Monday, December 16, 2013

“Sound of Lights” Part 1 (10/30/13)

My fervent interest (I have to continually remind friends it’s NOT an obsession) with lighthouses began several years ago when I saw a Parade magazine cover one lazy Sunday morning. On it was a picture of Hooper Strait Lighthouse. Sitting peacefully in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the isolation of the odd architectural structure sparked a conversation between my wife and me about how cool it would be to live in such a dwelling.

Fort Carroll Light, MD
As tends to happen, my thoughts about such a dream did not die with the conversation. I began to look more closely at the government’s program to decommission and auction off several similar irrelevant lighthouses. Many of these were also in the Bay, an area I had long enjoyed. As I researched the various lighthouses, I became fascinated by both their number and varied histories. There are hundreds in the United States. Hell, there are over a hundred on—and along—the shores of Michigan, alone. That’s right, Michigan. Each has its own unique style and story. None caught my attention more than a decrepit little two-story structure that once marked the fort on which it stands. My interest in the light on Fort Carroll ultimately spawned a trip to the site and subsequent article I contributed to Lighthouse Digest magazine.

Since those days, I have documented my firsthand exposure to these once proud aids to navigation. This blog could have, in fact been dedicated to those experiences. Which brings me to this week’s post…

Point Judith Light, RI
As part of my trip to Providence (see “Smoke on the Water” below), I had an opportunity to spend a day six miles out into Long Island Sound on Block Island. If you have the chance, it is worth the ferry ride from Point Judith (off Interstate 95, at the end of route 108). Before we even boarded, we took time to see the lighthouse there. As is the case with most New England lights, it was functioning. Like many others, it was home to a coast guard outpost. A few pictures, then off to the terminal to catch the express ferry.

My friend had prearranged a rental car, and it was immediately clear that Block Island was not a major hub. A guy named Ken took us to his primary business at a fishing dock and our delightfully funky, purple PT Cruiser. With island map purchased from the Chamber of Commerce desk in hand, we set off for the first of two lighthouses that helped separate ships from the Island’s rocky shores.

Southeast Lighthouse
Southeast Lighthouse was open to the public, and we were fortunate enough to have a guided tour of both the light tower and adjoining keeper’s quarters. The light is undergoing restoration, with plans of converting it into a kind of museum/B&B in the near future. I hope to return sometime after the project is completed as a guest, though I’m sure the lodging fee will be substantial.

After taking in some other sites and a lobster roll for lunch, we headed to the opposite end to see the North Lighthouse. I wondered if anyone had ever considered expending some thought toward coming up with more imaginative names. My musings were confirmed when we arrived at the parking area for the North Light. We were confronted with a beach that separated us from the destination by over ten football fields in distance. My name for it would have something to do with the hike I was about to undertake.

North Light
Not surprisingly, I was the only one in my group willing to trek across the sand to see the lighthouse up close. When I arrived, I admonished myself for not bringing my wallet. I was not aware that this lighthouse was also open, for a charge. I nonetheless was able to get some nice photos of the place before facing the long walk back to the car.

The three lighthouses I saw on this day served as the first course for my “Sound of Lights” tour. Another five lights lay ahead, scattered along the rout home through Rhode Island and Connecticut.

(next week: “Sound of Lights” part 2)

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