Boathouse & Skeleton Tower

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News Archives 2008
(latest entry at the top, blog style)

For other years, please click here to go back to the News page.


Annual Meeting of December 13, 2008
Special Meeting of November 25, 2008
Board meeting of November 11, 2008
Board meeting of October 14, 2008
Last trip of the season
Board meeting of September 9, 2008
Team Nickerson Episode II
Mystery section added
Board meeting of August 12, 2008
FILA board member roll up their sleeves
Doug McCormick -- living maritime history
A great crew on South Fox - July 11 - 14
Board Meeting of July 8, 2008
The Flag Goes Up – the photos
Artists' Cruise to South Fox, June 24
A great weekend on South Fox
MLA Conference in Traverse City June 11 - 13
Board meeting of June 10, 2008
News page completely revamped
First work weekend of the 2008 season
Board meeting of May 13, 2008
Promising youth: a 4th-grader's model
Boat safety update for FILA Captains
Lightkeeper launched
Meeting with DNR, April 11, 2008
Board meeting of April 8, 2008
New P.O. Box
Board meeting of March 11, 2008
Board meeting of January 8, 2008

For other years, please click here to go back to the News page.  

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Annual Meeting December 13, 2008

A potluck lunch was enjoyed by 19 FILA members, guests and board members at the cafe of Britten Banners Inc. in Traverse City. During the formal business session, a new PowerPoint show composed by Cathy Allchin and Phil von Voigtlander was presented, triggering quite a few helpful comments from the floor concerning historical details and the like.

Cathy Allchin was elected Vice President; Sandy Bradshaw, Vice President since FILA's formation, had not run for another term. She was presented a Certificate of Appreciation. The other officers were reelected. Anne Brasie and Pamela Nickerson were elected new board members.

Phil von Voigtlander presented the 2008 Financial Report, making it clear that FILA is still running on a modest budget and struggling to make ends meet by cutting expenses wherever possible. The 2008 expenses were way below the approved Budget, and the 2009 projected expenses plan reflects this fact.

An open discussion involving non-board members and guests provided lots of very interesting suggestions from the floor.

John McKinney & Cathy Allchin 
John McKinney, FILA President, and Cathy Allchin, Vice President elect.

 Doug McCormick & Phil von Voigtlander
Doug McCormick, occupant of the S. Fox Island Lighthouse (1925 - 1921), and Phil von Voigtlander, FILA Treasurer.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
January 22, 2009

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Special Meeting of November 25, 2008

The FILA board plus Stef Staley, director of the GT Lighthouse Museum, FILA advisor and board mentor, met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. The meeting had been called for the purpose of receiving the Officers Nominating Committee report.

The slate presented by Phil von Voigtlander, chair of the Committee, comprising John McKinney, President, Sally Frye, Vice President, George Carpenter, Secretary and Phil von Voightlander, Treasurer, was extended by Cathy Allchin nominating herself as a second candidate for Vice President.

More details of the Annual Meeting were negotiated, especially concerning the Accomplishments Presentation.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
December 6, 2008

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Board Meeting of November 11, 2008

The FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Phil von Voigtlander's financial report and the nomination process for new board members and officers were discussed. Detailed plans for the Annual Meeting were made. last-minute changes to the Newsletter were suggested and discussed.

John Wells discussed fund raising and capital campaign concepts. He said fund raising for the Historic Structures Report might be more difficult than for a "bricks and mortar" project. Sally Frye reported on the Safety Plan. John Wells reported on the donation of a 36 ft extension ladder by Warner Ladder including freight expenses donated by him and his wife, Karen.

Sally Frye informed the board of a meeting of the Traverse Area Lighthouse Chain (TALC), plans for a TALC office in Traverse City and the Annual Meeting of the Michigan Lighthouse Association on December 9 in Gaylord. George Carpenter reported on the Art Show in Northport featuring works by the artist that had gone to the South Fox Light Station on June 24, running through the Christmas / New Year Holidays.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
November 30, 2008

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Board Meeting of October 14, 2008

The FILA board including Stef Staley of the GT Lighthouse Museum met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Phil von Voigtlander's financial report included the profit from the Harvest Festival, recruiting members and merchandising. Budget issues including procedures for developing the 2009 budget as well the timetable for nominating officers and new candidates for the board were discussed.

