us for the project and celebrated with Champagne for the four of us. This sets a high standard for future trips.

The Lightkeeper accommodated the Makis' gear and supplies as well as 2 pre hung steel doors and the window covers for the Lighthouse. Nice to have the old girl back in service for this duty.

Kathy and Bruce Rollins met us at the boathouse landing and helped us efficiently ferry the loads ashore. They then kindly took the lead in orienting the Makis to the keepers' duties, island life and specific projects to be completed in their tenure.

After dinner I walked the property perimeter and installed the new No Hunting signs; returning just as a light rain commenced. We all retired to our various accommodations as darkness descended and the rain intensified, though Captain Joerg was seen to row out to his boat for an anchor check. Later the rain came down hard briefly, then ceased for a quiet night.

In the morning, all efforts were directed at getting Rollins packed out to the landing though I had the opportunity to brief Eric on several additional projects. We managed to get off a little after 10 am and had a remarkably fine trip back to Northport mired only by my taking an unscheduled swim while helping dock the boat.   

 Champagne as the Captain's surprise
Champagne for the 75th work trip and the 5000th nautical mile on behalf of the South Fox Light!

Supper in front of the workshop
 Phil, Kathleen, Bruce, Lorinda and Eric.

The tent of the Rollins
Last evening for the tent of Kathleen and Bruce.

The Lightkeeper at anchor
Lightkeeper at anchor before dark.

 Lorinda, Bruce and Eric
Lorinda, Bruce and Eric in the morning sun in front of the boathouse.

 South Fox falling behind
South Fox saying Goodbye to Kathleen and Bruce.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 17, 2016

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Port Oneida Fair

The weather at the Port Oneida Fair was not exactly inviting, but the two rather gray days, August 12 and 13, 2016, brought quite a few interesting visitors to our FILA booth at the Burfiend barn anyway.

The fair is not about fund-raising, but new contacts always are important, and some people showed keen interest in our Camper Keepers program too. Don Stauffer couldn't attend, so, instead of Don's glass bead show, Laddie, Sandy's dog, had to be used as a talking point. Worked fairly well, but Don sure is the bigger attraction.

 FILA booth under siege
 John Wells (2nd from left) and Gary Stauffer (far right) talking to visitors.

Inside our booth
 The same actors, just the other way 'round, plus Karen Wells (middle) and Sandy Bradshaw with Laddie.

Laddie with his name tag
 John Wells even made a special name tag for Laddie.

Live music performance in the Burfiend barn
 Traditional music in the Burfiend barn.

 Field post office, Civil War style
This year, a complete Civil War field post office was shown at the Kelderhouse.

 Civil War field surgery instruments explained
Skeptical faces at Deborah's demonstration of ancient field surgery instruments.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 15, 2016

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Board Meeting of August 8, 2016

The meeting was presided by Cathy Allchin, Vice-President, just back from the latest island trip.

Ham Hobson (DNR) reported on the dock feasibility study, which has reached its next phase in that representatives of several DNR-approved companies had visited the South Fox Island Light Station just a few hours before the meeting to assess at scale 1 : 1 what might be necessary for their bids (see article below).

FILA received an anonymous donation of $2,000 and a $7,500 grant from the Feather Foundation in Leland for roof repair. With a total of $11,800 specifically donated for roof repairs, the FILA roof fund has reached $15,550. Jerry Spears, our contractor, will not be available during the rest of the 2016 FILA work season, though.

Phil von Voigtlander, FILA Island Project Manager, and H. Joerg Rothenberger, Captain of the Lightkeeper, are cooperating to make sure the Camper Keepers roll-over can take place next weekend.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
October 10, 2016

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National Park Service Delivery

On August 8, 2016, a big barge of the National Park Service loaded cream bricks for the 1867 Lighthouse and tongue-and-groove paneling for the lean-to at Leland Harbor. Manned with NPS and DNR staff they took the heavy cargo plus FILA vice-prez Cathy Allchin and two representatives of potential bidders for the reconstruction of the Lighthouse dock to the Light Station. There they were greeted by our Camper Keepers, Kathleen and Bruce Rollins. An extensive tour of the Light Station property was given to the representatives of the companies and some DNR people to highlight the difficulties caused by the missing docking facility.

The whole bunch safely returned to the mainland in calm weather and waters, leaving our Camper Keepers behind for another week.

 Loading the barge in Leland Harbor
The NPS barge being loaded in Leland Harbor.

NPS barge leaving the ramp
The NPS barge leaving the ramp.

A very practical vessel indeed!

Bruce and Ham aboard the barge
Bruce (Camper Keeper) and Ham Hobson (DNR).

 The ramp of the barge
If only FILA had such means of transportation!

Good thing the Boat House got real doors that can
be opened and the internal shear walls removed.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 12, 2016

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Lightkeeper back in business

After careful and thorough repair of the damage caused by a heavy collision with, as we believe, submerged metal parts of a drifting fish net, comprising a complete rebuild of the port stern gear system (propeller shaft, shaft strut incl. bearing, stern gland, propeller, rudder), the Lightkeeper, FILA's old workhorse, got launched on August 2, 2016 at Ahgosatown Landing near Omena and transferred to Omena Harbor, her home port, where she now is being prepared for island trips.

On August 6, Phil von Voigtlander, former captain of the 'Keeper, and H. Joerg Rothenberger met aboard the boat to discuss and schedule the roll-over for the Camper Keepers.

 The Lightkeeper in Ahgosatown
Lightkeeper immediately after launch

in Ahgosatown on August 2, 2016.

Phil aboard the Lightkeeper
Phil, first time aboard the
'Keeper after six years.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 8, 2016

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Supply trip

On August first, I sailed to the island with a load of supplies for the Keepers. I made use of what wind there was but sadly did have to use a gallon and a half of diesel. Rollins met me at the boathouse landing just as a party of visitors came around the shore. Kathy hopped in the RIB and helped me unload from my boat and Bruce briefed visitors and recruited them to help on shore.

It was a quick pit stop for me as I was heading to the Manitous and it was late afternoon.

 FILA flag on Phil's boat
Phil's boat, the
Xanadu, flying the FILA flag.

shelves with canned food
Starvation averted!

Phil von Voigtlander
August 2, 2016

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Camper Keepers delivered

The first Camper Keepers of this season were delivered to the Light Station on July 19. Long-time FILA supporters Doug and Gwen Noren volunteered to take Kathleen Rowland Rollins, Bruce Rollins and Phil von Voigtlander to the Light Station. While Phil returned to Northport with the Norens, Kathleen and Bruce are staying at the Lighthouse for several weeks.

They are the same couple that spent four weeks at the Station last summer, from which one might conclude that it isn't that bad a place to be.

Kathleen and Bruce aboard
Kathleen and Bruce briefly before arrival at the Light Station.

