Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week: Monomoy Point Light, Massachusetts

Monomoy was once a peninsula some eight miles or so in length and barely a quarter mile in width, extending southward from Chatham at the elbow of Cape Cod’s flexed arm. The name comes from “Munumuhkemoo,” an Algonquian word roughly meaning “mighty rush of water.”

Monomoy is at the dividing line between Nantucket Sound, to the west, and the deeper, colder Atlantic Ocean to the east. Where the sound and ocean meet—east and south of Monomoy—dangerous “rips” occur where as rapid ocean waves pass over shallow shoals and bars. Despite the menacing conditions, the passage between the southern end of Monomoy and Great Point, the northern extremity of Nantucket, was one of the Atlantic coast’s busiest stretches for many years.

Congress appropriated $3,000 for Monomoy’s first lighthouse—the fifth on Cape Cod—on March 3, 1823. The first Monomoy Point Light consisted of a wooden tower and iron lantern situated on the roof of a brick dwelling. The fixed white light was established on November 1, 1823.

The extant 40-foot, cast-iron tower erected in 1849 was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the United States. The Lighthouse Board’s annual report for 1857 mentioned that the tower had been lined with brick, and the annual report for 1869 announced that the illuminating apparatus and fixtures had been overhauled.

Asa L. Jones, a native of the Cape Cod town of Harwich, was keeper from 1875 to 1886. Jones, who was born in 1840, had been wounded in the Civil War. His young son, Maro B. Jones, kept a diary that provides a glimpse of life at the light station in the 1884–86 period. Here are some excerpts, beginning when Maro was eight or nine years old.

March 25, 1884: Good weather. Papa killed a black duck. March 31, 1884: Good weather. Papa bound a book. Seven geese came to the pond. Papa tried to shoot them. July 4, 1886: Not much of a Fourth of July for me. I never saw as much as an explosion with gunpowder. It is funny that today has been the most lonesome day of the summer. July 26, 1886: Mr. Ben Mallowes has got a sort of turtle and it looks like a sea cow. No one knows what it is, not even old whalers and Papa is going to write a man to come and get it.

James P. Smith, a native of Copenhagen and a former assistant keeper at Boston Light, became keeper in 1899. His wife died early in his stay at Monomoy, but Keeper Smith had three daughters—aged 24, 17, and 13 at the time of a 1904 article—who assisted him in his duties. The oldest daughter, Annie, acted as housekeeper and tended the light when her father was away. A reporter once asked the Smith sisters if life at the lighthouse was lonely. Annie replied, “Oh, no! We don’t have time to be lonesome. There is always something to do, with the housekeeping and the light.”

With the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914, traffic past Monomoy decreased. The light was discontinued in 1923 and the property passed into private hands. The last private owners sold the buildings to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1964. The property came under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the 1970s.

The ferocious blizzard of February 6–7, 1978, cut Monomoy into two islands, North and South Monomoy. South Monomoy is a birdwatcher’s mecca, with more than 300 species having been spotted in recent years. Gray seals, once rare in New England, have been breeding on South Monomoy.

Capt. Keith Lincoln offers a variety of cruises on the Monomoy Island Ferry, including a visit to South Monomoy and the lighthouse. See or call (508) 945-5450.

Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Lighthouse Art Raffle

This raffle benefits the restoration efforts of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. The organization cares for Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, NH, and Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery, Maine.

The drawing will be on December 12, 2009. Tickets are $5 each, 3 for $10. Click here to buy tickets.

First Prize

Original artwork by artist Randall Peterson depicting Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, valued at $1600. The original work of art is 8 by 10 inches and is signed by the artist and framed and matted in a 16 by 18-inch frame. The pen used to create the artwork will also be included.

The style and technique used in Peterson’s drawings is called pointillism or stippling. Dots are grouped together to form an image. The closer together the dots are, the darker the tones. Pointillism was first introduced in the 1880 by the French artist Georges-Pierre Seurat.

