Michigan Lighthouses: Gravelly Shoal Light

Gravelly Shoals offshore Light in Saginaw Bay, photo by George Thomas

The entry on Gravelly Shoal Light at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins:

Point Lookout juts from the shore on the western shore of Lake Huron, approximately half-way between the mouth of the Saginaw River and Tawas Point. With only five to eighteen feet above it, Gravelly Shoal extends some 3 miles southeasterly from Point Lookout towards Big Charity Island. To help guide down-bound vessels headed for Saginaw Bay through the deeper water lying between the southeast end of Gravelly Shoal and Big Charity Island, Congress appropriated $5,000 to construct a lighthouse on the northwestern shore of Big Charity on August 18, 1856. Work began at the site that year, but as a result of being started so late in the season, the station was not completed and lighted until the following year.

Perhaps as a result of its exposed location, or as a result of its keeper’s dwelling being one of the few of wooden frame construction on any of the Great Lakes, the station was a constant source of maintenance problems, and was not surprisingly one of the first to be automated through the installation of an acetylene illumination system in 1900. At this time an occulting white Pintsch gas buoy was also placed at the southeastern end of Gravelly Shoal to better mark the western edge of the passage between the shoal and Big Charity Island.

As a result of the combination of increasing vessel size, improvements in offshore light construction and the growing adoption of radio direction finding equipment, it became plain in the late 1930’s that the old Charity light and the gas buoy on Gravelly Shoal had outlived their usefulness, and consideration turned to the construction of a state-of-the-art offshore aid to navigation at the eastern end of Gravelly Shoal to better mark the deeper water of the passage.

View the photo background big and see more in George’s Lighthouses slideshow.

More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT: Shining in Cheyboygan with the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw

USCG Mackinaw, Cheybogan

Shining in Cheyboygan, photo by Bill Johnson

Here’s a neat “Throwback Thursday” (TBT), a photo of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw on May 25, 1993 when she was still in service. Bill writes:

This is the original Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, WAGB 83, wearing its silvery whitish colors, in its home port of Cheboygan, MI. This beauty was built in 1944 to aid the war effort by keeping the Great Lakes open during the winter. The cutter was intentionally built too wide to get through the Saint Lawrence Seaway in order to keep her in the Great Lakes. She was moved to Mackinaw in June of 2006, decommissioned, and turned into a museum at the Chief Wawatam docks. Today, she wears the red hull that she was retired in.

You can see the current look of the Icebreaker Mackinaw and get information about visiting on the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum website.

View Bill’s photo background big and see more in his Boats, Ships, and Stuff That Floats slideshow.

More Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures.

Rockport State Recreation Area on Lake Huron

rockport-state-recreation-area-alpena-lake-huron

Rockport State Recreation Area – I, Alpena, MI, September, 2016, photo by Norm Powell

The Alpena CVB’s page on Rockport State Recreation Area says:

Rockport State Park, Michigan’s 100th State Park and an official Dark Sky Preserve, has over 4,237 acres of land located on the shores of Lake Huron north of Alpena. The property includes a deep-water protected harbor, an old limestone quarry of approximately 300 acres, a unique series of sinkholes, Devonian Era fossils, the Besser Natural Area, and a broad range of land types, vegetative cover, cultural resources and recreation opportunities. At the harbor the DNR has a boat launch facility, and there is a small park with picnic areas.

If you click through, they have a nifty guide that includes more information on the offerings including the fossils and sinkholes! You can get a map and more info from the State of Michigan’s page on Rockport Recreation Area.

View Norm’s photo bigger, see more in his slideshow, and view and purchase his photos on his website.

Many more Michigan parks on Michigan in Pictures!

#TBT Tawas Point US Lighthouse Service Crew Training

Tawas Point Lighthouse USLSS Life Saving Service Crew Training on Tawas Bay

Tawas Point Lighthouse Crew Training, photo by UpNorth Memories

The U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association has an excellent history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service that says in part:

In 1878 the growing network of lifesaving stations was finally organized as a separate agency of the Treasury Department and named the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Sumner I. Kimball was chosen as the General Superintendent of the Service. Kimball held tight reign over the Service and, in fact, remained the only General Superintendent of the organization. The law which created the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, also provided for the retirement of Kimball. The Service’s reputation for honest, efficient, and non-partisan administration, plus performance of duty, can be largely attributed to the efforts of this one man.

The stations of the Service fell into three broad categories: lifesaving, lifeboat, and houses of refuge. Lifesaving stations were manned by full-time crews during the period when wrecks were most likely to occur. On the East Coast this was usually from November to April, and was called the “active season.” By the turn of the century, the active season was year-round. Most stations were in isolated areas and crewmen had to be able to perform open beach launchings. That is, they were required to launch their boats from the beach into the surf. Before the turn of the century, there were very few recreational boaters and most assistance cases came from ships engaged in commerce.

