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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Making progress inside

gl-before-after-level-2Time to catch our breath and take a step back from when we started.

Two years ago, we vowed to make the old fog-signal plant on Level 2 a living quarters. Like the rest of the lighthouse, Level 2 was in pretty rough shape.

Thanks to some great friends and wonderful contractors, we’ve almost finished the job. It involved a whole lot of paint-scraping, new priming and painting, safe removal of hazardous material, restoration of the old oak flooring, replacement of the block-glass windows with faithful reproductions of the original oak casement windows, and even construction of a curved oak desk. We now have electricity, too!

Instead of peeling paint, wrecked floor and ceiling, and the horrible block-glass windows that choked out the fresh sea air, the old fog-signal plant is now a master bedroom.

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Electricity inside for first time in 40 years

gl-bunks-lit

The twin double-decker mahogany bunk beds have their own lighting now. We used brass marine lamps salvaged from an old ship.

For the first time in 40 years, the Graves Light living quarters have electricity again.

The staircases on all levels of Graves Light now shine with the new electrical system.

The staircases on all levels of Graves Light now shine with the new electrical system.

It was big day “on station” as Jeff and Jacob from Nor’East Marine powered up the lights.

Not only do we have LED lighting on every floor and stairwell, but we’ll have regular house current for tools and toasters.

For nerds only: They’ve installed a dozen 2-volt marine batteries and we’re running all systems on 24 volts DC. Right now, the batteries are topped up with a generator.

The plan – if we can make it work – is to do some solar and wind next season.

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Murphy bed goes up (and down)

gl-murphy-bed-1Now Graves has what every lighthouse needs: A space-saving Murphy bed that folds up to the wall.

Nat Towl of NMT Woodworking custom-built one of quartersawn oak over the summer.

The bed arrived at about the same time electricity lit up the interior of Graves for the first time in 40 years.

Made to fit the curvature of the wall, the bed comes complete with a red-and-black cover storm warning flag.

Nat’s seen here with his pal Mike, installing the bed, which is perfectly balanced and, when closed, features an antique nautical chart of Massachusetts Bay.

Nat built Graves Light’s curved kitchen bench last spring.

 

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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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At the top: CCI is back to seal the roof from the weather

Mike from CCI Construction waves as he starts work sealing the roof of Graves Light.

Mike from CCI Construction waves as he starts work sealing the roof of Graves Light.

Back for their third season: Mike Sylvester and his team from CCI Construction are back at Graves Light again to seal it from the seas and weather.

You might remember Mike from two years ago, as he was suspended 80 feet down over the rocks to repair the outside stonework.

Now he’s 113 feet up to seal the roof.

One of their tasks is to caulk and paint the conical roof above the lantern room. Here’s a shot of Mike, roped in, of course, waving as he prepares to work. The lantern room has been a source of leaks, but the guys at CCI are sealing it all up for us.

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Kitchen bench installation, Graves Light-style

We loaded the heavy bench on the Miss Cuddy in East Boston.

We loaded the heavy bench on the Miss Cuddy in East Boston.

We had quite an adventure installing the custom-built curved mahogany kitchen benches in the Watch Room. The pictures tell the story.

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Original drawings aid in door restoration

These custom-built stainless steel replacement hinges should last another hundred years.

These custom-built stainless steel replacement hinges should last another hundred years.

The leaky bronze doors on the Watch Deck needed new hinges to create a perfect seal against the weather.

We just couldn’t buy them in a store, or even find antique originals.

So we went back to the drawing board and used the original architectural drawings of Graves Light from 1903.

Those drawings included sketches and dimensions of the original hinges.

John Nelson of Nelson Metal Fabrication has fixed the leaky doors. John did a lot of great work for us already, and now it was time for more.

Using the original designs as a guide, John machined new stainless hinges to perfectly match the damaged old ones. Now the doors shut tight! The hinges should last until the 22nd century, at least.

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Mahogany kitchen benches go in this week

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Meanwhile, Nat and the lads at NMT Woodworking in South Portland, Maine, have been busy.

Living space at Graves Light is at a premium – none mores than the kitchen on Level 6. That’s the old Watch Room, a circular room of bronze and steel that sits on top of the granite tower and just below the glass Lamp Room.

The NMT crew created this custom mahogany bench seat to fit against the curved wall.

They built it for serious chowder eating. The marine-grade mahogany is able to withstand extreme temperatures and salt air.

You can see how the curvature matches that of the bronze kitchen stove that our man Wyatt designed over the winter.

Nat will be installing the bench system this week, weather permitting, as always. So stay tuned.

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Engineer who removed original Fresnel lens returns to Graves

Engineer Ron Fiore explains to Dave how he devised the system to remove the original Fresnel Lens from Graves.

On the deck of Graves Light for the first time since 1975, engineer Ron Fiore explains to Dave how he devised the system to remove the original Fresnel Lens from Graves.

Well, the best part of this whole lighthouse experience continues to be all the great people we meet.

Today we met Ron Fiore, the structural engineer who devised the method of removing the gigantic First Order Fresnel lens back in 1975.

That lens blasted out a 3.2 million candlepower beam for 70 years straight. The lamp required a full-time crew to operate and maintain, so the Coast Guard had it taken out and replaced with an automated electric beacon.

Ron told us all the details about how he built a custom crane to gently lower the priceless lens – it weighed 2 tons and measured 12 feet tall and 9 feet across – down one story into the watch room.

Then he and the crew removed part of a wall to slide the lens past the sloping tower and drop it 60 feet to the dock, where a Coast Guard boat plucked it onto the deck. 

Legendary New England maritime history author Edward Rowe Snow made an appearance, instructing the crew to wave (as he was filming the feat) but the workers were too busy – and scared – to respond.

The next year Ron and his wife visited the lens again, this time at the Smithsonian!

The Fresnel lens was made in France by Barbier, Benard & Turenne in 1904, and was installed in 1905. After the 1975 removal, the Coast Guard installed an automated electric beacon, powered from land by an underwater cable. That cable broke, so in 2001 the Coast Guard installed the present solar-powered lamp, the Hydrosphere Vega VRB-25, made in the U.K.

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