“With the tragedies and storms that may occur in our personal lives,” says Randall Peterson, “for many people the beacon of light from a lighthouse is a symbol that represents a sense of survival, strength, hope and peace. Today, from my heart, it is more rewarding and an inspiration for me as a person to create artwork that may give an emotional lift to others in finding a calmness in their lives.”

For more on Randall Peterson, visit

Second Prize

A framed artist's proof print of the painting “Endeavour’s Run” by Julia O'Malley Keyes. The 12 by 18-inch print is matted in a 24 by 30-inch frame. The painting depicts the Endeavour, a 130-foot J Class sloop that was commissioned by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith and built by Camper & Nicholson at Gosport England to challenge for the America's Cup.

Ms. O'Malley-Keyes’s paintings are collected extensively in the United States, Europe, and Canada. She was voted as one of the “Top 400” most influential people on Cape Cod and is regarded as one of the most collected marine artists today. She resides in North Falmouth, Massachusetts, where she maintains her studio and art gallery. For more information, visit

Third Prize

A 16 by 20-inch print on canvas of the photograph “Boston Light at Sunset” by Jeremy D’Entremont. D’Entremont is the author of six books on lighthouse history and his photographs have appeared widely in many publications. His web site is

Fourth Prize

2010 Maine Lighthouse Poster Calendar by award-winning graphic artist Alan Claude. Includes a dozen beautiful 11 by 14-inch prints of scenic Maine lighthouses.

Influenced by American realist painter Edward Hopper and European travel posters of the 1920s, Alan Claude's challenge was to create an original series with a certain freshness of expression. The Maine Lighthouse Collection Series is a way to honor these national historical treasures. You can visit Alan's website at:

Fifth Prize

Ten winners will receive signed limited edition prints of Randall Peterson’s pointilist drawing of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sunset Cruise and Cocktail Party with Most Haunted's Richard Felix

Join Ron Kolek and Maureen Wood of the New England Ghost Project and special guest Richard Felix, historian/folklorist of TV's "Most Haunted," for a sunset tour on the Piscataqua River, followed by a fun get-together at Portsmouth's Rusty Hammer restaurant.

The narrated cruise aboard the Heritage will leave Portsmouth Harbor Cruises' Ceres Street Dock at 7:00 p.m. The Heritage will cruise past two historic lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Light (said to be haunted by a former keeper) and Whaleback Light. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and its haunted prison will be viewed along with other fascinating sites.

Following the cruise, all aboard will head to the Rusty Hammer restaurant, just a few blocks away. Hors d'oeuvres will be served, and there will be a cash bar. Richard Felix will share some of his experiences as one of the most respected paranormal investigators in the world today.

Richard Felix, who was born in 1949 in Stanley, Derbyshire, England, came to prominence as the historian on the widely popular TV show "Most Haunted." He left the show in 2006 to pursue new projects. He has produced a series of successful paranormal-themed DVDs and has written several popular books. He is married with two children and still lives in Derbyshire. For more information, visit

Cost (including both cruise and party): $65 per person, $59 for members of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

You can buy tickets at

Lighthouses of Casco Bay Cruise on August 29

Join the American Lighthouse Foundation for a special cruise of Maine's picturesque Casco Bay on Saturday, August 29, 2009. All proceeds benefit the foundation's lighthouse preservation efforts.

This cruise will give you the opportunity to see the following lighthouses: Portland Breakwater, (Bug Light), Spring Point Ledge, Portland Head, Ram Island Ledge, Cape Elizabeth, Little Mark Island, and Halfway Rock.

A boxed lunch is provided, please select from the following choices: ham w/ swiss, turkey breast w/ cranberry orange chutney, roast beef w/ cracked pepper horseradish sauce, or marinated vegetable roll-up. A cash bar will be available onboard for beverages.

Click here for ticket info!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Coast Guard Cutter Eagle near Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine, on July 31, 2009

I arrived just in time to snap this photo. It's always a treat seeing the Eagle. I've had the pleasure of touring it a couple of times, and the Coast Guard personnel on board are always gracious and accommodating.