Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hospital Point Light (Beverly, MA) Ready for the Holidays

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has been busy preparing Hospital Point Light for the holidays. In addition to the six-foot diameter wreath that is usually put up, the lighthouse team also constructed a star that was also placed on the tower. This year the wreath was placed on the street side, instead of the water side of the tower, to enable people walking or driving by to see it.  The star, which is over six feet from point to point, was placed on the water side. Both the wreath and the star have lights on them.
In November, the Essex National Heritage Commission announced their "People's Choice Award" winners.
Every year, the Commission presents these awards to Trails & Sails events based on participant feedback. The "People's Choice Awards” represent the top ten events this year as voted on by participants. The Lighthouse Team at Hospital Point Light was selected as one of this year's winners. This year, over 100 event hosts opened their doors and scheduled more than 190 events to connect people to the special places and organizations that comprise the Essex National Heritage Area. The team received a certificate of appreciation for public display. 

- Phil Karwowski

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Lighthouse Keeper" by Neptune's Car

It was my pleasure to produce a new music video for the song "Lighthouse Keeper" by Neptune's Car (Holly Hanson and Steve Hayes). For more on Neptune's Car, visit their website.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ghosts of New London Ledge

Strange events were said to be commonplace in the Coast Guard era at New London Ledge Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut. Doors opened and closed themselves; the TV turned itself off and on.  A deck “swabbed itself.” Coast Guard Officer in Charge Randy Watkins said he once heard his name being called from an upstairs room when the other crewman was asleep.  

Watkins’ wife Lucretia spent a night in the master bedroom and said she was awakened when the door opened, followed by “the eerie feeling of someone in the room, staring.'’  And one time two fishermen secured their boat and came inside for a visit.  The men laughed at talk of a ghost, but stopped laughing when saw that their boat had been untied and was drifting away. 

These and many other odd happenings were invariably attributed to “Ernie,” who has become probably the best-known lighthouse ghost of the Northeast. Author William O. Thomson has written that Ernie would turn on the foghorn, and that he sometimes polished brass or cleaned windows.  Actual ghost sightings were rare, and supposedly only visiting women have ever seen the lighthouse’s ethereal resident.

The story usually used to explain Ernie’s origins follows.  There are some variations in this story depending on who’s doing the telling, and I make no guarantee that any part of the story is true.

In the 1920s or ‘30s a new keeper came to New London Ledge Light. The keeper’s true name isn’t known, but he was known to all as Ernie.  Ernie had a new young wife, half his age, who lived in New London while he stayed at the lighthouse.  What started as a happy marriage dissolved into bitter despair and desperation as the young woman pined for a normal life with her husband.

One bleak day, Ernie found a letter left by his wife, telling him that she had run off with the captain of the Block Island ferry.  The keeper’s will to live was crushed.  Some say he jumped from the roof of the lighthouse to his death below, while others say he drank himself senseless and then accidentally fell to his death.  Some claim that he made an oath before his death to avenge himself in some way.

Nobody has uncovered evidence that these events ever occurred at the lighthouse, and there’s no record of a keeper named Ernie.  And the lighthouse was always a “stag” station, so it’s unlikely that any keeper’s wife lived with him at the station for any extended period of time.  This seems to be a case of a story being fabricated to explain the unexplainable, or maybe a case of young men with too much time and too much imagination on their hands.  But there may be reasons to believe that this lighthouse has indeed been the scene of paranormal activity.

In December 1981, Dr. Roger Pile, who calls himself a “ghost psychologist,” visited the lighthouse along with his wife, who acted as a medium.  According to the Piles, the spirit revealed itself to be a keeper named John Randolph.  Once again, there are no records of any keeper by this name.  The Piles reported that Randolph had never been married, but that he had lost the woman he loved because of a terrible argument.  The distraught keeper proceeded to stab himself in the throat, falling from the lighthouse to his death.  Pile performed a ritual that was supposed to free Randolph’s spirit, and a newspaper soon reported that ghostly activity had ceased.  A November 1985 article in the New London Day disputes this.

The automation and destaffing of New London Ledge Light had been scheduled for 1986, and according to the article the Coast Guard crew claimed that Ernie had apparently become agitated over the coming change. Charles Kerr said that papers on his desk rearranged themselves, and Paul Noke’s bed moved around the room by itself.  Noke said he eventually started sleeping on a couch after tiring of the moving bed.  Only one of the crewmen at the time, Steven Bailey, expressed doubt about Ernie’s existence.  If he kicks me out of bed and throws me down the stairs,” said Bailey, “I’ll leave.”

Stories of unexplainable events continue to emanate from New London Ledge.  In the book Haunted Lighthouses and How to Find Them by George C. Steitz, Brae Rafferty of the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation offered an alternative to the “Ernie” story to explain the origins of the resident ghost or ghosts.  Rafferty had met a woman whose grandfather helped build the lighthouse.  According to the woman, the strange phenomena at the site started before the lighthouse was even completed, with eerie sounds, weird shadows, and tools that vanished during construction. 

Rafferty’s research showed that there was a shipwreck on Black Ledge about a decade before the lighthouse was built.  Many of the dozen or so passengers died, including a newly married young woman.  The woman’s husband desperately combed the nearby shores but found no sign of his beloved.  Witnesses then saw the man walk slowly out into the water toward Black Ledge until he disappeared and drowned.  So – if you’re inclined to so believe – a spirit may have been already waiting for a place to haunt when the lighthouse was built.

And there’s still another story offered to explain the strange goings-on here.  According to a brochure produced by Jerry Olson of the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, “It has been said that around 1913-1914, a sailboat departed New Jersey bound for New Bedford.”  The sailboat passed through Long Island Sound, where it ran into a tremendous northeast storm.  According to the story, late that night the lightkeeper looked into the water and saw a man and a woman swimming, trying desperately to reach the lighthouse.  After helping them ashore, he learned that their sailboat had capsized and they had tragically lost their daughter in the wreck.

