Lightkeeper at anchor

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


Board Meeting of December 12, 2015
Annual Meeting 2015
Last Island Trip of the year
Board Meeting of October 12, 2015
9th Annual Pancake Breakfast
Board Meeting of September 14, 2015
Lightkeeper Status
Moving stuff back and forth
FILA Party in Suttons Bay
Wells' Window Report
Yet another work trip
Board Meeting of August 10, 2015
Window team back
Window trip
Changeover at the Station
Great Lakes Celebration in Suttons Bay
Heavy stuff for the Light
Much going on at the Light
Board Meeting of July 13, 2015
Work trip of July 9, 2015
Light Station manned again!
First island trip of the season
Work plan meeting with the DNR
Board Meeting of June 8, 2015
Board Meeting of May 11, 2015
DNR Friends Summit 2015
Board Meeting of April 13, 2015
A promising young talent
Board Meeting of March 9, 2015
Board Meeting of February 9, 2015
FILA on UpNorth TV



2014 all articles
2013 all articles

2012 all articles
2011 all articles
2010 all articles
2009 all articles
2008 all articles
2007 all articles
2006 all articles
2004 / 2005 all articles

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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.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
March 9, 2015

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10 YEARS FILA: Annual Meeting

Our Tenth Anniversary celebration was both much anticipated and well attended with around forty persons at  the event. It was held at the Traverse Area District Library on Saturday afternoon, December 6th.

Only a blazing fireplace could have added more warmth as many hugs and smiles were passed. The "Finger-food Buffet" kept growing well into the party with many scrumptious delights brought, topped off by a cake especially made for FILA by Chimoski's Bakery in Suttons Bay.

Catherine Alchin gave a well-prepared Power Point presentation. She carefully covered the history of not only FILA but bits about the island's history, peppered with little jokes that kept the gathering smiling.

We all look forward to another fruitful ten years in working together saving "that little Light we all love," (a famous quoting of a well-known FILA member; name withheld by request).

FILA birthday cake
 Birthday cake.

 John Nelson and Anne McKinney.

 Run on the buffet.

Jeff Broderick and John McKinney.   

 FILA President John McKinney addressing the crowd.

Andy Allen and Sandy Bradshaw with one of the recently restored sashes.

Sandy Bradshaw
December 9, 2014
Photos courtesy of Frank Keegan.

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FILA's 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, FILA was founded after a lot of preparation in the course of about half a year. On October 18, 2004, a first public meeting, organized by Sandy Bradshaw, was held at the firehall in Suttons Bay, while the Website had gone online already the week before.

During the first half year, the name of the little group was South Fox Island Lighthouse Restoration Project (SFILRP). Since that was quite a mouthful, it was changed to Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) in April 2005.

Even before the foundation of the group, it was quite clear that we were facing a huge challenge, especially in view of daunting transportation problems, so progress was expected to be very slow. Besides a tight budget, transportation has been one of the main issues ever since, but, looking back, we can proudly say we have achieved a lot.

The 2014 Annual Meeting, to be held at the Traverse Area District Library on December 6, 2014 at 1:00 p.m., will be kind of a public birthday party.

Happy Birthday FILA!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
October 22, 2014

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Board Meeting of October 13, 2014

The board discussed updates on the shore crib dock application, the Endangered Species Survey, and the window restoration workshop plus a to-do list for the SlickCraft including suggestions for recruiting volunteer captains and Camper Keepers.

FILA's participation in the Schooner Fest in Traverse City and the Fall Harvest Festival at the Leelanau State Park were reported on. Many thanks to all the volunteers! The 2014 Annual Meeting, including FILA's 10th anniversary, was scheduled for December 6.

The 2014 list of island projects was reassessed. There are many things that could not get done because, due to technical problems with two of the boats, there were only a few work trips to the island.

A nominating committee for the board elections in December was nominated. No, really.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
November 10, 2014

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Harvest Festival 2014

Our eighth annual Harvest Festival, September 27, 2014 at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse / Leelanau State Park, was greeted with many participants and fabulous summer-like fall weather.

Pancakes were scrumptious and served up by our Pancake Flipper duo, Frank Keegan and Bob Ashmun with Sandy Bradshaw serving fruit. Al Ammons' home-tapped maple syrup was the hit of the breakfast feast. Pamela Nickerson was constantly busy tending all to perfection.

All in all a great festival, and we look forward to the next!

Sandy Bradshaw
September 30, 2014

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Traverse City Schooner Fest 2014

The South Fox Island Lighthouse Association was present at the Traverse City Schooner Fest, September 20 - 21, 2014.

