KEEPERS’ REPORT - 2009
2009 was a different kind of year. I never saw a lake rise almost two feet in a few months
(let alone a Great Lake) and then recede at least one foot in the fall. I guess you could say
that it was a cleansing summer with all the rain we received. So goes the Earth's natural
Middle Island Light Station did get a bit of a face lift this year and the rain played an
important part. During late July and early August, the area around the keepers' quarters
was actually covered with sixty (+) yards of topsoil. "How did we get such a large amount of
topsoil 2 1/2 miles from the mainland?” you ask. Lots of man power! The topsoil came in
the form of some 1,560, forty pound, plastic bags. The bags were ferried to the island
aboard Island Freighter II. Rod Olson, Jack Olson, and Larry Frantz helped for two full days
as we made approximately fifteen trips. We had just enough calm waters to get the black
soil moved. Waves, in the form of rollers, were wrapping around the island as we were
finishing our last trips. The water depth in front of the Keepers' Lodge was shallow where
we unloaded, so it is fortunate that the wind was from the South.
Once all the topsoil was over to the island, there was a sigh of relief. The fun, however,
was just beginning. Some workers (four then later five) came from Hancock, Michigan and
were arriving at Rockport Harbor to hitch a ride to the island. They came to help spread the
topsoil, plant grass, plant trees and flowers, etc. around Middle Island's Light Station. The
landscaping materials and other supplies took an additional four trips to the island from
Rockport. After five days of continuous labor, there were twenty trees planted, about
thirty flowers and shrubs planted, and a lot of grass seed spread. It was a successful week
with no real hitches. The rain held off so that we could get the job done. Later, we
received numerous showers to get all the vegetation growing again. Thank you, God.
I took a skid loader to the island to extend a rock pier in front of the Keeper's Lodge. We
unloaded topsoil on that pier. Including prep work, mobilization, and demobilization, the
whole topsoil project took fourteen days. Many thanks are given to Rod, Jack, and Larry for
helping make this project happen.
We had numerous lodge customers "tough it out" and stay the night at the lodge this
summer. A group of two couples were staying the night when we were moving the topsoil
to the island. They seemed to like watching the activity and even helped out a bit. A family
from Waterford, MI had proven that the cormorants did not eat all the fish around the
island. They caught at least three good sized small mouth bass by the life saving station.
They took lots of pictures. I think that family had a great time. That was the third time this
nice family from Waterford made it to the island. Don't forget to bring your poles and take
advantage of the free boat usage as well. Another suggestion I would like to add - You
could see a lot of interesting underwater landscape if you bring a snorkel, mask, and fins
on your next trip. Wet suit is optional. The sinkhole, the shipwreck Portsmouth and
limestone formations are very cool to look at and are all on the north side of the island. A
group of SCUBA divers from the Grand Rapids area had a terrific weekend on the island
this year. They enjoyed four local shipwrecks while staying two nights. I was pleasantly
surprised to see more guests staying two nights (+) this year. It takes more than just one
night to relax and unwind.
I do appreciate repeat customers and want to thank everyone for spreading the word about
the uniqueness of Middle Island. As a token of my appreciation, I would like to give ten
percent off the 2010 rates to anyone that has already stayed at the lodge. In addition, if
repeat OR new customers stay two weekend (Friday-Sunday) or weekday (Monday-
Thursday) nights, they can stay an adjoining night free. Please keep weekdays and
weekends separate. If you would like to purchase a certificate for somebody else to stay,
the same discounts would apply. Anytime May - September. Here is the catch and the
reason I call this the Early Bird Special. You need to make a reservation or buy a certificate
before May 1st 2010 to receive the free extra night. As always, repeat customers can stay
anytime for 10 percent off. Don't wait too long, for the 2010 season is bound to be busy!