Early the next morning, the keeper arose and went to check on his guests.  To his astonishment, he found no trace of the couple.  Days later when the seas calmed down and the keeper reached shore, he was told by friends that they had rescued a young woman who said that her parents had been lost in a sailboat wreck.  But this woman, too, had mysteriously vanished.

Photo by Christine Kaczynski
“It has been said,” concludes the brochure, “that on particular dark nights, a spirit has been observed roaming the lighthouse searching for a loved one.  Over the years people have encountered the spirit and have named her ‘The Lady of the Ledge.’”  Jerry Olson claims that he has had a personal encounter with this mysterious Lady.  One day while he was alone in the basement of the lighthouse, cleaning the cisterns, Olson says he heard the distinct sound of a woman clearing her throat behind him.  He says he immediately had the image of an attractive middle-aged woman in his mind’s eye, but upon turning around he saw nothing.

In recent years paranormal investigator Christine Kaczynski has visited the lighthouse on several occasions with assistants and sophisticated equipment including cameras, motion detectors and an oscilloscope. Kaczynski is a no-nonsense woman who puts no stock in the “Ernie” legend or in Dr. Pile’s investigation, but says her investigations clearly show the lighthouse to be the scene of much spirit activity.  She says the third floor is the “vortex” of the activity, and that the northeast corner of the building is the most active.  She also says that the spirit or spirits are benign and not at all dangerous, although one person did feel strongly that someone “didn’t want them there.”

New England Ghost Project; Maureen Wood on the right
In August 2006, members of the paranormal investigation team called New England Ghost Project spent a night at the lighthouse. No ghost appeared, but the team’s psychic medium, Maureen Wood, apparently made contact with an angry male spirit. The entity claimed he was a worker performing maintenance on the roof of the dwelling, and that his coworkers locked him out as a prank. As he attempted to get inside, he slipped and fell to his death. The accident, said the spirit, was covered up by those involved. There’s no hard evidence to support this story, but it offers an intriguing alternative to the usual tale of “Ernie.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Block Island North Light (RI) restoration wins award

Photo by Rob Gilpin
Block Island North Light was one of four restoration projects to win this year's Rhody Awards, which are chosen annually by Preserve Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

The restoration of the North Light began in 2008. The lantern was removed from the building and transported to Georgetown Ironworks in Massachusetts for a complete overhaul. After work on the building and lantern was completed, the lantern was returned to its home in the summer of 2009. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, on display for years in the lighthouse's interpretive center, was returned to the lighthouse's lantern room. A ceremony to relight the North Light as a private aid to navigation took place on Saturday, October 23, 2010. 

The award was presented on October 14 at the Rhode Island State House in Providence. The project was honored as "an effort that prioritizes materials conservation, environmental stewardship, and community involvement in historic preservation practice."

A complete list of the award recipients is available here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sheffield Island Light (CT) relit after more than a century

By Norwalk Seaport Association
Norwalk, CT - Thanks to the generous support of NRG Energy, Inc., the Norwalk Seaport Association will light the 143-year old Sheffield Island Lighthouse for the first time in over 100 years. A commissioning ceremony will be held on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 2:00pm to light the tower light, as well as to turn on the newly refurbished electrical system on Sheffield Island.

Staff from NRG’s Norwalk Harbor Station, Devon Station and CT Jet sites have worked closely with the Norwalk Seaport Association for the last two years, donating their time and expertise to rebuild the island’s electrical system. NRG also donated and installed a safe, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly solar photovoltaic (PV) generating system to power the island in place of the former gasoline-powered generators. The island’s old and obsolete lighting system was also replaced with low-energy lighting, and solar-powered walkway lighting was added for safety and accessibility.

A highlight of the project was the installation of a United States Coast Guard approved low-energy light in the Lighthouse tower. While the white light will not be used as an aid to navigation, it will be visible intermittently from the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound.

Norwalk Seaport Association President Tom Shrum says the project would never have happened without NRG. “We’re grateful to NRG for their generosity and the great work they’ve done. We have improved the lighting, accessibility and enjoyment of the island for our visitors, and it’s been done in an environmentally friendly way. The tower light is not only a symbol of a great partnership, but will be a welcoming beacon to our visitors and a reminder of the history and significance of the lighthouse.”

According to Les Ross, NRG’s Western Connecticut Plant Manager, “This project really captures what NRG is all about, so we were thrilled at the opportunity to play the central role. Our company and our people were able to contribute to a project that combines solar power, energy conservation, community support and historical preservation all at once.”

Activated in 1868, the Sheffield Island Lighthouse was in service for 34 years until its retirement in 1902. Today the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained, along with the island, as a museum and nature preserve by Norwalk Seaport Association volunteers.

Inspiring restoration project at Maine's Goat Island Light

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the dedication ceremony on October 12 celebrating the completion of an amazing restoration project at Goat Island Light Station in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The station's historic fog bell tower (destroyed 1962) and covered wooden walkway between the house and tower (destroyed in a 1978 storm) have been completely reconstructed.

Here is a video of some of the celebration:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Reimbursement Act for Hurricane of 1938

My friend Seamond Ponsart Roberts of Louisiana, daughter of longtime Massachusetts lighthouse keeper Octave Ponsart, just sent me the fascinating document below. The hurricane of September 21, 1938, was the most devastating storm in recorded New England history; more than 700 people died in the region, including seven at lighthouses. Many lighthouse keepers requested reimbursement for their losses of personal belongings. To the best of my knowledge (and Seamond's recollection), none of them actually received reimbursement.

If anyone has more information on this sad footnote to history, I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Special Maine Lighthouse Cruise this Saturday, Sept. 24!


Great Duck Island
Join COA faculty and local historians for a lighthouse and seabird history tour.

