Friday, July 5, 2013

July at the St. Helena Island Light Station

JULY 1 - St. Helena Island is not only a beautiful place by virtue of our lighthouse which is
located on the small islet at its southeastern corner. The remainder of the island is
part of the Little Traverse Nature Conservancy which celebrates and preserves the
pristine natural beauty of the main island. The natural beauty which abounds on the
island is exemplified by this splendid stand of Showy Lady Slippers (Cypripedium
reginae)  only 1/8 of the expanse of which is visible in this photograph. If you are
interested in more information about this rare plant, Click HERE to go to the
Wikipedia page on this beautiful wild flower.

JULY 2 - Clearly, some of the fauna on St. Helena Island have a very different understanding of the purpose of toilet paper than the humans living on the island!
July 4 - Volunteer Mark VanderVelde spent this morning building a bench to be placed on our new dock at the St. Helena Island light station.
July 4 - After Mark finished building the new bench for our new dock, Lori Jenks picked up the router and hand-routed "HEAVEN ON EARTH" on the seating surface of the new bench. Free-hand lettering with a router requires a steady hand, and Lori is a master at the art.

JULY 5 - Volunteers Michele VanderVelde, Joe Lane and Lori Jenks washing the lantern
windows at the St. Helena Island light station this morning. On hot summer days
such as this, works starts early so as to avoid the heat of the midday sun.
JULY 5 -We make maximum use of the oil storage building at our St. Helena Island light
station, using it to store all our flammable liquids. However, with only one shelf, things
quickly got disorganized. After we transported a second set of steel shelves to the island
during the Shepler's Westbound Lighthouse Cruise last Wednesday, head keeper
MaryAnn Moore removed everything from the building, installed the new shelves, and
returned everything to the building in an organized manner. THANK YOU for taking care
of this much needed improvement MaryAnn!
JULY 5 -A busy day at our St. Helena Island light station. Volunteers Michelle
VanderVelde and Lori Jenks are painting the shutters on the dwelling the correct
green coloration after many years of being painted the incorrect brown color seen here.

JULY 5 -MaryAnn Moore, volunteer principal keeper at our St. Helena Island light spent
part of today pruning branches which are intruding into the path which leads to the pit
toilets at the St. Helena Island light station.
JULY 5 -We are elated to see that Michelle and Lori finished painting all three sets of shutters on the south side of the lighthouse today. Thank you both for your hard work - it looks GREAT!
JULY 6 - Here are the fruits of Mark and Lori's labor - the new bench they built and routed for our new dock. Great work! Our volunteers are great - we couldn't do it without their selfless assistance.
JULY 6 - Volunteer Mike Hogan working on a wash stand he designed and built. This
wash stand will get some heavy use, as it is to be placed outside the summer kitchen
at our St. Helena Island light station. Super work Mike - thanks for your help.
JULY 6 - Painting the shutters on the second floor windows on the east end of the
lighthouse is certainly not as easy as painting those on the first floor. Here, painter
Michelle VenderVelde and "spotter" Lori Jenks tackle the task with the aid of a long
roller handle. Great going ladies - LOVE those green shutters. I can't wait to see
them on the Shepler's Westbound Lighthouse Cruise on Tuesday!

JULY 11 - The early morning sun bathes the light station to welcomes everyone to a new day of service and discovery at our St. Helena Island light station this morning.

JULY 11 - Volunteer keeper Carrie Burkett sanding and repainting clapboards on the boathouse at our St. Helena Island light station this morning.

