Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Cards are Arriving!

They're so pretty! Nothing says Christmas like a lighthouse. Has anyone noticed that lighthouses look like candles? Helen Reddy sang about this in the movie "Pete's Dragon" when she sang "Candle on the Water."

There are hundreds of lighthouse Christmas cards circulating. Here are a few of my favorites.

Every December I receive dozens of beautiful Christmas cards adorned with lighthouses. And, I always select a lighthouse Christmas card to send. Here's one of mine this year, a West Quoddy wonderland:


Friday, December 5, 2014

A Major Award!

No, it's not a sexy leg lamp, like Ralphie's father won in "The Christmas Story." It's even better--the "Golden Lighthouse Award," a "coveted honor," according to Julie Pigot, coordinator for the Washington Lighthouse License Plate Committee.

Washington's lighthouse license plate generates about $25K a year in sales that go toward lighthouse/lightship preservation. The grants have enabled 501c3 lighthouse groups in Washington to replace roofs, windows, doors, porches, and more; it's helped with infrastructure like plumbing, septic, and electrical work. And it's funded a few education projects, such as replica U.S. Lighthouse Establishment traveling libraries.

Skip Sherwood took this shot of me am proudly showing off my Golden Lighthouse and a bouquet of flowers the committee presented to me at the November meeting at the Coast Guard Museum NW, my last meeting before leaving the committee to do other worthy work in the lighthouse community. It was all very tongue-in-cheek and fun, but I was pleased, as you can see by my smile/smirk/chuckle expression. Julie confided that she hand-painted the lighthouse herself!

The Washington lighthouse license plate was the brainstorm of Gloria Wahlin and Lighthouse Environmental Programs of Admiralty Head Lighthouse, located on Whidbey Island, Washington. I helped Gloria from the outset with writing and editing the 501c3 application for the grants generated by the license plate and presenting informational programs to the eligible lighthouse groups. I went to Olympia for the unveiling of the plate in January 2006 (I have plate number 12!), and I have served on the grants committee since its inception.

It's a fun group--Julie Pigot and Linda Crow from Admiralty Head Lighthouse and Lighthouse Environmental Programs, architect Gene Grulich--who specializes in rehabilitation of old buildings--and Capt. Gene Davis, Retired, curator of the Coast Guard Museum Northwest. The meetings have been fun and productive. Since 2006 we've awarded more than $150K to eligible lighthouses in Washington and to the state's lightship, Swiftsure.

Skip Sherwood of the U.S. Lighthouse Society will replace me on the committee. Meanwhile, I am moving on to a board position with the U.S. Lighthouse Society where I'll be focusing primarily on education and developing a youth following.

I am thankful to the committee, to the LEP, and especially to Julie Pigot for her cheerful and well-accomplished work as coordinator of the grants committee.

And, I love my Golden Lighthouse Award!!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Icy Lighthouses and a Keeper's Prayer

December 1--Close of Shipping on the Great Lakes!!

It's not happening this year, thank goodness!! We have the technology to keep the shipping lanes open. But did you know in the era before icebreakers--powerful Coast Guard ships that can plow through frozen sealanes--the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain closed down shipping every December 1st and did not reopen the shipping lanes until April 1st? It's true, and it was very necessary. Ice can pierce a ship's hull or seize up a vessel so it can't move and then crush it. Ice can also damage lighthouses and trap their keepers inside.

White Shoal Lighthouse in Lake Michigan last winter. (National Geographic Society)

There was always a great rush to get all the lighthouse keepers off the lighthouses in the Great Lakes (and sometimes Lake Champlain) by December 1st, before ice entombed them. If the keepers were lucky, the first freeze did not occur before December 1st, as it has this year on the Great Lakes. The November 2014 Polar Vortex--such a sci-fi name for that cold air wafting down from the north--descended on the lakes early this year and plunged temperature well below freezing. There's a lot of ice on the lakes already. Luckily, the Coast Guard can handle the freeze.

But before about World War II, it was a race to shut down the lighthouses and get their lightkeepers ashore.

Racine Reef Lighthouse, Wisconsin, was shrouded in ice in early winter 1914. (Photo from the Coast Guard Archives)

The pierhead lighthouse at Michigan City, Indiana, on lake Michigan is pictured above and below in December 1929. These lighthouse keepers were fortunate that they could walk ashore over the icy breakwater. (Photos courtesy of the Coast Guard Archives.)
It's no wonder a Great Lakes lighthouse keeper felt impelled to write the following prayer for himself and his colleagues a century ago. It's possible he was a minister-turned-lightkeeper, which was not an unusual career change, given the religious connotation of lighthouses and the service of their keepers. Lighthouse records list a number of lightkeepers who were former ministers. No matter, the poem underscores the difficulties and challenges of lighthouse keepers and their families, including getting Congress to recognize their plight.
Winter was especially hard in some places. Or not... in this image of idyllic Diamond Head Lighthouse, Hawai'i by Kenny Williams. Barring the occasional hurricane, it was coveted duty among lightkeepers.

So here's the lightkeepers' prayer--
Heavenly Father, grant Thy blessing in a very special manner to the men and women and children in the great lighthouse family scattered up and down the coasts and islands in the Great Lakes and rivers and various seas and oceans in the Great Water World. They are Thy children, oh our Father, many of them a long way from home and living in great solitude where life is a continual tragedy, bitter because it is lonely, especially bitter when they become discouraged and lose hope, and the pitiful little force within them fails to furnish them with light or joy. Oh God, our Father, our hearts are moved with deepest sympathy and our tears of sorrow bedim our eyes as we remember their hardships and deprivations and dangers that are ever with them. Raise up for them numerous friends, especially among Congressman and Senators, that they may enact measures for the improvement of the condition of these, our brothers, and their patient wives and children who so bravely keep their lights burning brightly that our comrades, the masters of ships and sailors, 'Who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters,' may know the right course to take in the storm and fog and darkness of night....