Lightkeeper at anchor

Link to Home page
News page (active)
Link to History page
Link to Facts & Maps page
Link to Downloads page
Link to Gallery page
Link to Links page
Link to Contributions page
Link to About Us page
Link to Guestbook page



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


Webmaster's apologies
Dock Study Meeting, March 27, 2018
Board Meeting of March 12, 2018
Pamela Nickerson passed away
Board Meeting of February 12, 2018

Annual Meeting 2017
Board Meeting of September 11, 2017
The 'Keeper ready for hibernation
Summary of the 2017 season
FILA Party at Omena Harbor
End of the Camper Keeper Season
FILA at the GTLHM, episode II
Yet another Camper Keepers team
Board Meeting of August 14, 2017
Ringing in a Presidential Week
Rollins' Roll-Over
Day Trip  of July 17, 2017
The Rollins, Episode III
S. Fox Lighthouse manned again
Another day trip
Spring Work Report
An outhouse going up the hill
Second trip: window team relief
First work trip of 2017
Board Meeting of May 8, 2017
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

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


2015 all articles
2014 all articles

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

Top of page

Webmaster's Apologies

Our News page wasn't updated a single time in several months. Sorry for any inconvenience.

I was totally absorbed in the relocation of my household, lab, workshop and also some stuff for the Light Station, from Switzerland to the USA, two 20ft containers that crossed the Big Pond.

The worst part is over. The whole lot safely arrived in Suttons Bay in late March. I'm reporting back for duty. Thanks for your patience.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
May 3, 2017

Top of page

Dock Study Meeting, March 27, 2018

Cathy Allchin, the "three Johns" (J. McKinney,  J. Nelson, and J. Wells), Karen Wells, Sandy Bradshaw and Joerg Rothenberger met at Horizon Books in Traverse City to elaborate FILA's standpoint concerning the plans for the new dock at the South Fox Boathouse.

Clockwise from mid left: Phil, Cathy, John N., John
McK.,Karen, John W., Sandy.

Cathy, FILA's "envoy" in this matter, commented on various facets of the feasibility study prepared for the DNR by Edgewater Resources LLC in St. Joseph, MI. The board discussed pros and cons of several possible technical approaches and defined FILA's point of view for Cathy to represent at her meeting with the parties involved.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
May 2, 2017

Top of page

Board Meeting of March 12, 2018

According to John Wells's financial report there are $16,550 reserved for current roof projects. The missing grant check mentioned at the previous meeting was received, final numbers from contractor yet to be provided.

The board has the sad duty to inform our supporters and friends that Pamela Nickerson, FILA Secretary since 2009, passed away on February 16, 2018, after long illness. Our hearts go out to her family and friends. A FILA delegation attended the funeral service.

A new board member was elected in absentia, subject to acceptance. Ham Hobson of the DNR briefed the board on various matters such as the DNR grant for the Assistant Keepers' Quarters and availability of materials for the new fire pit and other projects. The landing barge of the National Park Service may be out of commission in summer, a challenge for FILA's Lightkeeper. A special meeting will be held to discuss the dock feasibility study.

Phil von Voigtlander reported that Summer Keepers are scheduled for July and August. John and Karen Wells reported on their attendance at the DNR Friends Summit at Higgins Lake.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 27, 2017

Top of page

Pamela Nickerson passed away

Pamela at the Children's Museum 2010

The entire FILA organization is saddened by the recent loss of our long serving secretary Pamela Nickerson.  


Pamela loved representing her family's legacy on South Fox Island by contributing to the FILA efforts to conserve historical and cultural heritage.  She was central to  Board activity, often being the voice of wisdom and reminding us of the right way to proceed.  As with her family and her profession she was hard working and dedicated.

Pamela will be greatly missed by all.

John McKinney, FILA President

Top of page

Board Meeting of February 12, 2018

Despite transatlantic attendance over the phone, the March board meeting didn't see a quorum but quite a few guests. John Wells reported on the state of financial affairs including the very nice results from the End of Year Appeal. A check from the Leelanau Township Community Foundation was reported missing, S&R operation needed.

The 2018 project list, the annual meeting (phone conference) of John McKinney, Sandy Bradshaw, Karen and John Wells with DNR officials and possible tactics for recruitment of new board members were discussed, as well as various little projects for the lighthouse work season, such as fresh-water pumps, mattresses, a new fire pit, acquisition of tools etc..

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 30, 2017

Top of page

Annual Meeting 2017

Despite icy roads, FILA's annual meeting of November 11, 2017 at the Munnecke Meeting Room of the Leland Township Public Library saw an excellent turnout with about 35 attendees, a mix of members and interested parties, including representatives from both the White Shoals and North Manitou Shoals lights and Ham Hobson from the DNR.

While the FILA Board held a brief business meeting incl. elections, attendees were invited to tour the Leelanau Historical Society Museum by special arrangement with curator, Kim Kelderhouse.

Leelanau guitarist Mike McCullough serenaded
the guests. 

Pamela & Phil
FILA Secretary Pamela Nickerson and Island
Project Manager Phil von Voigtlander.

Cathy & John McKinney
FILa Vice President Cathy Allchin and President John McKinney addressing the guests.  

Ham Hobson, Cathy, John Nelson & Phil
Board members Cathy, John Nelson and Phil talking
to DNR contact Ham Hobson (left).

Vice President Cathy Allchin again did one of her fine presentations, reviewing the history of the station, highlighting recent projects and soliciting new volunteers to come forward.

Long line at the buffet
 Chow line at the buffet.

Ally & Keith Lang
Ally and Keith Lang, South Fox Island Lighthouse keepers in August 2017.

View of the buffet
 It's an old tradition at FILA events that nobody
goes starving.

Steve & Kathy Libert
Steve Libert (of
Le Griffon fame) with his
wife, Kathy.

Guest following Cathy's presentation
Front row (right): Bill and Judi Babel (GT Yacht Club);
2nd row: Joanne and Keith Burnham (
The Leland Report); 3rd row: Anne McKinney.

