Oil House gets a new second-story mahogany deck

Big week over at the Oil House brings master carpenter Karl and his crew back for a 7th straight season. 

While Peter pulled up the mahogany decking, Karl and Sunny, with assists from Rowan, built this magnificent upper deck, complete with a stanchion railing salvaged from a World War II minesweeper.

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Traditional maritime rope completes the oil house interior railing

We had the good fortune to bring in the talents of master rigger José Hernandez Juviel and his wife Becky to weave and knot a traditional rope railing for the oil house. 

Few are skilled in his maritime trade, and it was a privilege for him to design and build it out of sturdy hemp, with a pine tar finish. So many able hands have touched Graves Light to make it shine. A hearty “Three Bells” to José and Becky!

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Not wrecked yet

Graves Light’s Miss Cuddy II is bashed against Graves Ledge, being rescued by a line from Cap’n Jim and Master Diver Luigi aboard Boston Scuba’s Keep-ah.

Dramatic sea rescue! Proof that no matter how well you know Graves Ledge, the area is always treacherous.

Saturday’s calm seas beckoned us to the lighthouse for a maintenance check. Within an hour, a bit of wind sprang up and pulled Miss Cuddy II off her mooring to be thrown mercilessly onto the ledge, roiling in the surf and battering her hull.

These former Coast Guard Defender-class boats are built to take a wicked beating. Their work on Graves Light put them through the toughest tests..

We lost Miss Cuddy I in 2018 due to powerful seas that dragged her mooring and dashed her hull on the ledge. So we turned her into a barge to finish reconstruction work on Graves, and sadly scrapped her last year.

So on Saturday, March 28, 2018, the seas broke Miss Cuddy II from her mooring and slammed her viciously into the basalt ledge.

But just as quickly as bad luck strikes, good luck came our way. The mighty men of Boston Scuba, passing by after work on their trusty dive boat Keep-ah, noticed our plight. Using their expert seamanship they threw us a line and towed us off the rocks to the safety of deeper water.

The culprit: The new mooring had been chewed down to a thread below water, a grim reminder of the relentless power of the North Atlantic.

We raise a glass to our rescuers Cap’t Jim and Master Diver Luigi! Thank you for saving Miss Cuddy II!

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Winter work in the shop gets us closer to spring

Winter is a great time for projects back in the shop. Finishing off the custom bridge railings and connecting them to the Oil House was this weekend’s focus.

The sections will be hot-dip galvanized and ought to be ready in a few weeks. Then we can prefab the porch, take down the hurricane panels and be ready for spring.

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Masterpiece

This original William R. Davis oil painting is now in the Graves Light library.

Just in time for Christmas, famed marine and landscape artist William R Davis delivered his magnificent painting of Graves Light Station as it looked in the early days.

Bill loves to paint in a traditional 19th century style, and it shows, with lots of little details set in an illuminated sunrise.

“He is a self-taught artist whose oil paintings typically capture the serene light of sunrise or sunset on the water,” the Guild of Boston Artists says.

“He employs many of the techniques traditionally used by American luminist painters to realize his personal vision, showing a marked preference for 19th century subjects.”

We motored out this weekend and gave it a place of honor in the 5th floor library. 

Thank you, Bill, for painting a Graves Light masterpiece!

Comfortably on the curved wall between the cabinet and a functioning section of a US Coast Guard navigational aid, William R. Davis’ painting of Graves Light is now part of the lighthouse.
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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
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A little bit of Graves is in ‘The Lighthouse’ movie

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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