JULY 11 - Volunteer keepers Deb Fork and Susie Safford busy in the summer kitchen at out St. Helena Island light station preparing a big garden salad to go with tonight's supper at the St. Helena Island light station. If you are interested in volunteering at either of our lighthouses, go to our website at and click on the "Volunteer at Cheboygan" or "Volunteer at St. Helena " links for more information.
JULY 12 - The view from the outside dining area at the St. Helena Island light station this morning. In just a few days, this vista will be filled with sail boats heading for the bridge and Mackinac Island beyond as they rush to the finish of the annual Chicago to Mackinac race.
JULY 14 - We seldom know the skills and preferences our new volunteers have
when they arrive to help us at our lighthouses. Soon after volunteer
Carrie Burkett arrived at our St. Helena Island light station on Wednesday
July 10 it became clear that she was an excellent painter who thankfully
loved to paint. Eager to help out, Carrie has sent most of the past for days
sanding and painting the exterior of the boathouse, which is looking great as a result.
A big THANK you to Carrie and all our wonderful volunteers who give so willingly of their time and energy in helping keep the St. Helena dream alive.
JULY 15 - Volunteers Claudia Douglas and Carrie Burkett take time to relax and enjoy the bench at the end of our new dock at St. Helena Island light station this afternoon. You can make some great new friends at an island lighthouse, free from the stresses of modern day life.
JULY 17 - After a blistering hot day, the Straits clouded over quickly and it rained early this evening, providing some relief from the elevated temperatures. However, the rain did not last long, and our volunteers at the St. Helena Island light station were treated to a beautiful evening.
JULY 19 - We had a short but violent pop-up storm blast through the Straits of Mackinac
at around 9:30 last night. While our volunteers at the light station all fared well, secure
within the dwelling, "Old Glory" and its normally vertical pole on the gallery railing
did not fare so well.
JULY 19 - This trunk of a triple-trunked cedar tree at the northeast corner of the
lighthouse was another casualty of last night's storm which blew through
the St. Helena Island light station. Fortunately, the trunk narrowly missed the
information display built by Boy Scout Karl Koto, for which he earned his
Eagle Scout service award twenty years ago this year.
JULY 19 - Another cedar to the west of the St. Helena light station which toppled during last night's storm. We used to call this the "stadium seating" because it's low hanging curved branch served as a great place to sit and watch the many birds which frequented this group of trees.
JULY 19 - The final fallen tree photo from last night's squall at the St. Helena Island light station - this one on the south side of the lighthouse. We were very fortunate that none of the trees caused any damage to the station infrastructure, and even more fortunate that our stalwart volunteers were able to weather the blow within the safe confines of the main and assistant keepers dwellings.
JULY 19 - Our St. Helena Island light station was not the only location in the Straits of
Mackinac to suffer during last night's storm, as can be seen in this photograph courtesy
of 9&10 News which shows a semi which was blown over by the high winds as it was
headed towards the Upper Peninsula across the Mackinac Bridge.
JULY 24 - Volunteers Chuck and Carol Lambert rehang the
repainted screen door at the summer kitchen at the St. Helena light
station this afternoon. Thanks for the wonderful help folks!
JULY 24 - We have a beautiful old barrel which has been sitting outside
the door at the rear of the St. Helena Island light station, and while we are
not sure exactly how it came to be there or what purpose it serves, it
has been slowly deteriorating over the years. Volunteer Chuck Lambert
felt pity for the barrel, and put some energy and time into restoring it this week.
Part of the process involved hand-crafting these special nails to hold
one of the loosening hoops in place.
JULY 24 - While we are still in the dark as to the specific purpose of
the barrel, it sure looks great since Chuck devoted his time and energy
to its rejuvenation! Thanks Chuck!
July 25 - Volunteers Chuck Lambert and Susie Safford take time to pose with their progress in cutting up one of the trees which was toppled by the wind storm which hit the St. Helena Island light station a week ago. The devastation of the storm is necessarily being taken care of slowly in order to ensure the safety of our wonderful volunteers. Thank you so much for your dedication.
JULY 26 - This afternoon's steady rains gave way to a beautiful evening replete with a rainbow to wave farewell to another great day at the St. Helena Island light station.
JULY 27 - Although they had already spent a week on the island in late June, Bob and Sue Brunais kindly volunteered to return to the island today for a couple of days. Bob is a master with a chain saw and his expertise is welcomed in helping remove some of the remaining trees which fell during the July 18 storm.
JULY 27 - Thanks to the chainsaw skills of Bob Brunais, the cedar trunk which was hung up between two adjacent trunks at the St. Helena Island light station was safely removed, again opening the sidewalk to foot traffic.
JULY 27 - Volunteers Jamie Anderson and Sally Bingham busy washing lunch dishes at the St. Helena Island light station earlier today.
JULY 27 - Our wonderful volunteers enjoy a restful "al fresco" dinner this evening after a hard day of work at the St. Helena Island light station. If this looks like something you might like to do, click the following link to learn more.
JULY 27 - Lest we give the impression that it's "all work and no play" for our volunteers at the St. Helena Island light station, here we see Eric and Jamie Anderson and their son Taylor and Pan Godchaux returning from a kayak trip around the island earlier today
JULY 28 - An early start for the day as volunteers Bob and Sue Brunais clean up broken limbs on an apple tree to the south of the St. Helena Island light station.
JULY 28 - After we removed the cedar that was hung up between two sister trunks at the northeast corner of the St. Helena Island lighthouse, we found that its sisters were in very bad condition, showing major cracks and insect damage.
JULY 28 - Since the two remaining trunks could do considerable damage to the dwelling and the information kiosk, we felt we had no alternative but to remove them.
While it will take some getting used to the visual change, the removal of the trees which were formerly located directly in front of the tower at the St. Helena Island light station brings the light station closer to its appearance 100 years ago.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June at the St. Helena Island Light Station

JUNE 17 - The boys, leaders and parents of Ann Arbor Boy Scout Boy Scout Troop 4 pause from their reconstruction of the original assistant keepers dwelling at the St. Helena Island light station for a group portrait this morning. This year marks the 24th year that the folks with this wonderful troop have come to St. Helena Island to work their miracles. A rousing THANK YOU to all involved, and we eagerly anticipate to celebrating our 25th year of collaboration in 2014.

