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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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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Experiencing a snowstorm at Graves Light

Randy and Pat are on the dock, enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm as Winter Storm Lexi hits Boston.

Randy and Pat are on the dock, enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm as Winter Storm Lexi hits Boston.

We didn’t expect to be caught in a real nor’easter as we watched winter storm Lexi.

So we went out to Graves on Thursday to make a maintenance check and enjoy a mild winter’s overnight as the storm approached.

Both the lighthouse and our all-weather Defender-class former Coast Guard boat would be safe havens as the weather came down on us.

Staying inside the granite lighthouse is as safe as staying at home. Graves was staffed 24/7 with no fatalities for 70 years, and we were well stocked for any eventuality.

We wore survival suits and each had pocket VHF radios in addition to our cell phones, and stayed in touch with another captain on shore.

Conditions can catch the unprepared by surprise. We watched NOAA’s Boston B buoy for real-time sea conditions, and checked hourly with NOAA marine forecast and satellite mapping. Lexi moved unusually fast and hit harder than forecast, but it didn’t matter because we were high and dry in our stone fortress, nearly 100 feet above the waves.

One look at the heavy sea Friday morning was all it took to tell us to stay put in the lighthouse. Lexi had arrived. She wasn’t a nor’easter, but as the video shows, she gave us some rough weather. It’s thrilling to be surrounded by howling winds, angry seas, and horizontal snow.

By late Friday afternoon, the seas and wind had diminished enough to let us make a break for home in our boat, although the seven-foot seas gave us a good pounding.

In the picture above, Randy and Pat (a veteran boat captain) are on the dock enjoying a perfectly horizontal snowstorm. As the ice and snow on the lighthouse and ledges shows, the wind was coming from the northwest.

A word of caution to all boaters: Stay well clear of Graves Ledge during rough weather. The unpredictable swells and submerged rocks are extremely dangerous. And although it sounds un-neighborly, anyone on Graves Ledge without explicit permission is trespassing. The exposed ledge is slippery in any weather, with or without ice.

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