Lifeboat stations were located at or near port cities. Here, deep water, combined with piers and other waterfront structures, allowed the launching of heavy lifeboats directly into the water by marine railways on inclined ramps. In general, lifeboat stations were located on the Great Lakes, but some lifesaving stations were situated in the more isolated areas of the lakes. The active season on the Great Lakes stretched from April to December.

…The U.S. Life-Saving Service had two means of rescuing people on board ships stranded near shore: by boat and by a strong line stretched from the beach to the wrecked vessel. The Service’s boats were either a 700 to 1,000 pound, self-bailing, self-righting surfboat pulled by six surfmen with twelve to eighteen foot oars, or a two to four ton lifeboat. The surfboat could be pulled on a cart by crewmen, or horses, to a site near a wreck and then launched into the surf. The lifeboat, following a design originated in England, could be fitted with sails for work further offshore and was used in very heavy weather. Some crews, at first, viewed the lifeboat with skepticism because of its great weight and bulk. The skepticism soon changed and crews began to regard it as “something almost supernatural,” for it enabled them to provide assistance “when the most powerful tugs and steam-craft refused to go out of the harbor. …”

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has a bunch of information and photos of the Tawas Point Lighthouse.

This photo shows the crew of the Tawas Point Lighthouse participating in USLSS crew training on Tawas Bay. Check it out bigger and join the Northern Michigan Photo Postcards – Our History and Heritage group for more great old photos from Don and others.

More history from Michigan in Pictures.

Fourteen Foot Shoal Lighthouse in Lake Huron

14 foot shoal lighthouse by David Juckett

14 foot shoal lighthouse, photo by David Juckett

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light remains the gold standard for information about the lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Terry writes (in part) of the process of constructing Fourteen Foot Shoal Light near the entry into Cheboygan Harbor:

With completion of the work at Poe Reef in 1929, the work crew turned their attention to work at Fourteen Foot Shoal. While the new light was of a totally different design, and considerably smaller than the twin lights built at Martin and Poe Reefs, the construction of the crib proceeded in much the same manner, with the construction of a wooden crib at the shore station on the Cheboygan Pier. After an area on the shoal was leveled, the crib was eased down wooden ways into the water, and towed to the shoal by the Lighthouse Tender Aspen. Once over the leveled area, the crib was sunk to the bottom by filling its empty pockets with rocks and gravel.

This timber foundation then served as a core, upon and around which wooden forms were constructed and filled with concrete loaded from the Lighthouse Service scow. As was the case with both the Martin and Poe stations, the upper edge of the crib was formed into a graceful flare, designed to deflect waves away from the pier, in order to help protect the structures which would be erected on the deck. With the completion of the concrete work, the pier stood fifty feet square, and its deck level fifteen feet above the water.

The steel framework for the single story equipment building was erected at the center of the deck. Standing thirty-four feet by twenty-eight feet in plan, on completion, the entire exterior of the building was sheathed with 1/4-quarter inch steel plates, each riveted to the steel framework beneath. Centered on the roof ridge, a cylindrical steel tower was integrated into the roof, standing six feet in diameter and twenty-four feet above the ridge line. The tower was capped with an octagonal cast iron lantern and outfitted with a flashing white Fourth Order Fresnel lens.

Read on for lots more and photos!

View David’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!

Port Crescent in Michigan’s Thumb

The Port Crescent Smokestack

The Port Crescent Smokestack, photo by Joel Dinda

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is ThumbWind, a blog about (you guessed it) Michigan’s Thumb. In A Ghost Town in the Thumb they tell the story of the town of Port Crescent that was within what is now Port Crescent State Park:

Walter Hume established a trading post and hotel near the mouth of the Pinnebog River in 1844. From these humble beginnings the area took the name of Pinnebog, taking its name from the river of which it was located. However, a post office established some five miles upstream also took its name from the river. To avoid confusion the town changed its name to Port Crescent for the crescent-shaped harbor along which it was built.

Port Crescent had two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a cooperage whichPort Cresent manufactured barrels for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, a brewery, several stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a depot and telegraph office, and a roller rink. Pinnebog employed hundreds of area residents. Others worked at blockhouses where they extracted brine from evaporated water to produce salt. At one time a this 17 block village boasted of a population of more than 500.

Read on for more and click for more about Port Crescent State Park.

View Joel’s photo background big and see more in his Port Crescent Vacation slideshow.

Hygienic Dress League Corporation

Hygenic Dress League

Hygienic Dress League, photo by Jeff Caverly

You can follow the Detroit-based Hygienic Dress League on Instagram for more interesting public art and see a video about their artwork on Vimeo.

View Jeff’s photo from Huron County background big, see more in his slideshow, and also visit his photography website.

More art and more barns on Michigan in Pictures.