The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military that is not being paid during the government shut down. They save lives and help those at peril on the high seas. Now their lives are in peril.
New England may have some of the shortest lighthouses but its long on history.
Fort Constitution where Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is located recalls the days of Paul Revere. Reminders of New England’s Whaling History are prevalent at Nantucket, the site of the oldest lighthouse. Memories of WWII are present at a shipbuilding museum near Portland Breakwater Lighthouse. Surfside Life Saving Station now a hostel beckon old and youth alike.
I didn’t know New Hampshire had the shortest ocean coastline of any coastal state in the United States before touring the state in search of lighthouses. We drove through Fort Constitution to view the lighthouse built in 1871. I should have been excited instead of disappointed. I thought there would be more lighthouses in New Hampshire on the tour. After I looked at the New Hampshire map and saw the 13 mile coastline, I was more delighted with the lighthouse stop at Portland Harbor.
Portland Harbor, Maine is the one of largest and busiest ports on the East Coast of the United States. Its fierce waters and treacherous rocks are guarded by a host of lighthouses. During a lighthouse tour, we stopped by Two Lights Road to view two of the lighthouses. Cape Elizabeth and West lighthouses were built in the same location to distinguish them from Portland Head Lighthouse. I drew Cape Elizabeth because the western lighthouse was partially hidden from the street. Both lighthouses were completed in 1832.
The government refused to build a lighthouse at Spring Ledge in 1832 even though a ship had burned in clear sight of local citizens. They had watched in horror as the lime coaster Nancy burned. The Lighthouse Board finally proposed a lighthouse in 1891 at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse when Steamship captains warned of a pending disaster. It helped that there was an economic benefit. The Steamship captains transported over 500,000 passengers who vacationed in Portland. Yet despite the backing of the community and the Lighthouse Board it took Congress until 1895 to fund the project.
Spring Point Lighthouse is a caisson or spark plug lighthouse. It stands on a pressurized chamber because it was constructed offshore. Initially painted reddish brown, it was completed in 1897. An iron canopy graces the lighthouse. The breakwater that connects the lighthouse to the shore was completed in 1951. It was almost a century after the lighthouse was built. Perhaps the slowest connection of them all.
Sometimes life defies human logic. At least my life does. I build barriers when there is no danger in site. Sometimes the barrier becomes a hinderance to new experiences. It reminds me of the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse. The breakwater was built before the lighthouse. While the breakwater was built in response to a storm it caused more harm than good. It became a navigational hazard to Mariners sailing into Portland Harbor.
After an outcry, a wooden lighthouse was built on the site in 1855. The current lighthouse was built in 1874-75. It is a marvel of imagination. The Portland Breakwater Lighthouse is unlike any lighthouse I have visited. Inspired by the beautiful Greek Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, the design makes it a magnificent and unique edifice.
It’s kind of ironic that I stayed at the Star of the Sea Youth Hostel in Nantucket. I really needed a reprieve from a chaotic visit to Martha’s Vineyard. The hostel was once a life saving station for distressed vessels. Now I was looking for shelter from a distressed encounter.
Although the ferry ride was about a hour from Martha’s Vineyard, it felt a world away from the turmoil I had witnessed. I was happy to retreat to Nantucket for a few days of painting and quiet.
I had reluctantly booked a stay at the hostel. I thought the military style sleeping arrangements would not offer the peace and quiet that I needed. To my surprise there was a curfew with a time of quiet at night.
After three days of quiet and completing 4 paintings, I felt renewed. The hostel was beautiful and I memorialized my visit by painting it. Of course the weather was windy and the water turbulent on the ferry ride back to Martha’s Vineyard. I was afraid it was an indicator of things to come.
Surfside Life Saving Station in Nantucket, MA was established in 1874. The Life Saving Service is the precursor to today’s United States Coast Guard. It is a National Landmark.