Scrapped

Miss Cuddy I, her hull damaged beyond repair, is sent to the scrap yard in Everett.

Not everything at Graves Light is happy and fun. Our trusty Miss Cuddy I went to the scrap yard. The former Coast Guard Defender-class boat ferried us all back and forth from the lighthouse until bad seas dragged her on her moorings to a terrible beating on Graves Ledge.

We removed Miss Cuddy‘s pilot house and turned her into a service barge. She spent all of 2019 doing the drudge work for the Oil House and footbridge.

This week we took her to a scrap yard in Everett. We gave the pilot house to a local tugboat operator and one of the engines to our roofer, and salvaged a bunch of small parts for her replacement, Miss Cuddy II. We had to strip the two big orange flotation collars off her hull.

At the scrap yard, she weighed in at 5,200 pounds of aluminum hull and other metal parts, including the old Coast Guard gun mounts.

It was a sad sight indeed to see her crunched up and tossed onto the scrap heap like an old toy. Afterward we saw Toy Story 4.

Miss Cuddy I sure did give us years of great service. Using her hull as a barge worked out great for ferrying the stone, copper, and steel parts for the reconstructed Oil House and footbridge.

“Twilight and evening bell,      
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place      
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face      
When I have crost the bar.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Share Button

2-year Oil House & Footbridge work is done

Billy and Chris install the last railing section, November 4, 2019.

We’re very excited to share the news that our two-year restoration and reconstruction of the historical Oil House and footbridge are now complete.

The original Graves footbridge, a steel structure that spanned the channel in Graves Ledge to link the lighthouse to the granite Oil House more than 100 feet away, was partially destroyed in the Great Blizzard of ’78 and demolished by the “No Name” storm of 1991.

The original wooden roof of the Oil House became unsalvageable after years of heavy storms and neglect.

Even though we used modern engineering and materials, we strived to retain the character and spirit of the original designs. We built a new timberframe roof with a reinforced metal frame, sheathed in copper, and repurposed the original timbers that could be salvaged. We even added a belt course of solid granite.

Now, after 41 years, the Oil House is reconnected to the tower. It will serve as a guest cottage.

Last step this season was to install the replica railings before severe weather sets in, built by Nelson Metal Fabrication of Portland, Maine, and installed by Atlantic Restoration of Boston along with an all-star volunteer crew.

Share Button

End-of-season push

Our volunteer team takes a break at the new Oil House Fire Pit as they wind up the 2019 season by adding almost half of the new footbridge railings.

A spate of good weather and a pile of friends helped push our unfinished summer project closer to the finish line.

Nine of us hauled out prefabbed railings and assembled almost half of them in a heroic end-of-season push. 

Now, as the Coast Guard keepers did before us, we can take a footbridge from Graves Light to the Oil House and back, instead of being at the mercy of the rocks and tides.

The summer-long restoration of the historic footbridge is close to complete thanks to Mark, Anna, Mike, Arron, Rich, Matt, Keeghan and Winston.

Looking good, guys! Tip o’ the cap you!

Share Button

How much of a pounding can it take from the sea?

We get a lot of questions about how much of a pounding this or that modification or reconstruction will take from the sea.

A lot of engineers and others helped us think things through before we drew up the plans and went to work.

This diagram shows the load calculations on the Oil House, with its new second story.

We built a new timberframe roof to replace the old, and added stainless steel reinforcements which the original roof didn’t have.

The precast marine concrete walls of the second floor are heavily reinforced and interlock with one another. They are bolted six feet into the ledge below.

Nearby pilings for the footbridge are made from 6-inch reinforced stainless steel pipe, welded to the original US Army Corps of Engineers steel pilings that were drilled six feet into the ledge. The original ones worked perfectly for decades until a big storm snapped them off like twigs.

The windows will be protected from hurricanes by anti-ballistic shutters.

That’s the plan, of course. The sea will decide for herself what works.

Share Button

Granite stonework is done

This is the big year for the Oil House restoration. We needed a decorative element to transition from the old stone blocks to the modern 2nd story.

Swenson Granite Works, a family business since 1883, cut a beautiful belt course of solid stone around the top of the original first story, to form a granite base of the new second level.

