by Boni Thibert
Lake Superior’s real charm lies hidden among its many islands. Of the lake’s ideal anchorages, one in particular—Battle Island—stands out. With a safe harbor, good holding ground, free moorings and a small concrete dock, this exceptional spot welcomes boaters with a tranquil breeze and magnificent views.
To enter the little harbor on Superior’s northern shore you must pass between two small islands that blend in with the shoreline. You get an uneasy feeling as you head toward the rocky coast looking for the little opening that appears on the chart but can’t be seen until you are upon it.
My husband, Phil, and I have always been able to tie up at the low concrete dock on the far west side of the island. The dock has a couple of small iron rings you can tie up to. Although good at the dock, the depth shallows up quickly near shore.
With a safe harbor, good holding ground, free moorings and a small concrete dock, this exceptional spot welcomes boaters with a tranquil breeze and magnificent views.
You can follow the gentle path leading from the dock all the way to the lighthouse. The trail is clear, with the grass cut on each side just enough to be pleasing to the eye. You can see the shoreline on your right and a thin forest on your left. A Spanish moss-like plant hanging from the trees somehow adds to a peaceful and tranquil setting.
A half-mile walk brings you to the lightkeeper’s home and out buildings. Looking past them and up high, perhaps 60 feet, you see Battle Island Light sitting atop the rocky cliff. The concrete tower has an 18-mile light range. Steps lead upward, but the gate was locked when we tried it.
Phil and I wandered along the base and walked down to what appeared to be some kind of concrete boat landing. We could see the tower high on the black rocks. Orange lichen cascaded down the edges of the cliff, bringing a bright contrast to the dark, wet rock face.
Wandering around the area, we noticed the helipad and generator building. When we were about to head back to our boat, a man appeared and asked if we wanted to go up to the light. The man, Bert, had been the former assistant lightkeeper before the light was automated. He stayed on as groundskeeper and guide for the boaters who arrive at his shores.
Bert told us that ours had been the first boat in more than a week to enter the harbor. At the odd looks on our faces, he explained that his dog could somehow sense when a boat arrived. The dog would go down to see how many boats came in and return to tell his owner, barking once for each boat. He was always correct.
The first thing Bert did was unlock the gate and open up the tower to us. He let us climb the stairway up to the lantern room. The actual light was rather unimpressive, as we were used to the massive old Fresnel lenses. This looked like a bulb taken off a street lamp.
It seemed hard to believe this serene island could have been so wracked with foul weather, but even paradise seems to have its share of misfortune.
On the other hand, the view from the tower was breathtaking. I took lots of pictures as I ducked around the big drive gear that oscillates the lamp.
As we left the tower, our guide told us about a massive storm that occurred years ago when he first started working as a keeper. The waves came over the cliff and knocked out the tower’s windows—117 feet above the water. The waves splashed down upon the keeper’s home and outbuildings, carrying away a couple of 5,000-gallon tanks filled with diesel fuel that were never recovered.
As Bert walked us around the area and showed us just how the wave action occurred, we were awestruck. It seemed hard to believe this serene island could have been so wracked with foul weather, but even paradise seems to have its share of misfortune.
We have been back many times to see Battle Island and enjoy its gentle beauty. Phil and I highly recommend visiting this little spot of heaven.
Boni Thibert, SN, and her husband, Philip Thibert, SN, of Toledo Sail & Power Squadron/29, have sailed Lake Superior aboard Ojibway Princess for more than 20 years. They spend summers living aboard and winters on Neebish Island in Michigan’s Saint Mary’s River.
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