George Carpenter reported on the application for a Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program grant for a Historic Structures Report including fund-raising problems to match the grant. Plans for the Annual Meeting in December and for the Newsletter were made. Phil reported on technical problems with the Webcam at the light station and plans for a satellite-based emergency phone connection. Other safety aspects were discussed too.

Various other topics were discussed, such as FILA and the GTLHM possibly taking part in the "Passport to History Booklet" project by the Northwest Lower Michigan Historical Network.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
November 30, 2008

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Last island trip of the season

On Sunday, October 12, the Lightkeeper traveled to the Fox Island Light Station with a full crew of volunteers (George Carpenter, Harold Carlton, Jan Nickerson, Phil von Voigtlander, John and Karen Wells and Bob Wright). The main objectives of the trip were to diagnose and treat the webcam (which had ceased picture transmission some weeks ago) and to clean up and secure the station for the coming seasons.

The day was cool and relatively calm and the mission was uneventful. Harold determined that the power system and transmitter were fine and that the camera simply needed to be reset. The reason for it shutting down was not immediately apparent. On a future trip we will plan to install a remote reset capability.

George and John cleaned up and repainted the top rail of the Light House deck while the rest of us picked up around the site, put away tools and materials, dug out several more feet of the boat house walkway, and rolled logs to the Nickerson Fire Circle. .

In the course of the day, we were joined by 2 boats of visitors: Greg, Laura and Brad Nickerson and a friend and later a trio from Empire.

From sunrise to sunset, it was a good trip and a good end to a successful season working on the Light Station.

Phil von Voigtlander (with a bit from Carp)
October 16 / 20, 2008

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Board meeting of September 9, 2008

The FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum to discuss various topics. Announcements of events on the Web site, expiring terms of officers, problems with the Web cam at the light station, and membership brochures were covered.

Despite certain concerns, the board decided to go on with the application to the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) for a Historic Structures Report. Plans for the 2nd Harvest Festival were presented and amended.

Phil von Voigtlander presented the financial report, and an agenda for the last trip of this year to the island was discussed.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
October 12, 2008

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Team Nickerson Episode II

On Saturday, August 16, John McKinney and Phil von Voigtlander transported Team Nickerson (Jan, Pamela, Greg, Laura and Sara) and their guest Bob Lepisto to the South Fox Light Station. On Sunday, John and Phil installed the roof decking on the north side of the boat house while Greg started shingling the south side. Bob helped out with as needed on both sides. Meanwhile, Jan and Laura continued the digging out of the boat house walkway, and Pamela and Sara finished up the priming of the workshop exterior. On Monday, they applied the finish coat to the sides and back of the building while the rest of the crew pitched in to support the roofing project. Greg continued installing shingles with the help of John while Phil and Bob hauled out and staged the materials. In the mid afternoon, John, Bob and Phil loaded up their gear and returned to Northport.

On Friday, August 22, Phil von Voigtlander returned to the Light. Despite adverse winds and a consequent rough anchorage, he and Greg Nickerson dinghied 5 bundles of shingles, 124 linear feet of 1 x 6 boards and additional painting supplies ashore. After a rainy and stormy Saturday morning, Greg, Pamela, Laura and Sara completed the shingling of the boat house roof and the installation of the peak flashing. Pamela and Laura completed the painting of the exterior of the Workshop including the window frames. Jan and Sara continued the excavation of the boat house walkway. Meantime, Phil replaced the 3 broken windows in the Work Shop, fashioned patches over its major roof leaks and reset the hinges of the Lighthouse door with epoxy putty.

Late that evening the sudden arrival of a 20 knot northern wind required Phil to move the Lightkeeper. In the dark of the midnight, he was guided and his heart warmed by the Nickerson Lighthouse (a bright lantern they held out) as he crossed the South Fox Shoals to the safer west side. Sunday morning was largely spent breaking camp and packing up while Greg installed the new face boards (thoroughly primed by Pamela the previous day) under the edge of the new boat house roof.

Additional projects completed by the Team during the week were: cutting up the remaining wood from last year and cutting back the brush along the side walks.

After securing the buildings and cleaning up the site, the crew loaded the boat and returned to Northport on a brisk following wind and clear skies. Once more, Team Nickerson has greatly supported the Lighthouse project with their hard work and contributions; we salute them!

Phil von Voigtlander
August 26, 2008

We hope to be able to publish photos soon too.  

