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.
We had quite an adventure installing the custom-built curved mahogany kitchen benches in the Watch Room. The pictures tell the story.
The realities of the sea and weather remind us that not everything’s as fun as it seems at the mouth of Boston Harbor.
A salvage team just raised the wreck of Emily Anne, the trusty tugboat that helped us with restoration work in 2014. The tug sank just north of Graves Light in February, 2016. A quick-thinking pilot boat captain saved Emily Anne‘s crew as she sank, upside-down, in 50 feet of water.
Because the hulk was so close to the North Channel, the Coast Guard recommended that Emily Anne be raised so it wouldn’t be a threat to navigation. And so she was, in early June, with a crane pulling her to the surface and placing her on a barge.
From there, the barge took Emily Anne to a graving yard in Chelsea, where she’ll be broken up and sold for scrap.
These pictures tell the story of the salvage operation, with a couple shots from happier days when she helped with the Graves Light restoration in 2014.
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.
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.
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.
Power up! The next big project is running the wires for lights and outlets.
Graves Light has no electric power of its own, except for the solar-powered lamp to guide ships to Boston.
Since it’s an unforgiving environment atop a stone ledge four miles out to sea, every connector, fixture and device must be marine-rated.
Here we have Art Graves (yes – that’s his real name) drilling into the cast iron ceiling to mount the antique ship’s lamps we restored over the winter.
Soon we’ll install bronze lamps salvaged from old ships as interior lighting at Graves.
We cleaned up and reserved the lamps over the winter, so they’re ready to go.
Tough drilling overhead!
It must be spring out at Graves ’cause we spotted a baby seal on the rocks.
The little critter was all alone and struggling to move around, but when the tide came in after a few minutes, baby “Rocky” slipped into the water and swam away. We hoped Rocky was off to find Mama.
Turns out that’s exactly what happened. Mama set the good example and guided her little pup back to the rock. Watch the video to see the pup’s well-earned treat at the end!