Carol & Willie Lee with Cathy Allchin
Cathy (right) talking to long-time FILA supporters and seasoned South Fox volunteers, Carole and Willie Lee.

Quoting President, John McKinney: "Lots of valuable conversations, new people and great food made for a fun event."

Karen Wells
November 12, 2017

Top of page

Board Meeting of September 11, 2017

Phil von Voigtlander presented a draft of a procedure statement regarding any vessel used for FILA transport, in particular concerning interaction with other vessels. Cathy Allchin will write an application for a $500 grant to get a cell phone booster.

According to DNR contact Ham Hobson, there will be no other NPS trip to the station this year. A draft proposal of 77 pages concerning the new dock has been submitted by Edgewater Resources LLC. NOAA people will evaluate the weather station site in spring.

Roof repair on the Fog Signal Building could not be begun due to getting materials late in the season. Phil reported ten weeks of occupancy this year, a new record. And all volunteers want to come back.

The Annual Meeting will be November 11, at the Leland Library from 3-6 p.m..

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchin's minutes
October 11, 2017

Top of page

The 'Keeper ready for hibernation

Apart from the barge of the National Park Service, the Lightkeeper provided most of the heavy transportation service to and from the Light Station all summer long. Big crews and heavy cargo were hauled almost every weekend.

On August 31st she was hoisted onto her trailer at the Northport Bay Boat Yard and towed to her winter storage place at Ahgosatown Landing on September 1st. There, truss timbering for a new winter tarp was installed.

The Lightkeeper hanging in the hoist slings
Flying Lightkeeper? Not quite, but on the way to her trailer.

Truss timbering all over the Lightkeeper
New  timber system for the winter tarp.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 6, 2017

Top of page

Summary of the 2017 season

On August 27, 2017, FILA Island Project Manager, Phil von Voigtlander, sent the following email to all those that had volunteered work at the station:

FILA had its most productive season ever thanks to the efforts of all of you. The Station was occupied for ten weeks this summer by people that did amazing work. The many projects that you all did are almost too lengthy to list, but a few of the highlights are:

  • The near completion of the Summer Quarters (formerly known as the lean-to), a task that every team contributed to.
  • The Light Tower window replacement which has now closed up the tower for the first time since the first windows were vandalized over forty years ago.
  • Window and shutter construction and installation in the 1867 Lighthouse and Assistant Keepers' Quarters.
  • Clearing the Assistant Keepers' Quarters roof of moss and cleaning out and repairing eaves and downspouts.
  • Clearing under the Skeleton Tower and on various trails.
  • Repairing and painting Oil House roof and touching up paint around base.
  • Painting bedrooms in Assistant Keepers' Quarters and 1867 Lighthouse.
  • Transplanting various plants around 1867 Lighthouse.
  • Digging out 1867 Lighthouse stairwell and building and installing a solid deck over it.
  • Installing new outhouse.
  • Reorganizing lumber piles to accommodate the Fog Signal Building roofing and lumber.
  • Hosting visits from sailors, Inland Seas and even a long distance paddle boarder.

Great summer with all of you and hope to see you next year!

Phil and the FILA Board

Top of page

FILA Party at Omena Harbor

On August 27, 2017, FILA's traditional summer party was held at Omena Harbor, the home port of the Lightkeeper. The weather was windy and cold, and a drizzle forced members and friends to gather in the deck salon of the 'Keeper. After a while, the party moved to the picnic tables kindly provided by Ruth DeVrou, the owner of the northern half of the harbor.

Guests in the deck salon of the boat Karen Wells, Phil von Voigtlander, Anita Pratt and Anne McKinney (from left, with very partial views of a few other guests).

Guest preparing the picnis tables after some rain
As soon as the rain stopped, the tables and benches were wiped dry and the buffet was prepared.

John Wells grilled a generous number of hot dogs, which were accompanied by various goodies brought by the guests.

Guests gathering around the buffet tables Ok folks, please load your plates!

Guests at the picnic tables John Rust, Don Stauffer, Terry & Anita Pratt, John Wells, John McKinney, Phil von Voitglander, Sandy Bradshaw, Gary Stauffer, Sheryll Rust, plus Jane Stauffer and Karen Wells in the background right.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 6, 2017

Top of page

End of the Camper Keeper Season

On August 22, 2017, the first attempt to reach the Light Station aboard the Victory, the sturdy tug-style aluminum vessel of volunteers Doug and Gwen Noren to pick up the last Camper Keeper couple was foiled by heavy waves after rounding Lighthouse Point.

 The Victory at Northport Marina
Victory before departure from Northport.

  Victory crew before departure
Gwen, Anna (dog with sea legs), Phil, Joerg und Doug.

On Thursday, August 24, the Victory braved the still somewhat rough waters in the Manitou Passage and safely got Phil von Voigtlander, H. Joerg Rothenberger and the Norens to South Fox, where the waves quickly abated while approaching the anchorage.

Doug on the fore deck of the Victory
Doug after tying the Victory off on Phil's mooring.

Volunteers having lunch at the picnic table in front of the workshop Little lunch after landing: Doug, Phil, Ally & Keith Lang and Gwen with Anna.

Ally and Keith had spent their term of not quite two weeks (yet) doing a lot of great work and welcomed many visitors, including a third party of young people from the Schooner Inland Seas. It's nice to know Captain Ben Hale and crew added us to their schedule.

Group of visitors from schooner Inland Seas sitting around the Nickerson Fire Pit
The third group from the
Inland Seas enjoying s'mores at the Nickerson Fire Circle.

Here are a few pictures of work done by the Langs before the arrival of the Victory, with original captions snitched from the FILA Facebook page:

 Alley painting a bedroom ceiling in the Assistant Keepers' Quarters
 Ally painted the Asst Keeper's bedroom that had a prior application of lead-encapsulating paint. We now have multiple lead-free and/or lead abated living spaces. This is a huge step forward for our working teams.