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, FILA Webmaster
September 7, 2008

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Mystery section added

There is a new section at the bottom of the History page, called "Mysteries & Questions." Please click here to have a look at it, and if you can provide a solution or an answer, just let us know. There are quite a few things out there at the light station that still puzzle us!

Consequently, the navigation buttons to the History page now read "History & Mystery."

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, FILA Webmaster
August 29, 2008

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Board meeting of August 12, 2008

As usual, the FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Being absent, Treasurer Phil von Voigtlander had e-mailed his financial report. Due to several open questions the approval of the report was adjourned.

Again, the topic of the Historic Structures Report triggered considerable discussion. Eventually, it was decided that a grant application be submitted to the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program and a meeting dedicated to this specific topic be held in two weeks.

Details concerning the publication of the first newsletter, the dates of the Art Show displaying (and hopefully selling) the results of the Artists Cruise of June and the Harvest Fest at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum were discussed. Since the Museum's gift shop is pretty much out of South Fox souvenirs, plans for a new series of hats and T-shirts were made.

Further topics were: a Traverse City company interested in planning and supplying materials for paint work on the 1867 lighthouse, the addition of a permission to the FILA waiver to use photos of people on the Web site and other promotional material, and the yet to be explored contents of the CD with South Fox documents mentioned at the previous board meeting.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
August 25, 2008

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FILA board members roll up their sleeves

On Wednesday, August 6th, John McKinney, Joerg Rothenberger, Sandy Bradshaw and Phil von Voigtlander traveled to the South Fox Light Station. The main objective of the visit was to transport the final load of oriented strand boards (OSB) for the boat house redecking and to start the re-roofing project. On an earlier trip with the help of Dick Parker and his son, Sheldon, the roof of the boat house had been stripped and the major structural issues corrected.

Upon landing our gear and the load of OSB (no mean feat in the absence of an engine for the dinghy), John and Phil with assistance from Joerg commenced the installation of asphalt paper and OSB over the historic roof decking. In between, Joerg, using a precision compass, a protractor, a tripod and some grey matter, located the site of the former well house, on which the official plans available to us completely disagreed.

Phil with OSB in dinghy
It's all a matter of balance: Phil
rowing OSB ashore.

John hauling OSB
 It's nice to be in the shade: John
hauling OSB.

Phil & John laying tar paper
 Operation Boat House Roof begins: John
and Phil just layed the first row of tar paper.

Preparations for dinner at the fire circle
Ready for making dinner: Sandy and
John in the Nickerson Fire Circle.

Thunderstorm rolling in
An imposing thunderstorm rolling
in. This photo and the one above it
courtesy of Reinder "Dutch"
Zonderman of Suttons Bay.

Lighthouse in the sunset after the storm
 The lighthouse after sunset. The
storm spared us.

In the course of the second day, the south facing roof was covered. John and Phil look forward to working with Team Nickerson to complete the project. In addition, Joerg commenced a detailed survey of the property including exact elevations of the various buildings and their precise locations relative to one another. In this regard, many of the historic documents are in error and Joerg plans to generate an accurate revised site plan.

Meanwhile, Sandy cleaned parts of one of the apartments in the assistant keepers' quarters to make it a bit more habitable.

Breakfast briefing in the Nickerson Circle
Breakfast briefing in the Nickerson Circle.

John and Phil on the boat house roof
 Phil and John adjusting OSB.

Lantern room of the skeleton tower with Web cam
 The lantern room of the 1934 skeleton
tower with the Web cam system. 

Joerg surveying the lighthouse property
Joerg surveying the lighthouse property.

Friday morning, John gave the roof of the oil house another coat of paint and dug more stones off the boat house walk. While Phil battled against poison ivy, John and Joerg inspected the remains of the well house Joerg had tracked down in the thicket next to the south beach.

Phil spraying poison ivy
Phil ridding pathways of poison ivy.

Phil digging out the walkway
John shoveling stones off the walkway
behind the boathouse.

John showing the location of the well house
 John being misused as a signpost to
show the entrance to the well house site.

Joerg showing remains of the well house
Joerg showing decaying remains of the
well house in the dense undergrowth.

 Beams in a rectangular pattern
Mouldering beams at right angles,
exactly at the place previously calculated.

Wooden board below a beam
A wooden board underneath the beams,
yet another piece of evidence.

The outdoor privy
Our famous Lilac Garden Throne.  

Toilet paper roll on a twig
A real outpost of civilization.

Now, what do you call an outhouse without a house? An out?

