Arthur Milmore, the respected author and speaker, toured Graves Light Station with us last weekend.
He was a good friend of New England maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow, and is completing Snow’s unfinished book about the wreck of the Portland, the side paddle wheel steamship lost in 1898 with all 190 people aboard.
In the greatest of Snow traditions, Art regaled us with seafaring tales and even installed a few of those bronze skylights in the lantern room.
What an exciting Independence Day we had this year, with a visit from the French sailing ship L’Hermione.
A new reproduction of the French warship that the great Marquis de Lafayette took to America to announce France’s military support for the American Revolution, L’Hermione paid a goodwill visit to the east coast of the United States this summer.
We first caught up with L’Hermione during its visit to Baltimore, toured the ship, and talked to the captain and crew. When L’Hermione made its way north and arrived in Boston Harbor on July 10, Graves Light saluted her with the French tricolor. L’Hermione responded with a tweet.
It was a great occasion to commemorate Lafayette’s historic voyage and show her our appreciation to France for saving our new country during the American Revolution.
Joe Kahn of the Boston Globe wrote an engaging feature about Graves Light, one year after Dave and Lynn purchased it from the federal government.
In a page-one, above-the-fold story datelined Graves Island Light Station, the Globe laid out what it called “A long to-do list for feeling at home in the lighthouse.”
“We’re figuring this out as we go, though,” Dave says in the Globe, “having no previous experience with something like this.”
“Few people do,” the Globe comments. “Fewer still have the passion and resources that Waller, 51, a Boston businessman who lives in a converted firehouse in Malden, has brought to renovating one of the state’s iconic landmarks, aiming to covert it into equal parts family vacation home and historic preservation project.”
The online version includes a gallery of pictures by Globe photographer Wendy Maeda, and a video.
While the Globe focused on Keeper Dave as the main character, it laid out the bigger picture of family members, contractors, volunteers, local officials, and well-wishers who are making the revival of Graves Light possible.
“Waller says his biggest surprise has not been the extent of the repair work, or the price tag attached,” the Globe reports.
“‘It’s been the outpouring of positive energy from the community — and willingness for contractors to actually come out and work on this,’ he said, grinning. ‘I thought people might say, “Hell, I’m not working out there on this rusty old lighthouse.” But they haven’t.'”
The Globe asked Dave what a lot of people have been asking: Will there be any public access to the lighthouse in the future, and might people have a chance to rent it out as a B&B?
“Yes and yes, says Waller. For now, anyone attempting to land on the rocky outcropping is trespassing and warned to stay clear. Once access is improved, though, open houses should become more feasible. Short-term rentals, too. ‘Because it’s something worth sharing,’ he said, bounding between floors. ‘People are curious.'”
We just launched a YouTube channel to share our videos.
The first feature is the above magnificent 34-second time-lapse montage. Using a remote camera, we snapped a photo every five minutes for four days, resulting in this video.
Take a look at how the tide rises and falls, the sun and moon rise over the horizon, the workers move up and down the lighthouse and around the dock and ledge, and the light itself casts its beacon over the dark sky.
We also link to YouTube videos that other people shot, where Graves Light is seen or referenced, and arranged them on playlists for “one-stop shopping” for Graves Light videos. We’ll continue to expand these lists.
The Graves Light keepers describe how the crew created the remote camera system: “We used a Canon 5D camera with a 24mm lens. My nephew Patrick and I built a waterproof housing out of a 50 caliber ammo box and powered it with two solar panels and a car battery.
“The real trick was the triggering device: Patrick cracked an old cell phone which he can fully control from his iPhone.
“The cracked phone triggered he camera, the camera sent the images to the cracked phone, which sent them on to Patrick’s phone, then automatically deleted them so the phone and camera didn’t fill up.”
See the photo of the initial improvisation with the ammunition box, which we posted on Facebook in February.
Again, here’s the link to our YouTube channel.
Serious lighthouse enthusiasts have a United States Lighthouse Society passport that they fill with stamps from all the lighthouses they’ve visited.
We are excited to announce that the US Lighthouse Society has issued the Graves Light and Fog Signal Station an official rubber stamp to allow us – and our friends – to participate in the passport program.
Even though Graves Light is not open to the public yet, and won’t be for a while, we want to make sure that anyone with a US Lighthouse Society passport can get a Graves stamp.
The stamp is designed by the US Lighthouse Society.
Here’s how it works. According to the Society, “When you visit a participating lighthouse, you can get your passport stamped. There are four panels on each page of the passport and each panel should have a different lighthouse stamp. When your passport is filled it will contain 60 stamps.”
But what if, as in the case of Graves Light, you can’t actually set foot at the lighthouse?
Not to worry. The Society says that if you can’t get a visit for a passport stamp, just send proof that you tried and they’ll acknowledge it if you send in your passport.
Its simple: Just send us your USLHS passport and a request for a stamp, plus a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), and we’ll return your passport stamped with a Graves Light and Fog Station seal. If you don’t already have a USHLS passport, just order one right here.
Graves Light isn’t in a town, so you’ll have to send your passport to our address in Boston:
Graves Light and Fog Station
180 Lincoln Street
Boston MA 02111 USA
Now, here’s what US Lighthouse Society says about its program: “The United States Lighthouse Society sponsors a Passport Program. A passport with a blue vinyl cover, similar in appearance to an official United States passport, is available through the Society and lighthouse retailers across the US.
