Opening day at Owls Head Lighthouse on May 25, 2013 came with fog draped over West Penobscot Bay and a northeast wind, gusting over 25-knots, carrying upon its shoulders a cold rain that doused any hope of dry warmth in the offing. Yet, despite the elements, volunteers from ALF’s Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights were determined to welcome visitors to Owls Head Lighthouse on the first day of the 2013 open house season.
Given the damp and rainy conditions, no one could be sure how many people might actually make the soggy trek to the light station, but by day’s end, it was evident that many individuals were quite hardy; having donned rain gear and umbrellas in an effort to see the lighthouse and have a chance to admire a stormy seascape.
In all, FRHL volunteers Sally Bristol, Linda Strout, Chuck Crawford and Pleasance Crawford, who themselves struggled to stay warm throughout the day, greeted 78 visitors and provided the public with an opportunity to experience – in a small way, some of the conditions under which the keepers of old endured while tending a light like Owls Head.
Though panoramic views of the bay were concealed by fog, visitors seemed to care little. For on this day, they were experiencing “lighthouse weather” that was punctuated by the incessant blast of the fog horn as passing ferries and lobster boats plied along their white-capped courses.
Even the glow of the Fresnel lens, which is always shining inside Owls Head Lighthouse, was a bit more rich and “warming” on such a gray, chilly day. The brilliance of the lens and the heat its 1000-watt lamp generated fascinated all who admired the beacon’s vintage crown jewel.
Throughout the day, volunteers engaged in a lot of lighthouse talk with visitors, but their conversations were not confined solely to the sentinel and its lens. People also wanted to learn about the pyramidal structure to the northwest of the lighthouse – Shag Rock Daybeacon 9, as well as nearby islands and the types of marine traffic that call Rockland Harbor home port.
The visiting public also learned about the mission of the American Lighthouse Foundation, and how ALF and its local chapter, Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights, work hard to preserve Owls Head and Rockland Breakwater lighthouses – and now the keeper’s house at Owls Head too.
In fact, visitors were pleasantly surprised to learn that they could tour the keeper’s house during their visit to the light station. The opportunity to walk through the first level of the dwelling further enhanced the visitor’s experience to the historic site, while providing ALF a chance to share with people why restoration and education – and volunteers too, are so important to public access programs and the preservation of lighthouses such as Owls Head.
The American Lighthouse Foundation moved their headquarters from downtown Rockland to the keeper’s house at Owls Head Light Station in April 2013 and is working to establish a lighthouse interpretive center inside the 1854 dwelling for the educational benefit of the general public.
So even though the weather tried hard to douse the kick-off to the 2013 open house season at Owls Head Lighthouse, in the end, the opposite effect occurred. Visitors witnessed the dedication and passion of FRHL volunteers, while experiencing a dose of “lighthouse weather” and the unique allure that envelopes a sentinel standing watch amidst a stormy seascape.
You might say that the “shine” of Owls Head Light was just as bright by land as it was by sea today thanks to the commitment of modern day “keepers” like Sally, Linda, Chuck and Pleasance, which made this stormy day a wonderful start to the summer season!