Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers

& Friends Association, Inc. 

"Our mission is to preserve the history of the Delaware Bay

 and River Lighthouses, Lightships and their Keepers."

 

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Reflections of a Lighthouse Keeper

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live on a lighthouse? Many people think of it as something romantic! Life on the water-bound Lights of the Delaware Bay was anything but romantic!  It was often described by the Keepers as being isolated, lonely, repetitious, boring, etc.  They also described it as a "never ending fishing trip;" a sense of pride in the part they played in keeping people and their vessels safe from harm; an abundance of fresh air to fill their lungs; and best of all - peaceful solitude and time to reflect. 

Everyday life attending to daily duties on a water Light was a lot different than on a land light, mostly due to the weather.  Spring and summer were probably the best times on the Bay.  They could catch some of their meals and there was a lot more company.  The party boats would drift and fish all around the Lights.  On the way home, the fishermen would give the Keepers the remainder of their food, soda and beer!  Their usual duties included cooking their meals, cleaning, painting, polishing brass, keeping daily logs 24 hours a day, noting weather, lantern and foghorn operation.   Occasionally, they had to be on the lookout for lost boats or barges that broke away.  It also helped to be a "jack of all trades" because if something broke down, you couldn't call the Maytag repairman!  Once as a joke, the Keepers  decided to have a contest to see which Light could requisition the most unusual item for a water light and actually receive it. Harbor of Refuge Light received a lawnmower, another Light got a shipment of anti-freeze for the station vehicles!  During the hot Summer, one keeper used to surf on an old wood ironing board--just for fun!  The view from a light during the summer thunder storms was spectacular, with nothing to obstruct Nature's fury!  Some lucky Keepers were rewarded with live lobsters just for keeping an eye on the owner's pots.  Yes...there are lobsters in the Delaware Bay!  They're located in the deep cold waters near Harbor of Refuge Light.

Winter on the lightstations was a different story!  When the weather turned bitter cold and the wind was howling across the Bay, large chunks of ice would slam into the caisson bases with every swell of the Bay and turn of the tides.  The men usually spent two weeks on duty and one week on shore leave. The weather often made it difficult for the tender to pick them up for leave. So when Cape May would radio for a weather update, the wind was ALWAYS calm, the seas were ALWAYS flat and even if the foghorn was driving everyone nuts, visibility was GREAT!!! (Anything to go home for a while!)  Fog caused changes in even a routine day.  For instance, they had to learn to hold a conversation in spurts, in between foghorn blasts.  If the foghorn was located anywhere near a table you soon learned the hard way never to leave a cup of coffee on the table when the horn went off...the vibration would walk the cup right off the table and onto the floor!

Ahhh...the life of a Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keeper!

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The Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers & Friends Association (DBLHKFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit preservation and educational organization.

Site Copyright 2004, Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers and Friends Association unless otherwise noted.  All images on site are copyright 2004 DBLHKFA unless otherwise noted.  For problems or questions regarding this web site contact kelly@delawarebaylightkeeper-friend.org.  Last updated: Mar. 26, 2009.