Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fort Pickering Light in Salem, Mass., gets a makeover

Story and photos by Phil Karwowski

Fort Pickering Light with holiday wreath and red bow

L to R: Dave Gilbert, Patrick Mulligan, and Capt. Bill McHugh
In mid-September 2013, contractors began giving the 142-year-old lighthouse on Salem’s Winter Island a much needed makeover. The scope of work included chipping, scraping, sanding, and cleaning the rusted surfaces of the 32-foot, cast-iron tower. After workers completed the two-month project, the tower looked great.

Dave Gilbert, manager of the Winter Island Park, thought it would be a good idea to decorate the light for the holidays. A six-foot diameter wreath was placed on the tower with the help of Salem Harbormaster Capt. Bill McHugh and Deputy Harbormaster Patrick Mulligan.

Christmas at Stamford Harbor Lighthouse

John J. Cook, a native of Denmark, was the keeper of Stamford Harbor Lighthouse in Connecticut 1907-09. Cook went to sea early in life and had been awarded many medals during his years in the U.S. Navy.

A reporter once asked Cook how he could possibly enjoy Christmas in an isolated, lonely, offshore lighthouse. Cook explained that with such unpredictable weather and sea conditions, preparations and Christmas shopping had to be done well in advance. He described the Christmas feast they had at the lighthouse a year earlier, with goose, mince pie, and plum pudding. Christmas evening would be spent much like any other, with conversation, or card playing, or perhaps the reading of books or newspapers.

The rest of Cook's reply showed him to be quite a philosopher:

I dunno, it is pretty lonesome here sometimes, especially in winter, but we manage to enjoy our holidays. We can’t go to church on Christmas and we miss the nice music and the fine sermons, but there is a compensation for that. What more soul-stirring music could there be than that of wind and wave as they whistle and roar or moan and swish past our little home? And that light aloft is a sermon in itself. Many a fervent "Thank God," many a heart-deep prayer has gone up, maybe from people who wouldn’t be thinking of such things ashore, when the red gleam of Stamford Light was made out in a storm, or the bell heard in a fog. My little light has its mission just as your pulpit preacher has his; and no one who has watched it through the terrible winter storms can fail to appreciate this, and with it his responsibility. Human life, yes, human souls depend upon that light Christmas and every other night of the year, and I dare guess it’s compensation for the loss of a Christmas sermon to keep the light burning steadily.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Books About the New England Coast

By Imogen Reed

Are you looking for books about New England's heritage and landscape to give as presents this festive season - or even to suggest as possible gifts for yourself? If so, there are a number of new and recent titles to choose from, including Everyday Heroes: The True Story of a Lighthouse Family, tracing the story of Seamond Ponsart Roberts, who spent her childhood at three Massachusetts lighthouses

Here is a look at a few more books which could also make ideal holiday gifts for anyone who loves this unique region, whether they live here or are planning a visit.

Coastal History
Cold winter nights are the perfect time to delve into tales of the past along the New England coast. Written by local historian Robert A. Geake, who runs a blog about the region's pastThe New England Mariner Tradition is published by The History Press and has the intriguing subtitle "Old Salts, Superstitions, Shanties and Shipwrecks." The author has spent the last 30 years researching and writing about the history of Rhode Island, covering everything from ancient inns to the Providence River, which was the theme of another of his recent books. He has gathered together many quirky tales, including the spotting of a sea serpent off Nahant in 1818.

The book also has a more serious side, looking back over three centuries at what life was like for sailors constantly facing the prospect of death at sea. Many old superstitions are examined, including dance ceremonies and donations of gin to calm storms supposedly caused by "old Neptune." The book also looks at the role of lighthouses along the coast in cutting the toll of shipwrecks.

Another interesting new title is Looking Back at South Shore History by John L. Galluzo, also published by The History Press, as part of their American Chronicles series. This book brings together a collection of historical columns from South Shore Living magazine, including an article about the first keeper of Scituate Lighthouse in 1811.

Guide Books to Savor
Many visitors from around the world enjoy sailing around the US coast, and a growing number arrive here by cruise liner. Planet Cruise says that a Transatlantic cruise gives memories which will last forever, and the same is true for a sea journey along the New England coast, discovering the wildlife and exploring the lighthouses and other historic buildings. The right guide book can help to make the trip even more enjoyable, and there are some new ones available. 

