Saturday, October 17, 2020

Welcome to the new USCG Cutter FREDERICK HATCH

I am delighted to tell you about the newest "Sentinel Class" high endurance Coast Guard cutter, the FRC 43 USCGC FREDERICK HATCH. The ship was built at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana. It is still getting its finishing touches in Santa Rita, Guam. In February it will cruise to Key West, where I hope to meet up with it and be introduced to the crew, then it goes to New Orleans, and finally back to Guam for its commissioning. 

I am so proud to tell you I have the honor of sponsoring the ship! I will be going to Guam next summer for the commissioning. 

The FREDERICK HATCH is named in honor of a surfman and lighthouse keeper who served in Cleveland, Ohio. Frederick Hatch (pictured above, courtesy of Door County Historical Society) served first as a surfman at the Cleveland Lifesaving Station. Later, he was appointed keeper of the Cleveland West Breakwater Lighthouse. He distinguished himself with two incredible rescues that earned him gold lifesaving medals. These were given to those who risked their own lives to save others. If my information is correct, Frederick Hatch is the only surfman, lighthouse keepers, or Coast Guard person to have two of these coveted awards.

An important fact about the naming of the Sentinel Class cutters is that they honor enlisted individuals. Frederick Hatch is in good company with a few other people lighthouse fanciers may know--Margaret Norvell of Head of Passes Lighthouse, Mississippi and Katherine Moore of Fayerweather Island Lighthouse in Connecticut.

Columnist Pattie Williamson wrote about Hatch a few years back for the Peninsula Pulse--

Frederick Hatch, the only two-time recipient of the Gold Lifesaving Medal, was awarded his first medal in December 1884 for his actions as a surfman at the Cleveland Life-Saving Station for rescuing those on board the schooner Sophia Minch. Deciding that a surfman’s job was too dangerous, he requested a new assignment. Ironically, he was awarded his second gold medal in 1891, for rescuing those on board the schooner Wahnapitae, while serving as keeper of the Cleveland Breakwater Lighthouse.

The website Maritime History of the Great Lakes has the following bio of Frederick Hatch written in 1889--

Frederick T. Hatch was born at Henderson Harbor, N. Y., in 1859, a son of Thomas and Catherine Hatch. His father was a sailor, and for a long time served as mate on the Northern line of steamers. Mr. Hatch removed with his parents while very young to Gallop Island and later to Glen Haven, Mich. He attended school at Gallop Island and Sacket's Harbor. He passed his youth on the water principally as a fisherman until the spring of 1878, when he shipped on the steamer Arabia, of the Western Transit line, remaining in that employee three years. In the spring of 1881 he entered the life-saving service at the Cleveland station, where he remained until November, 1884. On the 22nd of the same month he was appointed assistant lighthouse-keeper in the old lighthouse on Water street, Cleveland. On October 20, 1885, he was transferred to the breakwater light, and on September 15, 1895, the lights were consolidated and Mr. Hatch was placed in charge, also having control of the foghorn machinery, which was established in 1890. He now has two assistants.

Mr. Hatch is an experienced and daring life-saver, and has to his credit thirty-two rescues, independent of those he participated in while a member of the life saving crew. The greater number of these rescues were made while he had charge of the pier light. Boats would capsize, and in other ways helpless people would fall in the lake. In October, 1890, the barge Wanapota struck the breakwater and sunk in three hours. Mr. Hatch ran out to her with a rowboat, but came very near losing his own life on account of the flying timbers. His boat was capsized, but he succeeded in reaching Mrs. Hazen, wife of the captain, and swam with her to the pier. The captain, mate and three men ran across the pilework to the pier, where they remained all night, the lifeboat taking them off the next morning. The following spring Mr. Hatch received from the government an additional bar to his United States lifesaving medal. Many instances are related of his hardihood in his efforts to save life, and he never seems to grow excited or lose his presence of mind.