Bruce and Kathleen plus equipment on the dock
The Camper Keepers with their gear on the dock.

 The boat at anchor
The "Camper Ferry" at anchor.

Leaving the couple behind
Bruce and Cathleen waving goodbye.

Please follow their very frequent and interesting reports on our Facebook page. Believe it or not, they even had a visit by two sea planes!

 Sea planes on the West Beach
Pretty unusual, isn't it?

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
July 25, 2016, amended August 4, 2016

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Board Meeting of July 11, 2016

The Board approved the meeting minutes of April, May and June plus the treasurer's report for June. According to our DNR Man Ham Hobson, the dock feasibility study is going into its next phase at the end of July, being opened to a list of approved engineers to bid. Ham is also working on the preparation of the paneling for the lean-to interior.

John McKinney received a permission by singer James Michael Harris to use his song titled "South Fox Island Lighthouse" for promotional purposes. Cathy Allchin was contacted by the Bay Life magazine; they will use Cathy's article published in the Scuttlebutt last year.

Cathy is also in touch with Jerry Spears concerning the heavy tasks to be tackled this year. The board postponed Jerry's proposal of building a seasonal crib; this kind of project will have to wait until the DNR working dock proposal takes shape. Karen Wells' task list for this year's Camper Keepers was discussed.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
August 12, 2016

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Big crew, big day, and then....

On Sunday, July 10th Don and I delivered the work crew of Gary Stauffer, Paul Wilkie, Cathy Allchin and John McKinney to the Light Station for a day of outdoor projects. The fleet of two mowers and the blade trimmer were kept busy all morning while I started spot spraying poison ivy.

After lunch, John and I got started pulling salvageable lumber out of the burn pile while Gary, Paul and Don got about moving the lighthouse lumber stack to the fog signal building where it is likely to be used in the future. Cathy and John evaluated the dead light shutter prototype and took some depth measurements in the harbor while I containerized another full load demolition waste for transport to the mainland. It was a long day and everyone worked hard.

After loading all the demolition waste, we departed over calm waters and enjoyed a smooth ride back into the Bay, at which time Don and I were starting to notice a slight clattering. After waxing and waning for a few minutes, it led to an abrupt conclusion and total failure of the drive train to the tune of grinding metal. Once we concluded that we were indeed dead in the water, Don and Paul deployed the outboard and we concluded the journey at a more leisurely pace arriving in Northport somewhat before sunset.

Phil von Voigtlander
July 17, 2016

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Board Meeting of June 13, 2016

Ham Hobson reported that Tim Schreiner (DNR) is working with Anna Bauer on the feasibility study for the working dock. FILA has contributed $10,400 toward the study as matching funds. FILA, the DNR, and management and budget will meet to determine when the study can be done.

FILA will participate in the following events: The Port Oneida Fair (August 12 & 13), the Pancake Breakfast (August 20th at the Leelanau State Park, breakfast only) and the Great Lakes Celebration (September 17th at the Discovery Center in TC (Children's Museum)).

Camper Keepers have signed up for 7/15-8/15 and 8/15-8/31. Karen Wells compiled a list of tasks for Camper Keepers, including repainting the Boat House, interior paneling and installing windows in the lean-to, research on the installation of a new front door on the 1867 Lighthouse, garbage disposal and removal of left-over building material, etc.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
July 11, 2016

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Ground works around the Lighthouse

On June 10th, John McKinney, John Nelson, Don Stauffer, Dick Zaebst and I ran a day trip to the Light Station to perform badly needed grounds work. With varying forecasts about how the weather would progress, we set out early and immediately went to work by 10 o'clock.

Stauffer got the mowers running and McKinney and Zaebst each got to cutting the grass all around the entire property while Stauffer made good use of the brush cutter to clear the trails. Meantime Nelson and I got busy with the post construction clean up preparing the piles of shingles and plaster for transport back to the mainland for disposal.

After lunch we completed these tasks and concluded by sweeping the walkways and transferring surplus security screens, window covers and bags of debris to the Boathouse. Though remaining relatively calm, the day was progressing toward precipitation; so we loaded up and headed for home.

The crew in front of the 1867 Lighthouse
 The darkening weather is apparent from

this photo of the work crew prior to depar-
ture. From left to right: John McKinney,
Don Stauffer, John Nelson, Dick Zaebst.

Despite making good time over calm water we got caught by the back side of a shower in Grand Traverse Bay but were thankful to be back as a powerful thunderstorm moved through the area later in the evening.

A great day with a big hard working crew!

Phil von Voigtlander
June 12, 2016

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Windows Crew back home

John McKinney and Karen Wells in the make-shift kitchen
John McKinney and Karen Wells with their make-shift dining table.

John McKinney working on a window
Mr. President in disguise, working on a window in full protective gear.

 John Wells caulking
John Wells caulking a frame, "Slow work, but it looks nice," as he put it.

Three restored windows
Three restored windows on the west side. The supports for holding the windows open were made and donated by
Terry Pepper of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. Thank you very much Terry!

  Front of the 1867 Lighthouse with restored windows
The front of the 1867 Lighthouse with restored windows.

On May 26th, Don Stauffer and I departed Northport at 9:40 hoping that the fog on the lake would burn off by mid morning. The Windows crew had called the night before and indicated they had completed their projects and could be ready for extraction by midday. The weather was forecast to be unsettled for the next several days and it seemed best not to delay.  

Once past Grand Traverse Lighthouse Point, we quickly lost sight of land in the increasingly dense fog. At one point we crossed the track of a south bound ship and shortly after that we started encountering rough seas that required us to slow to hull speed.  Due to these conditions we altered course to fetch the island well north of the boathouse to avoid coming blindly into the boulder shoals there. As was we did not identify the shore prior to finding ourselves in 6 feet of water. We then picked our way south to the boathouse landing and after some difficulty got anchored securely.

After lunch and a quick inspection of the windows installation, we loaded the team off the island. During this time we heard the fog whistles of a north bound freighter so we monitored the ship to ship radio channels to determine if any further ships would be passing.

We also checked the weather forecast and noted that a potentially dangerous thunderstorm could develop late in the afternoon. So despite the continued dense fog we chose to depart the island at 3:00 to avoid that. Luckily the winds had moderated so we were able to proceed at speed until we approached the steamer tracks. There we slowed to an idle for several minutes to listen for engine sounds and fog signals; hearing none we proceeded on.  Shortly after the fog starting clearing enough for us to see the Leelanau shore and make note of the mounting thunderheads to the SE.

It was nice to get back into the Bay until we had several lightening strikes due south of us. We slowed for several minutes to allow the squall line to pass before us and then proceeded on into Northport Bay and home.

A long description of a short day!

Phil von Voigtlander
May 26, 2016

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First work trip of the season

 John Wells, John McKinney & Karen Wells
John Wells, John McKinney and Karen Wells.

