We sailed our home into the snug harbor of Seguin Island, made fast to the last of the moorings, and rowed in to the rocky beach that was midway through the rising tide.
We’d read in our cruising guide that the island was home to one of the last manned lighthouses in the U.S. so we had to (at the very least) check it out.
After making landfall (which is always a big deal when we’ve been underway for a while, being as though “Terra Firma” is rather hard to deal with after being on a small, constantly moving sailboat for more than a few days) we made our psych-adjustments and headed inland towards the lighthouse beaming at the top of the island.
The trail leading up to the actual lighthouse station was a perfectly manicured 4 foot strip of soft mowed lawn that winds its way up to the station house. Everything on the grounds seemed to be as well kept as that trail. The station was perfectly painted, all the grounds were mowed with quite a few trails leading away off down to the cliffs all around the island.
Looking back at our boat on the mooring in the snug harbor was awesome!
We were met at the top of the trail by Larry, one of the two volunteer summer lighthouse keepers. Him, his wife T’Ann and the (unofficial) lighthouse mascot, Bandit the oddly dignified chihuahua.
As it turns out the lighthouse is only “manned” during the summer months, and only on a volunteer basis. The Coast Guard maintains the light and the horn, but the rest of the island belongs to a non-profit org called Friends of Seguin.
T’Ann was the daughter of a former Seguin lighthouse keeper from the days when the Coast Guard staffed the island, and she longed to return to the lush, green island. And that she did, after Larry retired from his 30 years of hard work on the burnt infertile plains of Aurora, Texas.
We talked to Larry for about an hour (T’Ann was taking a well deserved day off) about the colorful history of the light station, the light and of course the last First Order Fresnel lens still working in Maine. It was a fascinating conversation.
Right before we took off for the trails, Larry told us they were playing host to a class of photographers that were staying the night on the island, “so don’t be surprised if one or two of them ask you to pose for that perfect sunset picture!”
Just as we made our way back to the lighthouse, a young man by the name of Peter introduced himself to us and told us he was in a bit of a pickle. “You see”, Pete said. “I rented this authentic lighthouse keepers uniform in hopes that one of the keepers would don the outfit and pose for us but T’Ann is off today and Larry says there is no way that outfit would fit him so I was wondering…” (he grinned)
Before he could get the words out of his mouth Dena and I looked at each other, cracked up, looked back at Pete and said… “Oh Yeah!”
Pete told us that there was no hurry, that they wouldn’t even want to start until after the sun went down so go ahead and enjoy the island and they’d let us know when they were ready for me to get dressed.
There’s a beautiful wrought iron spiral staircase leading up to the First Order Fresnel lens which is 9 feet high and 6 feet in diameter with a single 1000 watt incandescent light bulb posted in the middle of the lens. With over 300 hand cut angles in the lens, it bends and distorts the light from that little bulb so much that a ship can view the light from over 24 miles away on a clear night!
The sun went down and Pete appeared with a grin… “Ready?” he asked.
I went upstairs in the living quarters of the station and there on a hook was (what seemed to be) my (somewhat) spooky destiny… (umm, ok that’s pretty cheesy!)
But when I stepped out of the station house with the Lighthouse Keeper’s uniform on, there was an audible gasp from the waiting students and they quite literally picked up their gear and ran toward me like a rabid gaggle of paparazzi.
The group wouldn’t let me move for a good 10 minutes as they shot hundreds of pictures of me with a wide assortment of my well-practiced 50 yard stares.
Next it was up the spiral…
…And in the house where the great First Order Lens was waiting.
It is against the policy of the Friends of Seguin Lighthouse Association to allow anyone to actually go into the Fresnel lens but I WAS THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER! What were they going to do?
It was an awesome feeling being in that incredibly historical place with the light so perfect and the stars and that wonderful view of the Kennebec River delta spread out before me and all the ghosts of keepers past coursing through that lens. I somehow felt as if I deserved to be there, as if no one else in our time could stand there in that tower, next to that unbelievable lens with more appreciation than the old man that wore that uniform that night!
After very reluctantly stripping the uniform and putting it back on the hanger, Larry caught me as I was walking out the door and told me that the uniform probably would have fit him just fine, but “there’s nothing more terrifying than having a camera pointed in my face. Thank you,” he said, and we descended the 1306 foot long trestle rail built in the 1890’s, back to the boat.
All photos of the Lighthouse Keeper by Peter Lerro, 2015