JUNE 17 - Ann Arbor Boy Scout Troop 4 continued their work on the reconstructed original assistant keepers dwelling today, installing clapboard on the south wall. We will continue to post on their progress throughout the week as they bring this two-year project to completion.

JUNE 17 - The kitchen at the St. Helena Island light station is a busy place during Scout Week, as it takes a kitchen full of cooks and their helpers to feed the 50 Scouts, leaders and family members living and working on the island - and boy, do they eat well!

JUNE 18 - Sunrise from the boathouse at the historic St.Helena Island light station this morning
JUNE 18 - The boys of Ann Arbor Scout Troop 4 continue their reconstruction of the original assistant keepers dwelling at our St. Helena Island light station this morning. Note that clapboards are being installed on the north wall.

JUNE 18 - GLLKA Executive Director Terry Pepper and Board member Mike Finn spent the morning assembling and inflating the first of our two new fourteen-foot Zodiac Bombard C4' inflatable boats. This black one has been christened AMARANTH, and if all goes well we plan on taking her for a break-in run to St. Helena Island tomorrow morning.
JUNE 18 - A lantern gallery view of the boys, leaders and family members of Ann Arbor Boy Scout Troop 4 enjoying lunch at the foot of the tower at our St. Helena Island light station today. You can't beat it when the weather cooperates and allows "al fresco" dining 
JUNE 18 - Every year during Scout Week at our St. Helena Island light station, the boys of Ann Arbor Troop 4 help cut the dead-falls and bushes and trees which grow around the light station since the last season. A long standing tradition is that every Tuesday of Scout Week, the boys take all the brush they have cut and build a huge bonfire on the beach in front of the lighthouse. This year is no exception, as witnessed by this year's growing pile.
JUNE 18 - Tonight's beach fire at the St. Helena Island light station.

JUNE 19 - We launched our new Zodiac AMARTAN late this morning and headed over to St. Helena. Never let yourself be lulled into thinking that owning a Great Lakes lighthouse is all fun and games. Our lighthouses were erected in wide open areas and subjected to the worst that the Lakes can throw at them. During our first trip to St. Helena Island light station this year, we found that one of the tower windows had somehow become unlatched over the winter, and buffeting winds had broken it apart as they smashed it open and closed in its frame.

JUNE 19 - While on the island, Terry Pepper and Mike Finn observed the progress on the reconstructed original assistant keepers dwelling. This incredible reconstruction is being undertaken as an Eagle Scout project by Boy Scout Spencer Morgan. As witness to the long-standing dedication of the wonderful folk with Ann Arbor Boy Scout Troop 4, Chris Morrison attained the rank of Eagle Scout through his restoration oi the the privy to the right in the photograph back in 1990 - 23 years ago! GREAT WORK Spencer!
JUNE 20 - Spencer Morgan has completed the installation of all the clapboard siding on his recreation of the original assistant keepers dwelling, and here we see he and his fellow Scouts of Ann Arbor Troop 4 painting. When he and the troop leave the Island Saturday, the exterior of the building will be complete. Spencer's brother plans on attaining his Eagle Scout badge next year through recreation of the building's interior.