The Islander in Northpost marina
Islander maneuvering in Northport Marina.

On May 22nd, Don Stauffer and Phil von Voigtlander piloted the Islander 22 (a.k.a. FoxCraft) from Northport to South Fox Island. We transported the Windows Team of John and Karen Wells and John McKinney and the last ten windows that the Wells had restored over the Winter. In addition we carried their tools, supplies and equipment for a multi day work session. The weather was fair and warm with light and variable winds though the water temperature was in the low forties.

After unloading, we inspected all the buildings and found them all well secured (thanks to Jerry Spears late season work) and undamaged.

The Windows Team immediately got to work removing window covers and installing the restored windows. Don got all the mowing equipment fired up and tested while Phil assessed disposal options for the various piles of demolition waste and prepared a load of the noncombustibles for transport back to Northport. We all got together to lower the flag pole and replace the halyard. While we had it down we rotated it 180 degrees so the flags would fly on the prevailing SW winds.

Flagpole being modified 
Working on the flag pole.

In the mid afternoon, Don and Phil returned to Northport leaving the work crew to settle in for a several day work session.  

Phil von Voigtlander
May 25, 2016

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Board Meeting of May 9, 2016

According to our DNR man, Ham Hobson, the dock feasability study and report is expected to be completetd by the end of June. John McKinney reported that FILA’s grant application to Leelanau Township was denied.

The board discussed purchasing an emergency locator.  The purchase would include the equipment and an annual monitoring fee. The purchase was approved. Discussion of FILA participation in certain regional events was postponed because dates weren't available yet.

John Wells, Dick Zaebst, John McKinney and a DNR officer traveled to Manistee to pick up 300 additional cream colored bricks for use in the repair of buildings on the Light Station where needed.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
July 11, 2016

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Board Meeting of April 11, 2016

The 2016 budget provided by Karen and John Wells was approved. Fundraising aspects for roof repairs on the Fog Signal Building and the Assistant Keepers' Quarters were presented. On March 30th, a conference call had been held with the DNR and SHPO. FILA had obtained the permit to go forward with the proposed work. FILA could not attend the DNR Friends Summit on April 1 & 2 due to illness of our delegate.

Joerg Rothenberger reported on very high SEO scores of the FILA Website (SEO standing for Search Engine Optimization, i.e. how easily search engines can find relevant information on a website). Many professionally made websites score much lower.

Projects for the 2016 season were discussed: roof repairs (mentioned above), interior paneling of the rebuilt lean-to, hinged shutters for the 1867 Lighthouse, ventilation louvers for window covers on the Assistant Keepers' Quarters, restoration of the remaining windows in the 1867 Lighthouse, etc..

According to Phil von Voigtlander, there were several requests for the Camper Keeper Program.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
July 11, 2016

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Board Meeting of March 21, 2016

The board went on working on "old business" such as the feasibility study for the crib & dock (to be completed this summer), the revised project list for 2016, hemlock provided by the DNR for the interior paneling of the lean-to, approval of the 2016 budget, continuing troubles with the Website guestbook (agreed that it probably should be trashed despite the possible loss of all former entries), great visitor counts and search engine scores for the Website and surging Facebook likes.

Most of the promotional events for the coming season aren't scheduled yet. The list of proposed island projects was reviewed. Phil von Voigtlander reported that there are six good leads for the Campers Keepers Program.

A volunteer with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary would like to be able to camp on the island during the Chicago Mackinac race to monitor the radio communication.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchin's minutes
April 11, 2016

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New Guestbook

In June 2015, our guestbook, run by a company in Germany, stopped working. Emails asking for help went unanswered. Attempts to reach the administration area of FILA's guestbook account were answered with ridiculously fake error messages. Research after the background of the company revealed a complicated network of Websites serving niche needs. Non of them provided a useable contact address. Even calling the guy who had the Website registered in 2002 did not work.

Anyway, after 22 emails sent, it looks like those several hundred guestbook entries posted in the course of 11 years may be lost for good because there never was a back-up option other than copy-and-pasting each of them manually.

Our new guestbook is totally self-contained, i.e. it does not rely on any external resources other than the servers that host the FILA website. The program consists of some boiler-plate code purchased by the Webmaster, paired with own material hotchpotched in a series of long nighttime sessions.

The new guestbook can be reached here or through the usual navigation button in the left column.

If you encounter any problems, please so we can correct them.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 3, 2016


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Board Meeting of February 8, 2016

The February meeting approved the year end financial report. Ham Hobson of the DNR gave us details concerning the DNR Friends Summit, scheduled for April 1-2, 2016. A conference call FILA <> DNR to cover our proposed projects list for 2016 will take place on March 23rd or 24th. Ham told the board that there is some hemlock available to be used for interior paneling of the lean-to.

John Wells told the board that the goal of the Year End Appeal was surpassed by more than 50%. A big Thank You to all our supporters! The proposed 2016 budget was handed out and discussed, more discussion to follow at the March meeting. FILA now has about 170 members. John Wells also reported on the solar panel project in progress. Most hardware will be donated, but volunteer work will be required. Again more at the next meeting.

H. Joerg Rothenberger told the board that the Website had way more visits than assumed. Many visitors bypass the Home page, where the main counter sits, and directly go to other pages. Besides that, the company that has been running the Website Guestbook since 2004, has not responded to numerous complaints since it stopped working in June 2015.

Cathy Allchin did a presentation at Hope Village in Williamsburg in January and will do another one in Elk Rapids in June. FILA's Facebook page now has about 1400 Likes, and our Camper Keepers Program will be soon be advertised both on Facebook and the Website.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
March 21, 2016


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Grand Traverse Baykeeper retired

At the end of 2015, FILA board member John Nelson of Northport retired from his service as the Grand Traverse Baykeeper with the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay after 13 years of tireless work at a token salary.

The Baykeeper Program, part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, was established in 2002. According to the Watershed Website, "The Grand Traverse Baykeeper serves as a resource to citizens, planners and municipalities throughout the region.  Our focus is finding sustainable solutions to protect the environmental health of the Grand Traverse region’s most precious water resources."

An important part of John's mission was the iconic Baykeeper boat, designed by FILA board member Phil von Voigtlander, former chair, vice chair and now board member of the Watershed Center. Every kid knows the silhouette of that cute 22 foot aluminum tug boat on the GT Bay.

John retired from his Baykeeper service, but he will stay with the Watershed board and, as we hope, with FILA too.

Thank you very much John for all you did and keep doing to make the Grand Traverse Bay a livable area!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
February 28, 2016

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Board Meeting of December 12, 2015

One of those board meetings with two members calling in from Europe....

Ham Hobson of the DNR told the board that FILA can have some hemlock boards for interior paneling of the lean-to. He will schedule a chainsaw safety class for the winter and a conference call for reviewing our2016 project list in March. The DNR Friends Summit is scheduled for April 1 - 2, 2016.