“There are seven levels of accomplishment in the US Lighthouse Society Passport Program. Each level is reached by completing a passport book & sending it to the USLHS Passport Fulfillment Service for verification. Upon achieving each of the seven levels, you will receive an official, collectible patch recognizing your achievement and dedication to lighthouse preservation.”
For a relaxing and informative look at the lighthouses in our beloved harbor, pack your picnic basket for an expertly narrated Boston Harbor Lighthouse Tour.
“This is the only Lighthouse Tour in Boston in 2014,” says Friends of Boston Harbor Islands (FBHI), which sponsors the lighthouse cruise in cooperation with UMass Boston Marine Operations.
“Cruise through Presidents Roads past Deer Island and Long Island Head Lights, and Nix’s Mate before heading out to Graves Light and returning past Boston Light on Little Brewster Island and Fort Warren on Georges Island,” FBHI says.
“See up close the restoration work being done on Boston Light in preparation for its 300th anniversary in 2016,” according to the FBHI promo.
Lighthouse cruise dates are on Fridays: July 18, August 8 and September 12, boarding the MV Columbia Point at 10:45 a.m. from UMass Boston Harbor Campus, Fox Point Pavilion on Dorchester Bay.
The expertly narrated lighthouse cruise does not land on any of the islands, and provides open top deck seating, indoor air-conditioned cabin seating, on a wheelchair accessible vessel. Click here for more or download a brochure: 2014 Boston Islands tour
With this beautiful summertime season opening, we’re getting a number of private inquiries from kayakers and boaters about getting access to Graves Light. Reluctantly, we have some bad news – at least for the time being.
While we’d love to invite visitors to Graves Ledge, we’re sorry to say that access is just too unsafe due to the lack of a proper dock, gangway and stairs, and the absence of any sanitary or first aid facilities. We’re in the planning stages of addressing that, but for now our insurance guy says the liability is too high.
Unauthorized visitors are trespassing
So we cannot give permission for the public to land at Graves Ledge or have access to Graves Light until the safety and liability issues are resolved. Those are expensive matters and will take quite a bit of time to fix. As a legal disclaimer, we must state that anyone at Graves Ledge without express authorization from the owners is trespassing.
Since Graves Light remains an operational aid to navigation, the Coast Guard has its own signs on the lighthouse. Those signs warn of criminal penalties.
Now, the public can still enjoy the lighthouse from the safety of one’s kayak, boat or aircraft, and certainly under water where the scuba diving is wonderful. We look forward to the day when we can say “yes” to requests to visit the Ledge and lighthouse, but for now The Graves are off-limits to the public.
The US Coast Guard stopped by Graves Light recently to do a regular maintenance visit.
Even though Graves Light is privately owned, we have a commitment with the Coast Guard to provide regular access to maintain the beacon and fog horn.
Coast Guard AToN (Aids to Navigation) crew members Harley and Dave stopped by in their red Mustang outfits to do the maintenance work on the light and fog apparatuses.
(Coast Guard Dave is not to be confused with Light House Dave, who took the pictures.)
They patiently showed us the operation of the various devices and back-up devices used to make the lighthouse operate reliably for mariners.
The first picture shows Harley climbing 20 feet up from the rocks to the dock, with our granite blockhouse, called the Oil House, in the background.
In another picture, Harley and Dave are 80 feet up in the Watch Room, and Dave is topping off the primary batteries with USCG-distilled water. The light and fog apparatuses are solar powered, and the energy is stored in the batteries.
And 100 feet up in the Lantern Room, Dave replaces burnt-out bulbs in the automatic bulb changer.
Thanks for the tour, Harley and Dave!
We’re glad to serve the Coast Guard any way we can.
The Friends of Boston Harbor Islands put on a fine event to host the new owners of Graves Light Station and help them make their first public debut to the islands community.
The May 18 event, during FBHI’s annual meeting on Long Island in Boston Harbor, featured Dave and Lynn making a presentation about the lighthouse, with Lynn managing the visuals; and Dave’s mother Carol, who had just returned from the Library of Congress in Washington with archival material.
Some of that archival material included news coverage from 100 years ago this summer of the first long-distance swimmers to Graves Light.
Extra seating was required to accommodate the packed house of interested guests.
One of those attending was Dolly Snow Bicknell, daughter of the beloved New England coastal historian and preservationist Edward Rowe Snow.
Dolly presented the Graves Light family with an autographed first edition of her father’s book, The Lighthouses of New England, published in 1945. A new edition, edited by our friend Jeremy D’Entremont, is available on Amazon.
In the accompanying photo here, Dolly is seen presenting the book with the page opened to a photo of Graves Light.
The public reception was thrilling.
Friends of Boston Harbor Islands, celebrating its 35th anniversary, served as our enthusiastic host.
Everyone who attended seemed excited to be there and hear the Graves Light family’s story.
Giles Parker, National Park Superintendent of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, sent out a Tweet promoting the event in advance, and Tweeting a picture of Carol, Dave and Lynn at the May 18 event, featuring their presentation hats and bottle of champagne.
Follow Giles on Twitter: @YourIslandPark.