Lightkeeper at anchor

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News Archives 2015
(latest entry at the top, blog style)

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


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



2015 all articles
2014 all articles

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2012 all articles
2011 all articles
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Board Meeting of December 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annual Meeting 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Last Island Trip of the year

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
November 10, 2015

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Board Meeting of October 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9th Annual Pancake Breakfast

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

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

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

Sandy Bradshaw
September 30, 2015

 Stephanie Rosinski & Cathy Allchin
Stephanie & Cathy.

Sandy Bradshaw & Anne McKinney
Sandy Bradshaw & Anne McKinney.

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

And now a few photos submitted by Sandy:

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

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

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

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

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Board Meeting of September 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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Lightkeeper status

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

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

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

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

Damaged propeller
Dented and badly bent propeller blade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
FILA Webmaster
September 10, 2015

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Moving stuff back and forth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
September 1, 2015

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 FILA Party in Suttons Bay

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

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

Barb, Sandy, Julie, Frank and John Wells.

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

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

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

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 8, 2015

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Wells' Window Report

Hello Gang…..

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

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

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

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


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

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Yet another work trip

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

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

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

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

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

 Cartload of Milwaukee bricks
Milwaukee cream bricks for the Lighthouse.

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
August 31, 2015

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Board Meeting of August 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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Window Team back from the island

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

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

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

Gary installing window
Gary Stauffer installing a kitchen window.

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

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
August 10, 2015

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Window trip

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

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

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

 Unloading sashes
 Beaching sashes.

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

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
August 6, 2015

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Changeover at the Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
July 28, 2015

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Great Lakes Celebration in Suttons Bay

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

Setting up tent
John and Don setting up tents.

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

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

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

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

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

USCG helicopter
Helicopter rescue demonstration by the US Coast Guard.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 2, 2015

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Heavy stuff for the Light

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

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

Barge maneuvring
Big barge leaving the dock.

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

Little barge
The little barge with the Boat House doors.

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

John Wells
July 23, 2015

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Much going on at the Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
July 27, 2015

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Board Meeting of July 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Work trip of July 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

 Oil House roof
Don painting the Oil House roof.

First window installed
First restored window installed in the 1867 Lighthouse

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

Phil von Voigtlander
July 9, 2015

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Light Station manned again!

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

The first crew since 1959
Kathy and Bruce before boarding.

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

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

Phil von Voigtlander
June 28, 2015

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First Island Trip of the season

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

 Crib in ruins
The heavily damaged crib.

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

Total collapse is near.

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

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

Thick moss growing on the roof of the Assistant Keepers'

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

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

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

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

Cathy Allchin
June 15, 2015

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Work plan meeting with the DNR

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

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

John McKinney
June 16, 2014

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Board Meeting of June 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Board Meeting of May 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DNR Friends Summit 2015

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

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

John McKinney
June 19, 2014

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Board Meeting of April 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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A promising young talent

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

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

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

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

Great work Kyle! Many thanks for sharing!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 18, 2015

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Board Meeting of March 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Board Meeting of February 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FILA on UpNorth TV

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

Good job. Thank you Cat!

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

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
March 9, 2015

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Earlier News articles are available in the Archives section.




Archived February 8, 2017