According to Cathy Allchin, the FILA Board met the appeal partnership goal of $1000.00 and will receive a matching grant from Karen and John Wells. John informed the board of a change in Michigan's law concerning non-profits.

H. Joerg Rothenberger reported that the guestbook of the FILA Website, run by an external company, has been inaccessible for several months already; absolutely no replies from the service provider to several inquiries. The content of the guestbook cannot be extracted and transferred to another provider.

John Wells told the board that about 24% of the Fall Newsletters were met with a contribution to the Year-End Appeal. Robert June, a former light keeper on South Fox Island, passed away in June of 2014.  FILA was fortunate to get his oral history for the FILA archives.

Phil von Voigtlander and Cathy presented the list of island projects that were completed in 2015, which is quite a lot. Jerry Spears will give an estimated amount for roof repairs (Assistant Keepers' Quarters and Fog Signal Building), and a draft of the operating expenses will be developed in order to finalize the 2016 budget.

There is an offer to donate solar panels. Cathy, John McKinney and John Wells met with Mike Schmerl regarding a concept. Mike will donate his time for the configuration; FILA may have to pay for parts of the installation. John Wells also talked to Consumer Energy concerning grants to cover some of the installation expenses.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
December 24, 2015

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Annual Meeting 2015

On November 15, 2015, FILA hosted the Annual Meeting at the Traverse Area District Library. As per our by-laws, the Board re-elected its officers (Secretary: Pamela Nickerson; Vice-President: Cathy Allchin; President: John McKinney; John McKinney, Karen & John Wells - jointly functioning as treasurers pro-tem. Board members John Nelson and Cathy Allchin agreed to serve another three years.

Besides business, 20+ members and supporters met to eat, to chat, to hear and see the "FILA Year in Review", a presentation delivered by Cathy Allchin, highlighting the work by Jerry Spears and crew, read: rebuilding the lean-to to the 1867 Lighthouse, downspouts for the main buildings, and installing the new Boat House doors, to name just the biggest items.

Future directions and projects for the next season were debated in a spirited discussion. A visitor working for Interlochen Radio was there; he will be working on a radio program featuring FILA.

By the way, this was the 100th meeting of the FILA Board.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on John McKinney's notes
December 24, 2015

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Last Island Trip of the year

Although we have been having a beautiful warm early Autumn, the conditions on the big lake have generally ruled out getting to the Light Station for the season close up. This was a frustrating and disappointing way to end a very successful season. Meanwhile most of our boats were winterized and put away. But Jerry Spears was monitoring conditions and launched his fast offshore boat as he noted a moderation of the windy weather.

With two companions he got out to the island. There they found the buildings open. They closed them up, secured the security screens, installed the window covers and made a door closure for the new lean to addition.

This trip was completed in less than four hours, a record for a work trip but did involve a night passage back to Northport in less than ideal conditions. Many thanks to Jerry and crew for the expertise and equipment to help FILA's season have a safe closure.

Phil von Voigtlander
November 10, 2015

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Board Meeting of October 12, 2015

Ham Hobson's DNR update covered the chainsaw safety class scheduled for winter and next year's DNR Friends Summit. Stephanie Rosinski of the Leelanau State Park made suggestions for next year's Harvest Festival.

John  Wells reported that the interior structures of the roof of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters had been inspected by two engineers, who didn't find leaks. A new emergency radio has been promised and will be installed in the Boat House.

Pamela reported that the pancake breakfast a few weeks ago netted $559.00. Many thanks to all the volunteers!

The list of completed island projects was reviewed. The temporary water pipe from the lake to the 1867 Lighthouse has been dismantled for winter.

John and Karen Wells have offered to match a $1000.00 from board member donations.  The offer is dependent on the board donating at least $1000.00 by December 15th, 2015.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's notes
November 15, 2015

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9th Annual Pancake Breakfast

The Leelanau State Park held their annual Fall Festival on Saturday, September 26th. FILA was on hand for our Ninth Annual Pancake Breakfast. The weather was like a perfect summery July day putting all in great moods.

Frank Keegan along with helper Jane Stauffer flipped many pancakes - deemed delicious by everyone that tasted them. Anne McKinney manned the cash and tickets while Sandy Bradshaw handed out plates and utensils to our hungry line of guests. Other workers included President John McKinney, VP Catherine Allchin, Don Stauffer, John Nelson, Phil von Voigtlander, and Gary Stauffer.

But the hardest worker of all - and FILA sure thanks her - is our "Super Woman Organizer", Pamela Nickerson! Without her (and John Wells who obtained donated foodstuffs, but was overseas at the time), the event just would not be the same. Thanks to one and all, and especially to the Leelanau State Park, P & R Ranger Stephanie Rosinski, and to all who attended to make this a memorable occasion!

Sandy Bradshaw
September 30, 2015

 Stephanie Rosinski & Cathy Allchin
Stephanie & Cathy.

Sandy Bradshaw & Anne McKinney
Sandy Bradshaw & Anne McKinney.

These two photos were kindly submitted by Charlotte Kiefer of the DNR. Thank you very much Charlotte!

And now a few photos submitted by Sandy:

Pancake makers Frank and Jane
Frank and Jane readying the pancake counter.

Gary & Don Stauffer
The Stauffer Bros: Gary (left) & Don.

 The whole gang
Don, Frank, Pamela, Gary & Jane, John, Sandy (back row from left to right) and Cathy (front).

  John's apron bib
Zooming in on John's apron....

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Board Meeting of September 14, 2015

The Board, presided by Cathy Allchin, welcomed special guests Stephanie Rosinski and Charlotte Kiefer, both of the Department of Natural Resources.

Without a quorum, the presentation of the minutes of the previous meeting and the treasurer's report were deferred. The island projects of the season were reviewed, both those done (lean-to completely rebuilt, restored windows in 1867 Lighthouse, Boat House doors, gutters on Assistant Keepers' Quarters, and water system installed) and those that still remain to be done.

The upcoming Harvest Fest plans were finalized, and suggestions were made for the Newsletters.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchin's notes
Oktober 15, 2015

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Lightkeeper status

The Lightkeeper, FILA's old flagship, had suffered a damage on the drive train on the very last mile of last year's last work trip. Since I flew back to Switzerland briefly after that incident, the damage could not be assessed and tackled during winter storage.

After my arrival for this year's summer season it soon became clear that the damage, most likely caused by a steel rod in a stray fishnet caught between the port propeller and the shaft strut, was much more serious than initially assumed.

 Misaligned propeller
The port propeller was misaligned by about an inch and a half.

Dents in prop and pocket
A notch in the propeller lining up with a deep scratch in the fiberglass of the prop pocket, caused by a heavy metal object.