During the time Mr. Hatch was surfman in the Cleveland life-saving station, he participated in all the rescues of that gallant crew. In the fall of 1883 four vessels went ashore off Cleveland harbor, among them the schooner Sophia Minch. The life-saving crew went out to her on a tug, and with great difficulty and danger boarded her. The schooner was drifting so fast toward the rocks that it was found necessary to scuttle her, and she sank with her own and the life- saving crew aboard, all of the men taking to the main rigging, except two who were in the after rigging. Lawrence Distel, the only one of the crew remaining ashore, threw a line into the main rigging and took off all the men there but Mr. Hatch, who volunteered to reach the men aft. To quote from the report of Captain Goodwin: "It was literally taking his life in his hands to make the attempt. The gallant Hatch set out along the swaying gaff and reached the two men, but it was utterly impossible for him to get back, which fact he signaled to Mr. Distel, who then went ashore in the breeches boy and informed Captain Goodwin. It was then found necessary to fire another line into the rigging aft, which Mr. Hatch made fast, and as soon as everything was ready they were drawn ashore, Mr. Hatch being the sixteenth and last man off the vessel." For this dangerous rescue Mr. Hatch, as well as all the other members of the crew, received the United States gold life-saving medal of the first class.

In 1883 Mr. Hatch was united in marriage with Miss Maggie Case, of Cleveland, and their children are Frederick T., Jr., May Adella, Nellie A., and Elsie A. The family residence is at No. 43 Water street, Cleveland. Socially he is a member of Lake Shore Lodge, Knights of Pythias.

Lighthouse historian Kraig Anderson wrote the following about Frederick Hatch as a rescuer--

In 1885, Captain Fred T. Hatch, one of Cleveland’s most illustrious keepers, began serving at the lighthouse on the west breakwater. Hatch had previously served at the nearby lifesaving station and was a recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor for lifesaving. His lifesaving skills would soon serve him well at his new job. In October 1890, during one of the windstorms that frequently threatened travelers on Lake Erie, the schooner barge Wahnapitae dragged its anchor and crashed against the breakwater near Hatch’s lighthouse.

Eight people were on board, including Captain Hazen and his wife Catherine, who was serving as cook. As the barge began to break apart, most of the crew tried to jump onto the breakwater. Three men, aided by Captain Hatch, were able to scramble one hundred feet along the breakwater and reach the safe confines of the lighthouse. Captain Hatch then leaped into a small wooden rowboat to attempt the rescue of those still stranded on the sinking barge, however, by the time he reached the battered vessel, only Catherine Hazen remained unclaimed by the water.

Kraig's webpage will help you sort out all the different light towers built at Cleveland Harbor over the years since 1829 when the first lighthouse shone over the harbor. Go here to read about them--

Below is an old postcard and an early twentieth century photo of the Cleveland Lifesaving Station, now gone. The West Breakwater Lighthouse stands in the background.

The photo above shows the surfmen of the Cleveland Lifesaving Station wearing their cork life vests. These were the precursors to today's life preservers. The men also were dressed in oilskins to keep them dry. The year of the photo is not known.

Above is a National Archives drawing of the lighthouse kept by Frederick Hatch beginning in 1885. It is gone now. Cleveland Harbor has undergone much change over the years. 

The lighthouse below is the one most people know as the Cleveland Breakwater Lighthouse, built in 1910, long after Hatch's service in Cleveland. It is famous for its winter ice. (Ice photo by Mike Kline)

To learn more about the Coast Guard's Sentinel Class cutters, go here:

The USCG cutter FREDERICK HATCH has a Facebook page. Please visit it and "like" the page. Share it too! Thanks. FrederickHatch/

P.S. I apologize for the long duration between posts of late. I have been battling a bad arthritic shoulder and living from cortisone shot to cortisone shot. It makes typing a painful chore. Thanks for your indulgence.  Best, Elinor

Thursday, July 30, 2020

National Lighthouse Museum

Greetings Blog Readers and Lighthouse Fans,

In this time of pandemic, many of our lighthouse groups and museums are suffering. Please support them with small donations (or large ones).

One museum that definitely needs help is the National Lighthouse Museum at Staten Island, New York. Please send them donations, buy products from their website, and when possible, attend their tours. We've heard the Princess Royal of England (Princess Anne) will pay the museum a visit when it's safe to do so. How exciting is that??!! She is a great fan of lighthouses and supporter of the Northern Lighthouse Board of Scotland and Trinity House, the UK's lighthouse authority. We are proud to have her visit our national lighthouse museum.