View from the Lilac Garden Throne
Probably the toilet with the nicest view in the whole wide area.
This is what you see while doing business.

John, Phil, Sandy and Joerg
John, Phil, Sandy and Joerg (from left)
before departure.

Leaving the light station
The OSB roof provides a new landmark,
but the red shingles are ready.

During our visit to the island, we greeted parties from 2 boats and educated them about the history of the Light Station and FILA's work there.

Friday evening we returned to Northport. To save fuel the trip was at the slow, relaxing pace of 7 knots.

Phil von Voigtlander, with some additions by Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 9 / 17, 2008

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Doug McCormick -- living maritime history

On July 23, 2008,. FILA board members Sandy Bradshaw and H. Joerg Rothenberger visited USCG-retired Doug McCormick at his home in Traverse City.

Kind of a lighthouse icon, he was born at the Poverty Island light in 1914. He lived in the South Fox Island light when his father, James McCormick, was keeper there between 1915 through 1921. “I sure love that S. Fox island,“ he told us.

As a youngster he helped care for the Grand Traverse Lighthouse with his father 1923 through 1938. Much later, in 1983, McCormick would again reside at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse as caretaker, until health reasons forced him to retire - and that in his late eighties! The lighthouse was opened to the public in 1986 and now is a museum and nautically oriented gift shop.

Saddened to see the light station’s condition while he would often boat out there after the decommissioning of the station in 1959, he filmed the light in 1991. Shortly after that he told me how “it’s is in horrible condition, overgrown with trees, vandalized, but still solid.”

Besides fascinating stories from his long life with the Coast Guard, McCormick provided us with important information on many details of the South Fox Island Light Station, such as the location of the dump and the purpose of the mysterious sheet iron hut north of the skeleton tower not appearing in any plan available to us. It was the smoke house, and the black interior confirms that.

We would like to thank Doug McCormick for all his kind help.

Doug McCormick
Doug McCormick.

Doug's WWII medals
Doug's medals.

Model Coast Guard sailship
Model of a US Coast Guard ship in Doug's living room. 

Sign on front porch
Sign on Doug's front porch.

Sandy Bradshaw
August 17, 2008

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A great crew on South Fox - July 11 - 14

On Friday, July 11, Sally Frye and Phil von Voigtlander navigated the Lightkeeper with a load of building materials to South Fox, where they met the Crew 11 scouts (Aaron, Casey, Christian and Paul) with their boat from Charlevoix. The four scouts and two leaders (Lynda and Scott) and their gear were ferried ashore. Then they helped with the unloading of the Lightkeeper and securing the materials under cover.

In the afternoon, all worked together to bag up the remain roofing debris. Phil and Sally reviewed the antenna aligning procedure for the Web cam and checked the performance of the power system. The building SW wind forced Phil to relocate with the Lightkeeper to the NE corner of the island for the night while the campers settled in for a windy and stormy night.

Saturday morning Phil and Sally worked with the team at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse to align the antennae for the transmission and reception of the video images and camera control. With the use of 2-way UHF radios, the work went smoothly despite high winds. In less than an hour remote control of the camera and high quality video transmission commenced.

Meanwhile the Crew 11 team set about uncovering the side walk down to the boat house. Through the course of the weekend they made amazing progress especially considering that the overburden reached over 2 feet in depth. This work continued on Sunday and the Crew also worked on prepping and priming the workshop while Sally supervised and with Lynda cleaned out the interior. Phil worked on clearing the boat house entrance threshold of rock and renailing the door frame and trim.

With more favorable winds the boats could be comfortably loaded Monday morning. The scouts returned to Charlevoix and the Lightkeeper transported a full load of refuse back to Northport for disposal.

The Adventure Crew Scouts were great workers and with their leaders made an excellent contribution to our efforts at the Light Station. We look forward to their return in August.

Phil von Voigtlander
July 15, 2008

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Board Meeting of July 8, 2008

The FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Treasurer Phil von Voigtlander presented the 6 month report, a fairly balanced matter. He also reported on the Island Summer Calendar including two trips by the Charlevoix Boy Scouts Crew 11 and the second trip by Team Nickerson. Day trips to the light station still cannot be offered. One trip by the Lightkeeper costs about $300.00 for the fuel alone, which means she cannot be used for mere fun rides.  