Damaged propeller
Dented and badly bent propeller blade.

Misaligned prop shaft coupling
After removing the bolts, the misalignment of the propeller shaft coupling became visible too.

 Propeller and shaft removed
Since the propeller could not be pulled off the shaft, the
stern gear had to be removed in one piece.

 Prop after repair
The port propeller after repair, looking like new.

To make things worse, the more damaged parts got removed and repaired, the more damage was found in other parts. I spent my entire ten weeks in the GT area practically entirely on disassembling stuff, taking it in for repair, reinstalling it just to find more problems etc..

To make the best out of the bad situation, I used the time to install all sorts of other improvements too. Both starters and one water pump got rebuilt and both starter assist relays replaced. A high-precision fuel gauge system was installed, and a wireless video camera below the bowsprit now allows the skipper to watch the direction of the anchor rode while weighing anchor.

Video monitor showing water pump
The camera (partly visible on the right) used to see the water pump during installation.

Bow camera installed
The splash-proofed video camera (with infrared night vision) underneath the bowsprit.  

  Video monitor between navigation displays
The little video monitor between the chart plotter and
radar displays, easily detachable to be used elsewhere.
Additional wireless cameras can be connected.

  Double stop nuts under platform
By the way, this innocent looking construction under
the loading platform chafed through the dinghy
painter last year and made us lose the dinghy.

In short, the Lightkeeper, as you may have learned elsewhere, stayed on her trailer all summer long, and she kept me way too busy to do anything else. Even the last hour before my departure to Cherry Capital Airport for my flight back to Europe was spent aboard.

As a result of all that hard work, the FILA Website got badly neglected for quite a while. Mea culpa. My apologies to all our faithful followers and supporters!

On the other hand, it's good to know that, despite all the troubles with the Lightkeeper, FILA had the most successful "island season" ever. Kudos, absolutely great work guys! Hopefully, the Lightkeeper will report back to duty next year.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
FILA Webmaster
September 10, 2015

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Moving stuff back and forth

On Sunday August 30th, John McKinney, Don and Gary Stauffer and I departed Northport on the Islander after loading some roofing steel on to Jerry Spear's Boston Whaler; Cathy Allchin accompanied him on that boat. The day promised to be interesting as the weather forecast had once more reverted to the seasonal SW wind. But the trip out was over relatively calm water.  

While there, Cathy documented the progress on the seasons projects while Jerry installed the last of the roofing trim and painted the foundation wall of the newly reconstructed lighthouse addition. His further objective was to move the last of his construction equipment off the island. We assisted him in loading his boat and he and Cathy departed before the lake got too rough for his heavily loaded open boat.

 Lean-to NE wall
 Main wall of the new lean-to.

 Lean-to SE wall
Rebuilt lean-to seen from the east.

Just a reminder: This was the lean-to in June.

 New lean-to main view
What a difference! Thank you very much Jerry and staff!

In the afternoon, Don, Gary and John teamed up to prep and paint the south side of the boathouse that was heavily weathered since I last painted it 8 years ago. I spent the afternoon cleaning up the construction site, putting excess supplies away and sorting through materials for disposal. We then closed up the buildings.

 Repainting the Boat House
Repainting the Boat House: Phil, Don and John.

New Boat House doors!
New Boat House doors installed -- at last! 

 Group picture with barrel
Phil, Don, Garry and John (from left to right).

By mid afternoon, the wind was up to 16-18 SSW and it was time to go. We had planned for this situation and had anchored the boat up on the E anchorage. With the four of us in the RIB and trusty Merc pushing, we surfed along up to the boat and scrambled aboard. The trip back in quartering 2-4 foot waves was slow and lumpy. But otherwise a beautiful and productive day.

Phil von Voigtlander
September 1, 2015

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 FILA Party in Suttons Bay

The FILA Party, formerly known as the "Joerg Roast," has become kind of a tradition. On August 29, 2015, Sandy Bradshaw and H. Joerg Rothenberger entertained John and Anne McKinney, Cathy Allchin, Phil von Voigtlander, John and Karen Wells, Don Stauffer, Frank and Barbara Keegan with Barb's sister Julie, and neighbors Tim and Natalie Fite with their daughter Grace. Even Charlotte Kiefer, head of the regional State Parks, paid the party a brief visit.

Natalie & Tim, John & Anne McKinney, Karen (from left to right, as usual).

Barb, Sandy, Julie, Frank and John Wells.

Joerg's skewers, "works of art" according to Frank.

No one went hungry! Frank, Anne, a glimpse of Barb's hair, then Grace, Tim, Natalie, Don, Phil, and a hint of Cathy's back.

Watching the moonrise over Old Mission: John Wells,
Anne, Natalie, Tim, John McKinney, Sandy, Phil, and Don.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 8, 2015

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Wells' Window Report

Hello Gang…..

The last 7 window sash from the 1867 Lighthouse are at the work shop of Wells Window Works World (say that fast 10 times).

Glass has been removed from all panes, primary hand scraping with carbide scrapers is done, over all check for additional wood working as needed (these windows are in good shape over all). A few sash will need some carpenter work….Jim Haase is working at his work shop on a problem sash as we speak.

Now on to the DNR facility on Mill Road for heat gun paint and glazing removal (scraping), prepping for linseed oil treatment, and what-ever-else comes up.

2 pieces of glass were lost in the removal processs. 34 panes of glass were safely removed for cleaning and “deglazing”


John & Karen Wells
“Your Window Works Pals”
August 31, 2015

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Yet another work trip

On August 27th, Don Stauffer, John Wells and I traveled to the island bearing the freshly milled battens (courtesy of Thomas & Milliken Millwork) and 12 gallons of paint products to finish the lean to. We arrived just prior to Jerry Spears and his helper Matt and were able to help them land and beach their boats and unload them.

 Don hauling battens
Don hauling battens for the lean-to.

Inside the new lean-to
Don inside the rebuilt lean-to.

Inside lean-to looking NW
View in the opposite direction.

Lean-to outside
Lean-to, NE wall before painting.

 Cartload of Milwaukee bricks
Milwaukee cream bricks for the Lighthouse.

 New bricks at the foundation
Completing the lean-to foundation with those bricks.

After inspecting progress on Jerry's projects, John and I set about removing the last of the unrestored windows sashes in the Lighthouse while Don cleared the path to and the area around the graves. Later in the afternoon, we loaded up five sashes and a load of Jerry's tools and motored back to Northport; a generally uneventful trip to support putting the finishing touches on the exterior of the Lighthouse.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 31, 2015

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Board Meeting of August 10, 2015

The Board Meeting was presided by VP Cathy Allchin. DNR man Ham Hobson said that the crib / dock project now is #2 of the DNR's priority list for this region. The study, not scheduled yet, will require up to $10,400 from FILA. More communication will take place before FILA has to transfer money.

