WASHINGTON ISLAND, wis. — Located on the shores of Northern Door County, the ferry line operates 5 boats, 4 vehicle ferries to and from Washington Island, and one passenger ferry to rock island.
It all started in 1940 with wood ferries. Plans were in the works to replace them with steel ships but those had to wait until the end of world war two.
In the high season, upwards of 25 trips are done daily.
“We make around 5000 round trips scheduled and unscheduled per year and historically miss only a handful,” said Hoyt Purinton.
Just like many other things taking place outside...It all depends on the weather.
“It takes very specific weather conditions to knock us out,” said Hoyt Purinton.
Every season has its challenges. During the summer, line of thunderstorms capable of high winds can cause rough seas, and seiches.
During the winter, it's not ice that’s the problem; it’s the snow on top of the ice that creates issues.
“It doesn't take much ice to cause a problem if it has significant snow on top because it creates a lot of friction, can make it rubbery,” said Hoyt Purinton.
Fall is also another tricky season with late season weather systems creating high winds.
“The sea conditions can cause the boats to ice up and those are the times that probably some trips would be canceled,” said Tony Woodruff.
After record low lake levels in 2013, the last few years have raised the lake to heights not seen since 1986. That has kept crews busy keeping the boat landings above the water level.
“We did some modifications raised some of our landings by 14 inches on the island and it was just enough,” said Hoyt Purinton.