During each of the past weeks of summer, I've taken one or two days on the Karfi as operator (captain, cashier and safety officer!) from the State Dock in Jackson Harbor to Rock Island.  It's a fun challenge to direct this small-but-quick vessel alongside the pier.  The superb beauty of the route and the mix of overnight campers - some of whom told us this was their 34th and 38th straight years camping there - along with many day visitors, makes those days special.   I hadn't dreamed I would have that job when I began the book on Rock Island. 

Besides enjoyment of my "day job," there is an opportunity to tell people about this website and the soon-to-be published book, Thordarson and Rock Island.  

Self-promotion takes a bit of steel, and so most often my deckhands pass promotional bookmarks out for me while I steer into the harbor.  It's apparent the Rock Island topic greatly interests people.  They appear open and receptive to such a book, whether they're just curious to learn more about Thordarson, his boathouse, or local history in general.  A few of our passengers already have read something I've written and published, and in moments of euphoria I'd like to think that's another reason they'll be interested in this book.

A bookmark is a relatively inexpensive gift to give.  With promotional material printed on both sides, I believe most Karfi passengers will use it to good advantage as a book page marker, even if they never follow-up with a visit to this website.  Books, the objects made of paper that we hold in our hands as we turn pages one-by-one, have yet to go the way of the 8-track tape deck.  Recent articles indicate that e-books sales have leveled off, and that physical books continue selling steadily, although sales of hardcopies are down considerably from years ago.

It would seem altogether wrong, in writing about a man who cherished books as a collector and had a library second to very few in the world, that an e-book would suitably reflect the nature of such a topic.  And since this book will be about an island that has been a natural area and State Park, I've asked the printer to please use sustainable paper in its printing, which will then be certified.  All inks now, as I understand it, are vegetable-based, and so this printing will be as "environmentally friendly" as we can make it.  

When considering the publication of Thordarson and Rock Island, there were compelling reasons not to go the route of an e-book.  For one thing, there are so many images, maps and illustrations that even creating printer-ready digital files has been a challenge.  Most e-book templates, as I understand them, do now allow for many images.  There will be over 100 in this book.  

On the inside of both front and back covers I've included a chart of Lake Michigan and an old contour map of Rock Island that Thordarson had inside his photo album cover.  These each help the reader to more closely examine Rock Island and Thordarson's world, even if readers are local residents and they already know plenty about this place.  Including maps is also a personal indulgence, following on my own interest to examine maps. But including a map was advocated by James Michener in his book about writing:  always include a map to help orient the reader.

Edits continue right through this day.  I've often dropped off packets of latest changes at Amy Jorgenson's back doorstep while on my way to Jackson Harbor.  The process is close, but we're not quite "there" in terms of getting the files off to Worzalla, the printer, in Stevens Point.   -    Richard Purinton  

In The Merry Month Of May June 11 2013

View from the ranks as Legion Color Guard led procession to the Island Cemetery Monday morning. 

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Visitors and residents of Washington Island enjoyed a near-perfect Memorial Day Weekend, with fine weather Friday through Monday.  Nearly any outdoor activity could be enjoyed, except for swimming or laying on the beach, since just one month ago the ice was leaving our harbors and the lake water is too cold for swimming.

The traditional Memorial Day Program with ceremonies at the cemetery and School House Beach afterward, sponsored by the local Gislason-Richter American Legion Post 402, was held at Bethel Evangelical Free Church.  Student Americanism Essays were read, selected war poems were recited by men of the Post, and the community turnout and support was again gratifying.

Approach to Rock Island, Saturday, May 25.

With the holiday over, we returned immediately to cooler, wetter weather Tuesday morning.  This year, with the addition of the small passenger ferry Karfi to the Ferry Line Fleet, I am under instruction with Jeff Cornell, who practically trained as a toddler under his Grampa Jim Cornell years ago.  Although a small vessel, rather straightforward in many ways, nevertheless there are characteristics and idiosyncrasies in this ferry not found on the larger vessels in Detroit Harbor.

This change of scenery is a welcomed one for me, and propitious, too, as I am just completing a book under the title, Thordarson and Rock Island.  This is a coincidental convergence of my earlier goal of completing this local history book, with the recent and unplanned acquisition of the Karfi by the Ferry Line company.  I am now  allowed the pleasure of working a few days each week on the Rock Island run.