Keith on a scaffold installing a window winter shutter
 Now how does this work? Keith contemplating installation of a newly built winter cover.

 Keith patching the Oil House roof
Keith made a major contribution patching the Oil House roof. We had several growing rust holes that had eluded our earlier attempts to patch them. Not only did Keith bring the skills for the job, he also had to have a lot of patience. It's exhausting to work on a ladder at that angle doing exacting work. THANKS Keith! 

 Keith painting a wall in the lean-to
Keith staining walls on the summer quarters (historically called the "lean to" of the 1867 lighthouse where the first assistant keepers stayed). Hopefully Keith got out for a few hikes and didn't spend all his time on ladders! 

The combined teams used the rest of the day and the following day working on various projects: Gwen trimmed the edges of the concrete walkways and helped do a final cleaning of several buildings. Joerg and Doug installed Lexan sheets in previously open 1934 lantern room windows (first time in decades that the inside of the tower is not exposed to rain). Phil and Doug did eaves and downspout work. The Langs worked on winter covers for windows, and Joerg surveyed a route for an easier West Beach trail, "almost wheelchairable", as he said.

Phil and Doug working inside the Skeleton Tower staircase
Phil (left) and Doug working on a steel window frame inside the Skeleton Tower. Getting those rusty bolts out often involved heat and brute force.

Doug on the platform of the Skeleton Tower
Doug replacing a missing window pane on the lantern room of the Skeleton Tower. Please note the knee-high guard rail almost 60 ft above the ground.

Panoramic view from the Skeleton Tower
Work place with a view: looking north from the lantern Room of the Skeleton Tower.
To see a larger version in a separate tag or window,
please click here.

 Numbered window frame bar on Skeleton Tower lantern room
A cute detail: This is how carefully the parts of the Skeleton Tower were numbered.

 Ally and Keith painting a window cover in front of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters
Keith and Ally painting a window cover for the Assistant Keepers' Quarters.

A sail yacht had spent the night off the West Beach (see panoramic photo above), and the crew paid us a visit on Friday. Two of the three guys had been members of the legendary "Team Geezer" in June 2009 (please click here to read the article in a separate tag or window). They were very pleased by the progress of work in the past eight years.

Another visitor was even more of a surprise: Chris Lechner, a hand surgeon from North Carolina, arrived in the afternoon on his standup paddleboard from North Manitou on his way from Frankfort to North Fox Island and from there to Beaver Island. (View his reports on Facebook.) He is the guy who swam across Lake Michigan from Sheboygan, WI, to Ludington, MI, two years ago, towing his paddleboard behind him, using it only for meals and naps.

And we thought we were crazy doing our thing on South Fox Island. What a great encounter!

 FILA folks and crew from the sail yacht around the picnic table at the workshop
From left: Ally (in the background), Phil, John Fink (visitor), Doug (background), Gwen, Paul Webb and Don Duquette (both ex-"Team Geeser"), Joerg, Keith (foreground).

Ally, Keith and visitor Chris Lechner at the picnic table
Ally and Keith with hard-core paddleboarder Chris Lechner (right).

 Chris re-launching his paddleboard
Chris preparing his catamaran paddleboard (designed by himself) for the leg to North Fox Island.

 Chris headed for North Fox, with the Victory on the right
On his way to North Fox between the Boat House and the

Despite those distractions, due to joint efforts of all team members great progress was made, which led to the decision to return on Saturday instead of Sunday. That was a good thing in that the weather forecast for Sunday was pretty discouraging anyway.

Saturday morning saw last-minute work such as casting concrete around the bottom ends of downspouts on the Assistant Keepers' Quarters, spraying moss remover on the AKQ roof, boarding up all windows, collecting 51 little red flags from the projected new trail, and breaking camp.

Concrete cast around downspout
Downspout bottom cast by Doug.

Ally and Keith carrying their gear to the Boat House beacfh
Super Compact Campers Ally and Keith. And their gear contained two tents!

1867 Lighthouse closed up for winter
Lighthouse boarded up and shuttered for winter, in other words: end of season.

Sure enough, as we were preparing materials for the dinghy rides to the Victory, the motorboat of the Leelanau County Sheriff slowly passed the Station, heading to North Fox. "Gosh", we thought, "did something happen to Chris?!" However, as soon as we got usable Internet connection on the way to the mainland, we learned from his blog that he had safely left North Fox. By the time we reached Northport after a smooth passage he had already reached St. James on Beaver Island, his final destination.

Anna, the dog of the Norens, had eaten some rodenticide inside the 1867 Lighthouse and had to be treated by a vet after return.

This was the end of the 2017 Camper Keeper season, with great work done by great people. No exceptions. Many thanks to all of them.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
September 5, 2017

Top of page

FILA at the GTLHM, episode II

In the afternoon of August 19, 2017, FILA made another, albeit modest, appearance at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. Wanting to share our pictures and stories of this summer's successful restoration season, FILA representatives John Wells, Sandy Bradshaw, and H. Joerg Rothenberger did a "Meet & Greet" outside the Museum.

The all-new South Fox Island Lighthouse children's coloring book, To The Lighthouse!, created by volunteer Sue Olcott and printed by an anonymous donor, was available at the FILA booth. The book tells the history of the Fox Island Light station. Copies are available by donation from Board Members and at events, including our upcoming annual meeting.

FILA booth with GTLH in the background
From left: FILA tent, GTLHM, gift shop.

 Sandy Brashaw and John Wells talking to Michelle McManus
Former State Representative and State Senator, Hon. Michelle McManus (left) talking to another visitor, Sandy and John.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger with some material from Karen Wells
September 4, 2017

Top of page

Yet another Camper Keepers team

Originally planned as an over-night trip, the latest changing of the guard at the Light Station had to be shortened to a day trip due to weather issues. On Sunday, August 13, the Lightkeeper and Joerg Rothenberger, co-captained by Phil von Voigtlander, took the new Camper Keepers couple, Ally and Keith Lang, and Cathy Allchin, David Peterson and Bill Sterrett (District Supervisor with the DNR) to South Fox. Trying to be polite, we refrain from mentioning that briefly before rounding the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, one of the engines suddenly died, accidentally killed by one of the passengers enjoying the view from the flybridge. Sure gave us a good laugh!