The fellows from Atlantic Restoration teamed up with King Pine Restorations to form a super-team to tackle the impossible.

Sixteen stones, each weighing 700 pounds, were hauled out in the Miss Cuddy I. She’s former Coast Guard Defender vessel that had been the shuttle to Graves Light until rough waters last year dragged her mooring and wrecked her on the ledge. Her USCG-designed hull came out intact, so we pulled off the cabin and turned her into a barge.

After hauling each block to Graves Ledge on the Miss Cuddy I, we used an old-school derrick to hoist the granite 25 feet up the ledge, and then pinned the blocks into place.

This was no small job: these guys built the Zakim Bridge and it was rough going for 3 weeks.

A tip of the cap, Mike, Jason, Chris and Rob!

Share Button

Finishing up the second story of the Oil House at Graves

It’s been a very busy summer – perhaps the busiest yet, and the crew is finishing up several big projects which will have a lasting impact on the six-year (so far!) restoration of Graves Light Station.

Dorian and Jason of Seacoast Finishers completed the astonishing solid copper reproduction of the Oil House roof and cupola today.

A stoneworker is seen cutting a 700-pound block of granite where the new second story meets the original stone first level.

We obtained the original blueprints from the Coast Guard to reconstruct the copper roof and cupola. The craftsmen at Seacoast got the details right, adding a stainless steel frame inside to hold back the big waves.

We built the stainless steel frame over the reconstructed wooden timber frame – an exact copy, built in Maine, of the original – and repurposed many of the original 1905 timbers for the flooring and other interior features of the second level.

The second floor walls are of marine concrete, cast in Philadelphia. We installed the walls and roof by helicopter last winter.

We hauled in every section of copper and steel, piece by piece, by dinghy and over the rocks. Thank you, gents – it looks amazing!

Share Button

New copper cupola replaces original that was lost

Happy National Lighthouse Day!

And a very busy day here at Graves as Dorri from Seacoast Finishers builds a magnificent copper cupola for the Oil House.

It’s a replacement for the original cupola lost over 50 years ago.

Share Button

Before and after: 2013-2019

Well, it seems you’re never really “done” fixing up a lighthouse, but we’re well enough along where we thought it fun to share some Before and After photos.

Those of you who have followed us from the start might recall how big a task we had in front of us.

For perspective, the interior of Graves Light is about 13 feet in diameter.

The “Before” shots were taken in the autumn of 2013, right after we purchased Graves Light from the Coast Guard. The “After” shots are how things look today.

Share Button

2nd story of Oil House uses original reclaimed timbers

It’s not just metalworking out here. The boys from Driftwood Construction in Nantucket brought every tool in the shop and in just three days framed out the new second floor of the Oil House.

In February with assistance of a helicopter, we added the new second story, made in Philadelphia of cast marine concrete. The new timberframe roof was made last year in Maine.

For the second story floor, the Driftwood Construction crew reused the old 12 x 12 timbers from the ruined original Oil House roof. They added some beautiful reclaimed wood from our friends at Longleaf Lumber.

Thanks Karl, Sonny, Peter, and Jack!

Share Button

Footbridge under reconstruction

A wet and cold spring may appear to have slowed us down in these pictures, but in fact Graves Light Station has been gearing up for its biggest summer since 1905.

We are rebuilding the footbridge that joined the Oil House to the Lighthouse. The last footbridge, designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, was brought down in the massive “No Name” storm of 1991.

The new 130′ bridge is being built, top to bottom, of stainless steel. Like Graves Light and the “unsinkable” Miss Cuddy I, we reclaimed the stainless steel pilings from Uncle Sam. The bridge got permitted in April.

The lads at Nelson Metal Fabrication are shown here cutting and welding the parts of the bridge. Each piece is being hauled out on Miss Cuddy I, the 25-foot Defender-class former Coast Guard fast boat that took a severe beating (but didn’t sink) last year. We’re converting her into a construction barge to finish the Graves Light restoration and reconstruction.

Check out Nelson Metal’s website for examples of its previous work at Graves – including the bronze interior railings in the lamp room, and the re-purposing of bronze porthole cutouts as outdoor benches on the watch deck.

Share Button