Sally Frye presented a draft of the Newsletter, whose publication after a few modifications was approved. George Carpenter and Phil reported on the new South Fox Island Light Station display at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum and on the artists' trip to the light, which was reported on below. Phil also reported on the state of affairs concerning the Lightkeeper, now sounding pretty encouraging after all the troubles with the engines, and even the expenses could have been much worse.

Sandy Bradshaw reported on the work of the Safety Plan Committee, and Phil detailed the schedule for getting the Web cam connection between South Fox and the GT Lighthouse Museum working. E-Mail communication policy and details of the waiver were discussed. Carp reported on issues concerning reroofing the 1867 lighthouse due to limitations imposed by the Department of Natural Resources. Possible ways to get a Historic Structures Report done were discussed, and Sally told the board that she had received a CD-ROM containing lots of South Fox documents from the National Archives.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
July 30, 2008

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The Flag Goes Up – the photos

As mentioned in Phil's report of June 25 (see below), on June 21, 2008, a new flag pole and the American Flag, along with the Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) flag, were raised at the South Fox Island Light Station. The 28 foot flag pole was cut from timber harvested at Phil von Voigtlander's barn and shaped, planed, and painted by him.

After raising the flag pole, the in-place stanchion was scraped and treated with rust preservative. It will be painted white, consistent with the color of the remnant paint, on a future work trip. The intent is to fly the flags when FILA members are working on the island.

Flag pole in the dinghy
Applied physics at work: a delicate equilibrium.

Landing the flag pole
Landing the flag pole at the dock.

The flag pole being carried to the stanchion
On the way to the stanchion.

Raising the flags
Phil (left) and John raising the flags. 

Flags flying proudly
The flags flying proudly.

George "Carp" Carpenter
July 3, 2008

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Artists' Cruise to South Fox, June 24

On June 24, 2008, five artists bravely rode on “Lightkeeper” to South Fox Island for a day of exploration and creation. The concept, to create unique art to benefit the Fox Island Lighthouse Association and saving the South Fox Island Light Station was developed by well-known painter David Grath. He recruited local painters Gene Rantz and Woody Palmer to spend the day capturing scenes for an art show to be held in August, 2008, at the Painted Horse Gallery in Northport. Accompanying the painters were local photographer Sharon V. Kalchik and writer Becky Reynolds. Kalchik’s job was to capture her own images for the show as well as document the event. Reynolds was working on an article commissioned by the magazine Michigan Blue.  

The artists went their own ways for the entire day while Phil von Voigtlander worked with the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum contractor to set up the webcam equipment in the 1934 skeletal tower (see Phil's report below). John McKinney and George Carpenter, who had been at the Island since June 21, completed tasks on the workshop and paths while providing support to the artists. The wind’s force built from the south during the day and the trip home was a bit rough with waves in the throat of the Manitou Passage running five feet.  It was quite an adventure.  

FILA thanks the brave artists and looks forward to seeing their work. Watch for further information about the reception and show at the Painted Horse Gallery.

Becky Reynolds
Becky Reynolds

David Grath
 David Grath

Gene Rantz
Gene Rantz

Woody Palmer
Woody Palmer

After safe return
Kneeling: David Grath, Becky Reynolds. Standing (left to right):
Sharon Kalchik, Woody Palmer, John McKinney, Gene Rantz.

George "Carp" Carpenter
July 2, 2008

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A great weekend on South Fox

 On Saturday, June 21, John McKinney, George Carpenter and Phil von Voigtlander traveled to the South Fox island Light Station, where they raised the 28' flag pole Phil had fashioned and sent up the flag and the FILA banner -- probably the first time in almost 5 decades that the flag has flown at the Station. Phil even put his shirt on out of respect for Old Glory.

Over the weekend, the roofing debris from the boat house was bagged and loaded, and several repairs to the external trim of the workshop were done. Phil departed Sunday afternoon, taking the debris back to the mainland. Monday saw John clearing walkways, while George completed his carpentry work on the workshop.

On Tuesday, Phil returned with three local artist, a photographer and a writer, briefly after the contractors for the Web cam project had arrived aboard their own boat. While the artists set up their easels and started recording their interpretations of the beauty of the Light Station environment, the Web cam system and tools were hauled to the top of the 132' tower. The Web cam is now ready for the alignment of the antennae.

George hosted the artist group. Their artistic interpretations will be on display in Northport (more on that later). As is generally the case, the trip needed to have an element of drama. After 5 days of calm, the wind from the SW suddenly kicked up in the late afternoon and hastened the departure as the waves started building. Both teams arrived back at their respective ports in time for (albeit a late) dinner.

