Next stop, Forty Mile Point lighthouse, a reminder of the centuries in which the Great Lakes were the primary routes for commerce and travel.
“Named by seventeeth century explorers, La Mer Douce, the sweet or freshwater sea. Lake Huron is the second largest of the five Great Lakes. It has over 3800 miles of coastline and contains over 30,000 islands, among them Manitoulin, the world’s largest freshwater island. Violent storms on the “sweet sea” have made it dangerous for ships. As of 2004, 1200 wrecks had been recorded. During the Big Blow of 1905 , 27 wooden vessels were lost. One of these, the steamer Joseph S. Fay ran aground. A portion of its hull rests on the beach approximately 200 feet north of the Forty Mile Point Lighthouse. The Great Storm of 1913 was responsible for sinking many modern steel ships.”
The headlines of a Detroit Free Press article about this wreck dated October 21, 1905 run as follows:
FIERCE STORMS WRECK VESSELS AND CARRY SAILORS TO DEATH
Storm Fiercest in Years
Shores of Great Lakes Strewn With Wrecks of Steamers and Barges-Waters Lashed to Extreme Fury
As told by B. E. Stone of the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse Society, ”foundering vessels didn’t have time to find shelter. Over 27 wooden boats did not return to port. The Fay was one of the twenty seven. On October 19, 1905, she was downbound on Lake Huron with the wooden schooner barge, D. P. Rhodes, in tow. Both vessels were fully loaded with iron ore. The captain hugged the coastline seeking protection from the violent wind and savage waves. The straining towline tightened, pulling taut. The wind changed direction and the captain tried to head out into deeper water. The tethered boats rolled in opposite directions and the Rhodes broke free taking a portion of the Fay’s stern with her.
Water rushed into the Fay as the captain struggled toward 40 Mile Point Lighthouse. The Fay’s bow struck a sandbar and the boat washed sideways. The entire forward cabin was torn away. Incredibly, the hurricane force winds lifted the cabin over the side and huge waves carried it to shore where iw washed up on the sandy beach with the captain and 10 crewmen safely inside!
First Mae David Syze of Port Huron and two crewmen clung to the beached hull. The crewmen ripped off a spar and managed to paddle to shore. The First Mate attempted to swim to shore, but the cold winds and rolling waters were just too much for him. In December 1905, the assistant keeper from 40 Mile Point Lighthouse found his body on the beach about one mile up from the lighthouse.
The Fay broke up on the sandbar and sank, but about 150 feet of her huge wooden hull, metal rods and spikes holding her steady, rests on the beach about 200 feet west of the lighthouse. The Rhodes came ashore near Cheboygan and continued in service for many years under the name of Arthur and Arthur Morgan. She was scrapped in 1938. Today the Fay, minus that portion of the hull resting on the beach, lies in about 12 feet of water near the lighthouse. It is often used as a classroom for diving instruction.”
Amazing to think of the stories these lakes hold, known and unknown.