Lighthouses Add Charm to Michigan's Coasts

| 6/10/2014 10:16:00 AM

Country MoonI feel so fortunate to have been born and live in Michigan because we have the best of both worlds. Fertile farmland produces an array of crops, and Michigan offers more coastline than any other state except Alaska, 3,177 mile to be exact. Scattered around that shoreline are more than 115 lighthouses, more beacons of beauty than any other state can boast.

Every lighthouse is constructed and painted differently, making each one unique. The reason for this, other than attracting visitors who love to photograph them, was to tell the ships where they were. At night, each one would flash a different sequence of light signals and, by day, sailors knew the distinct paint scheme of each lighthouse, allowing them to pinpoint their location.

Although modern technology has rendered them obsolete, lighthouses still serve as charming landmarks. Their original and sole purpose was to guide sailors safely through dangerous water and around land masses jutting out in the water. The lighthouse keeper’s job was to maintain the beacon by making sure it was on every night and off every morning. It may sound exciting to actually live in a lighthouse, but the everyday activities could get pretty physical.

Most lighthouses have spiral steps leading up to the beacon, many numbering around 200. That is a lot of steps to climb a few times each day. The quarters were often small and damp, being by the water. The first lighthouses in the United States date back to the 1700s, before electricity. The light was created by burning whale oil and kerosene. It would be a full-time job just keeping them full! Oddly enough, the first lighthouse to use electricity was the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

Sadly, lighthouses aren’t manned any longer, but rather, the present working ones are just towers off shore. The last manned lighthouse in Michigan was Point Betsie Light on the northeast shore of Lake Michigan, north of Frankfort. But have heart, if you are set on being a lighthouse keeper, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association is offering opportunities for volunteer keepers to live in one of two Michigan lighthouses.

Cheboygan River Front Light is looking for couples to live in the sentinel on weekends from Memorial Day through October. Duties would include giving tours, staffing the gift shop, doing light housekeeping and minor maintenance. It has the modern amenities of electricity and indoor plumbing.

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