Phil von Voigtlander
June 25, 2008

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MLA Conference in Traverse City June 11 - 13

From June 11 through 13, the Michigan Lighthouse Association (MLA) held its annual meeting and conference at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan. MLA couldn’t have chosen a better location from the Fox Island Lighthouse Association’s (FILA) perspective because all of its Board Members live within a one-hour drive of the conference location. Furthermore, the lead member of the MLA Conference Committee and the "mover and shaker" for the conference was FILA Board Member, Sally Frye.  

Wednesday (6/11) was dedicated to various private meetings, and FILA President John McKinney helped in much of the setup for the conference on that day. The Thursday and Friday meeting sessions covered a variety of topics including Historic Structures Reports, painting, liability, history research, and lightning protection, to name a few.  

Frye had arranged for the Traverse Area Lighthouse Circle (TALC) to sponsor a luncheon on Friday (6/13), and TALC provided the luncheon presentation. John Nelson, FILA Board Member and Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center Baykeeper, gave the FILA portion of the presentation. He talked in a very human and personal way about the Fox Island Light Station from the perspective of his ancestor, Nels Nelson, who had been an assistant keeper at the station.  

Phil von Voigtlander and George Carpenter attended the work sessions and helped with registration and other matters. TALC had a display table and FILA was able to set up its own table with display boards, a picture/history notebook, and membership forms. Stef Staley, Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum and FILA mentor/advisor also attended.

FILA folks at the MLA Conference
From left: Sally, George, Stef and Phil.

George "Carp" Carpenter
June 30, 2008

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Board meeting of June 10, 2008

The FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Treasurer Phil von Voigtlander reported on the financial situation and on the "Builder's Trip" of May 31 - June 1 with various repairs on roof and walls of the boat house by Dick Parker and his son, Sheldon.

Secretary George Carpenter suggested that future vegetation clearing on the station property be done with more careful planning. He also informed on the plans for a special cruise to the light station with three painters, a photographer and a screenplay / magazine writer, the artistic result of which will be part of the Northport Art Show in August.

Phil reported on the continuing problems with the engines of FILA's boat, the Lightkeeper, and ways to pay the company that rebuilt one of the engines. Sally Frye reported on the schedule of the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance conference of June 11 - 13, and details of FILA's involvement were discussed.

A revised schedule for the setup of the Web cam on the skeleton tower was presented, and Carp reported that the insert in the Traverse City Record-Eagle covering the Traverse Area Light Chain was not going to happen due to lack of enough advertisers.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
August 15, 2008

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News page completely revamped

People with broadband Internet access won't care, but those who still have to use a steam modem (dial-up) will notice that our News page underwent a thorough change. The former News page had grown huge, and downloading it through an analog modem took ages.

In its new form, older News articles can be viewed on separate Archives pages, still accessible through the Index at the top of the News page, just as before, but stored and downloaded one by one, which makes the main News page much slimmer and faster.

It was a hard piece of work, involving the conversion of one page into 76 pages (!) including updating all links and internal cross-references. I hope I haven't missed anything important. In case you find a dead link or the like, please let me know -- -- your help is greatly appreciated.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, FILA Webmaster
June 9, 2008

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First work weekend of the 2008 season

We just returned from a very productive weekend at the Fox Island Light Station. Our group included Dick Parker and his son Sheldon as well as FILA officers John McKinney, George Carpenter and me.

The primary objective was to initiate the reroofing of the boat house and to complete the necessary structural repairs to the building. After stripping the old roof, we lifted the sagging SE side of the building, sistered in several new rafters, installed a new section of header, rebuilt the SE corner, installed three supporting posts and replaced the siding.

The building is shaping up well and is now ready to continue with the roofing installation. None of this would have been possible without the expert conceptual and practical work of Mr. Parker. FILA continues to benefit from his direction of this boat house stabilization project.

We also off-loaded a portion of the cedar shingles and back-loaded a significant portion the asphalt shingle debris. Future trips will continue this transfer until complete.

In addition, George documented much of the work (when not working on the roof and keeping the gang fed), and Phil cleaned up after our guest vulture who left the lantern room a white-washed mess!