Sign up for the National Lighthouse Museum's newsletters. They are fun, informative, and now have profiles of United States lighthouses in each issue. I love them and look forward to reading each one. They are very well done!

Here's a sample, saved from my Google docs acct. Click on it and then click on the docs address it brings up. Can you guess which lighthouse is profiled from the picture I've posted?

National Lighthouse Museum lighthouse article

Contact the National Lighthouse Museum at--

National Lighthouse Museum
200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point
Staten Island, NY 10301-0296

Call 718-390-0040

Coast Guard Photo

From 1898 Scientific American Magazine

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fun for Kids & Adults in a Second or Third Childhood

As many of you know, I am on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Lighthouse Society. My primary work involves education, particularly youth education. The society recently launched a youth initiative. I am pleased and proud to share the first pages of kids' fun and stories mailed to the entire society membership, along with an introductory letter from me explaining the imitative and asking members to share our work. I'm asking the same of my blog readers. Share the fun! Download the pages below to print for a kid you know, or download them to send by email to a child, teacher, scout leader, youth counselor, etc. (And, if you're a kid at heart, have fun on your own!)

Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Memories from Point Fermin Lighthouse, California

My friend Martha McKenzie of Point Fermin Lighthouse in California wrote some great memories in the last issue of "To the Point." Read, enjoy, and consider joining this hardworking group.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Lighthouse Keeper's Sea Dog

This story is from Harper's Monthy Magazine. I regret the issue date has been lost, but I believe its circa 1885. It's a great example of Victorian era prose. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo from Wallpapers

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Potato Chip Lighthouse

Lighthouses are wonderful symbols for brands and logos. A stroll through the grocery aisles will tell you so. They’re on so many products—clam chowder, oyster crackers, juice drinks, canned sardines, salad dressing, and potato chips, to name just a few. Sometimes the lighthouse pictured is a generic one. Sometimes it’s a real lighthouse, like the one on Cape Cod Potato Chips bags. They’re my favorite chips, not just because they taste good and I’m a chipoholic, but because they support lighthouse preservation and education through their logo. (And…don’t tell, but Nauset Beach Lighthouse is my favorite!)

I thought you might enjoy learning about the famous potato chip lighthouse at Nauset Beach, Eastham, on Cape Cod National Seashore. It’s had a storied career! It stands watch on the “backside” of Cape Cod. If you imagine the Cape as an arm where the shoulder connects to the mainland and extends first east like a flexed biceps muscle and then north up the forearm to the fist, you can see the shape of Cape Cod. The “backside” is the name for the outside forearm beach that runs north-south up the middle of the cape. It’s one of the cape’s more dangerous places. Ships heading south toward Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, or north toward Boston, pass by the “backside” of Cape Cod. It was and remains a dangerous area, rife with shoals and rocks and all manner of wild weather.

By the 1830s when lighthouse construction was in full swing in the United States, several lighthouses stood along this shore. There was a single beacon at Highland Light near Truro and twin lighthouses at Chatham on the elbow of the cape. Why twin lights? At this time, the United States had not adopted a technology to make lighthouses flash, so multiple lights were used in places where many beacons stood almost back to back along a treacherous stretch of shore, all of them white and all steady. The idea was that mariners would not confuse these close-together white, fixed lights. If some locations had multiple lights, they could be distinguished from places with single lights. It sounds like an over-lighting practice, and it was, but it was all we had in the United States before about 1850.

National Archives photo

On a shoreline as dangerous as the “backside,” a skipper needed to be able to see a light off the bow of a ship as one disappeared off the stern. But nothing stood between Highland Light and the Chatham twin lights. Coastal vessels—usually small fishing types that hugged the shoreline—often got into trouble on the “backside.” Thus, in 1837 the U.S. Lighthouse Service decided to put a navigational aid on the cliffs at Eastham, about hallway between Highland and Chatham.

To avoid confusion, they opted for triple lights—three diminutive little lighthouses standing on the cliff about 150 feet apart. Each one was 15 feet tall, whitewashed brick, and topped with a black lantern. The three little lighthouses looked like women in white skirts and black hats. Sailors quickly dubbed them the “Three Sisters” lighthouses. They began their career with simple oil lamps and reflectors that produced fixed white lights. Years, later they were upgraded with sixth-order Fresnel lenses in 1858 and fourth-order Fresnel lenses in 1873. These optics cast their beams far enough to sea that the coastal vessels and those traveling several miles offshore had guidance along the perilous “backside.”