After reading intently and organizing letter and document materials that were Thordarson's, with a steady, concentrated writing effort since January 1st, it is now a pleasure to set course for the Thordarson's stone edifice, the Rock Island State Park Boathouse.  It is Thordarson's best known structure and a most convenient point on which to steer when departing Jackson Harbor.

Jeff is particular as to how his operation should be managed, following years of safe and reliable transportation. I'm slowly gaining the needed skills.  If Jeff is to get his day off each week, my improved abilities will give him that opportunity.

There are two contrasting photos shown here of the Karfi's recent operations.  One was taken Saturday on the noon trip to Rock Island.  The other was yesterday morning when we had cool temperatures and a light rain.   I'm amazed, given that weather, that we had any passengers for a day of hiking and exploring on Rock Island.  It shows the possibilities when sunnier, warmer days arrive.

-  Dick Purinton   (Note:  Thordarson and Rock Island is a reasonable 4-6 weeks away from printing.  Estimated pages:  435; 100+ images with maps; paperback.   Price:  $27 + tax + S + H)

Karfi Purchased By Ferry Line June 11 2013

Karfi hauled hikers, day visitors, overnight campers and their gear to Rock Island State Park each summer since 1967.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -


Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc. president Hoyt Purinton announced the purchase of the Karfi from Jeff Cornell of Washington Island in the late afternoon, Wednesday, November 14, 2012.


The Karfi is a 36-foot steel vessel built in Escanaba in 1967 to ferry campers, hikers and day visitors between Jackson Harbor, Washington Island, and Rock Island State Park.  During each of the past 46 summers the Karfi was operated by members of the Cornell family.


The Karfi was originally constructed for Jim Cornell, a former Washington Island commercial fisherman.  At age 67, in 1981, Jim sold the Karfi operation to his son, Jack, who then operated it for the next 20 years.  In 2002, Jack sold the vessel to his son, Jeff Cornell.   Jeff had crewed for both his grandfather Jim and his father as a youngster, starting at age 12.


Jeff operated Washington Island Ferry Line vessels as a captain from 1989 through 1999.  He then operated the WDNR fisheries research vessel Barney Devine for several years prior to purchasing the Karfi.  He will rejoin Washington Island Ferry Line in the spring of 2013 as ferry captain on the Northport ferry route.


Cornell said that although he enjoys piloting the Karfi’s daily trips to Rock Island, he’s also looking forward to a greater variety of routes and challenges.  As one of several Ferry Line captains, he’ll be able to schedule a summer’s day off now and then, too, something he couldn’t easily do as the sole owner-operator once the Karfi's season schedule began.   However, Cornell may still pilot the Karfi at least part of the time for the Ferry Line. 


School group of campers about to disembark at Jackson Harbor's State Park dock.

Are changes anticipated for the Rock Island State Park route now that the Karfi is no longer a Cornell family operation?

“Limited changes, if any,”  Ferry Line's president Hoyt Purinton said.

“Despite its number of seasons, the Karfi has been well maintained and is in immaculate condition.  We intend to operate the Karfi to Rock Island with the same standards for public safety and spotless vessel condition as did the Cornells, with a schedule similar to that of past years.   One new consideration may be to offer a combination ticket for both the Washington Island and Rock Island ferries, a convenient, single transaction that would also be a savings for the customer.

 “The Ferry Line is looking forward to serving Rock Island State Park visitors,” Purinton said.  “Many people return every summer to hike, camp, or visit the Thordarson boathouse or the Pottawatomie Lighthouse.   As an island park, it’s one of our state’s most unique parks.  We believe there are many people who, for various reasons, have never visited Rock Island, and we’d like to reach those people and encourage them to visit.


“At the same time, we’re also pleased to welcome back Jeff Cornell as a Ferry Line captain.  He’s familiar with our operations, and he'll fit in well.  Starting in early spring of 2013, Jeff will pilot Washington Island ferries in summer as well as winter.”                


-  Dick Purinton
Note: Original post from Ferry Cabin News: November 14, 2012