Island projects: The Boat House doors have been delivered to the station and are going to be installed. The first payment for the restoration of the lean-to has been paid to Jerry Spears, and the restoration has begun the day before the meeting. Jerry will also install a pipe for non-potable water from the lake.

The first Camper Keepers couple kept logbooks and shot photos of their stay. FILA will place an ad in the Sierra Club members' magazine to look for camper keepers for next summer. Phil von Voigtlander will gather information concerning charging cell phones at the station.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
October 12, 2015

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Window Team back from the island

After a couple days of weather delays, Don and I headed out Sunday morning despite a somewhat challenging SE wind. A fast downwind trip got us to the island in good time but to a rough anchorage. Jerry preceded us by minutes landing the DNR boat and anchoring his Mako. His crew was checking their bilge as the surge was causing some water to come over the transom.

Our window team was waiting for us on the old dock and started rowing their gear out to us shortly after we had anchored. After getting their cargo stowed, we went ashore to admire their handiwork and confer with Jerry on the disassembly of the lean-to. The improvement of the lighthouse's outward appearance and the brightening of the interior afforded by the newly installed windows was remarkable.

Karen installing staircase window
Little spiral staircase window installed by Karen Wells. 

Gary installing window
Gary Stauffer installing a kitchen window.

Restoration workshop in the kitchen
The kitchen of the 1867 Lighthouse was turned into
a window restoration workshop.

New kitchen windows installed
Restored kitchen windows in place; the dormer
window  had been reinstalled in July.

Karen & John restoring windows outdoors
John and Karen Wells with the outdoor
version of the workshop.

We left our dingy on the island to aid Jerry with periodic checks on his boat though the wind was moderating somewhat. Our trip back was slowed to avoid bouncing hard in the heading waves but got us back by early afternoon. Jerry returned with our dingy at 1:00 am after a long day's work clearing the reconstruction site.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 10, 2015

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Window trip

On August 5, the weather-delayed Wells window team finally got underway. We (John and Karen Wells, Don and Gary Stauffer and I) departed Northport at 0800 with 7 professionally rebuilt window sashes carefully wrapped, padded and stacked in the foreword berth of the Islander. Those of us recently monitoring the weather had some concerns...

It was soon apparent that the heading NW wind would present some challenges but it was time to press on. On the open Lake, we starting running up against the 2 - 4 foot waves pushed up by the 12 - 16 kt headwinds. This created conditions that exceeded the comfort levels for crew and the glass payload.

To avoid slamming into cresting waves we slowed and did our best to avoid bouncing the fragile cargo. It was a relief to get into the wind and wave shadow of the island without having to pass the bucket to any of the crew. Other than taking a lot of spray and dousing the cockpit cargo (and pilots!) the crossing was uneventful and the historic windows all came through without a crack.

 Unloading sashes
 Beaching sashes.

Sashes at the Boat House
Sashes waiting for being hauled to the Lighthouse.

After unloading it all (the window team packed for a several day work session) and getting set up, we had lunch and then got to work. I spent most of the afternoon spraying poison ivy while everyone else started into installing the rebuilt sashes.

 Karen, Gary & a sash
Karen, Gary & a sash to be restored on the spot.

Late in the afternoon, Don and I departed over a now calm lake for a smooth and fast trip back to Northport that was quite a contrast to the nail-biter earlier in the day.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 6, 2015

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Changeover at the Station

Facing a possible long day's work for Jerry and crew (Larry and Jim) and the forecast of moderately strong SW winds later in the day, we departed Northport at 0600. Don and Phil piloted the Islander and Jerry the 18 foot DNR boat loaded with Larry's garden tractor and trailer. Other than a couple of awkward refuelings (we had the fuel, they needed it) we had an uneventful crossing arriving at 0800.

Jerry and crew immediately set about driving the tractor off and assembling it with the trailer. By the time Phil and Don had the Islander unloaded they were already busy shuttling the lumber out of the Boathouse and up to the Lighthouse.

Meantime, we made contact with Bruce and Kathy, who were breaking camp from their monthlong stay. The four of us moved their gear down to the landing and Jerry ran it out to the Islander in the Johnboat in one load.

1867 Lighthouse window
Kathy's little office corner in the
1867 Lighthouse, with restored

We all had a very early lunch and closed up the Station.  Fast work on the part of Jerry, Larry and Jim in moving, stacking and covering the lumber allowed us to depart by 1300. The Lake was a bit rough but with Jerry running in the calm water between our wakes we made good time back to Northport.

Later in the afternoon and after their first real showers in a month, Bruce and Kathy joined Don and I for a pint and supper at the Northport Brewery to celebrate their month of service on the island and all their good works at the station. These will be documented on FB and the website.

Phil von Voigtlander
July 28, 2015

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Great Lakes Celebration in Suttons Bay

A few photos from the Great Lakes Celebration (formerly known as Suttons Bay Classic Boat Fest), July 25, 2015:  

Setting up tent
John and Don setting up tents.

John McKinney & Laura Quackenbush
John and Laura Quackenbush of the Sleeping
Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Baykeeper John Nelson
Baykeeper and FILA board member John Nelson entertaining visitors aboard the
Baykeeper tug.

Don doing his glass bead thing
Don drawing a lot of attention by doing his glass
bead thing.

John McKinney & Tom Kelly
John and Tom Kelly, head of the Inland Seas Education Association and of the event.

Music on the coal dock
Traditional music on the Coal Dock next to the schooners
Inland Seas and Madeline.

USCG helicopter
Helicopter rescue demonstration by the US Coast Guard.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 2, 2015

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Heavy stuff for the Light

July 22, 2015, an important morning for the Fox Island Lighthouse Association. A very full boat of the National Park Service left Leland this morning loaded with construction material for the South Fox Island Lighthouse and a crew to unload it.

 Barge with heavy timber.
Big barge being loaded with heavy lumber.

Barge maneuvring
Big barge leaving the dock.

A smaller boat carrying the Boat house doors was towed behind.

Little barge
The little barge with the Boat House doors.

Much will be accomplished in the next few weeks at the Station.

John Wells
July 23, 2015

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Much going on at the Light

On the 20th of July, I sailed under the FILA flag to South Fox Island. The trip out with a single tack and a spanking wind (not motor boat weather) was most enjoyable though it was a serious work trip to the Station; being on my boat allowed me to stay over several nights.

The morning of the 21st I met up with the resident camper/keepers (Bruce and Kathy Rollins) and we worked on marking an approach and leveling a landing site at the Boathouse. This was in preparation for the arrival of the NPS landing craft the following day.

Base camp in the workshop
The "Home Base" of Kathy and Bruce in the workshop.
Photo courtesy of Kathy Rollins.

The following morning the vessel arrived with over four tons of lumber and building supplies and an able crew of NPS, DNR and contractor personnel.

