2-Day Lake Huron Cruise to help save Lighthouses

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA) will be offering lighthouse lovers a unique two-day lighthouse excursion on northern Lake Huron on Monday Aug. 23 and Tuesday Aug. 24.

As a registered non-profit group, the association will use a portion of the income resulting from this event to help fund its ongoing lighthouse restoration and education programs.

GLKKA is dedicated to the restoration of Great Lakes lighthouses, preserving the memories of those valiant individuals who served at them, and fostering a new generation of preservationists, said GLLKA Executive Director Terry Pepper.

"To this end, we have already invested over 20 years in our restoration of the St. Helena Island lighthouse on an isolated island in Lake Michigan, 7 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge," Pepper said. "Much of this work was undertaken by Boy Scouts and Association volunteers."

"While our restoration of this lighthouse is almost complete, the structure’s exposure to the extremes of northern Lake Michigan extract an annual toll on the buildings. We have a number of pressing projects to undertake including installing a new roof, a solar powered ventilating system and masonry repair work on the tower,” Pepper said.

GLKKA also owns a lighthouse in Cheboygan, Michigan on the shore of Lake Huron.

“We took ownership of the Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse in 2004 through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act," Pepper said. "After completion of a professional engineering study, we learned that there has been significant deterioration since the building was erected in 1880. While we have been successful in obtaining three grants to help in our restoration, we still have around $250,000 in expected costs to bring the structure back to its original beauty.”

“Clearly, this is not the kind of money a non-profit group has languishing in its bank account, and with Federal and State funding drying up, we must seek alternate ways to fund our restoration and ongoing preservation effort. The income from these lighthouse excursions plays a critical role in this effort.”

Pepper said GLKKA is hoping the two-day Lake Huron excursion will help raise funds needed for the group's efforts. At the same time, participanmts will be in for quite a treat, he added.

“This two-day boat excursion will offer a unique experience combining close-up views of all the US lighthouses in northern Lake Huron, including a number of lighthouses which are otherwise difficult or impossible for the general public to see, with expert narration and a gala meal at one of the nation’s premier maritime museums,” Pepper said.

The excursion begins early Monday Aug. 23 as participants board one of Shepler’s Ferry’s comfortable high speed boats which will serve as the primary transportation for the two-day event. After departing Mackinaw City, the boat will set a course for the Cheboygan River for up close views of the 1880 Cheboygan Range light, the 1884 Cheboygan Crib light, the 1930 Fourteen Foot Shoal light, and the lighthouse on Poe Reef which was built in 1929 to replace a lightship which formerly marked the reef’s dangerous shallows. As the cruise continues south, the boat will pause to view the magnificent 1897 Forty Mile Point lighthouse and then make its way to Presque Isle for views of the diminutive 1840 Presque Isle light and the majestic 113-foot tall “New” Presque lighthouse which was built in 1871 to replace it.

As the boat continues south, guests will enjoy a picnic lunch on board the boat before pausing off Middle Island to view the 1905 Middle Island lighthouse and off beautiful Thunder Bay Island to view the elusive 1832 lighthouse which guards the island’s western shore. After passing the Alpena light, the boat will tie-up in the Thunder Bay River in front of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

Pepper and GLLKA President Dick Moehl will serve as guides and narrators for the event.

“On our arrival at the Heritage Center, guests will not only have the opportunity to experience the center's state-of-the-art exhibits on shipwrecks and Great Lakes History, but will also enjoy a first-class meal with special guests and door prizes before vans will transport us to our awaiting luggage and our night at the recently upgraded Alpena Holiday Inn,” Pepper said.

After a buffet breakfast at the hotel the following morning, vans will return the guests back to the boat at the Maritime Center to head back north to view the isolated 1874 monolithic limestone lighthouse on Spectacle Reef.

“It must have taken a special type of individual to serve a repeated three weeks on this light and one week of shore leave throughout the navigation season, living in the cramped quarters inside the tower with virtually no view of land in any direction," Pepper said of the Spectacle Reef lighthouse. "One can only imagine how loud it must have been when the roar of the fog signal located in the small building attached to the base of the tower reverberated up through the living areas!”

From Spectacle Reef the excursion will continue north to view the beautifully restored 1931 Detour Reef light. This structure serves as a testament to the dedication of the Detour Reef Light Preservation Society which formed to save and restore the lighthouse in 1998. The boat will then head west to view the 1927 Martin Reef light.

“Automated and abandoned to the elements by the Coast Guard in the late 1970s, this structure has undergone significant deterioration over the years," Pepper said of the Martin Reef lighthouse. "With the Detour Reef light having been in similar condition before restoration, it serves as witness to the incredible restoration effort the DRLPS has undertaken.”

From Martin Reef, the boat will head toward Bois Blanc Island where the second U.S. lighthouse on Lake Huron was established in 1929.

“That first lighthouse was poorly situated and constructed and came crashing to the ground," Pepper said. "A second lighthouse erected to replace it in 1839 was evidently not much of an improvement, as it was found to be so deteriorated that the existing lighthouse we will see on this excursion was erected to replace it in 1867.”

Finally, the boat will pause near Mackinac Island to circle the 1947 Round Island Passage light before crossing the busy passage to view the 1894 Round Island lighthouse before making its way back to the awaiting luggage at the Shepler’s dock in Mackinaw City.

Tickets for this once in a lifetime two day excursion to view sixteen difficult to see lighthouses are $575 per person on a double occupancy basis, and $630.00 per person single occupancy, and include all transportation, meals and gratuities from departure to return to Mackinaw City. To purchase a ticket or to obtain additional information, please call the GLLKA office at (231) 436-5580.
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My family (wife and three kids, sometimes the dog) and I have been RV campers since 2007. We own a 2000 Trail-Lite B22 Bantam hybrid, our tow vehicle is a 2006 Trailblazer LT EXT (5.3 V8 with 3.73 Rear Axle Ratio), and our setup includes the Equalizer sway controller. Looking to upgrade the camper in the near future, but until then we get out 2-3 times a month in season.