Fourteen Foot Shoal Lighthouse Seeing The Light

Off Cheboygan, Michigan Home Back

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Historical Information

With a scant fourteen feet of water above its hard gravel bottom, Mariners recognized the hazard represented by this shoal lurking a mile northwest of Cheboygan Point and close to the main course of entry into Cheboygan Harbor, and while a second-class can buoy had long been placed to mark this danger, it was plain that a more permanent solution was needed.

In 1925, a construction crew was working in the Straits at Martin Reef, and plans had already been drawn up for that same crew to transfer their base camp to Cheboygan at the completion of the work at Martin Reef to begin construction of a virtually identical structure at Poe Reef. With the availability of such an experienced crew in the area, the time was right to provide a more permanent solution at Fourteen Foot Shoal, and plans were drawn up for a new station on which construction would begin as soon as the work at Poe Reef was completed. It was also determined that with the improved lighting that would result from this new station, the seventy-five year old Cheboygan Light would no longer be needed and could be discontinued with the exhibition of the new light.

Click to view enlarged imageAs a result of recent advances in reliable radio control technology, it was also determined that the new station could have its light and fog signal remotely controlled by the keepers living at the planned Poe Reef Light Station, thereby significantly lowering the cost of operating the new light.

As a temporary measure to better mark the shoal, the can buoy marking Fourteen Foot Shoal was replaced by an acetylene gas buoy showing a flashing white seventy candlepower light every 3 seconds on April 15, 1925.

With completion of the work at Poe Reef in 1929, the work crew turned their attention to work at Fourteen Foot Shoal. While the new light was of a totally different design, and considerably smaller than the twin lights built at Martin and Poe Reefs, the construction of the crib proceeded in much the same manner, with the construction of a wooden crib at the shore station on the Cheboygan Pier. After an area on the shoal was leveled, the crib was eased down wooden ways into the water, and towed to the shoal by the Lighthouse Tender Aspen. Once over the leveled area, the crib was sunk to the bottom by filling its empty pockets with rocks and gravel.

Click to view enlarged imageThis timber foundation then served as a core, upon and around which wooden forms were constructed and filled with concrete loaded from the Lighthouse Service scow. As was the case with both the Martin and Poe stations, the upper edge of the crib was formed into a graceful flare, designed to deflect waves away from the pier, in order to help protect the structures which would be erected on the deck. With the completion of the concrete work, the pier stood fifty feet square, and its deck level fifteen feet above the water.

The steel framework for the single story equipment building was erected at the center of the deck. Standing thirty-four feet by twenty-eight feet in plan, on completion, the entire exterior of the building was sheathed with 1/4-quarter inch steel plates, each riveted to the steel framework beneath. Centered on the roof ridge, a cylindrical steel tower was integrated into the roof, standing six feet in diameter and twenty-four feet above the ridge line. The tower was capped with an octagonal cast iron lantern and outfitted with a flashing white Fourth Order Fresnel lens.

Click to view enlarged imageAs a result of its relative proximity to the shore, a submarine cable was laid to the station, with power supplied by the Cheboygan municipal power plant. As a result, the equipment building was outfitted with electric motors to drive the compressors feeding the station's duplicate diaphone fog signals sounding a characteristic one second blast followed by 14 seconds of silence. The Fresnel lens was also illuminated with an 11,000 candlepower incandescent electric light bulb with a flashing mechanism which provided a repeated three-second characteristic consisting of a single flash of 1-second duration followed by a two-second eclipse. The station's 50-foot focal plane provided the light with a range of visibility of 14 miles in clear weather. To provide a light during the winter months, a 130 candlepower acetylene powered 200 mm lens was also installed in the lantern, fed by an acetylene tank located within the main building.

The new Fourteen Foot Shoal Light was exhibited for the first time at the opening of navigation in 1930, and as planned, the old Cheboygan Light Station was discontinued at the same time, and with the completion of the work, the construction crew moved their base camp from the Cheboygan pier, and steamed up Lake Huron to begin work on the new Detour Reef Light.

Keepers of this Light

This light was an an unmanned station from its date of commissioning, with the equipment controlled and maintained by the keepers at the Poe Reef Light, thus there were no keepers assigned here. Click here to see a complete listing of all Poe Reef Light keepers compiled by Phyllis L. Tag of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research.

Finding this Light

While a private vessel is undoubtedly the best way to obtain close-up views of this Light, Sheplers Ferry Service out of Mackinaw City offers a number of lighthouse cruises during the summer season, and their "Eastbound Tour" includes passes by Round Island, Bois Blanc Island, Poe Reef and Fourteen Foot Shoal. For schedules and rates for this tour, visit their website at: or contact them at:

PO Box 250
Mackinaw City, MI 49701
Phone (800) 828-6157

Reference Sources

USCG Historian's Office - photographic archives.
Annual reports of the Lake Carriers Association, 1921-1930
Great Lakes Light Lists, 1939. 1953 & 1972
Great Lakes Coast Pilot, 1953, US Army Corps of Engineers.
Martin Reef - Lightship to Lighthouse, John J. Sellman
Photograph courtesy of Marge Beaver of Photography Plus.
Photograph courtesy of Julie Umlor
Keeper listings for this light appear courtesy of Tom & Phyllis Tag

Terry Pepper. This page last updated 12/02/2007 .

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