Friday, March 9, 2012

Preserving Our Light

Last week was an exciting week at our red and white, candy striped lighthouse. A group of experts came to Hope Town to inspect and assess the condition of our Elbow Reef Light Station. This included Ed Gunn, who is the executive director of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Daytona, and has over 10 years experience restoring Fresnel lenses. Also with him was Steve Varhola, who has developed tools for removing the strips which hold the curved glass pieces of the lantern room's exterior glass in place. What a fantastic opportunity to meet these talented people!

Several of the protective outer glass panes have deteriorated and broken over the years and need replacing. Until more curved glass can be made, pieces of lexan were brought in and installed.

As you can imagine from a lighthouse built in 1864, plenty of restoration is needed. The Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society is an amazing group that is striving to preserve this one of only three remaining manually operated lighthouses in the world. It’s a never ending battle between the elements, politics, money, the threat of automation, and getting the help they need.

Help is what we do best though, and spearheaded by Dave, we have now started up a group of enthusiastic volunteers that are trying to do whatever we can to assist around the lighthouse and grounds.

We had our first work party and we accomplished so much in one day. Our emphasis was to clean up the grounds, and concentrate on the storage building, which will hopefully become a future workshop.

BLPS director Annie Potts and Jerry Whiteleather, lighthouse engineer (who knows everything about the light and every part and tool), first gave us an introduction about all that has happened and what needs to be taken care of in the future. Heinz and Dave show a piece of the lens that fell out.

Then it was time to get to work. Cleaning up the trash that had blown in from the hurricane and gales was arduous but straightforward, and we removed much refuse off the premises.

The storage room is packed full of spare parts that needed to be categorized and organized, right down to having pictures taken of them. All shelves and floors had not been cleaned in many years. It’s so overwhelming that you wonder where to begin?

Leave it to the women to “git ‘r’ done” though. Aletha dove right in. She has experience being a missionary in Honduras and rebuilding schools.

Dave discusses work with Annie while the ladies sort tiny parts.

Linda and Patti are caulking gurus!

Outside the building, lights, windows, and doors needed repairs and caulking.

How many GUYS does it take to do one window though?

Lunch break with a view.

There’s still plenty of work for the volunteers to do. For now though, the grounds look so much better and give a better first impression to visitors. Plus the storage building is now secure and ready for the new glass panes to be stored and worked on.

It was a fun day and a great way for everyone to learn more about this national treasure. What a privilege to float happily in the harbor right underneath it every winter.

Footnote: I have added a link to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse website on the right sidebar.


  1. After seeing the pictures, Diane says "Why would they want to come back to NY?"

    I say "please come back Obie-wan, you're our (motorcycles) only hope" - Hector