BAR HARBOR, ME—Maine’s outer islands hold many secrets, and its lighthouses are packed
full with stories. But there are an equal number of stories within the nests and burrows of the many
seabirds that shelter their young on these same islands—just ask John Anderson, College of the
Atlantic faculty member in biology.

Join Anderson and a host of his colleagues from 2:30 to 5:30 on Saturday, Sept. 24 for a benefit Lighthouse and Seabird History Tour. Proceeds will assist the college’s Marine Studies Program, and help with lighthouse and building renovations on Great Duck Island.

In addition to Anderson, the William H. Drury Chair of Ecology and Natural History, COA alumni, faculty, and staff Matt Drennan, Toby Stephenson, and Scott Swann, naturalists and natural storytellers all. Additionally, local historians Richard Sassaman and Zack Klyver will be aboard.

Each island has its own dramatic tale. Take Great Duck Island, one of COA’s two research stations. Its original boreal forest has been inhabited by waves of humans, from fishermen and farmers, to therapists and natural history researchers. And then there are the birds. Each summer Great Duck’s rocky fringe is home to hundreds of nesting auks, gulls, and ducks. Just beyond this granite shore stands a dense forest where, at the base of spruce trees, hoards of storm petrels burrow into the forest floor. Recently, eagles have been vying for space and dominion over this small island. Beyond the life-and-death dramas of birds and humans stands the abiding beauty of the island. As Stephenson, COA’s marine captain, notes, “The bold coast of Great Duck is back-dropped by the mountainous views of Acadia, the most majestic vista possible.”

Among the highlights of the cruise are the lights of Bear Island, Great Duck, Baker Island, and Egg Rock, in addition to Cranberry Island Life Saving Station and Thrumcap Island.

The journey will be aboard the Bay King III or Friendship V, of the Bar Harbor Whale Watch fleet. There’s a rain date for Sunday, Sept. 25. Feel free to bring lunch, though the snack bar, with snacks and drinks, will be open. The cost is $30 adults; $10 for those 14 and younger. Space is limited. To reserve seats, participants are asked to call the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. at 207-288-2386. A $5 reservation can be placed on a credit card with the rest to be paid in cash or check before embarking. Meet the boat at Harbor Place, 1 West St. in Bar Harbor.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Renovations completed to Neds Point Light, Mass.

Great to see that repairs and repainting have been completed at one of the prettiest lighthouses in Southeastern Massachusetts, Neds Point Light in Mattapoisett. Bravo to the Coast Guard and the local Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers who care for the picturesque landmark in Veterans Memorial Park, and to the company that completed the work, Seacoast Scaffold and Equipment Corp.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Buzzards Bay / Vineyard Sound Lighthouse Cruise on October 1, 2011!

Join the American Lighthouse Foundation and Friends of Flying Santa on a cooperative fundraising lighthouse cruise of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound!
 This unique 6-hour cruise will sail to 10 Massachusetts lighthouses: Palmer Island, Butler Flats, Clarks Point, Gay Head, Tarpaulin Cove, Nobska Point, Cleveland Ledge, Wing's Neck, Bird Island, and Ned's Point. This is a rare opportunity to see these historic offshore lighthouses up close, as well as the picturesque Elizabeth Islands.

The narrator will be lighthouse author and historian Jeremy D'Entremont. The boat will depart from New Bedford, Mass.,  at 10:00 a.m. 
You are welcome to bring a lunch. On board you will find a fully licensed beer and wine bar, espresso bar with lattes, cappuccino, coffee, and teas, also light snacks including fresh baked specialties and a selection of soft drinks and waters.
The Vessel 
19kt maximum speed
16kt cruising speed
Heated cabin
Upper deck with outdoor seating 
2 restrooms

All proceeds go to support the American Lighthouse Foundation and Friends of Flying Santa. Seating is limited so make your reservations today! 
Tickets are $65.00.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fundraiser for Documentary on lighthouse heroine Ida Lewis

The following comes from the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, Rhode Island --

R.I.'s Historic Lighthouses  A Fundraiser for Documentary about Lighthouse Keeper and Heroine Ida Lewis of Newport
Beavertail Light
Join us on Monday, August 22, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. for a one-night showing of Rhode Island’s Historic Lighthouses, a 47-minute documentary made by local filmmaker Jim Karpeichik of Ocean State Video. Rhode Island's Historic Lighthouses is a comprehensive look at the history, decline and rebirth of the beacons that grace our shoreline. It covers all 30 of the lighthouses that were built in Rhode Island and includes stories of tragedies and heroism, buildings lost and lighthouses restored.

Click here for ticket information ($15 per person)

This film will be followed by a sneak peek of another documentary currently in production – America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light. This film, produced by Goodnight Irene Productions in association with Ocean State Video, will resurrect the forgotten story of Ida Lewis from Newport, this country's most famous lighthouse keeper and national heroine from the 19th century. 

Writer/Director/Producer Marian Gagnon of Goodnight Irene Productions will introduce the trailer and speak briefly about her plan to restore the national memory of Ida Lewis as an American icon and return her to her rightful place in history. Read more about this film project at

Also in attendance Monday evening will be Lenore Skomal, author of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter: The Remarkable True Story of American Heroine Ida Lewis. Skomal will read a few excerpts from her book and be available for a book signing at the end of the program.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is the absorbing, painstakingly researched story of Ida Lewis, born in Newport in 1842, and the fearless rescues she made at Lime Rock Lighthouse. Skomal is a veteran author, career journalist, public speaker with 30 years experience, and author of 15 commercially published books. She can be reached at

Ida Lewis
More about Ida Lewis:
Beginning at the age of 15, Ida took over the lighthouse duties at Lime Rock in Newport in 1853 when her father suffered a stroke. At 16 she made her first daring rescue and in her lifetime she saved more than 18 people from certain peril. Before long, the 103-pound Ida Lewis, a darling of Civil War heroes, was heralded as "the bravest woman in America." Tens of thousands flocked to meet Ida on the island each summer. President Ulysses S. Grant and General Sherman came to Newport just to shake Ida’s hand as did Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who tried to enlist her for the women’s movement.