Keith and Ally Lang aboard the Lightkeeper at Northport Marina
Ready for a new experience: Keith and Ally Lang.

View from the Leightkeeper's aft deck oer Northport Marina in the background
Leaving Northport Marina.

The really rough waves of Saturday had abated, so crossing the Manitou Passage was easy. However, safely getting people and equipment into the dinghy and ashore still was a bit adventurous.

Bill standing on the platform of the Lightkeeper
Bill and Phil, the former on the platform, which usually is a good foot above the water.

Bill on the bow of the dinghy on the way to the beach
Bill evidently enjoying the dinghy ride to the Boat House beach.

The newcomers were welcomed by the crew to be relieved (see article below). A brief Tour de Lighthouse showed that those folks had done a really great job. We learned that there had been another visit by crew and students of the schooner Inland Seas. Besides that, John McKinney, usually just known as Mr. President, now was nicknamed "Rambo" by the younger team members due to his tendency to do real hard and awkward work from dawn to dusk.

The "old" team, John, Mary, Ursula and Tony
Team "Rambo*: John, Mary, Ursula and Tony.

The cleared area inside the fence around the Skeleton TowerSkeleton Tower Jungle cleared!

Old and new Camper Keepers and boat crew at the picnic tble near the Workshop
Lunch with (de-)briefing. From left: Tony, John, Keith, Ally, Bill, Mary, Cathy, Ursula, Phil and David.

Group photo in front of the 1867 Lighthouse
Again from left: David, Mary, Phil, Keith, Ally, Joerg and Rambo.

Here is a link to Tony's imposing list of tasks done. Great work folks! Thank you very much!

Getting the relieved team and gear from the Boat House beach to the Lighkeeper again was somewhat wet. Especially the last dinghy ride got some passengers and the helmsman swamped up to the hips in the surf on the Boat House beach. Ally and Keith were left behind to man the station for another two weeks. The return to Northport was not exactly smooth in the physical sense of the term but posed no problems.

Good news: It looks like we've already got quite a few Camper Keepers for next summer, repeat offenders, sort of.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 15, 2017

Top of page

Board Meeting of August 14, 2017

The board accepted John Wells' financial report, although the increase of insurance fees from $293 to $294 raised some concerns. No updates yet regarding the new dock and the NOAA weather station. Material for Fog Signal Building repairs has been ordered. The very successful Camper Keepers season is nearing conclusion, setting up quite a few records. Many thanks to all the great people that did so much for the Station!

John Wells brought the new South Fox Island Lighthouse coloring book to show, created by volunteer Sue Olcott and printed by a donor. It will be available at events and through FILA members. The next event on the agenda will be FILA at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum on August 19.

The Annual Meeting will be held in November, date yet to be determined. Sandy Bradshaw will try to reserve the Leland library.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchin's minutes
September 16, 2017

Top of page

Ringing in a Presidential Week

On August 6, 2017, Mary Maxwell, Ursula Kadadu, Tony Rizk and David Nobles were welcomed aboard the Lightkeeper at the Northport Marina by FILA Prez John McKinney and Captain H. Joerg Rothenberger. A gentle ride took them to the Light Station. There they were greeted by Phil von Voigtlander and Don Stauffer, who were waiting to be relieved. Polycarbonate sheets for the spiral staircase of the Skeleton Tower were beached. Mary, Ursula and Tony decided to pitch their tents in front of the Workshop.

The crew aboard the Lightkeeper before departure
Ready for the departure briefing, from left: Tony, John, Mary, David, Joerg, and Ursula.

The Lightkeeper at anchor with the Light Station in the background
Lightkeeper on the mooring, with the 1934 Skeleton Tower, the Boat House and the 1867 Lighthouse.

Don and John with a Lexan sheet on the way from the beach to the Boat House
Don and John with a Lexan sheet for the steel tower.

Camper Keepers and FILA board members in front of the Workshop
From left: Tony, Ursula, Phil, John, Mary, and Don.

In the afternoon, the very big ladder of last summer's fame was moved from the Boat House to the back side of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters. There it was erected, initiating "Operation Roof Moss," one of the big projects for the coming week. Besides Phil's and Don's camping gear, some Lighthouse items such as two screen doors and some window frame hardware were moved to the boat for restoration / reconstruction on the mainland.

The whole crew carting the big ladder from the Boat House up the hill
Parading the monster ladder....

FILA members and volunteers erecting the ladder at the back side of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters
.... and getting it up to the roof.

John stayed at the Station with the new Camper Keepers. Just as the Lightkeeper was weighing anchor, the little ketch of the Rollins was seen sailing in from Ahgosatown near Omena. The Lightkeeper's passage back to Northport was smooth too, but the very last miles were marred by awkward interactions with two other boats that could have been easily avoided altogether.

Here are a few pictures submitted by Phil, showing some of the achievements of their mini-crew (with captions by Phil):

Don on the new stair well cover
Built deck over stairwell.

Don working on a dormer wall
Prepped and painted dormer room walls.

Freshly mulched strawberry plantation at the 1867 Lighthouse corner
Mulched strawberries with compost from stairwell.

Old Glory and FILA flag in a gale-force wind
Endured two days of gales.

Don at the bonfire, with the full moon in the background
 Last night with campfire and full moon.

Don collecting seaweed on the Boat House beach
 Gotta clear the beach for the next team to land!

And this is what Phil wrote about their windy week:

"Don and I worked two days in the Skeleton Tower installing winter storm windows in stairs, removing dash rails and hauling Lexan to the lantern room. We also tidied up the grounds and reinstalled a toilet in the Assistant Keepers' Quarters."

