All toasty with our potbelly stove, 4 miles out to sea

Dave sweeps up by the first fire in Graves Light's new potbelly stove.

Dave sweeps up by the first fire in Graves Light’s new potbelly stove.

Mary lights the potbelly stove for the first time.

Mary lights the potbelly stove for the first time.

November 2016 began with a warm wood fire from our new potbelly stove.

This is the first time Graves Light has been heated in about 40 years.

It’s pretty nice to sit up here as the weather cools down and we don’t have to freeze On Station.

Thanks to the creative people at Nelson Metal Fabrication in South Portland, Maine, and our trusty volunteers, we now have a fully functional potbelly stove to keep us warm.

We found an antique smokestack salvaged from an old yacht.

The folks at Nelson turned the smokestack into a 12 foot-tall chimney, hauled it down from Maine, and installed it at Graves Light.

Here’s how they did it

They connected the stove on the third deck with the original chimney shaft in the wall, and then ran the newly fabricated section of pipe and yacht smokestack through the original 1905 chimney stack channel, out the granite watch deck, and up and out the lamp deck.

The gallery below tells the story in pictures: from Nelsons’ shop in Maine, to the fitting together of the new chimney with the old smokestack, to Jim and John installing the stack in the old chimney assembly at the lighthouse.

Then a photo shows how the old yacht smokestack sits in place, out of the lamp deck, like the 1905 original.

And finally  –  the glorious potbelly stove all lit up, filling the lighthouse with a welcoming warm glow from its iron hearth.  Plus cleanup time.

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GL moonrise 01 2016.08.18
From Winthrop, Boston Herald photographer Mark Garfinkel captured this incredible moonrise over Graves.

A few days earlier, on the night of August 12-13, Mark caught the specactular lightning storm around the lighthouse.

We really enjoy the pictures that friends, fans, and passers-by send along to us from Winthrop, Hull, Nahant, by boat, or wherever. They help chronicle the history of Graves Light and Boston Harbor.

Take a look at Mark’s work on his blog,, and on Twitter @PictureBoston.

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Humbled against the electrical storm

Graves lightning credit Mark GNew England weather can be very humbling, even to a lighthouse.

We camped the night of August 12-13 at Graves, in the middle of a spectacular electrical storm that swept New England.

From our position at the top of the lighthouse, we had the perfect place to watch the lightning near closer and closer to Boston, and then sweep across from Plymouth to Salem as the bolts of electricity struck the earth closer and closer to us.

At that point, given that we were at the highest point, more than 100 feet above the sea, and happened to be in a bronze enclosure that conducts electricity, we thought it better to descend to the stone tower. And we didn’t have a proper camera to catch the lightning show anyway.

At the same time, from Winthrop, Boston Herald photographer Mark Garfinkel rolled out of bed and set up his tripod to catch the lightning action over Graves. Above is his picture, a masterful piece of photography that captured the Graves beacon flashing as the lightning struck.

What a magnificent show of the power and majesty of nature.

See Mark’s blog,, and follow him on Twitter @PictureBoston.

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Peregrine falcons visit Graves Light

A peregrine falcon perches on the davit atop Graves Light late in the afternoon of National Lighthouse Day.

A peregrine falcon perches on the davit atop Graves Light late in the afternoon of National Lighthouse Day.

A close-up shot of the falcon, as seen from the kitchen (watch deck), between the outer railings.

A close-up shot of the falcon, as seen from the kitchen (watch deck), between the outer railings.

A pair of peregrine falcons visited Graves Light on National Lighthouse Day, treating us to some spectacular aerobatics.

The falcons perched on the bronze davit protruding from the floor of the lamp deck by the flag, and spiraled around the lighthouse in a series of amazing high-speed dives.

They made several swoops toward delicious-looking cormorants and seagulls, circling the oil house before coming back to rest on the topmost davit.

By some persistence and a lot of luck, we managed to snap a close-up picture of one of the birds flying past the outer deck of the watch room, and zoomed in so that you can see.

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Seal pup’s mama takes good care of baby on Graves Ledge

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Graves rises out of the fog

GL Graves fog Bill ONeilBill O’Neil, our reliable neighbor from Hull, just sent us this gem of Graves Light and Fog Station enveloped in a thick fog.

The rigging basket to the right belongs to CCI Construction.

This week, CCI is completing the most exciting painting project – the very top spire of the tower. Fearless!

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Baby harbor seal gets a lesson – and reward

It must be spring out at Graves ’cause we spotted a baby seal on the rocks.

The little critter was all alone and struggling to move around, but when the tide came in after a few minutes, baby “Rocky” slipped into the water and swam away. We hoped Rocky was off to find Mama.

Turns out that’s exactly what happened. Mama set the good example and guided her little pup back to the rock. Watch the video to see the pup’s well-earned treat at the end!

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Experiencing a snowstorm at Graves Light

Randy and Pat are on the dock, enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm as Winter Storm Lexi hits Boston.

Randy and Pat are on the dock, enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm as Winter Storm Lexi hits Boston.

We didn’t expect to be caught in a real nor’easter as we watched winter storm Lexi.

So we went out to Graves on Thursday to make a maintenance check and enjoy a mild winter’s overnight as the storm approached.

Both the lighthouse and our all-weather Defender-class former Coast Guard boat would be safe havens as the weather came down on us.

Staying inside the granite lighthouse is as safe as staying at home. Graves was staffed 24/7 with no fatalities for 70 years, and we were well stocked for any eventuality.

We wore survival suits and each had pocket VHF radios in addition to our cell phones, and stayed in touch with another captain on shore.

Conditions can catch the unprepared by surprise. We watched NOAA’s Boston B buoy for real-time sea conditions, and checked hourly with NOAA marine forecast and satellite mapping. Lexi moved unusually fast and hit harder than forecast, but it didn’t matter because we were high and dry in our stone fortress, nearly 100 feet above the waves.

One look at the heavy sea Friday morning was all it took to tell us to stay put in the lighthouse. Lexi had arrived. She wasn’t a nor’easter, but as the video shows, she gave us some rough weather. It’s thrilling to be surrounded by howling winds, angry seas, and horizontal snow.

By late Friday afternoon, the seas and wind had diminished enough to let us make a break for home in our boat, although the seven-foot seas gave us a good pounding.

In the picture above, Randy and Pat (a veteran boat captain) are on the dock enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm. As the ice and snow on the lighthouse and ledges shows, the wind was coming from the northwest.

A word of caution to all boaters: Stay well clear of Graves Ledge during rough weather. The unpredictable swells and submerged rocks are extremely dangerous. And although it sounds un-neighborly, anyone on Graves Ledge without explicit permission is trespassing. The exposed ledge is slippery in any weather, with or without ice.

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Sea spray hits 50-foot mark as autumn sets in

50-foot markOur pal Bill from Hull snapped this shot today from his telescope showing sea spray at the 50 foot mark on the tower.

The sea conditions at the outer harbor today were – and still are! – nasty, with 10 foot seas and high winds.

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A baby seal plays under the boat

Gl seal 2015.06.06
A baby seal plays under the boat that’s tied to the Graves Light pier.

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