Ida’s story still has great universal appeal particularly because of the rich juxtaposition of Ida’s independent and fearless choices within societal norms during the Victorian era as well as within the circles of the Newport elite. This film will focus on Ida’s intriguing life story, her myriad decisions which led to a life of both fame and isolation, her unexpected celebrity in Newport as well as across the U.S., and the impact she inadvertently had on the early feminist movement. It will provide an intimate portrayal of Ida’s life from age 15 to 69 (from 1857 to 1911) and the passion and moral fiber she intrinsically brought to her work as a lighthouse keeper and unlikely heroine.
As John Williams Haley, author of The Rhode Island Historian wrote in 1939: “Ida Lewis may very well be the most famous Rhode Island woman who ever lived.” 

This evening’s multi-faceted event is a fundraiser for the Ida Lewis film and proceeds of ticket sales will go toward completion of this documentary.   

Click here for more on the Jane Pickens Theater and Event Center

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Long Island Head Light transferred to National Park Service

Just received this press release: 

National Park Service Receives Long Island Head Light from U.S. Coast Guard in Transfer

In a ceremony on Saturday, June 25, 2011, the US Coast Guard handed over the management of Long Island Head Light to the National Park Service. Lighthouses have become vestiges of maritime culture. GPS devices and other navigational equipment have become stand-ins for the towering beacons and the position of lighthouses has ultimately transitioned to being historical landmarks. This transferring of lighthouses from the Coast Guard to others is part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. This act allows for lighthouse ownership transfer to other Federal Agencies or local government agencies as well as non-profit corporations or educational institutions, all of which must be committed to cultural or historic preservation.

Long Island Head Light became one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the US in 1844 and has been in and out of service since the early 19th century. It is currently operational after a renovation in 1985. The National Park Service was glad to receive the historic, centuries-old lighthouse. It seemed only natural that the light’s ownership should be passed to the Park Service since Long Island is already one of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area’s thirty-four islands. The National Park Service was offered the lighthouse back in 2010 and preparations for the transfer culminated in the ceremony when Rear Admiral Daniel A. Neptun, First Coast Guard District Commander for the US Coast Guard, handed the Long Island Head Light key to Bruce Jacobson, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area’s park superintendent.

The Park Service is excited to receive the lighthouse in hopes to get the public out to the light on an occasional basis. Long Island is city-owned and a restricted area. Now, with the park’s new addition, Long Island Head Light will be open to the public for special trips and programs organized by the park. The Park Service is currently making moves to assess the lighthouse’s overall safety before organizing excursions for the public. Jacobson feels that ownership of the lighthouse fits perfectly under the Park Service’s goals and mission as he explained at the ceremony, “Our [The National Park Service’s] primary function is preservation, making sure that natural and cultural resources are protected so that the next generation and the next generation can also come and enjoy these resources.”

The US General Services Administration’s Regional Administrator of New England, Bob Zarnetske, also attended the ceremony, saying, “This is a way for America to preserve its maritime history and when it ends up in the National Park Service we can be guaranteed it’s going to be not only a preservation of the history, but an asset the public can come see, enjoy, and learn about.” The ceremony itself took place on city soil thanks to the help of Antonia Pollak, Commissioner of Boston Parks and Recreation, who also attended. The land transfer was a mere 0.06 acres of land between the two government agencies and is the only piece of land currently owned by the National Park Service within the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

The US Coast Guard has been maintaining Long Island Head Light with the assistance of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Auxiliary currently assists with maintenance on Boston Light located on Little Brewster Island, another island part of the Boston Harbor Islands. The Long Island Head Light’s grounds are being maintained with great efforts by the Auxiliary Flotilla 53-Constitution and hopefully Flotilla volunteers will continue their work after this transfer. The beacon itself will still continue to be run by the US Coast Guard.

          This event is exciting for the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area providing the public with a look at Boston’s unseen history which the lighthouse will now shed light on. As Admiral Neptun noted at the ceremony, “I think it builds confidence when people get a chance to see that light out at sea—It lets them know exactly where they are.” Long Island Head Light will continue to be celebrated and revered by those who will be able to look upon it and will remain a guiding light for mariners who sail in and out of Boston Harbor.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New England Lighthouse Tours

The fourth season of my "New England Lighthouse Tours" is underway, and I've added lots more tour dates. Hope to see you on one of my tours this year!

"Perfect New England Day trip!" - Brad & Denise Gardner.

"There is not a more rewarding lighthouse tour than this. The personal touches that Jeremy offers, along with his thorough knowledge of lighthouses, makes this a real fun way to experience the lights!" - Bob Trapani, Jr., executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

"We found New England Lighthouse Tours on the internet, and we couldn't have gotten luckier!  Jeremy is very knowledgeable and informative.  We are looking forward to taking another tour with him." - Kevin and Susan Himrod.

"Sentinels on the Sound" in New London, CT, July 1-3, 2011

July 1-3, 2011 - The New London Maritime Society presents:

"Sentinels on the Sound: New London's Lighthouse Heritage"
A weekend of Lighthouse Tours, Special Exhibitions & Events

New London Harbor Light (Jeremy D'Entremont photo)
New London, CT-- Join the New London Maritime Society, July 1-3, when New London hosts a city-wide weekend of lighthouse exhibitions, tours, and special events.

And for the first time, ever, the public will be allowed to step inside all three lighthouses in New London Harbor: Avery Point, New London Ledge Lighthouse, and New London Harbor Lighthouse.

Experience lighthouses by boat, by bike, in discussions, in art, through history, through science, and from the inside looking out. Special events include a Shoreline Lighthouse Bicycle Tour, Sentinels on the Sound discussions, a Lighthouse Cake Competition, Sea Shantyman John Roberts in concert, art exhibitions, and more.

