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.
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.
In 2016, Florida Keys Reef Lighthouses were listed among the most endangered historical sites by a Preservation group. Now the fate of the Lighthouses may soon be in the hands of the public or non profits.
Five Keys Reef lighthouses have been declared excess by the Coast Guard. They will be offered for free to a non profit or government agency. If that fails the Lighthouses will be put up for public auction.
According to Adam Rondeau, regional public affairs officer for Government Services Administration, “The disposition of these lighthouses will be conducted in accordance with the National Lighthouse Preservation Act.” (Miami Herald)
Granted Nantucket is known as an upscale resort with pricey hotels. The visitors read like a who’s who list from Fortune 500. Despite of all the pricey obstacles, I was lured by the four lighthouses. I was also intrigued about staying at a historic building. Star of the Sea Hostel in Nantucket was once a Life Saving Station. It had been a part of the United States Life Saving Service.
I admit to being reluctant about staying at this hostel. I mean I didn’t know to expect when I booked two nights for $80. That wasn’t exactly the going rate in Nantucket. Yet, I recalled saving a bundle of cash and being happy when I stayed at the dorms at historic Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and Suffolk University in Boston. But a dorm with 32 bunk beds didn’t seem very inviting. I wondered about privacy and the bathrooms.
But the excitement of staying where the Keepers would look for shipwrecks was persuasive. There are steps to the lookou in the women’s dorm where I would be sleeping. I finally voted in favor of the lookout, lighthouses and my pocketbook when I read all the positive reviews.
My bunk was on the bottom in a quiet corner of the dorm. The first night the dorm was packed. But at night the dorm was quiet because everyone observed the quiet hours from 10 pm to 7 am. I watched a movie with the free wifi and put my phone on silent.
In the morning there was a light complimentary breakfast with cereal, coffee and assorted breads. For those who want to prepare a heavier meal, there’s a fully equipped kitchen with dishes, pots and more.
My second evening at the hostel was extremely quiet as most of the quests had checked out. During my stay, three ladies were kind enough to befriend me and invite me to sit at their table. I learned from them that there are cabins for rent in addition to the beds in the female dorm. They also taught me the truth of hostel’s motto: “There are no strangers only friends you haven’t met.”
After spending a few hectic days on Martha’s Vineyard, I took a two day retreat to Nantucket Island. Last year while in New York, I read about the island and its four lighthouses. So I hoped perhaps one day, I would visit Nantucket. I filed the article away on a shelf with the thought in the back of mind.
When my cousin invited recently me to visit Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, I immediately thought of Nantucket and the lighthouses. I wondered how far it was from Martha’s Vineyard. To my delight, I discovered that there was a ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket for a little over an hour. The round trip ticket for Nantucket was less than $70. As I researched hotels, I found them to be out of my budget. I discovered a hostel for $38 a night! The hostel, Star of the Sea, was once called Surfside Life Saving Station.
Surfside Life Saving Station was established in 1874. It is a National Landmark. The lookout where keepers would search for distressed vessels was located in the hostel’s female dormitory. The idea of staying at a Life Saving Station intrigued me. The Life Saving Service is the precursor to the United States Coast Guard. After learning about the hostel’s connection to the Coast Guard, I decided to investigate further. After all, the Coast Guard oversees many lighthouses. The reviews I read were stellar, so I booked two nights at the hostel. I began looking forward to my stay at Nantucket a few weeks later.
I was showing my grandson pictures of my visit to Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. He saw a photo of the barefooted mailman statue and asked me about it. I later picked up the booklet entitled, “Souvenir on the Barefoot Mailman.” It seems this statue was dedicated to James E. Hamilton who came from Kentucky. He traded being a farmer for a career as a Barefoot Mailman. As often is the case, the grass was not greener in his new career. He went missing during one of his 68 mile routes. A statue was erected in his honor.
Memorial Day comes just before Father’s Day. So I was thinking about Hamilton, my deceased father, and the Coast Guard servicemen. Although my father was a mail carrier, I never really thought about mail carriers and the work that they do.
Like most Americans, I often take mail delivery for granted. It may be “snail mail” but efforts to switch to five day delivery were met by protests. A couple of years ago during Christmas when FedEx and UPS failed the winter challenge, it was the postal service that rose to the occasion. Now, the postal service delivers mail seven days a week for Amazon.
I begin to notice the Coast Guard lately because the of lighthouses I wanted to paint. The more lighthouses I visited, the more insight I got into the Coast Guard. As I thought about the 1,350 miles of Florida coastline, I began to appreciate the work that the Coast Guard does.
The Coast Guard is one of the five branches of the Armed Forces and the only one within the Department of Homeland Security, according to its website. The Coast Guard is responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship. They helped with the BP oil spill.
The Coast Guard just released information about today’s oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. According to Reuters, ”A small offshore oil platform caught fire in shallow water near the coast of Louisiana on today and a sheen was seen in the sea after workers were evacuated.” It was an unfriendly reminder on Memorial Day weekend of the vital services that the Coast Guard provides. If you go to a beach this weekend, say a word of thanks to our Coast Guard.
For more information on the many services the Coast Guard provides, check out the Coast Guard Compass blog.
I climbed aboard the Black Pearl for a day cruise to the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse. A guide from the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse Association entertained us with trivia and jokes along the way.
People relaxed along the pristine shoreline. A few small boats were anchored in the inlet as swimmers took a plunge.
During World War I and World War II, the Coast Guard did beach patrols here. A marker explains how a German raider M/S was seized at this site.
No trip to a lighthouse is complete without a climb to the top for a breathtaking view.