Keepers' Report - 2010
Not only has it been a privilege to work on Middle Island for the past fifteen or so summers, it has
also been an honor to host and work with a bunch of beautiful people. Everyone that visited Middle
Island so far seems to appreciate the visible natural beauty of their surroundings or the quiet serenity
it offers. People look refreshed and happy on their return boat ride to the mainland. I would imagine
guests know more about themselves or each other after their experience. I am glad to have met all
the visitors to Middle Island. Families such as the Footes, Safraneks, Kelloggs, Karrs and Rosenaus,
to name a few, have contributed such a great deal to the island and lodge in their various ways. In
the future I will discuss how all these people, and others, have helped out. Thank you for your all
your efforts, big or small.
May and June usually offer cooler weather for working out beside Lake Huron. It might be too cool to
paint early in summer, but what a good time for physical labor. The work season kicked off with the
Karrs. Dennis and Elizabeth Karrs came to the island for their third time. This time they wanted to
lend a helping hand. I think Dennis and Liz came to realize what I have, that Middle Island offers a
unique solitude and soul enrichment, busy everyday life cannot fulfill. Liz commented, "Even work is
made more enjoyable by the beautiful surroundings." Boy the friends of Middle Island are fortunate to
have volunteers like the Kaars able to share their time and talents. We first worked on the former
fog signal building grinding out loose mortar joints in the brick. Once the joint was free of loose
mortar, the space left over needs to be filled with fresh mortar. This process is called tuck pointing.
It took a little time to create the right shade of red mortar to blend with the old mortar joints already
there. With the help of Diane and Phil Vincenzetti, we went halfway around the building with our
repairs. It took two days to get that far. Two more days were needed to repair the rest of the
crumbling joints. Bob Gebben helped Rod Olson and myself finish the job. One thing I learned is that
even though your finger tips may be a little callused, the skin is easily worn out to the flesh below.
By rubbing the mortar joints without gloves, both my index fingers split their skin. Ouch!!! I'll smooth
mortar joints with a tool next time. The tuck pointing job went by quick with lots of help and the right
consistency mortar in the bag.
Our second work bee of the year was a success because of Bob Gebben, Sharon Beltman, Ruth
Gebben, John Foote and his wife Barb Foote. I lost track of how many times our good friends from
both extreme south and west Michigan have ventured out to Middle Island. This group arrived the
2nd week in June. They like to arrive early in the season to help us get things going. It doesn't take
them long to get situated and ready to work, either! Several tasks were completed that week, some
that were long overdue for completion. The generator room at the lodge/foghorn building was totally
organized with labels for supplies and room for ingress/egress. What a difference! The tool shed
behind the Keepers' Quarters was gutted out, swept, and organized. Finally, someone wasn't
intimidated by all that bat dung! Mike Rowe from the TV show "Dirty Jobs" would have been proud of
the way the tool shed was tackled. In addition to all other work completed, this group nicely widened
the main trail - once again. Thank you helping get the season off to a good start!
This summer's weather, in my opinion, was the best we have had in a loooonnnggg time. We had
many guests at the lodge this year. People may have been anxious to take a summer vacation since
last year had been soggy and cool. Everybody needs "down-time" for recharging their motivational
batteries, don't they? Guess I am getting mine in right now, writing you this newsletter. I could not
have asked for a better summer, how about you? There was a well balanced mixture of new guests
and old friends at the lodge in 2010. The summer went by fast because of the time spent, happily
working to prepare for visitors. There was time, however, to take a few more pictures. I encourage
you to glance through the many pictures added to this website.