From the lantern of New London Harbor Light, one can see an amazing number of lighthouses -- perhaps more than from any other spot on earth, according to the United States Coast Guard. Last fall, the New London Maritime Society assumed stewardship of New London Harbor Light, the oldest lighthouse on Long Island Sound and the 4th oldest lighthouse in North America.

To mark the first summer of their stewardship and celebrate New London's rich lighthouse heritage, the New London Maritime Society presents a weekend of lighthouse activities,  Sentinels on the Sound: New London's Lighthouse Heritage, to take place Friday through Sunday, July 1-3, 2011. Working with a number of New London- area lighthouse and other organizations , the weekend will include lighthouse
tours, special exhibitions, and a Saturday symposium to be held at the Custom House Maritime Museum featuring New England lighthouse expert Jeremy D'Entremont.

New London Ledge Light (Jeremy D'Entremont photo)
The New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation is a major partner in the weekend's festivities. On Friday evening  July 1, at 6:30 p.m., Todd Gipstein, the Foundation's president, will sign copies of his new novel, Legacy of the Light, at the Custom House Maritime Museum. On Saturday  and Sunday,  New London Ledge Lighthouse and its new information center can be visited through tours run by Project Oceanology, which will leave from New London's Custom House Pier.

The lighthouse weekend and the new lighthouse exhibition are made possible by a generous grant from the Connecticut Humanities Council.

The printed daily schedule is available at the Custom House Maritime Museum and throughout downtown New London, or download your schedule HERE.

Avery Point Light (Jeremy D'Entremont photo)
In addition to New London Maritime Society and the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, other partners include area lighthouses:  Avery Point Foundation (chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation), New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation  (chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation), Noank Historical Society (Morgan Point), Mystic Seaport, Stonington Historical Society (Stonington Light); and  Bike New London, Caruso Music, Expressiones Cultural Center, Fort Trumbull State Park, Friends of Fort Trumbull,  Hygienic Art, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London Community Boating, the New London County Historical Society, New London Main Street, NLart, Ocean Beach Park, PINC!, Project Oceaneology, Provenance Center, Public Library of New London, Spirit Gallery, Studio 33, The Gallery at Firehouse Square, the U.S. Coast Guard and the USCG Museum.

Sentinels on the Sound launches New London's exciting Waterfront Summer, with 2011 SailFest up next, July 8-10.

Go to the Lighthouse Weekend Web page to see a complete updated listing of events.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pam Nobili of the Nauset Light Preservation Society

Tireless volunteers who dedicate themselves to the cause of lighthouse preservation over the long haul are few and far between. Pam Nobili of Eastham, Massachusetts, who recently died at 77, was one of those rare people. I just received the following message from Bud Griffin of the Nauset Light Preservation Society:

With deep regret the Nauset Light Preservation Society announces the death of Pam Nobili of Eastham, MA on May 31, 2011.  

Nearly 20 years ago, Pam Nobili and her husband Conrad were deeply involved in the effort to save Nauset Lighthouse which was endangered by severe erosion of the nearby coastal bank. Through their actions, along with other concerned citizens of Eastham and Cape Cod, the Nauset Light Preservation Society was formed, and sufficient funds were collected to pay to move the Lighthouse, Keeper's House and Oil House to a safer location from 1996 to 1998. The Nauset Light Preservation Society has operated and maintained the lighthouse since the move, and Pam continued to play a significant role: for many years Pam operated NLPS’ extremely successful gift shop which provided a large share of the funds collected for the move and for future operations and maintenance; she served as the Society's President for several years and most recently she was the Society's Treasurer. Pam came to be known as "Mrs. Lighthouse" for all her efforts and for her constant presence at the light.

We shall all miss Pam Nobili’s charm and good humor and her devotion to the cause of the Nauset Light Preservation Society.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Race Point Lighthouse, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I took this photo during a visit in late March. Race Point is a beautiful, remote spot, and you can spend the night here -- see

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Legacy of the Light" by Todd Gipstein

 Todd Gipstein has been working as a photographer, writer, producer and lecturer for almost 40 years. He's currently the chairman of the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. You can read more about Todd's impressive credentials here.

Todd has published a new novel, Legacy of the Light, a thriller that tells the story of two generations of keepers at Race Rock Lighthouse off the shore of New London, Connecticut.

The tale spans two generations, from the early 1900s to the worst hurricane in New England history on September 21, 1938.

Click here to learn how you can get a copy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joshua K. Card Day - June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 4 p.m., Riverside Cemetery (174 Route 1B), New Castle, NH:

You're invited to join Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses (FPHL) for a commemorative gathering marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Joshua Kenney Card, longtime keeper (1874-1909) of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle.

At the time of Card's death at the age of 88, a local newspaper reported, "The captain’s fidelity to duty cannot too highly be praised. Punctual to the minute, he literally stayed at his post year after year without a break. . . No man stood higher in the estimation of the Lighthouse Board, at Washington, than the keeper of Portsmouth Light." When he retired as a lighthouse keeper at the age of 86, he was believed to be the oldest keeper in the United States.

The memorial gathering will include readings about Joshua Card's life, as well as a special performance of the song "Lighthouse Keeper" by Neptune's Car. The folk duo will be performing a concert later that evening at Captain and Patty's restaurant as part of a weekend-long celebration of the tenth anniversary of the founding of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses as a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation in June 2001.

Admission to the memorial gathering is free. For more information on the weekend's events, see

Monday, May 16, 2011

Trapped in the ice near Green's Ledge, CT

Life at offshore lighthouses was a challenge for many reasons. Isolated lighthouses were often difficult to access in the warm months, but even more so in the winter if ice surrounded the structure. Green's Ledge Light, a caisson lighthouse built at the entrance to Norwalk Harbor, Connecticut, in 1899, was no exception.