Many thanks Phil!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 9, 2017

Top of page

Rollins' Roll-Over

On July 30, 2017, the Lightkeeper, captained by H. Joerg Rothenberger, took Phil von Voigtlander and the Stauffer Brothers, Gary and Don, lots of materials and the RIB to the South Fox Island Light Station. Briefly before our arrival, the schooner Inland Seas departed with nine students plus crew aboard after an overnight stay. 2-foot waves at the anchorage made unloading over the transom platform impossible, so the transfer of cargo and crew into the RIB was done over the starboard bulwark. The heavy and fragile items had to be left aboard altogether.

Aft deck of the Lighkeeper full of bulky cargo
Lightkeeper, our old work horse, was at it again.

Beaching the RIB
Bruce, Gary, Don and Phil dragging the RIB to safety.

Lunch in the 1867 kitchen
Clockwise from left: Phil, Don, Gary, Bruce, Kathleen.

After a late lunch in the now nicely equipped and lead-paint-free (!) kitchen of the 1867 Lighthouse, Kathleen and Bruce Rollins presented their achievements of the last few weeks, again absolutely amazing. They had added another week to their stay at the station and made great use of their time.

Joerg deployed his own dinghy and beached some more items. Phil and the Stauffers moved into the buildings while Joerg pitched his tent near the Boathouse to be close to the prancing boat. At dusk, it finally was possible to board the Lightkeeper over the transom platform, make a thorough anchor test and beach some more stuff.

New bunk bed in lean-to
The new DNR-made bunk bed in the lean-to.

Bruce Rollins climbing the Skeleton Tower
Bruce climbing the Skeleton Tower.



Monday morning Bruce gave a tour of the pending projects on the Skeleton Tower. The Rollins swiftly broke camp, and their gear was moved to the dock. The lake at the anchorage was much calmer now, so the bulkier cargo items, including a pretty heavy table top donated by David Nobles, could be safely transferred to the beach.

Two dinghies side by side
The two dinghies ready for action in stereo, so to say.

Table top being unloaded
The Stauffers hauling the table top; Phil at the oars.

RIB at the Lightkeeper's transom, second dinghy approaching
The RIB about to go back to the beach, the second dinghy in the waiting loop.

Don and Gary Stauffer waiting on the beach
Don and Gary Stauffer, the latter ready to be taken back to Northport.

As an absolute first in FILA's history, two dinghies were used simultaneously to get materials from the Lighkeeper to the dock and vice versa. This shortened the process enough to allow departure before lunch, leaving Phil and Don behind.

Joerg at the helm of the dinghy
Joerg on the last dinghy ride before departure.

Wake of the Lightkeeper, with Gary's feet in the foreground
Full speed back to the mainland; Gary's feet for scale

Gary, Kathleen and Bruce at Northport Marina
Back from the island after four weeks!



The ride back to Northport in plain sunshine and little wind was very smooth and uneventful. The Rollins very cleverly stuffed all their equipment in their car and promised to be back soon. Joerg eventually took the Lightkeeper back to Omena Harbor singlehandedly.

Kathleen and Bruce, many thanks for all your great work! You guys are wonderful!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
August 3, 2017

P.S. Here are two photos of the visit by the crew and students aboard the schooner Inland Seas:

Schooner at anchor north of the Boat House beach
Inland Seas at anchor.

Students and crew in front of the 1867 Lighthouse
Students and crew being given a tour of the Light Station.

Top of page

Day Trip of July 17, 2017

Doug and Gwen Noren hosted a day trip that included Jerry Spears, David Nobles and Phil von Voigtlander aboard their boat, Victory. The day was cloudless and quite calm and afforded us the view of scores of the Mac racers.

In addition to bringing some supplies to the Rollins keepers, we had a number of objectives. First we gained access to the tower and went up to assess the window situation therein. Careful measurements were made of the cupola windows for replacement of two and a half of the broken panes and the strategy for installation formulated. On the way down, two of the intact stair window sashes were removed for rebuilding and the entrance door was adjusted for closure.  

While four of us were so employed, Kathy Rollins did the bulk of the mowing. After lunch, Jerry got the second mower running and two of us completed the mowing of the fringe areas. The trimmer was determined to need extensive reconditioning and was packaged up to return with us. Jerry and Doug carefully reassessed the Fog signal building structural repairs and roof resulting in a materials list for the DNR.

Day trip crew and Bruce Rollins at the picnic table in front of the workshop
David, Bruce, Gwen, Doug, and Phil having a break in front of the workshop.

Dinghy going back to the boat
A full dinghy, including one sash from the skeleton tower staircase.

Throughout the day we were pleased to see all of the progress that the Rollins have reported on over their first two weeks. We loaded up in mid afternoon, wished them well and had a fast and uneventful passage back to Northport.  

Phil von Voigtlander
July 17, 2017

Top of page

The  Rollins, Episode III

Those Texans are at it again! It's their third 4-weeks stay at the South Fox Island Lighthouse, and they are very busy.

Here are a few photos with comments provided by Kathleen Rollins:

Bruce with the new inlet for the water pump
"Fun with the Gusher diaphragm pump that John Wells obtained last year to allow drawing water from the lake for drinking and washing without wading. Here's a beefed up inlet screen that Bruce built this year"

 Laundry hanging on the "new" clothes line
"Could there be a more beautiful place to dry socks!"

Modern gear in the 1867 kitchen
"Lorinda Miller Maki and Eric treated us right! In addition to completing an amazing number of important carpentry projects last year, they also carefully stored the equipment we left for them. We weren't sure that the drinking water tote would still be here, so we brought a new one. Now we have a WASH water tap, and a FILTERED water tap. This is uptown living."

Primed ceiling in the 1867 kitchen
"Well, it wasn't on the project list, but I couldn't resist. Cat Allchin scraped the kitchen ceiling, and if I primed it now, it wouldn't have to be done again. Still a few cracks to patch, but there will be less lead dust filtering into our PB sandwiches!"