JUNE 20 - Terry Pepper and Mike Finn finished assembling our second fourteen-foot Zodiac Bombard C4 inflatable and christened her MARIGOLD. Unfortunately, we did not have time to paint the Michigan license number and affix her State sticker today, but will return tomorrow to do so in preparation for long-time volunteer keepers MaryAnn Moore and Susie Safford to take them over to St. Helena early Saturday morning. We are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather! 
JUNE 20  - The boy scouts and leaders with Ann Arbor Troop 4 line up for dinner at the St. Helena Island light station this evening. It takes a lot of food to feed a total of 60 people. Every bit of it has to be brought 8 miles from the mainland, and all the resulting trash has to be taken back to shore. A lesson in logistics!
JUNE 21 - The vent atop our oil storage building at St. Helena was in pretty bad shape, having been riddled with shot by rabbit hunters over the years. However, it still served useful in that it served as a pattern for the folks with the Harbor Point Association in their recreation of the oil house which used to be located at the Little Traverse light station. When they contracted with a local fabricator to make their vent, the wonderful Harbor Point folks had a second vent fabricated and gave it to us for our oil house as a "thank you" for providing the information needed. As seen here, yesterday afternoon two Ann Arbor Troop 4 Boy Scout fathers installed the replica vent, returning the oil house to its original appearance. A rousing THANK YOU to everyone involved in this project.
JUNE 24 - The view out of Principal Keeper MaryAnn Moore's window in the assistant keepers dwelling early this morning.
JUNE 25 - We loaded up all the components of the new dock in some heavy rain this morning and headed out to St. Helena Island. As we made our way west, the weather began to clear. It was a welcome sight to see our two new Zodiacs awaiting our arrival to transport the components and crew to shore. Here we see most of the components sitting on the old dock waiting to be carried to the assembly area. Note the lower ends of the boat car track standing clear of the water, showing how shallow the water is, and the dire need for the new dock in deeper water. A big THANK YOU to the crew of Steve Sheridan, Mike Crawford, Jack Sheridan and Mike Finn who came out to assemble and install the dock in record time 
JUNE 25 - We had already located the best location for the new dock. A big THANK YOU to Bob Brunais whe lead a group of volunteers in clearing and laying many wheelbarrow loads of beach stone to create this new trail leading from the dock site to the lighthouse,
JUNE 25 - Here we see the first of eight all-aluminum dock frame sections being assembled in the St. Helena Island boat house. We decided to do the primary assembly in the boat house because of the flat work surface it provided, and also because we would be able to continue working uninterrupted in the event of rain.
JUNE 25 - Fortunately, we managed to avoid rain after the early drenching, as shown in this photo of one of the eight completed main frame sections being removed from the boat house for carrying to the new dock location. The dock decking is manufactured of fiber-reinforced plastic, and can me seen stacked in the rear of the photograph.
JUNE 26 - We are happy to report that our first keeper swap as part of a Sheplers Westbound Lighthouse cruise was a rousing success! Six new volunteer keepers were delivered to St. Helena Island and four taken off  along with all their gear, in just fifteen minutes. The guests on the cruise appeared to enjoy observing the process and having the opportunity to talk with folks who had been volunteering at the light station. We are also pleased to report that there was also a lot of interest in volunteering voiced by the guests on board. We will repeat the process on Saturday June 29 during Shepler's Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise.
JUNE 26 - Sub sections of the new St Helena light station dock assembled in the boat house and waiting to be moved to the beach for final assembly.
JUNE 26 - Final assembly of the dock sections at the beach before they are rolled out into the lake earlier this morning
JUNE 26 - The new dock at the St. Helena Island light station is rolled out into the water
JUNE 28 - 12 year-old Alyssa Koetje, who is volunteering for three days at our St. Helena Island light station with her grandparents Roger and Deb Hoeksema, is seen here this morning in the summer kitchen at the lighthouse making soda bread, which will likely be included as part of today's lunch menu. We love it whenever we have motivated young people volunteering at our lighthouses. As "Keepers of Tomorrow," the future of our beloved Great Lakes lighthouses truly rest in their hands.
JUNE 28 - Since their arrival at the St. Helena Island light station on Wednesday, volunteers John Johnson and Tom Fagerlin have been busy doing some maintenance work in one of the bedrooms in the Assistant Keepers dwelling. Yesterday, they scraped, spackled and sanded the walls. Here they are they are applying a coat of Kilz primer, and by the time they leave the island tomorrow, the walls will have been repainted and the room will again be ready for habitation. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful volunteers and thank all who help for their selfless dedication.
JUNE 28 - MaryAnn Moore, our cherished Principal Keeper at the St. Helena Island light station just sent us this photo, stating that she "Had just finished her light housekeeping!"

JUNE 29 - Our second successful keeper swap at St. Helena Island as part of today's Extended Westbound Lighthouse Cruise. Six people were taken off the island and one new volunteer keeper safely delivered. Some of the volunteers took the microphone as we left the island and headed for White Shoal and talked about their wonderful experience as volunteer keepers. Many of the people on the cruise asked for information on our volunteer keeper program as a result of the experience. A real win/win/win situation for Shepler's, GLLKA and Shepler's guests.. 
JUNE 30 - We purchased and installed the new dock at our St. Helena Island light station not only because falling water levels have created such shallow conditions at the historic dock that future access is threatened, but also to improve access to the island by people with private boats. We are elated to report that our first visitor tied up to the dock today, and our volunteers happily provided them with a tour of the lighthouse and grounds.
For additional information about our volunteer keeper programs at both the St. Helena Island or Cheboygan River Front Range light stations, go to the home page of our website at and click on "Volunteer at St. Helena" or "Volunteer at Cheboygan" on the right side of the page.