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.”
“The Lighthouse” – a wonderfully crafted little movie – is in theaters now.
Starring Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson, it’s the story of two keepers slowly going mad in an offshore Maine lighthouse in the 1890s. That time roughly coincides with the initial planning of the construction of Graves Light.
Anyway, the film’s art department required authentic period props. Director Robert Eggers, a New England native, is a stickler for absolute historical detail.
So the production company contacted us about two years ago. We answered the call and are proud to have contributed five crates of authentic United States Lighthouse Service as artifacts to use as props in the movie.
It’s a seriously awesome film, but definitely not for kids or the faint of heart. “The Lighthouse” is in the horror/suspense genre. It’s unconventional. And brilliant.
The pictures below show the genuine US Lighthouse Service artifacts that we loaned the producers either to use in the actual scenes, or to use in making copies that would get damaged or destroyed in the filming.
Willem Defoe tosses one of them, an oil can, at Robert Pattinson in the tight scene after Pattinson struggled up the spiral staircase with a large oil can. In another scene, Pattinson drinks out of the brass oil pitcher.
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.
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.
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.
Since then, she’s hauled about 19 tons of steel, stone, and timber to supply us with materials for summer projects.
These five pictures show the process.
Using a big two ton-crane at the Winthrop Town Pier, Harbormaster Larry and his crew gently lower the supplies into her hold. We secure the load and begin the hour long haul to Graves, where we fasten Miss Cuddy tight to the rocks at high tide and pull the supplies using a hoist and cable trolley system designed by Nelson Metals in Maine with Nelson Wire Rope near Philadelphia.
Why such a crazy scheme? Well, due to the topography of Graves Ledge, a traditional crane and barge rig can’t get close enough to set the pilings for the new footbridge, or set the granite blocks for the Oil House.
So we devised a low-impact, greener (much!) method of transport.
At the end of the season, we’ll haul away the scaffolding, tidy up the worksite, and (sniff!) cut up Miss Cuddy for scrap.
Good ol’ Miss Cuddy I!
(Yes, we now have Miss Cuddy II, another Defender-class boat.)
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.
Graves Light is a historic landmark. At the outermost entrance to Boston Harbor and the tallest lighthouse in the Boston area, Graves Light is privately owned but continues to serve as a navigation aid run by the US Coast Guard.
The new owners welcome the adventurous public to enjoy the sights of Graves Light, but warn that there are no electrical, water, sanitary, first aid, or other facilities of any kind available to the public at the lighthouse or on Graves Ledge.
Graves Ledge is dangerous. Submerged rocks present a navigation hazard. We insist that visitors enjoy the ledge and lighthouse from the safety of their boat or kayak.
Meanwhile, follow us through this website, Facebook, and on Twitter @GravesLight.