The association passed out newsletters and brochures to engage the visiting public. We also chatted with the other non-profits who were present.

The last festival of the season is Saturday at the Leeleanau State Park Fall Festival, where FILA will hold the pancake breakfast and bratwurst lunch.

FILA booth in the MHA boat shop
The weather was lousy, so being inside MHA's boat
shop/museum was a treat.  

Donald Stauffer
September 26, 2014

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Window Workshop (September 5 - 7, 2014)

A grant through the Michigan Heritage Preservation Network is making it possible to begin the work of refurbishing the South Fox Lightstation windows. FILA members removed and transported to the mainland 14 sashes, all original construction with old fragile glass, from the 1867 building. Steve Stier, the professional hired to conduct the workshop, led the eleven participants through the many intricate steps using an amazing array of tools and techniques.

Five FILA members (Pamela Nickerson, John and Karen Wells, Jim Hasse and John McKinney) were joined by others from around the state, each of whom had specific reasons for attending (in the business, home repairs, graduate student).

Class working on sashes
FILA members and others at work.

Sashes being worked on
One window at a time.

Tools and materials on workbench
Lots of tools, materials and elbow grease were used.

Group shot of the whole class, FILA members and others
The whole group with some objects of their endeavor.

FILA members will continue the rehabilitation process this winter either at the DNR Grawn facility or in the Wells basement workshop. Hopefully yet this fall we will be able to bring more sashes in and return them next spring. With 7 buildings (six with windows) this project has a long future.

All are welcome to help.

John McKinney
September 14, 2014

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Voyage of Discovery

On August 23, the SlickCraft, also dubbed Fox Craft, had an hour-long trial run.

Results: The missing port tank must be replaced to provide sufficient capacity for safe off-shore use. The outdrive lift function does not work. The boat lacks modern navigation instruments. A few minor deficiencies must be tackled too, such as unfilled old screw holes in the deck and rusting screws on the helm seat pedestal.

However, all in all the boat is a robust and powerful unit with a good balance of cargo and crew capacity that may be quite useful to FILA provided that we have a successful recruitment of crews to operate it in the future.

Phil von Voigtlander
August 25, 2014

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Lighthouse Party at Sandy's

Here are a few photos from the FILA party at the Suttons Bay home of Sandy and Joerg, August 22, 2014:

Potluck under siege
Loading their plates (from left to right): Billy Bradshaw (Sandy's brother-in-law), Terry Pratt (foreground), Phil von Voigtlander (right behind Terry), Don Stauffer, Karen Wells, Sandy Bradshaw.

Terry Pratt, John McKinney, Laddie, Anita Pratt and Sandy Bradshaw.

 Frank Keegan, Mazey the dog, John McKinney, Terry Pratt, John Wells, Phil von Voigtlander and Karen Wells (again, of course, from left to right)

Cathy Allchin, Karen Wells and Phil von Voigtlander.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 29, 2014

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End of Season for the Lightkeeper

On August 22, the Lightkeeper was taken to the Northport Bay Boat Yard, hoisted out and put on her trailer, ready to be winterized.

Joerg aboard the 'Keeper on the hoist
Joerg on deck after entering the traveling hoist.

Hoisting the Lightkeeper
Lightkeeper already out of the water.

Two days later, she was already back in her old shrink wrap cocoon.

Old shrink wrap ready for reusage
Nobody but me would have believed last year's shrink wrap could be re-used.

Two hours later. Comment by Frank Keegan: "Never tell Joerg something can't be done."

An admittedly short, yet successful season for the Lightkeeper. Don't worry, we'll be back next summer!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 28, 2014

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Another load of sashes

On Monday, August 18, 2014, Frank Keegan and I went to the Lighthouse aboard the Lightkeeper under the supervision of Laddie. The rather choppy lake made us anchor off the SE corner of David Johnson's property, but the new electric dinghy motor enabled us to get our equipment straight to the boat house.

 Frank Keegan at the helm
Frank Keegan, a seasoned sailor, steering the
Lightkeeper out of Grand Traverse Bay.

Laddie in the dinghy
Laddie in the dinghy over the treacherous shoals far off the beach. He absolutely loves riding the dinghy.

After some troubles while entering the lighthouse (I had 8 square bits in my tool kit, none of which would fit in those screws on the grating), we removed five more sashes from the first floor of the 1867 Lighthouse, to be used for the window restoration classes by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network & SHPO.