Sarah DeMaria has provided the following story involving her grandfather, Andrew J. Simso II, who was one of the Coast Guard keepers at Green's Ledge 1945-47:

He and another Coast Guardsman went ashore to get supplies in February. They docked about 6 or 7 p.m., retrieved the needed supplies and began home. In their efforts to return to the lighthouse, they attempted to follow a channel cut through the ice by another ship. Unfortunately, this was futile; the ship had passed too long prior and my grandfather and his fellow sailor became trapped as the ice surrounded their small boat, leaving them stranded.

In the pitch dark the men yelled for help but no one heard. They decided to try to walk back to shore on the frozen ice, but both men fell through into the frigid waters. The men managed to pull themselves out of the water and get back to the boat. The two -- shivering and freezing wet -- continued to yelled for help. This time people ashore, hearing their calls, contacted the authorities. The two men, on the verge of hypothermia, were rescued. 

For more history of Green's Ledge Light, click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Penfield Reef Lighthouse (CT) reverting to the federal government

Penfield Reef Lighthouse, in Long Island Sound very close to the border between the towns of Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a handsome structure with history and legends to spare. Back in April 2007, it was announced that the lighthouse would be available to a suitable new owner under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. 

On July 29, 2008, Beacon Preservation, Inc., of Ansonia, Connecticut, received notice that the organization had submitted a "superior" application and had been recommended as the new owners.

Since then, the stewardship of the lighthouse has been obscured by a legal battle concerning the bottomlands under the structure. Beacon Preservation claimed that the federal government owned the bottomlands, while the State of CT claimed it did.

State legislation was passed allowing Beacon Preservation to occupy the submerged lands. But Beacon filed a suit in federal court seeking the right to administer the lighthouse and the lands beneath it “without first executing a lease with the State of Connecticut or the Town of Fairfield pertaining to the submerged lands on which Penfield Reef is situated” and to affirm Beacon’s “rights to all rights, title and interest” to the property.

A judge had yet to rule on the suit, but now Beacon Preservation has withdrawn the matter. According to the General Services Administration, this means the lighthouse will now be put up for public auction.

With the lighthouse reverting to the federal government,  I don't understand why the whole process under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHLPA) won't simply begin again, with the lighthouse being offered to a suitable applicant, such as a qualified nonprofit group or a government agency. It seems like the GSA is skipping a step; usually a lighthouse is auctioned to the public under the NHLPA only if there are no suitable applicants.

You can read more about this story here.

Orleans Trio Benefit Concert for Plum Beach Lighthouse (RI) on June 11

Tickets are now available for the Orleans Trio Benefit Concert for the Plum Beach Lighthouse, June 11, 2011, at the Newport Yachting Center.  
Orleans Trio is comprised of the founding members of Orleans, the national recording band from the 70s and 80s who created hits such as "Still the One" and "Dance with Me."  Tickets will be $65 per person and include Hors d'oeuvres  and cocktails.  Doors will open at 630pm with the band slated to begin around 8.  Plum Beach Lighthouse items and tee shirts will be available as well as CDs and items from Orleans and Orleans Trio.

The event will also honor the PBL Lighthouse License Plate as the first runner-up in the national contest for "Best Plate in America" by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.  Officials from the association will be on hand to present the RI DMV and the Friends the award.

Tickets are now on sale at the Newport Yachting Center Box Office, 401-846-1600 ext 2 or through their

See for more on Plum Beach Lighthouse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Goat Island Light (Maine) Goes Back in Time

Circa early 1900s postcard of Goat Island
Maine's Goat Island Light was established in 1833 to help guide mariners into the sheltered harbor at Cape Porpoise, a busy fishing center for many years. In 1859, the tower and house were rebuilt.

In 1992, Goat Island was leased to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. In 1998, under the Maine Lights Program, the lighthouse officially became the property of the trust, which since its founding in 1969 has protected hundreds of acres of town land from development.

There's a very exciting project now beginning at Goat Island. The  following is taken by permission from the spring 2011 newsletter of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.

Goat Island Light (Maine) Goes Back in Time

This postcard shows Goat Island Light Station circa 1950s
With much excitement, the Trust is thrilled to announce that contracts have been signed for the restoration of the Goat Island Light Station in Cape Porpoise with the construction beginning in early May.

This is the culmination of five years of planning, permitting, negotiating and fund raising by Mike Weston and Scott Dombrowski, the co-project managers.

The restoration work, awarded to Bartlett Builders of Kennebunkport via a competitive bidding process, will include the rebuilding of the bell tower that was torn down in 1962, the covered walkway from the keeper’s quarters to the light tower damaged by the blizzard of 1978 and the original fuel storage building. The cost of this phase of the restoration will be in the neighborhood of $380,000.

The period chosen for the restoration is the decade of the 1950s. Significant photographic evidence exists for that period and that is the period when all of the structures scheduled to be rebuilt were in place and water and electricity were available.

The process to secure the final approvals for construction included work to obtain permits from the DEP, Army Corps of Engineers, Inland Fish and Wildlife, Indian Tribes of Maine, the Town of Kennebunkport and the Maine Historical Preservation Society.

Also required was a change to the Kennebunkport Land Use Ordinance for the island to be designated a Contract Zone and the voters of Kennebunkport overwhelmingly approved that change 2 years ago.

