Forty Mile Point Lighthouse
Peace and calm reign on this shipwreck strewn shore
Pilothouse from the freighter Calcite
Kitchen inside 40 Mile Point Lighthouse
Circular staircase up to the light
The Joseph S Fay in drydock before the
Remains of the wooden freighter
Joseph S. Fay.
Rogers City Michigan
An RV Park lines the East Tawas beach
Hydroplane boat races in Bay City
Coming in for a pit stop
Trailers and support crews for the race boats
A raceboat is launched after some quick repairs
The race is started from the dock in waves.
Up close and personal
The German immigrant town of
The Bavarian Inn served 20 million dinners in 100
Lake Huron, Michigan
Late June, 2009 - We left the chilly northern reaches of Michigan's
Upper Peninsula and the Soo Locks to travel down the Lake Huron
coast on the eastern shores of Michigan. Lake Huron is the second
largest of the great lakes, and it didn't take us long to find a beautiful
spot: Forty Mile Point Lighthouse. Built in 1896, it was one of a chain
of lighthouses that guided the many merchant ships through these
Originally named La Mer Douce (the sweet, or freshwater, sea) by
French explorers, the sweet sea of Lake Huron has displayed a mean
streak when it comes to deadly storms. As of 2006, 1,200 shipwrecks
had been recorded in these waters.
Looking out on the placid turquoise waters, fringed with tall,
swaying grasses, it was hard to imagine such violent storms and
frightening wrecks. The water was very shallow in front of the
lighthouse. Looking closely, we could see fish jumping in the
shallows between the rocks.
Forty Mile Point Lighthouse park features the pilothouse from the
freighter Calcite. You can climb around it and peek in the windows
at the huge ship's wheel.
There is also a flat
bottomed skiff similar to
the ones that are built by
students at the Great
Lakes Boat Building
We wandered up to the
lighthouse and admired
another bunch of lilacs
yet again. Just can't get
enough of these flowers!
Inside we found the kitchen was set up as it would have been when the lighthouse
keepers lived here and tended the light: simple, rustic living. Down in the basement
was a fun display of old washing machines.
We climbed up the circular steel
staircase to the cramped space
that houses the French-built
Fresnel lens, and looked out at
the peaceful view. A guide
came up after us and told us
the most amazing story of the
wreck of the freighter Fay in
At the time, the Fay was a 34-
year-old and rather battered
wooden ship. She was towing a
wooden barge, the Rhodes, that night,
southbound along the coast. The
winds unexpectedly built to hurricane force and shifted
onshore, pushing the Fay towards land. As the
captain turned the ship towards safer, deeper water,
the tow line snapped taut, and the barge suddenly
ripped the back end off the ship and floated free. The
ship's captain desperately turned the remains of the
sinking ship back towards shore, and miraculously the
pilot house was swept up onto the
beach intact with all but two
officers safe inside (one man even
slept through the whole ordeal).
Despite all the drama that night,
including the drowning of the first
mate who was on deck when the
back end of the Fay was torn off,
the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse
keeper noted the shipwreck with
just a brief one-line entry in his
The rest of the Fay landed on the beach a short distance from the lighthouse. 130 feet of its starboard side is still embedded in the
sand, the heavy wooden planks and steel spikes that held it together still plainly visible. We walked around it in wonder. 27
wooden ships and 50 lives were lost in that one storm. 104 years and many other vicious storms have passed since then.
The lake is lower now than in past years. Old photos show waves lapping over the hull as it sat
in shallow water. I don't know whether lapping waves or hot sun, wind and snow erode wooden
shipwreck remains faster, but I'm sure in another 100 years very little will be left of this hull on
Continuing down the coast, we
stopped at Rogers City where we
found yet another lovely waterfront
city park. There are so many
wonderful public parks in Michigan
where you can enjoy the lakes.
Many miles further south we discovered East Tawas
where there was a fantastic RV park that hugged the
A string of RVs was backed up to the beach, and
there was a party atmosphere in the air.
The folks who got the prime spots along the beach
had set themselves up for a season's stay, building
elaborate stairways and decks off their RVs. Beach
umbrellas, bikes and happy visiting grandkids were
the theme of this RV park.
We continued south to Bay City, situated on Saginaw
Bay in the nook of Lake Huron that forms the base of
Michigan's thumb. During my stay in this state I
learned that when talking about Michigan geography
everyone whips out their left hand and points to the
spot they are referring to.
We arrived in Bay City on the day of
the hydroplane boat races. You could
hear the buzz of their engines long
before spotting them on the river.
The racecourse was a simple oval,
and the whole town turned out for the
We got a great view from the bridge
overlooking the river at one end, and
got a good look at these crazy craft as they
periodically left the race to come into
the dock for a pit stop.
We walked among the trailers and pit
crews and watched one boat come get
launched back onto the racecourse
after some quickie repairs.
The boats were lined up along
the docks and sent off in
What fun to be right there on the dock
when this boat pulled over and the
driver crawled out of the cockpit.
Our last stop in Michigan was
Frankenmuth, a town settled by
German immigrants in 1845 and
redecorated to celebrate this German
heritage in the 1950's.
Touristy, but fun anyways, we got a kick out of walking
A plaque informed us that the Bavarian Inn is one of
the ten largest restaurants in the US and served some 20 million
meals over the century from 1988 to 1998.
The huge restaurants on both sides of the street proudly
advertised their famous chicken dinners.
After some more family gatherings, we headed back to the airport
and jetted back to resume our normal lives in our trailer. We
hopped back in the Luvnest in Valencia, California and made a
beeline for San Diego, arriving just in time for their huge Mission
Bay July 4th bash. After a few days there we decided it was time
to start our summer travels for real. We crossed the scorching
California and Nevada deserts and made it to the cool, green mountains and glittering streams outside Ketchum, Idaho.