 Rough approach to the lightkeeper
 On Tuesday, the lake didn't look very favorable for
loading fragile sashes.

On Tuesday around noon, everything was ready for the return to Northport, apart from a rough lake. However, nuts underneath the loading platform chafed through the line of the dinghy, which quickly drifted off in the lively SSW wind. In a somewhat adventurous operation, I single-handedly retrieved the dinghy in waves of up to five feet briefly before it barely passed North Fox on her way to Beaver Island or even beyond.

In the meantime, Frank and Laddie were waiting in the boat house, ignorant of my quandary. After some time, they walked around the gull hook, only to realize there was no Lightkeeper at anchor. However, the boat was already coming back, with the dinghy in tow.

After that fuel-guzzling escapade of almost an hour at relatively high speed, we had to walk up to the Mirada Ranch to get some gasoline for a safe return to Northport, especially in view of the fact that I meanwhile had found out that the bottom 1/4 of tank height actually holds only about 8 % of the total capacity, meaning that in that range the fuel gauge plummets like a stone.

At the Ranch, we got very quick help, organized by Mrs. Pamela Johnson. Two young men of her staff, Brandon and J.D., hauled a generous amount of gasoline to the Lightkeeper. Due to the waves, the fuel had to be transferred from the jerry cans into the tanks using a little electric pump, after which they took the cans back to the Ranch. Many, many thanks to all of you!

Meanwhile, it was too late for the ride home, so we spent another night and dinghied our equipment and the sashes to the Lightkeeper on Wednesday. The lake was much calmer, and the passage to Northport was uneventful. At the gas dock we learned that, thanks to a nice tailwind, we still had a healthy reserve in our tanks.

Frank at the fire pit
Chef Frank cooking yet another meal at the fire pit. 

Toilet paper shredded by mice
This is what a team of Boat House mice can make out of a toilet paper roll in one night's time.

Morning at the crib
The little runaway in the morning sun at the crib.

Approaching the Lightkeeper by dinghy
Frank and Laddie on the way to the anchorage.

Sashes in dighy
Five sashes ready for the trip to the mainland.

Ready to drop the anchor
Frank weighing anchor (the Biggie!).  

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 28, 2014

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Board Meeting of August 11, 2014

Besides fire extinguishers now stored in the 1867 Lighthouse, missing boards on the crib dock, plans for a color brochure, and a brief report on several hacking attacks on the Website, the window restoration workshop was discussed. Steve Stier, who will conduct the workshop, attended the meeting and briefed the board.

Don Stauffer reported on several past and oncoming events with FILA's participation. The 2014 island projects were reviewed in regard to the difficulties the group is facing due to technical problems with several boats.

John Wells suggested that FILA donate surplus equipment to other non-profit organizations, details to be discussed at the next meeting.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
September 8, 2014

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Port Oneida Fair

FILA, for the fourth year in a row, participated in the annual Port Oneida Fair held this past August 8th and 9th.   FILA's tent was, as in prior years, located at the historic Burfiend barn site which was one of six open farmsteads at the fair. Spirits were kept high with quietly meandering live background music, sometimes of banjo, accordion or harmonica playing in the old barn behind the FILA booth.  Many friends were met, some old and some new ones made!

Don “Beadman” Stauffer kept the FILA booth hopping with his beadmaking activities, which both children and adults enjoyed.  Many left with a bead or two (some of them repeat customers!). “Beadman” kindly contributed part of his hard-earned monies earned at the event to support FILA.

 Don Stauffer's mini-trailer
Don's "marshmallow trailer," in which he spent the nights on the fair ground.

Tent & visitors
The FILA tent got pretty good attention. Don's glass bead making attract the kids, and then the parents are told that there is a light station that needs help...

 The booth team
Behind the scenes:, from left to right: Beadman Don, brother Gary, Sandy Bradshaw with Laddie, Cathy Allchin and John McKinney.

 Olsen House
The Olsen House, one of the other venues nearby.

The event was sponsored by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Preserve Sleeping Bear and Friends of Sleeping Bear. Thanks all for your support from the board.

Sandy Bradshaw
August 12, 2014

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Second Work Trip

The "Swiss Jockey," as Phil von Voigtlander once jestingly put it, made the race, actually without even trying. While all three boats were having certain technical problems, I somehow managed to synchronize the modifications on the Lightkeeper with the nice weather window of early August.