Because of the historical nature of the Goat Island Light Station, two archaeological digs were required to assure that no buried artifacts would be destroyed during the rebuilding phase. During this process, some of the original foundations and pilings were uncovered allowing rebuilding in more historically accurate locations. Crane and Morrison completed the dig and analysis that provided the Trust with a treasure trove of historical documentation. Goat Island Light was first lit on August 15, 1833 so historical accuracy would have been difficult to assure without the results from the dig.
Goat Island today

Harvey Wells, a Kennebunk architect, first provided a scale model of the project and volunteered hundreds of hours to complete it. Mr. Wells was chosen to provide all of the detailed plans for the rebuilding and restoration based on the photographic evidence and old historical articles to assure historical accuracy. Dustin Roma, an engineer with Sebago Technics of Westbrook, completed all of the site work, permit applications and technical detail. Engineering expertise for the foundations and structural specifications were provided by Group Design of Saco. The bell tower has been designed to withstand high winds and flooding---without compromising the historical integrity of the building exterior.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by September 1st this year with dedication ceremonies to be held shortly after Labor Day.

Coming later this spring, you will be able follow the construction by visiting our website at and selecting the Goat Island web-cam. Stay tuned!

Reenergizing a Light gone Dark at Avery Point

Avery Point Light is on the campus of the Univ. of CT
On April 15, 2011, the University of Connecticut notified the Avery Point Lighthouse Society that the tower’s beacon, located on the University’s Groton Campus, was extinguished.

From that point forward, a team effort to relight the optic went into full swing.

Click here to read the full story.

Right: Avery Point's beacon is ready to go (L to R) Robert Zadroga, James Streeter and Ben Roccapriore (Photo courtesy of James Streeter).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An English manservant at Boston Light

I just found this fascinating item concerning John Hayes, keeper at Boston Light 1718-33. It was published in the Weekly Rehearsal on September 3, 1733.

The first keeper of Boston Light, George Worthylake, had an African slave named Shadwell; Worthylake and Shadwell died along with Worthylake's wife and daughter when their canoe capsized in late 1718. It isn't clear if there were slaves at the light station with any subsequent keepers. I was surprised to find that Hayes had an "English manservant." Apparently, Mr. Elwood wasn't too fond of life on Little Brewster Island.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Lighthouse Foundation to hold annual gala in Portsmouth, NH, April 16

The American Lighthouse Foundation's 2011 Annual Lighthouse Gala will be held at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel's Grand Ballroom at 250 Market Street in downtown Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday, April 16, 2011, at 6 p.m.

Thanks to for posting this event! Click here for more.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Race Point Lighthouse

I had the pleasure of staying at Race Point Lighthouse on Cape Cod last night in advance of an American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) board meeting held there this morning. The people of the Cape Cod Chapter of ALF were wonderful hosts, and it's a beautiful place to stay even with a cold, howling wind.

See to learn more,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rose Island Lighthouse at night

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of spending a night at Rode Island Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, with a paranormal investigation team from New England Ghost Project. Aside from any evidence of the paranormal (and yes, we did get some evidence), it was a rare treat to be in such an incredible place for the night, with the added beauty of the full "supermoon." Big thanks to David McCurdy, executive director of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, for his help and hospitality.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lighthouse Keeper

Historical images from my collection of New England lighthouse keepers, set to the song "Lighthouse Keeper" by Neptune's Car (used with permission)

Beyond the Sea

Some of my photos of coastal New England set to the song "La Mer" (Beyond the Sea).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Incredible "Swim for the Lights" by Gary Sredzienski

February 26, 2011, was an extraordinary day for lighthouse preservation. It was also one of the most memorable days of my life.

I had the good fortune to be in a support boat alongside Gary Sredzienski as he successfully completed his four-mile, 2.5-hour "Swim for the Lights."

I've never witnessed a display of willpower and athleticism to compare to what Gary accomplished on this day.

The conditions seemed favorable near Odiorne Point in Rye, NH, slightly before 1:30 p.m., when Gary entered the frigid waters at the mouth of the Piscataqua River and began his swim. The air temperature was about 27F, and the water was about 38F.

Gary was helped to the water by the American Lighthouse Foundation's executive director, Bob Trapani, and William Marshall, a board member of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. Bob served as the primary point person on land during the swim.

Meanwhile, Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses Chairman Ross Tracy rode along in a boat with the New Hampshire Marine Patrol. Coast Guard Station Porstmouth Harbor also provided a patrol boat for the duration of the event.

The Piscataqua, incidentally, is said to be the second fastest flowing navigable river in the United States. The swim was timed to start an hour after low tide, at a time when the current was expected to be a relatively minor factor.
The route (bottom to top)
The Piscataqua, however, is anything but predictable. A storm had passed by the night before and there was a stiff westerly breeze.

By the time he was a third of the way to Whaleback Lighthouse, his first intended stop about a mile and a half away, the west wind was kicking up and the seas were growing dangerously choppy. Several times, we had to yell to Gary to adjust his course as he struggled toward his objective.

I could see that Gary was expending tremendous energy during the first leg of the swim, and I started to wonder if he could draw on some sort of inner reserves to complete the route. I was worried for him.

About three-quarters of the way to Whaleback, Gary came over to the boat for a quick breather, a drink of water, and a bite of banana. He was already looking drained. He said later that he expended so much energy in the early part of the swim that he stopped kicking for much of the time so he could save some leg energy for the last part.

It was Gary's aim to climb onto the rocks at Whaleback to provide a good photo opportunity. I told him repeatedly that we didn't want him doing anything to put himself in danger -- including climbing onto wet, slippery rocks.

As he neared the jagged granite boulders with waves crashing against them, I hoped Gary would give up on the idea of going ashore. My boatmates, Jim Varn and Kent Allyn, laughed and said that Gary does what Gary wants to do.

Timing his access between waves, Gary clambered onto the wet rocks. He waved triumphantly and climbed up and over to the other side, out of our sight. He couldn't stay out of the water for long or he'd get too cold. By the time we got to the other side, Gary was lowering himself back into the water.

As Gary swam on toward Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, NH, the wind and waves gradually subsided.

