Lighthouses don’t move … unless they are lightships. Lightships were used in places where it was too difficult or expensive to build a lighthouse. A lightship had a bright light at the top of the mast and carried a foghorn to alert sailors when the fog was too thick to see the light.
Built in New York, the Huron lightship was launched in 1920. The 96-foot boat guarded Gray’s Reef and North Manitou Shoal on Lake Michigan, until 1936 when she was moved to Corsica Shoals near the mouth of the St. Clair River. The Huron stayed there for 34 seasons.
For the sailors living aboard a lightship life could be challenging. There was little room to move around, and high winds and storms often tossed the boat around and left the men seasick. To fight boredom, the crew played games and read books. The men also looked forward to mealtime, but the swaying boat made eating tricky. Sailors placed wet cloths under their plates to keep their meals from sliding across the table on days when the boat was rocking!
On August 20, 1970, the Huron was retired and replaced by a lighted buoy.
Today, the Huron is at Port Huron’s Pine Grove Park. It has been turned into a museum where visitors can see how a lightship crew lived and worked. The Huron is open from April through December. You can take a virtual tour of the Huron by visiting the Port Huron Museum website.
You can learn more about the North Manitou Shoal (Lightship and Lighthouse) from Life Along the Manitou Passage.
Not only did Darryl take this cool photo, he also geotagged it and provided a link to zoom to a satellite view of the location of the Huron Lightship in Port Huron. Internet, you are a pretty cool thing sometimes…
To learn more about Michigan’s lighthouse heritage, look for “Lighting the Way,” the Spring 2007 issue of Michigan History for Kids magazine. Call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com for more information.