The load required hand unloading and stacking in the Boathouse. This went well and was completed in under 3 hours. The materials will be used to rebuild the 1880's lean to addition to the lighthouse.  The crew enjoyed touring the Station including the Light Tower, had lunch and departed in the early pm. The conditions had been perfect with calm waters and little wind.  

On the morning of the 23rd, I took advantage of a useful breeze to tack back to Northport and leave Kathy and Bruce to their peaceful outpost.

This had been a memorable trip made possible by close coordination of the DNR (who cut and transported the lumber) the NPS and Jerry Spears. It will allow FILA's  largest restoration project thus far to commence.

Phil von Voigtlander
July 27, 2015

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Board Meeting of July 13, 2015

According to DNR man Ham Hobson the crib & dock project needs research on the currents that affect the bottom of the harbor. Jim Schiffer is looking into that topic. There will be no airlift for materials; they will be moved by Jerry Spears and Phil von Voigtlander, and Ham is working on material transport by the National Park Service. The work plan meeting with the DNR of June 11 was discussed.

John wells reported on surplus donated material. According to Cathy Allchin, there is a tentative offer for the SlickCraft boat. The Web cam at the Light Station is operable, but the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum is doing maintenance work around the mainland terminal of the directional beam connection.

Among the island projects for the season, the rebuild of the lean-to, to be conducted by Jerry Spears, was the main topic. The current Camper Keeper couple, Bruce and Kathy Roland, was reported as being determined to hold down the fort for another two weeks.

Renewal of FILA's membership with the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association was approved.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
August 27, 2015

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Work trip of July 9, 2015

Scheduling conflicts and a closing weather window dictated a late start to the light station Thursday morning.

Loading sash
Karen and Phil loading a sash at Northport Marina.

We made a fast passage in calm conditions and ate lunch on the way so we were ready for action on arrival. We (Co-captains Don and Phil and Karen and John Wells) were greeted by Keepers Bruce and Kathy Rollins who assisted us in unloading resupplies for them, requested equipment (generator, shop vac, paint and brushes) and newly rebuilt windows.

Generator on the beach
 Bruce carting the generator from the sorry remains of
the crib to the Boat House.

The yard work and interior clean up by the keepers was evident as we all started working together: Kathy directed Phil's poison ivy spraying and along the way identified a number of legacy plantings that we will wish to preserve, Don and Bruce set about prepping and painting the intact portions of the Oil House roof to match the door that Kathy had already prepped and primed, and the Wells worked on installing windows. After a time we also entertained visitors from Mirada Ranch.

 Oil House roof
Don painting the Oil House roof.

First window installed
First restored window installed in the 1867 Lighthouse

We worked later than usual to make up for our late start and departed shortly before 6:00 after back-loading buckets of refuse and recyclables for transport back to the mainland. Meantime a building SW wind provided a somewhat lumpy ride back to Northport and a late dinner.

Phil von Voigtlander
July 9, 2015

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Light Station manned again!

We (Don Stauffer and I) completed the second trip of the season on June 27. The primary purpose of the trip was to install Kathy and Bruce Rollins at the Light Station as the first camper/keepers of the season. These experienced campers ambitiously volunteered to service for a month and came with the gear and supplies for the duration. Prior to departure they had orientations with John and Karen Wells and with Cathy Allchin.

The first crew since 1959
Kathy and Bruce before boarding.

Due to the large payload, there was just room for the four of us. Despite the forecast the weather was fair with a 8 - 10 kt NNW wind. The Foxlight Islander handled well despite the load and delivered us to the Island in 75 minutes. Unloading required many dingy trips and by the time all was ashore it was time for lunch. Afterward we opened the buildings and introduced each and everyone in some detail to the new Keepers.

The Rollins selected a campsite next to the Shop and started moving their gear and supplies while Don cleared the beach path and helped spray poison ivy. Don and I departed after 5 but had a fast and uneventful trip back to Northport.

Phil von Voigtlander
June 28, 2015

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First Island Trip of the season

On June 14, 2015, FILA made the first trip of the season to the Light Station. Cathy Allchin, Don Stauffer, Jerry Spears and Phil von Voigtlander traveled aboard the recently rebuilt Islander (Starcraft), a fast and comfortable ride of 75 minutes. The water levels have risen almost 2’ and further breakdown of the temporary crib was significant.

 Crib in ruins
The heavily damaged crib.

We unloaded a second lawnmower, tools and emergency supplies and set about inspecting the property. The station was pretty much as it was at the end of the last season with the exception of the continued deterioration of the lean-to structure; the collapse of a portion of the back wall of the lean-to now leaves the lighthouse open to casual entry. Apparently two unfortunate vultures found their way in by this route or through one of the windows that had lost its shutter.

Total collapse is near.

Hole in the lean-to roof
Summer kitchen with sky view....

Jerry focused on formulating strategies for the lean-to reconstruction and the repairs to the assistant keepers quarters and fog signal building’s roofs and with Cathy inspected the buildings thoroughly. The roof on the assistant keepers' quarters was inspected from the attic and no major interior water damage was found. Moss has gotten almost 8" thick in some areas on north side of the roof. Will have to be carefully raked off.

Thick moss growing on the roof of the Assistant Keepers'

The gate surrounding the steel tower had been broken into and was left open. Water continues to flow into the fog signal building, rotting beams and ceilings. Left over steel from the Lighthouse roof can be used for a temporary fix. Support structure built by Jerry Spears and Chris Young 3 years ago still standing strong and preventing the total collapse of roof.

Don mowing the grass
Don mowing the grass next to the Assistant Keepers'

Meanwhile, Don and Phil ran the mowers, clearing around all buildings and over by the latrine, which desperately needs attention. Later, we all joined forces to complete the mowing, sidewalk clearing and raking.

We departed early, as the weather was turning and rain was in the offing. Calm dry conditions followed us off the lake though the wind kicked up in Northport Bay to whitecaps. The new engine performed well with low fuel consumption.

Cathy Allchin
June 15, 2015

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Work plan meeting with the DNR

On June 11, 2015, we had a conference call meeting with FILA members and DNR staff to discuss and seek approval of the planned projects for this season. (In prior years we met face to face but this year in the interest of better use of time we did a phone call.)

FILA members Cathy, Sandy, John Wells and John McKinney spoke with Ham Hobson, Tim Schreiner, and Annamarie Bauer (new DNR planner). Six projects which had been prioritized and detailed in previous Board minutes were presented and given tacit OKs. We'll now move forward with moving materials to the island and arranging for the work parties.

John McKinney
June 16, 2014

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Board Meeting of June 8, 2015

Ham Hobson, our DNR man, briefed the board on the crib and dock plans, the airlift project for heavy material, the impending telephone conference for the 2015 work permit, and a possible chainsaw saftey class for FILA members.