Phil von Voigtlander
June 1, 2008

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Board meeting of May 13, 2008

The FILA board meeting of May 13 took place at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Phil von Voigtlander's financial report was approved: Phil mentioned major expenses to be expected in May. Stephanie Staley, Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum delegate and FILA advisor, has been doing the books for FILA so far but is going to turn them over to Phil. Stef reported on the current plans for the Web cam project and some issues with PR work. The board thanked her for doing the accounts and for all the help she has given to FILA.

A committee was formed to prepare a boat safety plan based on the materials given to FILA by Captain Jack Klang during his boat safety update lesson of May 10. Various issues concerning the conference of the Michigan Lighthouse Association, the Newsletter and FILA's participation in several public events were discussed. John McKinney reported on how to conduct a Historic Structures Report (HSR) without hiring expensive contractors, stuff he had learned at a meeting on Old Mission Peninsula.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
June 8, 2008

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Promising youth: a 4th-grader's model of the S. Fox lighthouse

In April, I got an e-mail from Rebecca Ver Hoef in Grand Rapids asking for information on the Sout Fox Island light station. The forth grade at Legacy Christian School in G.R. was doing a project on Michigan lighthouses, and her son, Luke, had chosen South Fox for his project, which meant he had to build a model.

Since I had no plans with accurate dimensions (except one of the assistant keepers' dwelling), I sent them a few photos not available on our Web site, especially some of the west side of the 1867 lighthouse, suggesting to build a model of that building only, with dimensions based on proportions visible in the pictures.

Kudos to Luke! He did an absolutely great job. His model features an amazing lot of details, such as the carefully crafted cream-white brick walls, the original chimney cap, and even a neatly constructed electric lighting system.

Luke and his work
Luke and his model.

South front of Luke's model
 Everything is there, even the year,
1867, above the front door.

The west side of the model
The rarely photographed west side.  

Many thanks to Luke and his Mom for sharing these photos.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
May 28, 2008

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Boat safety update for FILA Captains

Phil von Voigtlander, George "Carp" Carpenter and Sandy Bradshaw met Saturday, May 10th with Captain Jack Klang at the Silvertree Deli in Suttons Bay.  An avid sailor, yachtsman and national safety instructor, Captain Jack gave much sage advice to the trio cultivated through his 52 years on the water.  "I quit logging my miles after the first 25,000 miles," he said with a laugh, "And that was twenty-five years ago!"  Klang teaches cruising courses to around 20,000 persons per year and logs in 20,000 air travel miles.

Captain Klang went over many aspects of safety which included prudent procedures while fueling, handling of the lines, helicopter rescue procedures, all the way to safety on the island.  "A sailor must be prepared for the worst, but in the hopes the worst never happens," Klang said.

Carp, Captain Jack & Phil
 From left to right: Carp, Captain Jack and Phil.

All of us from the Fox Island Lighthouse Association thank Captain Klang both for sharing his many years of experience with FILA and for his time. He gave the trio two safety manuals, Safety At Sea and Cruising With Quantum, both written by himself. The booklets will be passed on among board members, as will the wonderful advice he shared.  

Please visit his web site at

Sandy Bradshaw
May 11, 2008

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Lightkeeper launched

The Lightkeeper, FILA's boat, was launched on April 25, 2008. After lots of maintenance work over winter in Phil von Voigtlander's boat shed in Northport, Andy Thomas, very helpful as always, towed her to the Northport Marina, where Phil, George Carpenter and Sandy Bradshaw assisted him to get her into the water. A first test run out onto Grand Traverse Bay showed no problems. Both engines ran as smooth as can be. The crew berthed her just before a thunderstorm hit the area.

Preparations for launching
From left to right: Carp, Phil, Marv (Northport harbormaster), and Andy.

Touching water
 Touching water after a thorough overhaul.

Floating again
 Ready for action.

Briefing on the bridge
Carp and Phil in the deck saloon.

Heading for open waters
Phil steering her out of the marina.

A wake like a painting
 All systems working.

Sandy Bradshaw
April 25, 2008

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Meeting with DNR, April 11, 2008

FILA board members Cathy Allchin, George Carpenter, John McKinney, Phil von Voigtlander, Bob Zwemer, and Stephanie Staley, Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum delegate and FILA advisor, met with Lisa Gamero, Craig Gulseth, Ham Hobson, Anna Sylvester, and Brenda Mikula of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Phil presented Before / After photos to show the progress made. Solutions for the collapsing lean-to shed on the north side of the 1867 lighthouse and technical details such as replacing Portland cement repair patches with historic mortar were discussed. Possible ways to repair the lighthouse roof were scrutinized.

