Treasured checkerboard made by Graves Light keeper is back at the lighthouse

This original Graves Light checkerboard, made by Keeper Llewelyn Rogers in the 1930s, was gifted to Graves Light by the Rogers family in 2018.

It’s often said the best part of owning Graves Light is meeting interesting people.

Bruce at the UPS Store, delivering the checkerboard to Graves Light.

We just had the good fortune to hear from wonderful Molly and Bruce Nichols in New York state.

Molly’s mother received an antique checkerboard from her aunt Catherine in Wellfleet back in the 1970s.

Inscribed on the back is “Made by L. Rogers, Lighthouse Keeper on Graves Light Boston Harbor 1930s.”

Knowing our interest, Molly and Bruce shipped the relic to us because they “wanted to send it home.”

Well, it didn’t take us long to buy a proper vintage checker set on eBay to go along with the handmade checkerboard so the keepers at Graves can use it again.

Now the set is returned to the Graves Light watch room, waiting for a cozy game by the fire in our potbelly stove.

Thanks, Molly and Bruce!

A note about Keeper Llewellyn Rogers: Born in Maine in 1885, Rogers moved to Provincetown as a boy and worked for the Lighthouse Service for 17 years. He was first stationed at Minot’s Light, then Twin Light, Boston Light, Provincetown Light and finally Graves Light, where he was Graves’ last Keeper under the US Lighthouse Service.

He is standing in the doorway in the 1941 photo below, taken by the prolific Edward Rowe Snow. Keeper Rogers made this checkerboard using scraps of leftover linoleum from the kitchen floor.

The snowy photo shows Bruce readying the checkerboard for shipping to us.

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Crowning achievement

Master Cabinetmaker Will installs his mahogany crown molding in the kitchen (watch deck).

Four original cast iron pieces were lost years ago, but once Uncle Mike gives the mahogany replacements a fresh coat of paint, they blend right in with the rest!

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Best part of fixing up Graves Light

The best part of fixing up The Graves hasn’t been the fabulous sunsets, discovering the dramatic history, or even watching. those cute baby seals.

It’s the wonderful people we’ve met along the way.

Hats off to the fellow whose been with us since the early days and still the most eager to jump on the early morning work boat.

Randy Clark, ladies and gents!

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Bathroom takes shape

Nat puts up the tile in the first-ever Graves Light bathroom.

Lots of enthusiasm here at Graves Light as we ready the new bathroom.

The lighthouse never had indoor plumbing as we know it, so a bathroom here is a first.

Master carpenter Nat is at it again.

He built the wooden bathroom in his Portland, Maine, shop, and installed it a few weeks ago.

The mahogany door, with porthole, is salvaged from an old boat.

Here, Nat is tiling the shower after he and Lynn laid out the marble pattern on the dock outside.

The plumbing and water treatment system are already in.

Soon we’ll have a fully functional sink, toilet, and shower.

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After 112 years, a new bathroom is on the way

Where’s the bathroom?

That’s a common question at Graves Light.

Up until this year, we’ve been using a nifty composting toilet in the shed.

But all that changes as we install a fully functional bathroom with shower, toilet and sink on the third floor of the tower.

The system will give Graves full running water for the first time in 112 years.

The guys have been busy ferrying the heavy pipes and fixtures out and installing them.

Galvin from NorEast Marine is building the manifold connection for a state-of-the-art water treatment system.

We just scored a beautiful antique sink from

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Last part of Nantucket-built kitchen cabinet is installed

Back-to-back great weather days let us get stuff done!

Up from Karl’s Nantucket wood shop, we load the custom-built curved kitchen cabinets aboard Miss Cuddy.

In the gallery below, John and the gang install the “fair weather ladder” as Lynn surveys the cove (really), we all haul the new kitchen cabinets 90 feet up using a new “super bag,” and Randy applies spar varnish to the kitchen benches.

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How we spent St. Patrick’s Day Eve

Pat attached the spliced line to an antique US Lighthouse Service block.

Cap’n Pat splices line to hang a lamp.

Staying at Graves during the nor’easter meant that the guys would spend the eve of St. Patrick’s Day eve having some quiet fun when the storm hit.

We took an antique U.S. Light House Establishment (USLHE) dock lantern, and repurposed it to become a hanging lamp in the kitchen.

