Visit the Maritime Museum to learn about the history of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and Great Lakes shipping. Walk through the boathouse next to the museum and see the life-saving equipment used during the early 1900's.
The Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum is located just west of Glen Haven. It is the original Sleeping Bear Point U.S. Life-Saving Station which was moved to its present location because the encroaching sand dunes were beginning to bury it in sand.
Exhibits cover the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Great Lakes shipping history. A room on the second floor is outfitted as a Steamer Wheelhouse with a panoramic view of the Manitou Passage shipping channel.
The Lyle Gun was used to fire a rescue line from shore more than 400 yards to a ship in distress to retrieve crew stranded on the ship.
Navigating the nation's coastal waters, whether the oceans or the Great Lakes, has always been a risky business. Courageous volunteers performed most of the early rescues, but often their efforts were hampered by inadequate training and poor equipment. As the nation grew in the post-civil War era, shipping also increased. On the Great Lakes, both sailing vessels and steamers were numerous, carrying cargoes of lumber, grain, iron ore and other products.
Each station had a keeper, often called "Captain," who had overall responsibility for the station. He was chosen for his skill as a boatman coupled with his ability to read and write. The keeper supervised a crew of six to eight surfmen hired from the local community. The main qualification for a surfman was the ability to row an open boat in a storm. The surfmen were ranked by skill, the best man being #1, while the least experienced would be #6, #7 or #8, depending on the size of the crew. The men worked their way up through the ranks. On the Great Lakes, the surfmen worked during the shipping season from April to mid-December, while the keeper worked year-round.
The Sleeping Bear Point Life-Saving Station
Last updated: June 17, 2021