In the morning of August 4, Karen and John Wells, Gary Stauffer, Dick Zaebst and I left Omena Harbor for the first work trip to South Fox Island since the one-day trip two months before. There was a little incident while leaving Grand Traverse Bay: the dinghy got swamped, completely drowning the electric dinghy motor, and, after retrieving the dinghy, the starboard engine wouldn't start. But all in all we had a peaceful crossing.

Dick and Gary on the flybridge
Gary and Dick sitting on the recently re-installed flybridge seats, which had been removed eight years ago to make room for transporting the dinghy.

Dinghy with trolley
Gary rowing the dinghy with an upside-down trolley from the anchorage to the beach. The dinghy motor was on the blink due to drowning.

Gary's tent
Gary erected his tent after almost ruining his back on the badly bent lawn mower handle.

Make-shift repair of lawnmower handle
This simple make-shift repair on the lawn mower should have been done before Gary did all the hard work.

Dinner at the picnic table
From left to right: John, Gary at the stove, Dick, and Karen.

West beach high water
The west beach after sunset. The lake level was so high, certain parts of the west beach were just gone.

The second day saw most of the crew removing windows, wrapping them in square miles of bubble wrap and boarding the openings up, while the skipper was aboard, repairing the starter motor and draining the dinghy motor back to life.

 Preparing plywood for the windows
The usual combo: one guy working, two watching and commenting: John, Dick and Gary.

Karen cooking dinner, with supervisors
Karen cooking for a hungry crew: Dick, John and Gary.

The last morning was filled with moving all the removed windows aboard. The revived dinghy motor did a great job.

Lightkeeper after sunrise
Lightkeeper at anchor, briefly after sunrise.

Joerg bringing sashes to the Lightkeeper
Joerg bringing bubble-wrapped sashes to the
Lightkeeper. (Photo by John Wells)

South Fox Island from south
Leaving the Light Station behind.

Funny enough, on the way back home, it was the port engine that wouldn't start. However, we safely got back to Omena Harbor, where berthing the boat with only one engine was managed by a well-coordinated crew.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 12, 2014

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Suttons Bay Classic Boat Show

FILA made a good showing at the Classic Boat Show held Saturday, July 21, 2014 at the Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay.  There were plenty of boats and plenty of people, and the weather, though a bit of early rain, faired us all well.  We spent the day happily “FriendRaising” as one of our members coined the activity.

Preparing the tent
Preparing the booth in the morning.

Madeline & Inland Seas at the dock
Madeline (left) and Inland Seas side by side at the dock.

The FILA crew
From left to right, front row: John Wells, Don Stauffer, back row H. Joerg Rothenberger, Sandy Bradshaw, John McKinney, Frank Keagan, Pamela & Jan Nickerson.

Don preparing the tent
Don Stauffer packing the booth tent.

This year's Classic Boat Show was dedicated to the memory of avid Suttons Bay sailor, Mark Pleune.  He was involved in putting on the show for most of its (prior) 25 year run. 

Sandy Bradshaw
August 12, 2014

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Board Meeting of July 14, 2014

The shore crib application status including obtaining the rocks from a specific area of the harbor according to the DNR as well as repair of ice damage were discussed. Three big fire extinguishers for the station will be provided by the DNR.

The SlickCraft is ready for another test run, the Islander is still in repair and the Lightkeeper is undergoing numerous modifications but can be used. Sandy Bradshaw arranged a towing insurance with BoatUS for all crafts, which had bee approved by the board by email.

John Wells and Cathy Allchin reported on  the latest details concerning the grant from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network for a window restoration workshop. Pending projects at the station were discussed, much delayed due to boat and weather problems. .

Keith Kintigh of the DNR gave an extensive report on input wanted by the DNR Wildlife Island Planning Group concerning wildlife management. Sandy is in touch with Robert Kegerreis, who would like to include the South Fox Light Station in his Travelogue documentary about Michigan lighthouses.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
August 15, 2014

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Lightkeeper afloat

Ten days after my return from Europe, Sandy and I launched the Lightkeeper in Ahgosatown on July 9, 2014 with the kind help of Joan Kalchik and Mike TenBrock. She had already undergone some modifications on the trailer, with more yet to come.

After a brief refueling dash into Northport Marina, we took her to her new place in Omena, using this little trip for some engine tests.

Lightkeeper launch

The Lightkeeper being launched by Mike Ten Brock.

Lighkeeper's wake in planing mode
Running south from Northport to Omena Harbor .

Sandy steering the Lightkeeper
Sandy at the helm.  

The Lightkeeper in Omena Harbor

The Lightkeeper in her new slip in Omena Harbor.

