Thursday, October 8, 2015
During the summer, the caretakers have one day a week to go ashore to pick up provisions, stop in at the Friends office and do laundry. On the boat that comes to pick them up early in the morning is a crew of volunteers, most of them members, who work on various projects. There is a very long “to do” list. In this way the island is always staffed and visitors are always able to tour the tower and the light and beautiful visit the museum and gift shop in addition to hiking the trails and taking in the vista 153 feet above sea level and three miles off the shore.
Even though we’re now into the fall volunteers, there was work to be done and the Warriors came on Thursday. They were promised blueberry muffins so this morning I made blueberry corn muffins with coconut. After shuttling everyone onto the shore in the dingy and hauling bags and tools up to the top of the island, we settled at the picnic table for coffee and muffins and to talk about what needed to be done. The one thing Ken said he couldn’t stand to eat was coconut but he ate all of his muffin and said he loved it. There was a surprise in store for Ken: desert at lunch was more coconut in the toffee cookies.
Ken Young headed up to the top catwalk outside the light to touch up with black paint the moldings on the glass panes he had caulked earlier this fall. It always surprises me to see people up there from the ground because they seem to dwarf the structure and make those structures seem smaller than they had appeared to me without anyone juxtaposed that way.
Jeff and Tom and Rick added some hardware to the big doors at the base of the tower which had been refurbished this summer. The inner doors to the tower are original but the outdoors were replaced in 2007 after a storm that tore through on Patriots’ Day that blew them out and also the window at the top landing. It must have had to do with the pressure inside opposing the pressure of the storm outside; a real freak of nature.
Years ago the British used cannons from the coast to warn ships at sea during intense fog. The practice was followed in the early days of Republic but proved to be too costly. Bells where then placed at light stations to be rung in fog to warn ships away from the rocky shore. Today of course, they use horns in fog and everything is automated.
Ken Young is the Friends historian and he did a lot of research to find out what happened to the bell that was used on Seguin. He was able to find the original at the Coast Guard station in Boothbay and through documentation, prove that it was indeed the Seguin bell. The evidence was irrefutable and the Coast Guard agreed finally to relinquish the bell and allow it to be transported back to the island. So last summer a helicopter was arranged for the homecoming and today it proudly sits just about where it did in 1858. There were minor adjustments to be made regarding how it was hung and Jeff and Tom and Rick went to work on that.
At the same time, Cyndy, Julie and I began the process of putting the screens on the lower windows to protect the house during the winter when everything is locked and closed up for the season.
Finally the bell was hung properly and free-standing for a few brief moments before wooden block supports were again placed under it. There was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. The bell doesn’t have a clapper but was rung by striking it on the outside with a mallet of some sort every ten seconds in fog no matter how cold or how nasty the weather was. We had to hear what it sounds like so we each took a turn with a block of wood and it rang out for the first time in many many years.
There was a lunch break when we all gathered once again around the picnic table. Grady was becoming a little less shy and played with some of the newcomers. And Ken loved the cookies (he had two) even with the coconut.
During the heavy rain last week we noticed a puddle in the middle of the floor of the Whistle House floor so Jeff and Tom climbed up on the roof after lunch to put tar paper over the the peak. It wasn’t big enough but will do until something more substantial can be put in place next year.
Julie touched up spots on the big refurbished doors at the base of the tower and painted the threshold sill to the gift shop while Cyndy painted a piece of plywood for Jeff to install on the gift shop door to protect it in the winter where he will place a screen next year. That’s good because there were two birds who got in the day before when Cyndy was in there packing up and left the door open.
By mid afternoon the work was finished and the crew headed down to the cove to meet Captain DeBery for the transport back to Popham. The new dingy works well but in the swells still crashing into the cove, everyone got wet and Tom slipped off the stern and fell in up to his waist trying to push off. I hope Ethan has something warm for him to wear on the trip back.
There was time to romp with Grady on the lawn before the sunset. He loves his plastic pail and it’s a hoot to watch him try to grip it with his teeth. He sometimes gets stuck.
The remains of the shrimp boil made a terrific chowder.
It was determined that we would leave the island on Sunday instead of Saturday so Cyndy and I are thrilled to have a bonus day. Part of the evening was spent discussing how we would wrap everything up and have all of our provisions down to the cove by Sunday morning when Greg and Anne would arrive with Ethan to take care of shutting down the power and water, draining the pipes and locking up. Now we don’t have to talk about it until Saturday and Friday can be spent enjoying a little more of this paradise.