FILA presented the Web cam project being realized in cooperation with the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, including some urgent repairs to be done on the 1934 steel skeleton light tower, where the camera is going to be installed. The DNR was very interested in the project.

The 2008 work permit was discussed, as well as the various aspects of a future lease, including insurance issues and easier access to grants. Various other possibilities for campaigning and getting grants were listed.

Anna Sylvester stated that the Federal Lands to Parks Program was excited to hear about FILA's work. It was also stated that the Office of History, Arts and Libraries has identified the South Fox Island Lighthouse as one of the most endangered sites in the state.

FILA appreciated the opportunity for the meeting and the partnership spirit of the discussion.

For Carp's complete notes of the meeting please click here.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's notes
May 11, 2008

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Board meeting of April 8, 2008

The April board meeting was held at the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center. Phil von Voigtlander's financial report on a rather quiet month didn't make big waves. The 2008 Task List and other items for the impending meeting with the MI Department of Natural Resources were discussed, including another Team Nickerson work trip in August and plans for a work trip of Boy Scout Crew 11 from Charlevoix.

Phil reported on the overhaul of FILA's Lightkeeper boat and the schedule for launching her with the help of Andy Thomas of Thomas & Milliken in Northport. Details of the work schedule for the season were discussed, including the involvement of Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum Lightkeepers.

George Carpenter described the layout of the new South Fox Island Lighthouse display at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, and details of the display were discussed. Sally Frye reported on the registration for the meeting of the Michigan Lighthouse Association to be held in Traverse City in June. A subcommittee for the meeting was formed.

Items for the FILA Newsletter were discussed, including the recruitment of volunteers and financial aspects. The list of potential joint events FILA / GTLM was revised and pruned. A new solution for a FILA phone line, especially for people interested in island trips, the necessity of a P.O. Box for FILA, some details of the Webcam project, and a new Traverse Area Lighthouse Chain (TALC) T-shirt including South Fox were covered too. Sally mentioned a new TALC brochure, and the payment of a modest amount for funding the brochure was approved.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
May 8, 2008

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New P.O. Box

FILA now has its own PO Box. The address is PO Box 452, Northport, MI  49670. Please include this new address in your correspondence. Thanks!

Phil von Voigtlander
April 9, 2008

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Board meeting of March 11, 2008

The FILA board met at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. Phil von Voigtlander reported on the finacial situation including a substantial installment paid against the lien on the Lightkeeper boat. He also informed the board of plans for a meeting with the Department of Natural Resources in April in order to obtain DNR approval of FILA's plans for the 2008 season. Various aspects of taking a lease from the DNR and the consequences thereof (insurance, improved grant opportunities etc.) were discussed.

Sally Frye reported on the plans for the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance meeting in Traverse City in June (click here for details) and the involvement and presentation of the Traverse Area Lighthouse Coalition including FILA. Sally also suggested a newsletter for members. A biannual newsletter was approved by the board.

Details of membership categories were discussed, and FILA's Mission Statement was pruned down to the essentials. George Carpenter and Stef Staley talked about plans for events to be jointly organized by FILA and the grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. Stef also reported on the state of affairs of the South Fox Web Cam project, hopefully to be accomplished in spring.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
March 28, 2008


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Board meeting of January 8, 2008

The first board meeting of 2008 was held on January 8 at the Great Lakes Children's Museum in Traverse City.

Treasurer Phil von Voigtlander presented the financial report. Details for filing a Form 990 with the IRS as well as the 2008 budget were discussed, the latter especially in view of the treasurer's substantial out-of-pocket expenses for FILA's Lightkeeper boat. A Membership Committee report, a PR report, proposals for tautening FILA's Mission Statement, possible solutions for a thoroughly reworked South Fox display at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, and the state of the Web cam project were presented and discussed.

The donation of a life ring labeled "South Fox Island" was reported, presumably an item that formerly belonged to the SF light station. Plans for its presentation as a part of the SF display at the GTLHM were presented. Updates for the Board Books, possibilities concerning future cooperation with the MI Department of Natural Resources (lease vs. use permit), plans for the insert to the Record-Eagle, and some impending events to be attended were discussed.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on George Carpenter's minutes
Jan. 22, 2008

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For other years, please click here to go back to the News page.




Archived June 8, 2010