The kitchen is on the watch deck just below the operational U.S. Coast Guard navigational beacon.

Cap’n Pat spliced an old length of line through an old USLHE pulley block.

Then we hung the lantern from the apex of the arch formed by the recovered First Order Fresnel Lens, just beneath the navigational beacon.

Then we hung the lantern beneath the actual navigation lamp.

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Inside Graves Light during a nor’easter

Safest place in the harbor, 100 feet up.

We finally got to spend stay in the lighthouse during a winter nor’easter.

The storm, Stella, was pretty tame, as it turned out, but with some good preparation and common sense we had a fine time.

Graves at night during Winter Storm Stella.

Cap’n Pat of the Keep-ah joined us just before the storm, when the seas were still calm.

We were well-equipped. Plenty of bacon and beans. Lots of spirits to drink. Wood and coal for the potbelly stove. An electric generator plus solar panels and good communications to shore.

Plus lots of work to do.

For us, it was a normal winter trip. Basic maintenance, wood finishing work, attachment of bronze window hardware, and stuff. It was good to be in the lighthouse during a solid rain so that we could find where the windows leaked, and seal them up.

Earlier, Keeper Dave installed an anemometer on the chimney so we could get real-time wind speed.

We didn’t realize so many people were following us on Facebook, and didn’t think to take a lot of pictures or send messages. Here are some of our Facebook postings during the storm:

  • March 14, 2017. 4:28 pm: It’s a dangerous place to go to but it’s a very safe place to be.
  • March 14, 10:42 pm: The waning hours of the nor’easter Stella. Dead low tide opened a window to crawl across the ledge with safety lines and dry suits to witness the heavy surf. The wind and rain have calmed, but it’s still an amazing, wild and exciting place.
  • March 15, 6:42 pm: Yesterday we didn’t do anything productive. Just watched the storm all day and then went exploring on the ledge at dusk (and low tide) in our dry suits. We brought a few lengths of line in case somebody slipped. No one did!
  • Cap’n Pat catches up on his history of New England shipwrecks as the bacon and beans bubble on the potbelly stove.

    Today we slept late because the sleeping bags are so warm! Did a bunch of chores today – put the paneled ceiling back up after running some plumbing and electrical lines, put on some cabinet knobs, ran a cold water line up the six stories. (See the exciting pictures.) Now I’m installing an improved method of securing the storm shutters. The ribs are going on the stove in an hour!

  • March 15, evening: Cap’n Pat of the Keep-ah took care of all the food. Tonight it’s ribs and baked beans on the wood-fueled potbelly stove. We’re mostly burning wood as we haven’t figured out the secret to getting the coal fire hot enough.
  • For those of you kind enough to worry about us, we’ve got a propane heater for the kitchen. It’s well ventilated because the room was designed to allow outside air in thru snorkel vents.
  • Pat’s streaming some great Pandora feeds – we found one of the old Nova Scotia sea shanties.
  • What REAL lighthouse work is like: Cap’n Pat splices an old length to a genuine US Lighthouse Establishment (USLHE) pulley block, so we can hang the oil lamp in the kitchen. The lantern is repurposed from a USLHE dock lantern.
  • Pat did a fine job, of course. The lantern fits right in beneath the First Order Fresnel Lens that forms our kitchen ceiling, right below the operating Coast Guard navigation lamp.
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On the lighthouse roof

Keeper Dave on the roof of Graves Light, installing an anemometer on the new chimney to catch wind speeds.

Thwarted by ill weather over the weekend, the dauntless crew of Lynn, Randy, John and Dave today installed the remaining 12 feet of stovepipe and added an anemometer to measure wind speed.

The top of the bronze chimney is salvaged from an old yacht. The rest of it, we built.

A wonderful view of the frosty harbor from the very top!


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Prepping for improved access to Graves Light

Carlos helps prepare for an improved access spot to treacherous Graves Ledge.

Inputting coordinates for a 3-D image of the ledge.

A stunning February morning finds CLE Engineers surveying Graves Ledge in preparation for a new landing area and improved access to the treacherous island.

Mike recorded over 300 points so Carlos can generate a 3D topographic map.

The map will be the basis for designing and permitting compliant structures which will make life a lot easier out here.

Critical aspects: Anything we build must be in harmony with the natural and historic aesthetic of the property.

It also must be strongly built to withstand the harshest North Atlantic weather.

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