A crowd of well-wishers was waiting around the base of the lighthouse in New Castle, and they cheered as Gary got close. This time he had second thoughts about scaling the wet, seaweed-covered rocks in front of the lighthouse. As he paused near the rocks, a kayaker approached and shouted his good wishes.
Gary eventually pulled away and started the last leg of the swim toward Kittery Point. During the duration of the swim, Gary took occasional brief breaks, coming over to the boat for a quick drink of seltzer water and a bite of a banana or Powerbar. By my count, he took three of these breaks, none of them longer than a few minutes. By the last break, he was telling us to grab him so he didn't have to hang onto the boat -- he was running out of strength in his arms.

Gary's willpower pulled him on past Fort McClary to Kittery Point. As we got closer, we were thrilled to see a crowd waiting on the dock. I'm sure it warmed Gary's heart -- which was no doubt frozen by this time -- to see all the people waiting for him.

Photo by William Marshall
In spite of his dwindling energy, Gary had to put on a show for the audience. A couple of hundred feet away from the dock, Gary came to the side of the boat so he could don a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" mask, and he got on a boogie board to be hauled to the finish line.

As he walked up onto the boat ramp, he was handed a little red accordion as the crowd cheered.
Photo by Ann Trapani

I wondered if he would have the energy to walk up the boat ramp unassisted. He did, of course.

If all that wasn't remarkable enough, after a brief break to shower and change, Gary played a two-hour gig at a post-Swim celebration party at Captain and Patty's restaurant.

At the party, several hundred more dollars were added to the funds raised by the swim. At this writing, the donations total almost $8300 toward the goal of $10,000. You can still honor Gary's extraordinary accomplishment by donating at or

My thanks to everyone who has donated or played any role in this event. It's a day I'll never forget.

As I finish writing this, I just got an email from Gary. He's complaining that he has the "post-aqua" blues. And to think I was worried about how he might be feeling!

And I just got another message from Gary:

The Piscataqua is so humbling and is no joke. I did that [wore the mask at the end of the swim] to have fun and have fun with the cause and the people, but most of all I just want to express my respect because so many lost their lives where I was. 

I believe in 1871 a Prussian lighthouse keeper of Whaleback drowned. You can feel that out there.  That was a very difficult first stretch between Rye and Whaleback and it dawned on me that it's where the water of five rivers meet the sea. 

The battle between river and sea travels far inland, but that is the geographic boundary between two great forces of nature. It was such an honor for me to feel that, to be humbled by that, and I only mean respect to this river and those lighthouses. 

Here's a video recapping the swim:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Inspiring "Swim for the Lights"

I had the privilege of riding along in a support boat on Saturday as Gary Sredzienski swam four miles in 38-degree water, battling wind and waves to raise funds for lighthouse preservation. It was incredible. I'll be posting more very soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One more preview video for "Swim for the Lights"

Swim for the Lights cartoon in the Portsmouth Herald

The Portsmouth Herald has published a cartoon related to the Swim for the Lights event that's happening this Saturday, benefiting the American Lighthouse Foundation and the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

The cartoon depicts swimmer/musician Gary Sredzienski towing the rest of his band as he swims past Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

You can win a prize by correctly guessing the name of the band -- click here.

The weather looks good for Saturday and all systems are go for this exciting event. I'll be out in a boat all afternoon shooting video of Gary's four -mile swim in 35 degree water. I've got my warm clothes all laid out.

To date, the event has raised about two-thirds of the goal of  $10,000. There's still time to donate to help support lighthouse preservation -- click here for more info.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

American Lighthouse Foundation promo video

I put this promotional video together using my own photos of 22 lighthouses under ALF's care.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swim for the Lights Preview Video

Here's another video preview for the unique "Swim for the Lights" event this Saturday, February 26. To date, the event has raised more than $6000 for the American Lighthouse Foundation and Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses -- the goal is $10,000. See for more information.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Battling a Snowstorm at Owls Head Light in the 1960s

Owls Head Light Station, Maine
In calm weather, being a lighthouse keeper was hard work, but generally not stressful. During storms, on the other hand, keepers frequently had to battle heroically against extreme forces to keep the light and foghorn going for any unfortunate mariners in their vicinity. It was the same for the Coast Guard keepers of the modern era as it was for the civilian keepers of prior centuries. In severe weather, everything was always reduced to the simple equation of man vs. nature.

I just received the story below in an email from Linda Davis, who was passing it along for her husband, Melvin Davis. Jr., who was the Coast Guard lightkeeper at Owls Head Light in Midcoast Maine, 1965-68. In a storm in the 1960s, Melvin displayed courage and devotion to duty that would have made lighthouse keepers of any era proud.  Thank you to Melvin and Linda for sharing this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Swim for the Lights Preview 3 - February 6, 2011

Frigid swim will benefit local lighthouses - Portsmouth Herald

I spent some time at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse with Deborah McDermott and Deb Cram of the Portsmouth (NH) Herald for interviews and photos related to the "Swim for the Lights" fundraising event coming up on 2/26. Deborah did a wonderful job with the story -- click here to read it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lights Out for Lighthouses? (CNN)

I'm heavily quoted in an article on the CNN website today -- click here.

George Webster did a fine job with this story. I hope it helps bring attention to the fact that our offshore lighthouses are seriously endangered.

Help Keep the Elements Out of Cape Elizabeth's Lantern!

Few lighthouses in Maine, and throughout the country for that matter, rival the elegance and beauty of the east light tower at Cape Elizabeth, but its stately appearance on the exterior does not reveal what the elements are doing on the interior of the historic structure.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gary gets a wetsuit!

Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. of Hampton, New Hampshire, is on board as a sponsor of the "Swim for the Lights," an event coming up on February 26.

The store provided a Xcel wetsuit for Gary Sredzienski at a deep discount, helping to insure that he'll be properly attired when he swims four miles in frigid water to raise funds for lighthouse preservation.

Big thanks to Cinnamon Rainbows for supporting lighthouse preservation!

Left, Gary Sredzienski with Phil Carey of Cinnamon Rainbows.

To learn more about the "Swim for the Lights," click here.