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Lighthouses Along the Way
by Captain Paul DeGaeta

Maine’s rocky and unforgiving coastline is home to 68 lighthouses, half of
which are located right in the Maine Windjammer Association’s cruising
grounds, in and around Penobscot Bay.

Historic and romantic reminders of America’s seafaring past, these lighthouses
are part of the Maine windjammer fleet’s everyday working environment. The
14 vessels provide the opportunity for the average person to discover the
perspective that made lighthouses famous -- that is from the deck of a sailing
ship. Camera buffs, artists or poets say there’s no better view.

“I love the remoteness of the light on
Mt. Desert Rock (1830/47) and
Saddleback Ledge (1839) Lights,” says Capt. Brenda Walker of the schooner
Isaac H. Evans who has logged 14 lighthouses in a single cruise. “Those are
lights that folks can't hop in their car and go see but they can see on a
windjammer cruise.”

For the past five years, Captain Walker has served on the executive board of
the Friends of the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light (1902), so it’s no mystery
which lighthouse is her favorite:

“I'd have to say it’s the
Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. It’s the destination
for our Maine Windjammer Parade and we anchor nearby so all of our guests
can go ashore to tour the light. It's also one of the lighthouses that we can get
really close to. The Friends lease the light from the City of Rockland and are
actively raising funds and restoring it.”

Rockland, “The Windjammer Capitol of the World,” also features the Maine
Lighthouse Museum that houses the largest collection of lighthouse lenses in
the United States. The American Lighthouse Federation and Lighthouse Digest
Magazine are also Maine-based. The Maine-lighthouse relationship is so
symbiotic, a  book,
Windjammers, Lighthouses and Other Treasurers of the Coast of
written and photographed by Frank Chillemi, was released by Down
East books in 2005.

Captains Doug and Linda Lee have a fondness for
Burnt Coat Harbor Light
(1872) also called
Hockamock Head Light.  

“It’s a short and invigorating walk from one of our favorite anchorages on
Swan's Island,” says Capt. Linda Lee of Heritage. “The view is spectacular. It's
a nice place to watch the stars on a mild fall evening.”

Captains Barry King and Jennifer Martin of Mary Day, enjoy
Fort Point Light
(1836/57).  “The cultural history of the fort and the light are great,” says
Captain Martin. “The ranger, Terry Cole, actually served in the coast guard as a
keeper at that light years ago. He is well versed and enjoys folks visiting the
park. To the best of my experience and knowledge, Fort Point is one of the
more complete light stations in our neck of the woods with its original bell
tower, bell and fourth order Fresnel lense.”

It isn’t always aesthetics that connect people to lighthouses, many times it’s the
stories. Captain John Foss of American Eagle loves
Saddleback Ledge Light in
Isle au Haut Bay.

“It is exposed, ugly and curiously a gathering place for sea ducks,” he says.
“According to one of the lighthouse keepers it is the only light whose prisms
have been damaged by a big Eider Drake (Duck) as he crashed through the
glass and put out the light during a winter storm.”

Benjamin Franklin claimed: “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

Captain Kip Files of the Victory Chimes takes another perspective, “They all
add something to the mariner’s soul. Each lighthouse has its own story about
the Maine coast. Like old timers watching our bay and coastline they provide a
link to days gone by. Sometimes as I sail by, I think about all those who sailed
before us searching for that beacon as they returned from the Seven Seas. The
stories those lights could tell!”

Capt. Files is particularly fond of
Pemaquid Point Light (1827/35). Victory
Chimes is the vessel sailing by the Pemaquid Light on the Maine state quarter
minted in 2003. This was the first piece of US currency to feature a lighthouse.
Captain Files was one of the guest speakers the day the US Mint introduced the
quarter to the Maine public with the Pemaquid Light as a backdrop.

For more information, contact the MWA at 1-800-807-WIND or visit the
Windjammer Association.

About the author: Captain Paul DeGaeta is a schooner-owner and member of the Maine
Windjammer Association.
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