Bruce on the West Beach trail
"Celebrating the West Beach trail. Couldn't
get the string trimmer running, so Bruce
Rollins cleared the trail by hand with the
grass whip. Ready for visitors - - come see it!"

Bruce paneling the lean-to
"The final panel in lean-to living area. Next
project is paneling in the bedroom."

Bruce sawing lumber in the lean-to
"Sometimes you just need a window in the right place!"

Kathleen on the 1867 tower
"A beautiful day for a climb to the top of the 1867 lighthouse."

Aren't those guys amazing? Kathleen and Bruce, thank you very much for all the great things you're doing out there!

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
July 20, 2017


Top of page

South Fox Lighthouse manned again

The Lightkeeper was launched at Ahgosatown Landing on June 28, 2017, and transferred to Omena Harbor on June 29 to be prepared for her first trip of the season. Two days later, under a very dreary sky, Camper Keepers Kathleen and Bruce Rollins, along with their equipment for three weeks, were taken to the Light Station by FILA Captains Hans Joerg Rothenberger and Phil von Voigtlander. This was the third time the Rollins came up from Texas to man the Station. Looks like South Fox Island isn't a bad place to spend a few weeks in pure nature.

The heavy cargo prevented the old engines from maintaining full planing speed all the way out, but the island was reached in less than 2 1/2 hours, still pretty good for the Old Lady. The sky cleared up at an amazing speed right after arrival, providing welcoming picture postcard weather to our Camper Keeper couple.

The Lightkeeper being launched
Lightkeeper on her way to the launch ramp.

The Lightkeeper's wake seen from the deck salon
Full speed ahead!

Phil rowing the heavily loaded dinghy
Phil rowing the dinghy to the Boathouse.

Bruce hoisting the flags
Bruce hoisting the flags.

Crew and gear were rowed to the Boat House by Phil; the trolling motor had kicked the bucket the evening before. After lunch, Phil gave the Rollins a little tour, pointing out possible tasks for their stay. Joerg briefly inspected the area around the trail to the West Beach to find ways to make the hike easier for people with less than mountain goat climbing skills.

Lunch at the Nickerson picnic table
Phil, Bruce and Kathleen having lunch.

Food crates on a picnic bench
Enough food for three weeks.

Paneling lumber stacked in the Boathouse
 Paneling lumber waiting in the Boathouse.

Phil in the donghy, Bruce at the oars
Phil being rowed back to the
Lightkeeper by Bruce.

Departure was relatively early because it was not quite clear how much of the return could be made at planing speed. However, without the heavy load, Omena Harbor was reached in less than two hours, bypassing Northport. This was the first time since 2011 that the Lightkeeper was successfully pushed to her limits. All in all it was an easy trip that turned from gray and cold to sunny and warm.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
July 3, 2017

Top of page

Another Day Trip

June 21, 2017: On a picture perfect Wednesday, Don and I piloted the Islander to the Light Station with crew John McKinney, Gary Stauffer and Karen Wells.  Other than a dense fog bank for half the crossing (3rd trip to feature this hazard), the crossings were uneventful.

 Islander boat at anchor
Islander at anchor.

Lunch at the Nickerson picnic table
Don, John, Karen, and Phil having lunch.

Don Stauffer cleaning a walkway
Don cleaning a walkway after mowing.

Base of skeletal tower cleared
Base of Skeletal Tower after clearing.

We had a big work day that included both lawn mowers (Gary and John) working together to cut the lawns and push back their borders. The three of us also cleared out the entrance to the skeletal light tower base. Don, John and Gary moved the bed frames into position and assembled one in the Assistant Keepers' Quarters. Karen installed windows, painted doors and lead the evaluation of the condition of the oil house roof. Everybody chipped in to install the pit liner in the new privy; now open for business.  

The freshly painted portico over the side door to the Assistant Keeper's Quarters
The side door portico of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters
after painting.

John and Gary in front of the new outhouse
Waiting for the toilet to be installed: John and Don.

 Phil inside the outhouse before installation of the toilet
Phil right before the installation of the
toilet seat.

 View through one of the restored Lighthouse windows
The Oilhouse seen through one of the
restored windows in the spiral staircase
of the 1867 Lighthouse.

Panoramic view from the 1867 Lighthouse
And here's a nice view from the lantern platform of the 1867 Lighthouse, with the new outhouse (left), the Boathouse area (center, behind the flag pole) and the Oilhouse (right).

It was a good day and the station is ready to receive the resident keepers.

Phil von Voigtlander
June 22, 2017

Top of page

FILA at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse

The morning of Saturday, June 17, 2017 brought the threat of heavy rains to the Leelanau Peninsula, trying to dampen the enthusiasm for the Lighthouse Day, celebrating the 165th anniversary of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and the 150th anniversary of the South Fox Island Lighthouse.

The rain never happened. Instead, all who came were greeted with warm smiles and warm and sometimes sunny weather. Pancake breakfast was available at the pavilion. In front of the gift shop, FILA was well represented and staffed with early bird Don Stauffer, then Joerg Rothenberger, myself, Cathy Allchin, Phil von Voigtlander, and 2016 Camper Keepers, Lorinda and Eric Maki. Kathleen Craker Firestone joined us to sign her book, The Fox Islands, North and South.

Phil, Eric and Lorinda Maki
Phil (left) welcoming Eric and Lorinda Maki.

The FILA crew in front of the gid
 From left to right: Eric, Lorinda, Cathy, Don, Sandy, and Phil.

Cathy Firestone signing books
Kathleen signing her Fox Island books.

Lorinda Maki answering visitors' questions
Lorinda Maki and visitors.

We had lots to share about the doings out on South Fox Island with the many who attended the event. And we had a huge birthday cake too, organized by Cathy. 

 Cathy presenting the birthday cake
Cathy unpacking the birthday cake.

 Close-up pichture of the birthday cake
The birthday cake in its full glory.

Near noon, GTLHM Director, Stef Staley, and crew brought out a large barbecue grill and served up brats and chips.  It was a great time for all seeing old friends and making new ones, "Friend-Raising," as Don Stauffer aptly called it! Ok, fund raising too. While folding our booth down we found an amazing check in our donation jar.