Coast Guard photo

If you know this area, then you know nothing is static about the cliffs, hollows, and beaches on Cape Cod. They are in constant flux. Wind, tides, and storms continually chisel away at these features. Sand is an easily movable material, so willing to blow this way or that. The sandy beach and cliffs at Nauset have changed considerably in my lifetime alone, and much more in the three hundred years lighthouses have guarded the cape. Very large storms can eat away a foot of the cliff in a matter of hours. On average, it loses 2 to 3 feet a year. Between 2009 and 2018, the beach cliffs lost 16 feet of sand per year. Likewise, the cliffs at Highland Lighthouse and the low beach at Chatham have changed shape and shrunk over the years.

The author and husband, Jonathan, in autumn 1977 at Nauset Beach. Pregnant with son Scott. Photo was taken by our five-year-old daughter, Jessica. Note the cliffs.

By 1892 the “Three Sisters” lighthouses seemed as if they had hiked up their skirts and walked to the edge of the cliff. In reality, the cliff had eroded away and crept up on the hems of their skirts. The Lighthouse Service abandoned the three brick lighthouses that year and built three new 22 foot tall wooden “Sisters” 30 feet west of the original site, well away from the cliff everyone thought.  But within two decades the hungry elements had eaten back the cliff and again threatened the little towers. They were moved again in 1911, back some 100 feet from the cliff this time.

By now, the need for multiple lights was long gone. Lenses could flash, occult, eclipse, and otherwise identify themselves in a variety of patterns. The multiple lights at Chatham (twin lights) and Nauset (triple lights) hadn’t really been necessary since the 1850s when the Fresnel lens technology was adopted at American lighthouses. But Cape Codders loved their multiple lights and couldn’t give up the tradition. They were like family! When the Lighthouse Board suggested demolishing the twins and triplets, public outcry was loud and forceful!

The tower on the left was barged from Chatham to Nauset Beach.

Rather than destroy the extra towers, they were extinguished and moved. In 1911 after a second move back from the cliff, the Lighthouse Service opted to relight just one of the “Sisters”—the middle one. She became known as “The Beacon.” The other two “Sisters” stood dark for a time, and then they lost their hats when the government removed them and sold them to Mrs. Helen Cummings of Eastham for $3.50. (The lanterns have  never been found, unfortunately.) Mrs. Cummings had the two towers jacked them up on a low, makeshift trailer and carted off to her beach home where they were positioned at either end of the cottage. It was an anguished family separation. Lighthouses don’t translate well into vacation cottages or other non-historic uses. They lose their mission and cultural integrity, and sometimes they look foolish. These did.

The fate of the Three Sisters--top photo from National Park Service shows two of the sisters used as the ends of a summer cottage. No one knows where their lanterns went. Bottom photo by Jonathan DeWire shows the author in front of "The Beacon," the only sister to keep its lantern, on the beach at Nauset in 1978.

The remaining “Sister,” still called “The Beacon,” flashed her light another five years before she, too, was decommissioned and sold into private hands. She was used for various purposes over the years. When I first saw her in April 1979 she appeared to have hosted a sandwich shop the summer prior. I had read about the “Three Sisters” in an Edward Rowe Snow book—Famous Lighthouses of New England. Intrigued, I set about researching the “Sisters,” and the Nauset Lighthouse, which in 1979 stood a few hundred yards from the defunct “Beacon” and wore a handsome red and white daymark. (The daymark was added in 1940.)

I learned that the Nauset Light had traveled up the cape from Chatham in 1923 to take the place of “The Beacon.” Chatham’s twin lights, built in 1877, weren’t needed any more than Nauset’s triplets were. So the twins were separated, and the north twin at Chatham was removed from its foundation and carried up to Nauset, parked high on the cliff, and painted with her familiar daymark. A sturdy wood-shingled house was built next to it for the keeper.

