Love Those Lighthouses!
~Friday, September 3, 2021~
With it being our third day of being in Maine, it’s time we got out and did some exploring. We decided to head over to Lincoln County to the small town of Bristol, about an hour’s drive from Rockport. There, we explored one of our favorite lighthouses of the trip, the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. It appears this may be Maine’s favorite as well, as it is the most photographed lighthouse
in Maine and it is on their state quarter. I think what made it so special for us was its location, surrounded by granite and pegmatite rock, some that you could actually climb on with caution (there were numerous danger signs to watch for unpredictable waves and reminders that lives have been lost). What else made it special was the docent who enthusiastically explained all the history about the lighthouse while we were waiting our turn to climb the narrow, spiral staircase to the top. All of the previous lighthouses we’ve visited in the past have been self-guided, so it was extra special having someone, who is passionate about the subject, personally deliver the story.
We learned that with all of Michigan’s Great Lakes, their number of lighthouses far surpasses anyone else's with 129. Even though Maine is known as the “lighthouse state”, it has 65 with 57 currently active. The Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was first commissioned in 1827, then rebuilt in 1835 due to poor construction of the first. And it is tiny at 39 feet tall, but gets a little help in its prominence, by standing about 50 feet above the ocean. Until 1863, the fuel used to light the Fresnel lens was sperm whale oil. Over time, fuels like kerosene or lard later replaced whale oil due to the decrease of the whale population. Today, the lighthouse still operates but with the use of a very small LED bulb that automatically illuminates every night and can shine up to 14 miles. If one bulb burns out, there is a mechanism that switches to a new bulb so that a continual beacon of light assists those night time mariners without fail.
Evidently, the lighthouse had just been repainted thanks to the generous donations by visitors and is maintained by the “Friends of Pemaquid Lighthouse”. So, it looked in tiptop shape. When it was finally our turn to enter, we made our way up the spiral staircase to the top. Even climbing only 39 feet, it gave incredible views of the beautiful ocean and surrounding islands. One prominent feature is Monhegan Island with a year-round population of about 75. It too has a working lighthouse. It was amazing to see the original Fresnel lens, installed in 1856. From the top, we could also see what must have been 50 lobster trap buoys. We also thought it was pretty cool to see the large number of lobster trap buoys not far from shore. The different colors and shapes identify them as belonging to individual lobstermen. Let’s just hope everyone is honest about keeping to their own catch.😉🦞
When we made it back down the steep
staircase (you have to climb down facing the stairs or you’d fall), we then entered the Fisherman’s Museum in the lightkeeper’s house. We’d never seen so many old relics from shipping vessels of the past….old buoys, crab/lobster cages, hooks, you name it, they had it. Next to the lighthouse was the original fog signal bell tower which was established in 1899 to house the counterweights so that the bell would be struck at regular intervals automatically. It was kind of called the Stevens striking machine that needed winding to function, kind of like a cuckoo clock. Over the lifespan of Pemaquid, there were 14 lighthouse keepers (also given the nickname “wickies” since they tended the lamp’s wicks), with the shortest stint being 3 years and the longest, 23 years. Definitely add it to your list.
When we got back to the campsite, Jeff prepared a fabulous garlic pasta dinner while we Facetimed our peeps...my sister, bro-in-law and my mother. Being on the road and having this technology has been a God-send, though tonight’s reception could have been better. Still, it was great to catch up.