Sandra Bradshaw
June 22, 2017

Top of page

Spring Work Report

As mentioned in an article below, on May 28, John Heneghan and Cathy Allchin arrived at the Lighthouse aboard the Islander to join Karen Wells, while John Wells and John McKinney went back to the mainland.

As a first priority, John H., a carpenter from Big Rock, IL, conquered the east window of the lean-to, building an operational window from scratch, providing light and ventilation in the new annex. He moved on to construct the closet and panel the dividing wall.

John Heneghan making the window frame in the lean-to.
Fashioning the window frame in the lean-to.

John Heneghan hanging a sashJohn installing a sash.

Cathy took on the daunting project of scraping the loose and curling lead paint from the kitchen ceiling, doors, and walls. Thorough washing of the kitchen cabinets revealed that the kitchen cabinets are actually shining white under their long accumulation of dust.

Cathy also planted a small flower garden on each side of the 1867 lighthouse entry. And she made her famous “over the fire” grilled chicken, which was quite a nice break from backpacking food. Karen, meanwhile, continued with window painting, painted the Assistant Keeper’s front door, and painted the “FILA” island Welcome sign. She also prepared both the Oil House and Boat House for expected inbound materials on the National Park Service Boat.

Cathy planting a little front garden
Cathy planting flowers in front of the 1867 Lighthouse.

John Heneghan and Karen Wells in the Nickerson Fire Circle
John and Karen in the Nickerson Fire Circle.

 Front of Assistant Keepers' Quarters with misty evening sun
Cathy captured the evening sun in front

of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters.

On May 31st, the NPS boat delivered a literal tsunami of materials, including the outhouse, additional tongue and groove lumber, 2 by 10 by 16’ boards slated for replacing the tower light landing, interior doors for the “lean-to”, saws, stops & hardware for the restored assistant keepers windows, bunk beds, table, caulk, extension cords, trim lumber, gas, additional brooms and dust pans, stakes for marking the east trail, a roller stand for use with the saws and the emergency food bucket.

Despite great help from the DNR staff during their brief visit, it still took several hours to stow everything away. Cathy returned to the mainland on the NPS boat.

In the lean-to, John installed the newly arrived doors, then moved on to paneling the exterior walls. In addition to being a very competent carpenter, John was also patient and helpful in explaining “next steps” and making suggestions for equipment and materials we’ll need to finish the job. We’re very thankful for all his help. By the way, with travel time, he volunteered 7 days to our project, taking off time from his business to make a huge contribution to our “lean-to” completion.

John Heneghan working on the cabinet door
John working on the cabinet door.

Karen Wells and John Heneghan in the lean-to.
Karen and John in the lean-to.

John below the ceiling of the lean-to
John (back view) paneling the lean-to.

Karen was now able to complete the assistant keeper’s windows, replacing temporary stops with the restored ones and installing hardware, before returning to the task of cleaning up construction wastes, burning combustibles and packaging other items for return to the mainland. John did some bird-watching in between our long hours of work and everyone enjoyed visits by the hummingbird to the flowering plum.

Don Stauffer, Jerry Spears & Phil von Voigtlander arrived for a day trip on Friday, June 2. The first task was the “all hands” project to move the outhouse up the hill and into location, see the article below.  Thanks to Jerry’s ingenuity, the impossible was accomplished.  Don then turned his attention to getting the mowers started and mowed the entire campus by himself, while Jerry & Phil assessed the Fog Signal Building for the planned roof replacement project. Karen and John scrambled to complete the final construction tasks that had been interrupted by the outhouse adventure.

We departed the island at 4:58, meeting our promise to John to leave by 5 as he was driving back home to Illinois that night. The return trip was exceptionally calm with great visibility, providing great views of North Fox and Beaver Island as well as the Manitous.

Karen Wells
June 6, 2017

Top of page

An outhouse going up the hill

FILA's legendary Lilac Garden Throne, providing one of the nicest panoramic views in Northern Michigan while doing serious business, is going to be decommissioned. That disposes of the old question, "What do you call an outhouse without a house? An out?"

First a few pictures from olden times (memories, oh memories!):

 The old Lilac Garden Throne, shot in 2008
The old pit latrine in the lilac bushes, shot in 2008.

Toilet paper roll on a branch
A real outpost of civilization: triple layer, ultrasoft.

Panoramic view from the toilet seat
The view from the throne.  

Anyway, on May 31, 2017, an all new outhouse, built by DNR staff (thank you folks!), was loaded on the barge of the National Park Service and transported to South Fox Island. The weather didn't look very favorable, though.

Here is what Karen Wells, then member of the team at the station, wrote:

"They had cruddy weather…rain…wind…went to North Manitou for a drop off first…then to S.F. with an extremely unfavorable wind that kept trying to smash the boat up on the rocks. No pictures of the final unload when everything got pitched off the boat and just thrown on the rocks….I spent my time trying to grab boards before they floated off rather than taking pictures…took a couple hours to stow everything away….well, nearly everything, as the outhouse was dropped just above the wave line and was too big to 'influence' by myself." 

The following day the weather was better, and Phil von Voigtlander, Don Stauffer and Jerry Spears arrived for a day trip. Jerry came up with the idea of laying a hand truck under the outhouse. In a joint effort, the privy was moved up the hill to its final site behind the lilacs.

 NPS barge in Leland harbor, with lumber and the new outhouse on a flatbed trailer
 Bulky cargo: the NPS barge with the new outhouse and lumber in Leland harbor.

 Outhouse on the beach, dinghy coming ashore
The outhouse in its awkward position on the beach
a day later, with Phil, Don and Jerry about to land.

 Outhouse on a hand truck
 Heavy load on a dolly: Jerry Spears' splendid idea!


Outhouse being pushed up the concrete walkway
 From left to right: Jerry, Phil, Don and John. Heave-ho!

