Lake Huron MI – Hydroplane Races and the Joseph S. Fay Shipwreck

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan

Peace and calm reign on this shipwreck strewn shore

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan beach Forty Mile Point Lighthouse Michigan freighter Calcite

Pilothouse from the freighter Calcite

Kitchen inside 40 Mile Point Lighthouse

Kitchen inside 40 Mile Point Lighthouse

Circular staircase up to the light

Shipwreck of the Joseph S Fay Joseph S Fay freighter Lake Huron

The Joseph S Fay in drydock before the


Joseph S Fay freighter shipwreck Lake Huron

Remains of the wooden freighter

Joseph S. Fay.

Joseph S Fay freighter shipwreck Lake Huron Rogers City Michigan

Rogers City Michigan

East Tawas beach RV Park Michigan

An RV Park lines the East Tawas beach

East Tawas MI

Party Time!

East Tawas MI RV Park Bay City Michigan boat race

Hydroplane boat races in Bay City

Bay City Michigan boat race Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Coming in for a pit stop

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Trailers and support crews for the race boats

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

A raceboat is launched after some quick repairs

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

The race is started from the dock in waves.

Bay City Michigan hydroplane boat race

Up close and personal

The German immigrant town of Frankenmuth Michigan

The German immigrant town of


The German immigrant town of Frankenmuth Michigan The Bavarian Inn Frankenmuth Michigan

The Bavarian Inn served 20 million dinners in 100


The Bavarian Inn Frankenmuth Michigan

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

difficult waters.

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

October, 1905.

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

the beach.

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.