Beaver Island is a large island in the north end of Lake Michigan. It is only reachable by boat or airplane . . . and in the winter, only by airplane. There is a ferry, that transports vehicles and passengers, that runs from Charlevoix to the Island, when the lake is not frozen. All non-bridged islands are unique communities, ones even more isolated, even more so.
There is one natural harbor on Beaver Island, marked by the Whiskey Point Lighthouse. The point got its name since it was the sight of a store that sold watered-down whiskey to the Indian population on the island. The red roof building once housed the Coast Guard and now serves as a marine site for a university. The ferry can be seen heading back to the mainland.
There are a couple marinas for private boats and the harbor has room for anchoring. However, neither the ferry nor private boat are much use in the winter when the lake freezes - private aircraft becomes the only means to travel to or receives goods from the mainland.
Last Dance found a spot in the harbor across from the lighthouse to spend a few days, allowing the crew multiple expeditions into the island. Sights, sounds, history, geography, good food and interesting people can be found.
Beaver Island is the only place in North America that was once a kingdom. After King Strang was assassinated, the culprits were taken away to Mackinac Island where the towns people celebrated and carried the assassins on their shoulders through town. This chapter is only one of many on Beaver Island.
Travel on the island is supported by roads and many bike trails. Near the town on the northern end of the island, the roads are paved. In other areas of the island, not so, as evidenced by the minivan. It is a normal appearance for island cars. And, why wash it when it will only look like that the next day. One long section of bike trail is asphalt paved while the parallel road is dirt. Always interesting as to where the political power lies.
The islanders are proud of their history and display it many places. This outdoor display had machinery that had been used on the island.
With a preponderance of dirt roads, this old road grader was only retired a few years ago. Must have been the oldest piece of road maintenance machinery operated in the U.S.
Having a generator on a distant island is normal. It is common to have the first source of electricity made by a diesel powered generator.
A surprise was found on the other side of the engine - a carburetor and spark plugs. Diesel injectors on the left side of the engine, and spark ignition on the other. Odd. The compression ratios needed for proper ignition vary greatly between spark and compression ignition that one engine should not be able to function on both fuels. But, here it is. A great solution on an isolated island where diesel fuel or gasoline might be in short supply.
On an island, boats are a large part of the history. Beaver Island has a volunteer-operated museum cataloging and displaying the commercial boat industry. Fishing was the biggest source of income on the island for many years and history of the people and boats involved in fishing make up most of the displays.
The Great Lakes fishing boat under the outdoor shed had the original engine rebuilt to like-new condition. Kahlenberg once built large marine diesel engines. This relatively small - pistons are twice the size of a coffee can - three cylinder, two cycle engine was rebuilt by an individual who collected parts from all around the island.
Then, there is the whimsical Beaver Island Toy Museum. Entertaining for sure. An islander has taken their antique toy collection and created a point of interest and a business in an old home. Busy place.
The antique toy collection is displayed from the ceiling - a distant view, but protected from little hands that may not appreciate the value and fragility.
The biggest benefit of having the toys displayed on the ceiling to the proprietor is that this arrangement allows all the floor space to be used for displays of new toy for sale - displays packed so tightly that it is difficult to walk among them. And, yes, the prices might look to be antique also, but they are actual prices. Reminder of the old 5¢ & 10¢ or five & dime stores.
Libraries are always a stop in newly visited towns for the Last Dance crew. The Friends of the Library book sales are the best resource for restocking the reading materials on the boat. Beaver Island has a new library, donated by a local resident, the owner of Lands End.
Interesting design characteristics were employed in the interior to create engaging and brightly lighted spaces. The glassed-in room in the back is filled with overstuffed chairs for comfortable and quiet seating with internet access.
More than books are on display in the Beaver Island Library. One of the residents has built accurate models of World War I airplanes. To provide a view of the intricate wood construction, the fabric covering of the fuselage and wings was eliminated.
This is the British built Sopwith Camel, the most successful fighter airplane in terms of enemy planes shot down. Twin machine guns were mounted on the cowl in front of the pilot, timed, of course, to fire when the propeller blade was not in front of the guns. Today, the Sopwith Camel is best known as the place flown in the imagination of the cartoon character, Snoopy.
The Albatross was a German airplane first built in 1916. While most planes of this period used air-cooled radial engines, the Albatross used a 6 cylinder, water-cooled Mercedes. Top speed was 175 miles an hour, a great accomplishment a little over a decade since the Wright brothers had proved that manned flight was possible.
The French contributed the Nieuport 28 to the WWI effort. The United States purchased this plane for use by both the US Army and Navy. One of the original planes is on display in the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Not history created on Beaver Island, but a unique history lesson on Beaver Island.
There is enough interesting on Beaver Island to keep one entertained for an entire summer, and there are those who choose to do so by having a summer house on the island. This one has some interesting architecture, partially to address a code issue. Waterfront property in the harbor, particularly where a boat can be moored along side, is rare. Local code does not allow the footprint of an existing building to be increased. So, an attractive home was created by renovating an old home adding architectural details and making usable space larger with an outdoor kitchen.