The Explorer's Guide: The Maine Coast and Islands by Christina Tree and Nancy English, published by Countryman Press, is full of detailed information. Subtitled "Key to a Great Destination", the latest edition has separate sections on each part of the coast, from the south, including the Yorks and Kittery, to Washington County in the east. There is also detail on Maine's islands. Another new Coastal Maine by Hilary Nangle, in the Moon Handbooks series, which suggests offbeat trips such as one combining lighthouses with lobsters and LL Bean. The author has a website full of further suggestions about travel around Maine.

Recipes from the Coast
Cookbooks are always popular festive gifts, and this season some are available with a The Coastal Table, by Karen Covey, published by Union Park Press, brings together recipes "inspired by the farmlands and seaside of southern New England." The author tells how she originally just wanted a weekend getaway on the south coast of Massachusetts, but ended up making her home there. Her cookbook includes many fish and seafood recipes, plus other ideas using fresh local produce. It also includes contributions from top New England chefs. Another mouthwatering new offering is Simply New England by chef Daniel Bruce of the Boston Harbor Hotel, published by the Lyons Press. Bruce says he aims to celebrate both land and sea, and lobster and halibut feature in some of the recipes.
There's even a reprint of a book combining cookery and history, The New England Economical Housekeeper, and Family Receipt Book by Esther Howland, first published in 1844. This contains more than 220 recipes, ranging from main meals to puddings and traditional medical remedies. The book gives a fascinating glimpse of 19th-century family life and customs, and cooking up some of the dishes - if you can get the ingredients! - will give a taste of the past.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hospital Point Light Ready for the Holidays

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Division 4 Lighthouse Team has been busy preparing Hospital Point Light in Beverly, Massachusetts, for the holidays. The lighthouse team continued their tradition of placing a holiday wreath and star on the lighthouse tower. 

Left: Hospital Point Light Station, with wreath and star, from just offshore. Photo by Phil Karwowski, made possible by Salem Harbormaster Capt. Bill McHugh and Deputy Harbormaster Patrick Mulligan.

Seventeen members of the team and one volunteer, gathered at Hospital Point on a sunny but chilly morning, to prepare the wreath and star. 

The tasks involved the placement of an oar and boat hook, a large bow, and rope lighting on the six-foot diameter wreath, and of course, hauling the wreath and star up onto the tower.
In the past, the wreath was placed on the water side of the lighthouse tower. This is the second year that the wreath was placed on the street side, 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.

Right: Members of the Hospital Point Lighthouse team that put up the holiday wreath and star. Front row from left: Phil Karwowski, Bob Olenio, John Keyes, and Rich Skryness. Back row from left:  Robert Pierce, Walter Blazewicz, Deanna Karwowski, Bill Ayers, Brenda Martinson, Dick Keating, Barbara Keating, Mike Henderson, Ted Karr, Anne Olenio, Stella Pierce, Rich Perlman, Kevin Meagher, and volunteer Gerry Dangelo. Photo by Judy Dangelo.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thank you, John Shaw, for this very flattering post on your blog, "Maine Lighthouses and Beyond." It was a pleasure meeting you and narrating the cruise from Bar Harbor the other day.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sole U.S. Lighthouse Keeper to Help Issue Boston Lighthouse Stamp

The sole federal lighthouse keeper in the U.S., Sally Snowman, is speaking at the first day of issue ceremony for the new Boston Harbor Lighthouse Forever stamp. The event is free and open to the public.

Sally Snowman – Boston Harbor Lighthouse Keeper 
Captain John O’Connor – Commander / U.S. Coast Guard Boston Sector 
Wanda Santos – Marketing Manager USPS Greater Boston District 
Paul Medina – Postmaster New Ipswich NH / U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 
Tom Costin - Chairman Lynn, MA Business Partnership Transportation Committee, Former: Postmaster & Mayor of Lynn, MA 
Honor Guard - U.S. Coast Guard, Boston MA

WHEN: Saturday, July 13, 2013, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Rose Kennedy Greenway 191 w Atlantic Avenue Boston, MA (Between Faneuil Hall and the Boston Harbor Hotel)

DETAILS: The Postal Service is holding five simultaneous ceremonies on July 13 in five different states for the issuance of five New England Coastal Lighthouse Forever Stamps. In addition to the Boston Harbor Lighthouse in Massachusetts, the featured lighthouses include: Portland Head in Maine, Portsmouth Harbor in New Hampshire, Point Judith in Rhode Island, and New London Harbor in Connecticut. Take a video tour of the lighthouses at: about.usps.com/news/events-calendar/ne-lighthouses/welcome.htm 

