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 

Board Meeting of April 17, 2017
Guestbook restored
Board Meeting of March 13, 2017
DNR Friends Summit, March 3 - 4, 2017
Board Meeting of January 9, 2017


2015 all articles
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 April 17, 2017

Ham Hobson, our DNR contact, reported on DNR grants (both accepted), lumber (1500 ft currently at the mill for finishing), the planned outhouse (4 x 6 ft), the new, sandblasted DNR sign (the old, routed one to be re-installed by FILA until the new one is available), and FILA's spring meeting with the DNR, which he will set up. Another research trip for the new dock will be made in spring.

According to Phil von Voigtlander, so far, Camper Keepers have booked eight weeks of the coming summer, with Jerry Spears perhaps occupying some more, probably the longest period of the station being manned since 1959.

The Wellses reported that two windows for the Assistant Keepers' Quarters were completely rebuilt thanks to Bob Hanson, a most talented carpenter volunteer.

Karen Wells and Bob Hanson with a new lower sash
Karen Wells and Bob Hanson with an all new lower sash (picture from
FILA's Facebook page.

Some details for the 2017 events were discussed. Cathy Allchin will create a "Save The Dates" card for the anniversary celebration, and Sandy Bradshaw will write an article for the UpNorth Magazine.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchn's minutes
May 8, 2017

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Guestbook restored

Thanks to some serious white-hat hacking techniques I was able to retrieve most of the messages of the old defunct guestbook. Meanwhile I converted them to a data format that is compatible with the format of the new guestbook, one by one, a mind-numbing chore but sure worth the effort.

Unfortunately, 10 of the 188 old messages could not be retrieved. My apologies if your message got lost, but it's not my fault. We relied on a professional service that went down the drain after many years of good service.

If you want to read what happened to our old guestbook, please click here.

H. Joerg Rothenberger, FILA Webmaster 
March 18, 2017

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Board Meeting of March 13, 2017

After approval of the financial report, Stephanie Rosinski of the Leelanau State Park verified info on the pancake/brat lunch event in August. Guest Dave McWilliams gave an update on the North Manitou Shoal Light, guest Brent Tompkins gave us an update on White Shoals, and John Wells reported on the DNR Firned's Summit (see below).

The board approved $130 to update graphics for the new marketing display unit demonstrated by Cathy Allchin. The opportunity to have a unit in the Leland 4th of July parade is presented by John McKinney, and John Wells reported on a clean-up of the members list.

Island projects: Schedules for early trips incl. camper keepers were scheduled. Ham Hobson of the DNR will set up the DNR planning meeting via phone.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchn's minutes
April 17, 2017

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DNR Friends Summit, March 3 - 4, 2017

This yearís summit was again held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon, MI. There were 72 attendees representing various DNR functions and 26 Friends groups from around Michigan .
Many are similar to us in having 6 to 10 core volunteers who lead most of the work effort, with a broader roster of members who contribute financially and enjoy being informed of their groupís work through newsletters or other communications but otherwise have limited ďhands-onĒ involvement. 

Significantly, many of the more active Friendís groups are involving 3rd parties, both businesses or other non-profits, in their projects. Boy Scout & Girl Scout projects were common. Many felt they had been more successful partnering than directly growing their volunteer base. That said, most continue to try to do outreach with booths at local events and through press and social media.
Other sessions included updates from the Park Management Plans process, Fund Raising, and DNR Marketing Initiatives.

Karen & John Wells
March 4, 2017

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Board Meeting of January 9, 2017

For once, the meeting saw no quorum, hence approval of minutes of former meetings and of the treasurer's report had to be postponed. However, according to John Wells the result of the Year End Appeal, still running through January 31, was looking promising.

Based on the Year End Appeal, John also reported on membership stats after removal of some names from the list of supporters, people who had not responded for several years.

Projects for the 2017 season were discussed. The long list comprises items such as lead remediation inside the 1867 Lighthouse, paneling and furnishing of the lean-to interior, clean-up and start of restoration inside the Assistant Keepers' Quarters, window and roof repairs on the Fog Signal Building, and, very important, the construction of a new privy (we'll miss the nice view while doing business, though [Webmaster's comment]).

Karen Wells reported on FILA's participation in the DNR Friends Summit, scheduled for March 3 - 4, 2017.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Pamela Nickerson's minutes
February 24, 2017

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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 FILAís 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 regionís 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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Earlier News articles are available in the Archives section.




Latest update May 8, 2017