The following weeks the Lightkeeper basically was ready for action most of the time despite some work in progress, but the weather didn't quite play along.

Additional navigation equipment
Additional navigation equipment.

New bowsprit and anchor
New bowsprit, anchor roller and Mantus storm anchor.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 2, 2014

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Board Meeting of June 9, 2014

Ham Hobson of the DNR reported on the dock application status. Don Stauffer reported on the ice damage on the temporary crib dock. The meeting of May 21st with the DNR was discussed.

The SlickCraft was launched but a blown transmission was discovered. The problem is being tackled. The schedule of public events with FILA participation and the list of 2014 island projects were discussed. According to the first crew at the light station last week there is no significant damage from last winter.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
August 1, 2014

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First work trip of the season

On Thursday, June 5 we (John McKinney, John Nelson, Don Stauffer, John Wells and I) traveled to the light station on South Fox aboard the Islander. This was our first trip of the season and as such was the latest start FILA has had; a month ago the southern end of the island was still locked in ice. We had a cloudless and calm day for the uneventful run out there despite the 35 degree water temperature.

We were carrying one of our recently rebuilt lawn mowers, and, as soon as we got it ashore, it was put to use cutting all the lawn areas. Other team members cleared the side walks, cut brush along the paths, maintained the equipment and inspected all the buildings. All appeared as we left them last autumn. There was some evidence of ice damage in the harbor with the landing crib sustaining minor damage (loss of a portion of the deck).

In the afternoon, we continued mowing while others policed the beaches. We were joined by a seaplane of University of Minnesota Plover habitat investigators and spent some time with them discussing their project and our earlier bird surveys. Later we loaded up the last of the worn-out mowers and our gear and departed.

Though the pleasant weather continued, the return trip was eventful: a short distance from the island we suffered a major engine failure (the first problem we have had with the Islander). We deployed our emergency propulsion unit (6 hp outboard) and had a leisurely return voyage. This was the first full test of the outboard to go the whole distance; slow but sure we returned to Northport in the late evening.

Subsequent investigation revealed a likely blown head gasket, and the boat was delivered to Manitou Marine for repairs.

Three Johns

Three Johns: John Nelson, John Wells & John McKinney (from left to right).

Access to skeleton tower
The ground beneath the 1934 Skeleton Tower was cleared for access by ladder.

 Lean-to in miserable shape
A sorry sight: the lean-to behind the 1867 Lighthouse.

Phil von Voigtlander
June 8, 2014
Photos by Don Stauffer

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Michigan Lighthouse Alliance Conference 2014 etc.

The Michigan Lighthouse Alliance Conference May 22nd and 23rd at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City was two days of information and exchange of stories and a shared love of those Light Stations. Believe me; the 'remote' group (those of us on islands around the Great Lakes) shared the most information and best stories as well as input to the seminars. We (FILA) are not alone. In fact, FILA is in way better shape than some groups. I found this out over the cocktail hour(s). Don't worry.I did not embarrass the FILA Family name and made a lot of friends for FILA. Met some passionate folks who care very much about Light Stations.

Ken Czapski, who did our HSR, has found shingles that match the 1910 Assistant Keepers Quarters building roof. The shingles are in an attic in a church he was doing an HSR for. That will take some phone calls / e-mails to determine availability of the shingles and location of the church. God bless Ken. He also bought me a beer!

May 25, on to visit two light houses and one fog signal building; saw two very good representations (complete restorations as far as I could tell) of 1867 Lighthouses. The fog signal building was a disappointment. One 1867 light house was a land based Station. (Read: parking lots to drive up to at Ontonagon, MI). The other at Copper Harbor, MI required a boat ride of ½ mile.

 Boat to Copper Harbor Lighthouse
Boat to Copper Harbor Lighthouse.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse
Copper Harbor Lighthouse, built 1866.

Another view
Same Lighthouse, different view.

Fog signal building at Eagle Harbor, MI
Fog Signal Building at Eagle Harbor, MI.

Oil House at Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse
Oil House of the Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse.

Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse
Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse.

1600 miles, 6 nights and 7 days to circle Lake Superior.

Just a note: the ice is very much on the waters of Lake Superior harbors. We refilled our cooler with Lake Superior ice.

John Wells
June 2, 2014

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SlickCraft Boat in the water!