 Don leaning against the outhouse door
 Don preventing the load from
slipping back down the hill.


Jerry and John leveling the outhouse
Jerry and John leveling the

Putting the outhouse in place
 Almost there: the outhouse in its new location.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger with lots of contributions from Karen Wells
June 4, 2017

Top of page

Second trip: window team relief

After repeated delays and difficult weather forecasts, we finally assembled crew (Don and I) and passengers (Cathy Allchin and John Heneghan) Sunday afternoon in Northport, May 28. Though not very promising conditions at the time (pouring rain), the strategy was to look for the calm after the rain. Don and I occupied the time to do a bit of reading whereby I learned that I could access AIS (identifies commercial ships in your vicinity) on my iPhone; I loaded the app and noted the traffic in the Manitou Passage. By 3:00, the rain ceased but it was followed by a heavy fog. We considered the situation and once more consulted the view from Peterson Park and the satellite view. North Manitou was in view and the fog was patchy.

As the anticipated calm had settled in, we departed from Northport at 4:00 into the foggy bay. Fog persisted all the way up the Bay but cleared briefly at Grand Traverse Point. I rechecked my AIS app and noted that our area was now clear of any identified ships. The passage to the island was in limited visibility conditions and we finally spotted the lighthouse at a range of several hundred yards.

The shore team was surprised by our arrival (though we believed we had advised them) and quickly assembled for the transfer of crews, heavy tools, additional supplies and gear for the Carpenter Team's mission. Once more a quick turnaround was necessitated by the lateness and we headed back through the fog with passengers John McKinney and John Wells, leaving Cathy Allchin, Karen Wells, and John Henaghan at the Station.

About a third of the way back the veil of fog lifted on a beautiful calm evening view of the Leelanau and Grand Traverse Bay. We landed at Northport at 7:45 prior to an evening thundershower and the following brisk SW winds.

Phil von Voigtlander
May 29, 2017

Here are a few  photos submitted by Karen Wells:

Karen removing lead paint
Karen scraping lead paint.

Morels and sage
Foraging seems to pay.

New table with chairs brought last summer
A new table for the lean-to, to go with the chairs brought last summer.

John McKinney at the camp fire
Never to be missed: camp fire sessions, here with FILA's Prez, John McKinney.

 John McKinney on a scaffold, scraping the eastern portico of the Assitant Keepers' Quarters
John McKinney scraping the portico over the eastern door of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters.

John & John rebuilding the clothes line
 John & John (left: Wells, right: McKinney) rebuilding
the historic clothes line with scrap wood. Had to pull
square nails out of the timbers to use them. 

And here's a brief review of stuff done

The six days John McKinney and I were there with Karen we got five window sash installed in the Assistant Keepers' Quarters, took up the floor in the kitchen and bathroom of the 1867 Lighthouse, painted, put up a clothes line to hang wet laundry on, cut brush away from the wall at the rear of the Assistant Keepers' Quarters.... Did other small jobs as well.

John Wells
May 29, 2017

Top of page

First work trip of 2017

On May 23rd, we (Don and Phil) finally found a brief weather window to allow the Islander to deliver the Wells window team (John and Karen and John McKinney) to the light station. Overnight the heavy SW swell had been reduced by light NE wind. Unfortunately that was accompanied by heavy patches of fog. We delayed departure from Northport until 8:45 and headed out into the fog only after checking out the Lake view from Peterson Park. From there we observed calm conditions in the Manitou Passage and visibility out to North Manitou. Thus we were surprised to reenter a wall of fog at the head of the Bay and out into the Lake.

We proceeded based on the assurance that the fog should be only local and not extend out to the commercial traffic lanes. I commented to Don that the worst horror of these situations was to blindly run between a tug and its barge... As the fog lifted, Don identified a target to our north; a big tug towing a huge barge! Our course cleared in front of them by a comfortable 1/2 mile. Point made and illustrated.

The island was also now in clear view and we landed the team at the Boat House with their cargo of restored windows, tools, supplies and gear.

 Equipment next to the Boathouse after unloading
 Ready to be moved uphills.

John and Karen carrying sash to the Assitant Keepers' Quarters
Restored window sash headed back home to the Asst Keepers Quarters, starring John McK. and Karen.

Because the temperature was 38 degrees and it looked like the rain may be returning, Don and I elected to forego a shore visit and immediately head back to Northport; the prospect of navigating from our open boat in 38 degree rain overruled the desire to visit on shore. The return trip was uneventful and a light rain began as we were putting the cockpit cover on the boat back in Northport.

Phil von Voigtlander
May 29, 2017

Top of page

Board Meeting of May 8, 2017

Report by DNR man Ham Hobson: Both DNR grants approved, interior doors and lots of paneling ready, bundled by the Wells and John McKinney. Grill and picnic table ordered, bunk beds in the work; no update on the dock project. Window restoration and surplus equipment were discussed.

The Friday night part of the anniversary celebrations at the GT Lighthouse Museum was canceled. An article by Sandy Bradshaw, covering the history of the South Fox Light and the anniversary was published on MyNorth, the on-line version of the Traverse Magazine. Joerg Rothenberger was able to retrieve and re-publish 178 messages from the old, defunct, FILA guestbook. Ten messages seem to be lost for good.

Various restoration projects for this year were discussed in detail.

Hans Joerg Rothenberger, based on Cathy Allchin's minutes
June 12, 2017

Top of page

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 Allchin's minutes
May 8, 2017

Top of page

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

Top of page

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 Allchin's minutes
April 17, 2017

Top of page

DNR Friends Summit, March 3 - 4, 2017

This year’s 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 group’s work through newsletters or other communications but otherwise have limited “hands-on” involvement. 

Significantly, many of the more active Friend’s 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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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 Edgewater 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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

Board Meeting of May 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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


Top of page

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


Top of page

Grand Traverse Baykeeper retired

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Joerg Rothenberger
February 28, 2016

Top of page

Earlier News articles are available in the Archives section.




Latest update May 2, 2018