Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2008

Mail Boat


Dear Tim,

Several years ago I moved from Michigan to Kentucky. Many things in the environment changed for me. Roads got curvier, the landscape got hillier and there was a lot less... well...water! Sure there are rivers, but nothing like the abundance I took advantage of in the Great Lake State.

To keep myself feeling "at home" I started collecting lighthouses like they were going out of style. Funny thing is,

I’ve only been in one lighthouse my entire life (of 38 years). Lighthouses fascinate me in all aspects. Archeologically, historically and most importantly, aesthetically. They’re just so beautiful to look at.

One day I just decided to download Google Earth and do the usual "Can I see my house?" kind of thing when I decided to explore all the places I visited growing up in Michigan. Suddenly I was searching for lighthouses. From there I decided to create my own Google Earth "Tour" by pinpointing all the lighthouses (that I could find) along the coast of Michigan.

I used several websites to aid me on my quest (yours was indeed one of them). The end result was very rudimentary, but enlightening. I loved finding out more about the history of these places and where they fall on the map.

I thought perhaps your readers would be interested in this kind of thing. Perhaps create their own tours of their favorites, previous visits, or like I did, what their home state has to offer.

Jamie Williams

Chaplin, Kentucky

Dear Tim,

I have struggled over the last month whether I was going to write you and then I received the November issue of Lighthouse Digest.

I was pushed to write by Wickie’s Wisdom - do you realize that you are one of the people the lighthouse movement is grateful for? You have done more than anyone to keep the movement alive. Whether you are berating us for

not doing enough or praising us for a job well done - you are our conscience.

And this is why it was so wrong for you to not be at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. I know you can’t be everywhere, but, this is a critical event and one that really needs your support. You were sorely missed!

Next year’s dates are October 9, 10, 11, and 12. Please mark your calendar - hope to see you there!

Best regards,

Pat Eckenstahler

Editor’s Reply: Pat, thanks for the kind words. I apologize for not having been able to attend the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival for the past couple of years, however, I was there at all the previous years, from the very beginning, and continue to strongly support this important yearly event, even when I’m not there. Unfortunately, you are right, I can’t be everywhere. One year I missed it was because I was recovering from surgery, once was because of a conflicting lighthouse event and another time was because of financial considerations. I love the Great Lakes and its lighthouses and hopefully in 2009 I can again make it to Alpena, Michigan, for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival that I always encourage others to attend. Over the years I’ve made so many friends in that area of the country and it would be great to see everyone again and visit the beautiful lighthouses that dot the shore. I’ll do my best to be there this year, but can’t make any promises this early.

Dear Tim,

On a warm day this past September, the 20th to be exact, I set out for Buffalo, NY from Virginia Beach, Virginia to attend the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association’s 2007 Lake Erie Tour. The weather while there was very warm. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. On day one we rose early and after having breakfast at our hotel, the Adam’s Mark Hotel, we set out for the boat Miss Buffalo. We set sail down Lake Erie seeing several lighthouses. We saw the Buffalo Light, Crib Light, Breakwater Light, the remains of Horseshoe Reef Light and the ruins of South Buffalo Light.

After having lunch on the boat we boarded an open top converted school bus for a tour of Buffalo. We saw some of the biggest grain elevators I have ever seen. I also learned that Cheerios cereal is made in Buffalo. Oh to be a child again. (I actually still eat Cheerios) We went to the Buffalo Lighthouse. It is on a Coast Guard station and special permission had to be obtained before hand for all of us to climb the lighthouse. We walked down to the light. What a beautiful structure on top of stone pilings! I climbed the stone steps to the lighthouse and climbed the stairway to the very top. What a breathy-taking view.

That night we went to the Anchor Inn for dinner and had Beef on Kimmelweck, a local dish, which is roast beef with horseradish on a type of heavy roll. This restaurant is home of Buffalo Wings. It all started here and is still run by the same family. I bought some sponge candy, particular to Buffalo, to bring to family and friends.

After breakfast that Saturday, we boarded a bus for our trip to Point Abino Lighthouse in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. After a brief orientation by Charlene Nigh and coffee and donuts we set out on a tram for the lighthouse. What a fascinating structure. It sits on the beach with rocks all around and steps leading down a walkway to the lighthouse. Sitting at the top looking down at the lighthouse it was windy, rocky, and beautiful and to me it evoked a wonderfully peaceful feeling. Perhaps the lighthouse was happy to be appreciated again.

The keeper’s house was not open but is a beautiful home with a spectacular view. We all agreed we wouldn’t mind living there. Point Albino in not nearly finished being restored but we were allowed to go inside. We were not allowed to climb up to another floor but we did get the feel for the lighthouse from inside the first floor. It is a beautiful piece of architecture in the classic revival style. Built in 1917, the 3rd order Fresnel lens was put into operation in 1918. In 2003 the Town of Fort Erie purchased the lighthouse for $5,000. I am so thankful for the preservation of such a graceful and lovely lighthouse.

We then went to lunch and many of us tasted local fare for the Buffalo/Canada area of Perogies, which are kind of a large fried dumpling filled with potato, cheese or meat, and Glumpgies, which are cabbage leaves filled with a beef and rice mixture cooked in tomato sauce. Next was a trip to the Buffalo-Erie County Historical Museum where we saw, among many other artifacts, a Fresnel lens which was said to once have been in the Buffalo Lighthouse.

The last item planned for our lighthouse tour was a gala buffet dinner for that night. What a wonderful dinner it was. The folds in Buffalo really know how to plan a lighthouse getaway. A lot was packed into the short time we had; new friendships were made, some picked up where they had left off at previous lighthouse events or tours and everyone was so friendly. We saw many lighthouses, ate well, discovered Buffalo and slept well at night. What a great time!

I can’t wait for my next event with the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Sarah Burke

Virginia Beach, VA

Editor’s Reply: As proven by Sarah’s letter, going on lighthouse tours can often be much more rewarding that touring on your own. As well as visiting the lighthouses, you get to experience many things you might not be able to do and learn on a self-guided tour. And perhaps, more importantly, the friendships that are created from tours will last a lifetime.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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