After a fun adventure of lost keys, a dead battery for the front winch, and no gas (will fill up this weekend sometime), we finally launched the SlickCraft last night about 9:15pm.
The duct tape that was used to 'seal up' the hatch has to be removed - *note to team: NEVER NEVER NEVER use duct tape on a boat hull unless an emergency. There's about 4 hrs time to get the residue and sticky string off the deck. Will be a good 'hang out on the boat' kind of project.
The cabin needs cleaning, closet door latches need to be tweaked, and the anchor line needs to be installed on the windlass. There might be an issue with the motor lift, didn't seem to go down all the way. Will be looked at this weekend.

SlickCraft boat at Elmwood
The boat almost ready for action.

The boat will stay in Elmwood until Northport opens up.

Catherine Allchin
May 23, 2014

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Board Meeting of May 12, 2014

The financial report was approved and its influence on the 2014 Project List was discussed. So were the dock application status, the endangered species survey, and FILA's participation in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Conference (May 21 - 23) in Traverse City.

Cathy Allchin reported on the plans for the launch of the SlickCraft boat. Northport Harbor isn't open yet. Summer festivals were discussed.

Main items of the Island Projects list: Assistant Keepers Building Roof, Lean To on the 1867 Lighthouse Building, gutters on Assistant Keepers Building, and Boat House Doors and Windows.  

Cathy mentioned that the projected total funds for the Crib Project would be about $230,000.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Don Stauffer's minutes
May 23, 2014

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Board Meeting of March 10, 2014

Since there was no quorum, the February meeting minutes and financial report were deferred. According to John Wells, the Year End Appeal garnered around $8000.00.

Ham Hobson, our DNR man, reported on the dock application status (currently in review at the DNR) and the Endangered Species Survey. In April, FILA will meet with the DNR concerning this year's work permits etc.. According to Cathy Allchin, the Partnership Agreement with the DNR has been completed and submitted.

The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program did not grant FILA?s application for money to fund a window restoration workshop, but there may be another opportunity in cooperation with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

John Wells reported on the very well received DNR workshop presentation by Karen, his wife, and him. The priorities of the items on the island project list for 2014 were presented and discussed. A book writer contacted FILA concerning a research trip to the Light Station, which is the central topic of a book in the making.

Ham Hobson notified the board of an inquiry by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments regarding a proposed water trail project for canoes and kayak with a possible stop at the station. Ham suggested that Paul check out the FILA website for further information.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
March 14, 2014

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DNR Friends Summit at Grayling

The DNR-sponsored "Friends Summit" was held at the DNR's South Higgins Lake facility in late February. The event was designed to promote understanding, communication, and a sharing of ideas between the DNR and its non-profit friends groups. These groups present a hefty lot who volunteer at the over one-hundred state parks and recreation areas throughout Michigan.

FILA's John and Karen Wells made a thirty-five minute presentation which was well received with many questions asked by the audience afterwards. The Wells highlighted tips on how the annual Leelanau State Park Harvest Festival  has become a success. This coming fall, FILA, in conjunction with the Leelanau State Park at Northport, will hold the Eighth Annual Harvest Fest (date to be yet announced).

Sandy Bradshaw, based on John Wells's notes
March 2, 2014

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Board Meeting of February 10, 2014

The Board Meeting at the GT Children's Museum saw a big attendance including two participants on a transatlantic phone line. Ham Hobson (DNR) reported that the dock application is now being reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Ways to prevent problems for endangered species were discussed.

The proposed 2014 budget, as distributed at the January meeting, was accepted. Participation in regional events was outlined. The list of island projects got updated.

The Michigan Lighthouse Alliance will be holding a conference at the Haggerty Center in Traverse City on May 21st ? 23rd. FILA board members are welcome to attend at their own cost.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
February 12, 2014

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Board Meeting of January 13, 2014

The FILA Board, meeting at the GT Children's Museum, approved the minutes of the Annual Meeting and the financial report incl. a summary of the 2013 budget. Cathy Allchin reported on the state of the dock plans. John Wells briefed the board on the End of the Year Appeal and other fund raising projects. Ham Hobson of the DNR informed the board that the DNR will place fire extinguishers at the station and that storage is now available to FILA at the Grawn Field Office. John McKinney submitted a grant application to fund a class on wooden window restoration to train 6 - 8 people.

John Wells reported that the logbook of Allan Caine, last lightkeeper at the South Fox Light Station, has been located. Phil von Voigtlander and Cathy presented the island projects for 2014. John Wells will be giving a workshop on how to put on a fund-raising food event at the DNR Friends Summit being held at the Ram Center in Higgins Lake.  The workshop is scheduled for March 1st, 2014.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
February 12, 2014

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Earlier News articles are available in the Archives section.




Latest update February 8, 2016