Boston Harbor Light, North America’s first true light station, was built in 1716. Three years later a cannon—America’s first fog signal—was added to the light station. During the Revolutionary War, as British forces abandoned the area in 1776, they demolished the lighthouse by blowing it up. A new rubblestone tower, 75-feet tall, replaced the destroyed lighthouse in 1783; it was raised an additional 14 feet in 1859, when its current second-order Fresnel lens was also installed. After large cracks appeared in the east wall in 1809, iron hoops were installed for support; aluminum bands replaced the corroded iron in 1973–74. The lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Standing on Little Brewster Island within the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreational Area, it was the last lighthouse in the United States to be automated—in 1998—and is the only remaining American lighthouse to have a resident keeper employed by the federal government. Customers may purchase the New England Coastal Lighthouses Forever stamps at usps.com/stamps, at 800-STAMP-24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Offices nationwide on July 13.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Everyday Heroes: The True Story of a Lighthouse Family

New Book for Lovers of Lighthouses, New England, and Coastal History
Everyday Heroes: The True Story of a Lighthouse Family

Lighthouses are an essential part of our American culture, reminding us that our nation was built on maritime commerce. They stand as symbols of altruism, strength, hope, faith and guidance. And today, in the age of automation, they also stand as memorials to the lighthouse keepers and their families who once devoted themselves to “keeping a good light” in service to mariners.

Traditional lighthouse keeping has passed into history with automation, but there are still those who recall lighthouse life with nostalgia. Seamond Ponsart Roberts, daughter of a lighthouse keeper, is one of those people. Seamond was born while her parents lived at the rugged Dumpling Rock Light Station off Dartmouth, Massachusetts. She went on to spend the rest of her youth at two other southeastern Massachusetts light stations: Cuttyhunk Island and West Chop on Martha’s Vineyard.

 During her lighthouse years, Seamond experienced good times and bad, tragedy and heroism. She is a born storyteller who has always shared her memories with family and friends, and her unique story is now told in the new book, Everyday Heroes: The True Story of a Lighthouse Family. “I am, and always will be, a lighthouse keeper's daughter. I had the good fortune to be born to a different kind of childhood. I didn't recognize this fact back when I was small. I thought that everybody lived like we did on our little island of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, which in itself was a life apart,” she writes.

This is the true story of a family's life at lighthouses on the edge of civilization. It's a story of adventure, danger, devotion to duty, and love. Seamond Ponsart Roberts shares her memories and emotions with good humor, a sharp eye for detail, and above all an appreciation for a way of life that has passed into history. 

252 pages, soft cover, illustrated with 26 black and white photos and maps.

Published in April 2013 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform and Coastlore Media.

Click here to order from Amazon.com ($15.29)

Email nelights@gmail.com to order or for more information.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Haunted Lighthouses of Maine motorcoach tour

Join the Adventure with Mysterious Destinations and tour the Haunted Lighthouses of Maine this Summer!

Your 4-day, 3-night trip will include tours of seven haunted Maine lighthouses, and three haunted Maine villages as well as a visit to the Maine Lighthouse Museum.

 Two tours scheduled for 2013 -

August 12-15 and September 16-19 

Click here for all the details of this spooktacular tour.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

News from Hospital Point Light, Beverly, Massachusetts

With the arrival of the holiday season last month, the Hospital Point Lighthouse Team continued their tradition of placing a holiday wreath and a star on the Hospital Point Lighthouse in Beverly, Massachusetts. The Lighthouse Team, comprised of 21 members from the North Shore Division, look forward to this annual event.
At left, Coast Guard Auxiliarists Ted Karr, Bob Olenio, Mike Henderson, and Walt Blazewich tend the lines from the ground while Rich Skryness and Kevin Meagher guide the wreath from the top. As one of Beverly's most familiar landmarks, the lighthouse commands a spectacular view of Salem Sound and three other area lighthouses.
The Hospital Point Team Leader, Phil Karwowski, recently won third place in the 2012 Essex National Heritage Area Photo Contest. His entry "First Light" (right), a photo of Hospital Point Lighthouse, won third prize in the "Images of the Essex National Heritage Area" category. 
The photo was taken at sunrise on a clear but chilly January morning. This photo, along with those of the other winners, will be exhibited at the National Park Visitor Center in Salem and at the office of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission in Haverhill for one year.