By George Bruns, Executive Committee Chair, Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse
After the 2020 “COVID Pause” that prevented ALF’s Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) from running regular tours, it was great to return to a somewhat more “normal” season in 2021. However, due to the retirement of one of our boat captains, we were only able to operate one day a week in July and two days a week in August. However, the chapter was able to make some very significant property improvements and progress toward longer term objectives during the summer and we look forward to more progress in 2022.
Working on some long-term objectives…..
A long-standing goal has been to have Light Runner certified as an inspected vessel by the U. S. Coast Guard so that we can refocus our tours from “donation only” to “passengers-for-hire,” which, we believe, will provide a more dependable source of income for the organization, reducing the impact of last-minute cancellations and “no shows.” The certification process has been under way for some time, and has involved significant boat modifications to meet a variety of Coast Guard regulatory requirements. On September 22nd, a major hurdle was cleared when Light Runner passed a USCG “stability test” to verify its passenger carrying capacity. We hope, as outstanding details are completed, that the final drydock inspection and certification will take place soon. When Light Runner went into the water this summer, she looked like a new boat, thanks our volunteers and to our consulting marine electrician.
For some time, it has been evident that we needed to return to the exterior of the Keeper’s House to repaint the trim and repair and repaint the security screens. Our contractor, House of Windsor, repainted all of the trim, and Executive Committee member, Kyle Noble, removed the security screens, removed old paint and corrosion and replaced them after our intrepid “Woodchuck” volunteers put two coats of paint on them. This process required nearly $28,000.00 of our cash reserves, and reflects the difficulty of maintaining an ocean-exposed building in top condition. In addition, our failed well-pump was replaced early in the season.
Our Woodchucks, coordinated by Executive Committee member, David Adams, were able to return to a weekly schedule this summer. In addition to the painting project, the volunteers replaced damaged plantings, extended the mowed lawn areas, kept the inside of the house and tower clean, and replaced the picnic table. Thanks to the leadership of David Adams and volunteer Eric Podolsky, an Island Clean-up took place on August 18. With 44 volunteers from FOWIL, Maine Audubon, Idexx, and Tom’s of Maine, thirty cubic yards of trash were removed from Wood Island. We also received a generous gift of an AED that is now installed in the Keeper’s House. Many of our volunteers have now been trained in its use and in CPR.
We expanded our merchandise offerings with new products, including a new tee shirt with an image of the lighthouse on the front and a list of all former keepers on the back, a “Sailor the Lighthouse Dog” tee shirt and coffee mug with art by well-known local artist, Iona Desmond, and a children’s book by Roderick Jeffers, a descendent of 19th century keeper, Thomas Henry Orcutt, entitled “Sailor Saves the Ship.” The American Lighthouse Foundation’s online store is carrying our complete line of merchandise. Next summer, we will be proud to offer a new book by FOWIL historian, Dick Parsons, entitled “Wood Island Lighthouse: Stories from the Edge of the Sea.”
During the past year, all of the organization’s historical documents were digitized by our keeper of historical documents, Sheri Poftak, and are now available on our website for Friends and researchers.
After several years of work by the Maine Lighthouse Trust, founded by Sean Murphy, a long-time FOWIL volunteer, the state has begun to issue the Maine Lighthouse automobile license plate. FOWIL participated financially in the Trust’s “Founders’ Program” and, over time, will receive returns from the use of Lighthouse license plates by Maine residents. Not coincidentally, the lighthouse image on the plate looks just like Wood Island Lighthouse!
In the coming year, we plan to execute a design developed this year for an all-weather cover for our septic system, to move the steel security door from the exterior of the connector to the base of the tower and continue to restore the connector itself. Restoring the interior of the tower and repainting the living room of the Keeper’s House are also priorities. In addition, we will continue to explore alternatives which could improve the ease and safety of our landing on the Coast Guard ramp.
We are thankful for all of our volunteers and faithful donors who have supported the organization over the past eighteen years. Beginning in 2003 with a goal of restoring an endangered and abandoned property, we now have a beautiful home and tower restored to the 1906 period and displaying period antique furnishings for enthusiastic visitors.