As automation became the buzzword for the Coast Guard after World War II, most of the cape’s lighthouses were relieved of their keepers and outfitted with self-sufficient beacons and fog signals. Nauset Beach Lighthouse was automated in the early 1950s and the unoccupied keeper’s house was sold into private hands. Business woman Mary Daubenspeck of New Hanpshire bought the house in the 1970s. I met Mary in the mid 1980s and enjoyed a tour of her house and a climb up the lighthouse. The Coast Guard had given her a set of keys to the tower in case anything needed immediate attention. She admitted about the only attention the tower got was tours for her friends and guests and an occasional window washing. It was sturdy, and the Coast Guard checked on it about twice a year to make sure the beacon was operating properly.

Mary Daubenspeck and her dogs at the base of the lighthouse. Mary died of cancer in 2001. Photo from

Mary told me the Cape Cod National Seashore had purchased the “Three Sisters” lighthouses from their private owners and wanted to recoup the “backside’s” lighthouse history. The “Sisters” were in storage awaiting funding for preservation and interpretation. The national seashore also didn’t want to see Nauset Beach Lighthouse lost, either to the sea or neglect.

Everyone, including Mary Daubenspeck, was concerned about the edge of the cliff creeping ever closer to the keeper’s house and the tower.  The Coast Guard was concerned too, so much that they felt the lighthouse would eventually have to be decommissioned and torn down. It wasn’t really needed anymore, not with GPS and better ship navigation in the modern age. There was no way to shore up the cliff without a huge expenditure, and even then the project would only slow erosion. Nature would win in the end. Mary told me she hoped a group might form to move the historic lighthouse to a safer location back from the beach—just as the “Three Sisters” had been moved several times.

It was no surprise in 1993 when the Coast Guard announced that it would decommission Nauset Beach Lighthouse, in spite of the fact that it had been admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. There was no money in the Coast Guard budget to save it. But a group quickly formed called the Nauset Light Preservation Society, composed of local Cape Codders, and got to work fundraising and making the public aware of the plight of this historic light station.

In the mid-1990s I met the tireless leader of the Nauset Light Preservation Society, Pam Nobili. (Pam died a few years ago and is greatly missed for her energy and hard work.) She established a gift shop on the beach and headed up fundraisers. (She sold my books in the shop too!) Money was raised, grants were obtained, and in 1996 the lighthouse was moved off its foundation so close to the cliff, loaded onto a special hydraulically-balanced truck, and transported to a safer location back from the sea. Additionally, Mary Daubenspeck negotiated an agreement with the National Park Service to donate her house to the Cape Cod National Seashore, and it too was moved back from the edge of the cliff in 1998. The tower’s fourth-order lens was removed and placed on display in the Salt Pond Visitor Center of the national seashore. Mary Daubenspeck wrote a little book about the lighthouse. She died of cancer in 2001. Her generosity in giving back to Cape Cod one of its historic buildings is remembered and honored at the present-day site of the tower and keeper’s house.

On display today in a wooded area behind the current lighthouse. Photo by The Lighthouse People

“All’s well that ends well!” Today, visitors to the Cape Cod National Seashore can expect a treat: The “Three Sisters” lighthouses have been refurbished and put on display in a wooded area near the beach where they once served shipping. Nauset Beach Lighthouse and its dwelling also are preserved for viewing and enjoyment. Plenty of signage helps visitors appreciate this unique chapter in lighthouse history—triple lighthouses and a twin light that metaphorically walked up the “backside” of the cape to work on Nauset Beach.

You can join the group that saved this treasure by writing to Nauset Light Preservation Society, P.O. Box 941, Eastham, MA 02642. Their website is

And if you’re hungry for potato chips, get yourself some free ones at the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory in Hyannis, Massachusetts. You can tour the factory, learn about the company’s involvement in saving the Nauset Beach Lighthouse, and try some its many flavors of chips. The factory is located at 1000 Breed’s Hill Road in Hyannis. Tours are offered Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00. More information can be found at or

Monday, February 10, 2020

February at Lighthouses

Enjoy some February pages from my out-of-print Lighthouse Almanac: A Compendium of Science, History & Fascinating Lore about Our Favorite Seamarks, originally published in 2000. The pages are in no particular order. I inserted them large so they are more easily read. (You might find used copies on Amazon or eBay.)