Cathy Allchin reported that the FILA facebook page now has more than 1000 likes, and Joerg Rothenberger mentioned the 100,000th visit on the Website. The event calendar for the summer was discussed.

Phil von Voigtlander reported on the Camper Keeper Program, with the first couple, Kathy and Bruce Rollins of Texas, being scheduled for late June for three to four weeks. That will be the first time since 1959 that the Light Station will be manned for more than just a few days in a row.

John Wells has been OSHA and HUD certified to remove lead paint from the FILA structures. He will make sure that any restoration that is done on the light station complies with lead removal guidelines.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
July 28, 2015

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Board Meeting of May 11, 2015

Ham Hobson of the DNR reported on the state of affairs concerning the airlift of materials (see previous board meetings) and the dock project, including research to be gathered on movements of the lake bottom over the last 30 years. The dock / crib project will also need a study regarding endangered species possibly being affected. A FILA & DNR work plan meeting will be done via telephone conference.

So far, no operator for the SlickCraft has been found. Joerg Rothenberger will be available July and August, provided good ole Lightkeeper is playing along. Phil von Voigtlander and Gary Stauffer will keep the Islander ready too.

According to Cathy Allchin, FILA's Facebook page now has over 1000 likes, and Joerg reported on the 100,000th visitor on the Website. (Funny enough, it was somebody from Australia....)

The draft of the 2015 budget by Karen Wells was discussed and approved. Prez John McKinney reported on Operation Cream City Bricks. Ordering copper ridge caps for the roof of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters was deferred until the roof has been assessed for further repairs.

Details of the projects for the 2015 season were discussed: restored windows, materials for the lean-to, Boat House doors, downspouts etc.. Phil will coordinate the schedules for the three couples interested in participating in the Camper Keeper Program. Joerg suggested several simple safety measures for island trips that had come up during the last trip of 2014. Ham Hobson will schedule a chainsaw safety class this year.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
June 8, 2015

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DNR Friends Summit 2015

April 24-25 2015: Representatives from the various Friends Groups who have partnership relations were invited to hear and discuss and meet each other. There were 93 total participants. The agenda followed a SWOT format with speakers and panels and discussion groups reflecting on - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats affecting the State owned properties involved.

FILA attendees Pamela Nickerson, John and Karen Wells, Jim Schiffer and John McKinney as well as Ham Hobson, DNR liason to FILA, took part and our consensus seemed to be that FILA is on track with a great working model of cooperation. FILA's 25 year lease with the State is a real plus.

John McKinney
June 19, 2014

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Board Meeting of April 13, 2015

The Board, reinforced by two members attending over speaker phone, was briefed by our DNR man, Ham Hobson, concerning the dock project and the possible airlift of the new Boat House door parts and additional lumber. Ham will also schedule a work plan meeting for the 2015 season with the DNR.

The Wine Grant Proposal, read the possibility of raising monies through a special wine label by Château Grand Traverse, was discussed. Phil von Voigtlander reported on the current issues with the SlickCraft boat.

The 2015 budget draft was distributed by John Wells and discussed by the Board. Picking up the Cream City bricks in Muskegon by FLIA and DNR people, meant to be used for repairs on the Light Station buildings, was organized. The fabrication of copper ridge cap shingles for the Assistant Keepers' Quarters, initiated by John Wells, was discussed, as was the issue of asbestos shingles on said roof. Phil reported of several couples being interested in FILA's Camper Keeper project.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
May 11, 2015

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A promising young talent

Remember Luke, the fourth-grader in Grand Rapids who built a model of the South Fox Island 1867 Lighthouse for a school project? (Link here)

Looks like Grand Rapids schools have a liking for South Fox. Now we have a young man by the name of Kyle, a fourth-grader at the Legacy Christian School in Byron Center (Grand Rapids area), who built a model of the 1867 Lighthouse too, based on photos on the Internet and floor plans from FILA. He wrote us that his grandpa provided some help and that they were able to even include a light, flashing red like the original.

Lighthouse model
Kyle with his model, including lawn,
real shrubs and, of course, the light.

Please have a look at his post on the FILA Facebook Timeline page.

Great work Kyle! Many thanks for sharing!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 18, 2015

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Board Meeting of March 9, 2015

At the Board Meeting, DNR Representative Ham Hobson briefed the board on the ongoing crib / dock project. FILA will work on getting petitions, letters, and e-mails supporting the public’s interest in having a safe landing spot at the Light Station. Ham will provide an update on the possibly possible airlift of the boat house doors and lumber at the April meeting.

Cathy Allchin reported on the Facebook activities. She published an article on FILA in the Great Lakes Scuttlebutt. To read it, please click here.

The first draft of the 2015 budget was discussed and the 2014 budget was revisited. The list of island projects for the 2015 season was reviewed too. John McKinney will complete and file the 990-N Form required by the IRS.

John McKinney and John Wells have volunteered to attend the DNR Friends Annual meeting on April 24 - 25. Phil von Voigtlander has received indications of serious interesting participating in the Camper Keeper program from two couples.  He will follow up with them.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
April 13, 2015

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Board Meeting of February 9, 2015

The Board Meeting of February 9, 2015, saw an extensive update by our DNR man, Ham Hobson. The crib project was covered, including a good $10,000 available from the DNR, with a matching amount from FILA approved by the board, for the feasibility study. Ham also mentioned the possibility of an airlift for the boat house doors and lumber. Garry Stauffer is in touch with John Throop concerning the Endangered Species Survey, which will be included in the feasibility study.

According to Phil von Voigtlander, the SlickCraft is at Bayshore Marine for an additional gas tank, repair of the power steering system and winter storage. Promotion for sale of donated heavy surplus equipment on Facebook was discussed.

According to John Wells, FILA has about 160 members, with a 99% accuracy rate of addresses (congrats John!). The 2014 Year End Appeal netted less than in previous years. John is working with Stef Staley of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum to see if he can locate the logbooks of Lightkeeeper Allan Cain.

The discussion of 2015 island projects covered the boat house doors, roof repair of the Asssistant Keepers' Quarter including downspouts and, as proposed by John Wells, possibly having copper ridge caps made, plus the installation of the repaired windows in the 1867 Lighthouse, plexiglas panes for the lantern room of the 1934 Skeleton Tower and a few more items.

Cathy Allchin is reviewing and copying the Light Station documents provided by the DNR. She did a presentation on behalf of FILA on UpNorth TV. Please click here to view it.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
March 10, 2015

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FILA on UpNorth TV

FILA Vice President Cathy Allchin gave a presentation of the situation at the Light Station and our activities at the Up Front Fridays show of UpNorth TV, aired on February 2. 2015.

Good job. Thank you Cat!

To view the show, please click here. [Sorry, this link isn't working any more!]

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
March 9, 2015

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Earlier News articles are available in the Archives section.




Latest update February 8, 2017