The Lightship Huron
At the extreme southern end of Michigan’s Thumb lays the town of Port Huron. This lakeside town has close ties to the boating and shipping industry. It’s the starting point of the famous Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race and was the location of the first large-scale boatyards in the Great Lakes. One interesting little site, located in a county park, is the Lightship Huron. Lightships are floating lighthouses that could be anchored on the lakes where it was too deep or impossible to build a lighthouse. Lightships displayed a light at the top of a mast and, and in foggy conditions, it sounded a signal. Locals called the Huron “Old B.O.” because of the pretty unique sound the fog horn made. Today the retired lightship is only steps away from shore in Pine Grove Park in Port Huron and serves as a floating museum about an aspect of Great Lakes shipping that has been replaced with automation.
History of the Lightship Huron
The keel of the ship was laid in 1918 by the Consolidated Shipbuilding Company in Morris Heights, New York. She was put into service in 1921 as Lightship Number 103. The lightship operated in southern Lake Huron near Port Huron and the mouth of the St. Clair River. In the mid-1930’s she was transferred to Lake Michigan for two seasons on the North Manitou Shoal. In 1935, Huron was repainted with the bold “Huron” on her sides and moved to the Corsica Shoals north of the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron. The ship served there for 36 years until August 20, 1970. She was decommissioned and ownership was transferred to the City of Port Huron.
State Historical Marker in Front of the Huron
Commissioned in 1921, the Huron began service as a relief vessel for other Great Lakes lightships. She is ninety-seven feet long, twenty-four feet in beam, and carried a crew of eleven. On clear nights her beacon could be seen for fourteen miles. After serving in northern Lake Michigan, the Huron was assigned to the Corsica Shoals in 1935. These shallow waters, six miles north of Port Huron, were the scene of frequent groundings by lake freighters in the late nineteenth century. A lightship station had been established there in 1893 since the manned ships were more reliable than lighted buoys. After 1940 the Huron was the only lightship on the Great Lakes. Retired from Coast Guard Service in 1970, she was presented to the City of Port Huron in 1971.
The Huron is Still Kinda Operational
While the ship is permanently moored, the Huron is well-preserved. The ship has an operable light and fog horn still on board. Her twin General Motors diesel engines are fully operational. The diesel engines were restored by volunteer mechanics and are operated once a month. At 97 feet, the Huron is the smallest surviving lightship. The ship is currently hard aground, perched on a thick layer of sand along the St. Clair River.