Archive for March 2009

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This is what we do…..   Leave a comment

It is spring in Door County, well according to the calendar!
It does not mean Daffodils, or warm sunny days, or lack of snow. That will all come in time.
Spring to Gills Rock means keeping the snowplows off the truck, but in the driveway, just in case.
It means mud.
It means fewer and fewer fish shanties out on the ice as the DNR monitor the conditions.
It means seeing snowmobiles sitting on lawns until the good sons
( Matthew) come home and get them up on trailers until next winter.
It means sapping, seeing white buckets on trees and afternoons spent gathering, and days of sitting by the fire watching the sap cook down into beautiful rich syrup. It means conversation around the pans, laughter and fellowship, celebrating another rite of spring.
Spring also means ice-breaking to the fishermen.
There is always a question each spring as to who will be the first to bring their boats around from the winter docks on Lake Michigan to the docks on the Green Bay waters. Who will be the “man” is always the joke.
Tuesday was the day. I was teaching Bible study here in our living room when I first heard the familiar grinding of engines that usually means someone is breaking in. I have to admit I at first wondered why I had not had a phone call letting us know what was happening as is tradition. Bible study went on with no phone call.
It was about 2 o’clock that Rick called and said they were going to be breaking in later and that the ferry would actually be coming around the point to help.
The girls and I kicked it into high gear, and when Rick called saying the boats were coming in, we headed to the docks, cameras and hot tea in hand 🙂
We watched as the fish tugs broke in to the ferry dock and then as the Ranger started to break ice heading toward the fishing docks.
Although the ferry had little trouble moving slowly through the ice, the fish tug put on the show that we all enjoy watching.
Jeff would back the tug up and then full steam ahead drive the tug up onto the ice. The thinner ice breaks easy, but the thick hard ice doesn’t give and so the tug ends up bow in the air on top of the ice. There is usually a moment of wait where at times the tug can list to the side, sometimes dangerously, before the weight of the boat causes the ice to give and the boat sinks into the caving ice.
Over and over this is repeated until a path is broken around the harbor. The wind then takes over and usually within 24 hours the harbor is clear.
We walked the dock taking pictures, drinking tea, filming. The men gathered and discussed the scene. Constructions workers who were working on homes around the harbor made their way down to the dock to watch. A few cars held tourists, up visiting this barren land for a change of pace from their city life. They were enthralled by what they saw. Old timers stayed in their trucks where it was warm, remembering their adventures of ice breaking, some even done in wooden boats in years gone by.
This is what we do in spring.
The ferry and the Ranger got the job done. Multiple runs broke the ice up to Jeff’s satisfaction.
As we sat in the car watching the last pass of the fish tug I was struck with how much we are tied to this lake as a fisherman’s family. Tied to the traditions, the seasons, the weather, the people. This is what we do.
As we drove away I commented to the girls that this is a part of their lives. They may never live here as adults, but they cannot remove these memories from their minds. They will always be Gills Rock fisherman’s daughters, Gills Rock girls, Matthew will always be a fisherman’s son. They smiled and agreed, knowing where you come from brings great satisfaction.
This is what we do….

Folks lined up to watch the ice breaking. Some went down to the water and a few stayed up on the hill. Some drawn by tradition, some by curiosity.   Leave a comment


The Washington Island Ferry. This is the first time in history that the ferry helped break ice! The ferry has a shape that cuts through the ice, making the job easier for the fish tugs.   Leave a comment


Jeff Weborg’s boat, the Ranger   Leave a comment


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Opinions…… I wish I could have caught on film the voices of each of these men as they gave their opinions on the ice breaking. The naive carpenters who had stopped to watch, wondering why the fish tug went a certain way into the ice. The experienced fishermen explaining the reasons and recalling their exploits on the ice. And the older retired fishermen, sitting in their trucks, jovially remarking on the spring escapades of fishermen, recalling their hardest dealings with the breaking of the ice.   Leave a comment