Lighting the Way

Monday, August 15, 2011

For centuries, lighthouses have warned sailors that they are close to land or a reef, keeping boats from running aground and joining the shipwreck statistics. Lighthouses are not only vital to the safety of water traffic but are also scenic. And they were one of the highlights of our sail up the eastern shores of Lake Michigan last month.

The original lights were called lighthouses because they provided lodging for the lighthouse keeper and his family. Back in those days, the keeper needed to be on the premises to trim the wicks, replenish the fuel that kept the light burning, and do other maintenance work. Now that the lights are automated, they no longer require a resident lighthouse keeper. The newer ones don't include a house but do make attractive additions to the landscape.

Lighthouses are more than that, though. Even with today's reliance on GPS and other modern inventions, these lights still shine through the dark and the fog to guide ships away from rocks and shoals and mark the entrances to rivers and harbors. And that's a good thing. Otherwise, I shudder to think were we would be if our GPS failed in low visibility.

During our trip, I noticed that each light has its own character. The picture at the top shows the Holland Harbor Lighthouse, affectionately nicknamed "Big Red."* None of the other lights we saw on our vacation had the same look as Big Red. Or the same look as any other light or group of lights. Even the three lights that were similar in shape and color were placed in different contexts.

The difference in character is part of their charm. At least that's my opinion. See if you agree.

St. Joseph North Pier Inner and Outer Lights

South Haven Pierhead Light (at the end of the pier)

Grand Haven South Pier and Pierhead Inner Lights

Coast Guard Station with Muskegon South Pier and Breakwater Light

White River Light Station--the only one no longer in operation

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Ludington North Breakwater Light

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Although South Haven, Grand Haven, and Muskegon all have round red silos on the south pier, those lights still have individual characters. The South Haven light stands a solitary vigil at the end of the pier, the Grand Haven light yields pride of place to the imposing building that houses a fog signal (as well as a light), and the Muskegon light stands sentinel between the Coast Guard Station and the breakwater light.

Unfortunately, the White River Light Station was the only place we went into. Although Big Sable and Little Sable are open to the public, they are only accessible by land, and they were both too far away to hike or bike. So we had to be satisfied with seeing them from the lake.

The way they were meant to be seen.

* All pictures in this post are copyright 2011 by Kathryn Page Camp.


Loree Huebner said...

Love this post.

I love the Lake Michigan lighthouses.

I got hooked on lighthouses when I climbed the Cape Hatteras (NC) lighthouse at the age of 12.

My daughter was married in a gazebo right next to the oldest lighthouse on Lake Erie in Marblehead, Ohio. Of course, the wedding had a lighthouse theme.

Interesting post.

Millie Samuelson said...

I LUV lighthouses too! So this was a totally enjoyable blog for me. Do you have the book, Women Who Kept the Lights by Clifford? It's a TREAT. . . :-)

Anonymous said...

Loree, a lighthouse wedding sounds cool.

Millie, I haven't read that book but have ordered the YA version (by the same author) and am looking forward to reading it.

Blogger is telling me that I can't post comments on my own blog, so I am going to have to do this as "Anonymous."

Kathryn Page Camp

Post a Comment