Towards the end of summer, when the air was again cool, yet comfortable, we made a major dent in
a very important project. I call it, "Fabricating and Welding with the Karrs." No, we weren't starting a
new automobile plant on Middle Island. We did, however, start building a steel loading/unloading
ramp with Dennis and Liz Karrs. Dennis and Liz came to the island once again this year to help us
enhance efforts to get things done on Middle Island. I'll explain what I mean by enhancing efforts in
the next paragraph. This time the Karrs arrived with their well-behaved children, Shelby and
Dawson. Also, the Karrs brought their own portable welder and welding supplies. We started the
extensive ramp project not knowing we would need most of the steel leftover from the dock. The
Karrs cut most of the steel legs to the ramp sections during their previous visit to the island. Larry
Frantz provided his portable band saw for that job. I worked with Dennis and Liz in the fabrication
process. I was also able to enjoy their companionship and a few great meals planned and prepared
by Liz. Dennis is a meticulously good welder and construction worker by trade. Dennis and Liz stayed
on the island as long as they could. Astonishingly enough, they allowed us to keep their portable
welder on the island until the fabrication was complete.
You see, a ramp is detrimental to everything we hope to accomplish on Middle Island. Allow me to
explain... So much extra time is spent getting supplies to/from different boats from/to the island.
Every time anything is needed on or off the island we have to transverse the distance between the
dock and boat by sheer man-power. This can be exhausting considering you need more than food or
drink to renovate old buildings. With Lake Huron water levels so low, the transfer of materials and
supplies to/from a boat is complicated further. Right now, the height from a boat to the dock is in the
neighborhood of 4-6 feet. Much mortar will be needed on the island to repair the light station's
buildings for example. Not to mention tools and equipment to get that extensive job done. In the
long run, inevitably a ramp is needed to reach our long term goals. Marvin Theut, my father, made it
his ambition to make sure this ramp was labeled top priority for 2010. Marv put together plans to
build this ramp and monies to help move the project along. He designed the ramp so it would not
conflict with the changing lake levels. Large, heavy loads of equipment and supplies will require less
effort to get on or off a trailer. A boat will be able to securely tie off in front of the ramp and in deep
enough water to allow for some "peace of mind". Not only will this ramp save human energy, it will
save us valuable time, allowing us to get more accomplished by the end of the day. The possibility
for injury should decrease with less lifting required.
Rod Olson, Chuck Hubbard, and myself worked for a number of days to see to that the ramp sections
were finished with the portable welder provided. Even though Chuck's knee was bothering him, he
welded for countless hours. Rod provided many meals that were of great motivational value. Rod,
Chuck and I cut, grinded, welded, and painted steel until all the ramp sections were done. The
portable welder was taken off the island without mishap or complications and returned to the Karrs.
A special thank you is in order, given to all of those involved in the accomplishments of this year.
If you have a particular talent and would like to help out during the 2011 season, we can make you a
deal on weekday stays! Just let me know what you would like to do after I explain what we are
attempting to accomplish this year. Everybody has different time constraints and ways of helping, so
give me a shout, we'll work out the details.
Almost all the buildings need some sort of painting done to them. If you have a steady and patient
hand, maybe you could have a particular project assigned to you. Some painting assignments would
also require a tolerance to heights. If all goes well, we will start construction on the walls and
ceilings to the assistant keepers’ quarters this summer. If you have carpentry skills, we can use a
few good men/women. We are starting with the upstairs and working our way down. Walls will be
prepped and particle board will be used as the foundation for tongue and groove cedar. Some walls
will be left bare to show off the structure’s brick surfaces. A sealer will be used to keep the brick
clean and shiny. I will be assisting most work groups, so if we get off track, I get the blame. Sound
good? Finish carpentry may be needed later in the year. If you prefer landscaping, there are many
places beautification would be appreciated. There are many trails to improve. I know that the
flowers, bushes and grass were ravaged by the deer that we planted two years ago. It would be nice
to protect what we still have and possibly replant some of what was eaten. The grass needs to be
fertilized a couple of times as well. More bat houses need to be built and erected away from the
buildings. At the same time, we need to seal up the Keepers' Quarters and evict the bats. Cleaning
up the shores of the island is always appreciated. Garbage and debris washes up on shore, yearly. I
am sure that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes down to what can be done. For you that
have been to the island already, let me know your ideas on what could be done. I Look forward to
your comments and working with you this coming year!