News

Lighthouse News of the Week

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St. Marks Lighthouse, Florida. National Archives photo 26-LG-33-49.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse (FL) Reopen

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge — and the lighthouse in the refuge — in Florida reopened this week following the federal government shutdown. While the shutdown was in progress, members of the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and other groups held clean ups and answered visitor questions.

The newly renovated keeper’s house is opened to the public on the first Friday and Saturday of each month and for special events. The tower is not open for climbing. For more information, contact the refuge at 850-925-6121.

Click here for more on this story.

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Brilliant Minds Work on Weekends at the National Lighthouse Museum (NY)

Your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews 2-12 years old are invited to join the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island, New York, for this course that meets for four Saturdays. The goals are to learn about lighthouses — their purposes, architecture, history, and stories of their keepers through art. You may register for one or more sessions. Individual sessions are $20 each per student or all four sessions for $75 per student.

If you need additional information, please contact the Museum directly at 718-390-0040.

 

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Moonrise over Nubble Lighthouse (Maine)

Not a big news story here, just a fantastic photo of the rising full moon (well, a day after full) behind the famous Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine, by Manish Mamtani. Click here to check it out!

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Eric H. Davis 1961-2019

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Courtesy American Lighthouse Foundation

The lighthouse community lost a great friend with the passing of Eric Davis of Owls Head, Maine, on January 24, 2019. Eric, who lost a long and courageous battle with cancer, was chairperson of the Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights from 2010 to 2016, and he was president of the American Lighthouse Foundation from 2012 to 2016.

Bob Trapani Jr., executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation, said, “His wonderful contributions to ALF were many, and his friendship was even more stellar. . . . The lights along the shore are burning a little dimmer in the wake of this sad news.”

Eric was a life-long musician and his biggest passion was traditional jazz music. He played upright bass for many years in several jazz groups, including the Eric Davis Jazz Trio. Shortly before he died, Eric created and endowed the Eric Davis Jazz Fund, as his legacy to promote and support traditional jazz music performance and education in Midcoast Maine. Per his request, a primary beneficiary will be the Midcoast Music Academy in Rockland.

Eric’s varied life experience included years as an IT professional, as an optician, and as a licensed massage therapist. As accurately stated in his obituary, “During his time with the American Lighthouse Foundation he became known and respected for listening to all sides of issues with his particular brand of objectivity, and then leading the discussion respectfully towards an effective consensus and resolution.”

Eric will be greatly missed. A celebration of his life will be held in the Knox Ballroom at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, Saturday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 4 p.m.

You can read more about Eric Davis here.

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.

Kate's Corner · News

Kate’s Corner #30

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The original (1870) Point Arena Lighthouse. National Archives photo 26-LG-63-38-ac.

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef.

Inspector Snow, when he last visited Robbins Reef, told me about the damage done to the tall masonry tower on Point Arena headland north of San Francisco in the 1906 earthquake. He said that a rare earthquake had struck Pensacola, Florida, in 1885, but earthquakes were much more common in California.

The Point Arena keeper described that experience: “A heavy blow first struck the tower from the south . . ., accompanied by a heavy retort. The tower quivered for a few seconds, went far over to the north, came back, and then swung north again, repeating this several times. Immediately after came rapid and violent vibrations, rending the tower apart, the sections grinding upon each other; while the lenses, reflectors, etc., in the lantern were shaken from their settings and fell in a shower upon the iron floor.”

The earthquake struck before dawn. At least one of the keepers would have been in the watch room at the top of the Point Arena tower. Imagine his thoughts as he made his way down the broken tower. The keepers must have gone up the stairs again because they immediately disassembled the lantern and reassembled it on a temporary tower in order to maintain the light.

The tower was cracked and leaning beyond repair the keepers dwellings uninhabitable and the wind too strong to use tents. The keepers constructed four bungalows for their families.

Letters from the 12th district engineer to the Light-House Board dated May 9 and November 30, 1906, stated, “Experience in this city shows that in order to be earthquake-proof, the new tower must be a steel frame construction or else of reinforced concrete. . . . the cost of a cast-steel tower similar to the Cape Fear tower, but 100 feet high, will exceed the cost of a reinforced concrete tower.”

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The new (1908) Point Arena Lighthouse. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.

A reinforced concrete tower was chosen for Point Arena, the first in the nation, completed and lit with a new first-order lens the largest of the Fresnel lenses in 1908. It was electrified in 1928 and automated in 1977. It is now managed by the Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers, Inc., who provide overnight accommodations in the keepers dwellings.

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The first-order Fresnel lens, now on display on the museum at Point Arena. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.

The inspector said that other California lighthouses were damaged by the 1906 earthquake. It s a dramatic story, worth Googling, if you want to learn more about it.

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Information is from National Archives Record Group 26, Entry 80 and Entry 48, File #550; and Cipra, Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico, p. 64.

News

Lighthouse News of the Week

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The new (left) and old Cape Henry Lighthouses, Virginia (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse (VA) to be stablilized

The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, located within the Fort Story military base near the northern end of Virginia Beach, was established in 1792. It is the fourth oldest standing lighthouse tower in the U.S. and the first federal construction project authorized by President George Washington after the Revolutionary War. A $1.1 million restoration project for the lighthouse began in September. The landmark is expected to reopen to the public in March.

Here is a Youtube video about the restoration project:

You can read more about this story here.

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40-Mile Point Lighthouse (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

40-Mile Point Lighthouse (MI) has new family of caretakers

40-Mile Point Lighthouse is in northern Michigan on the western shore of Lake Huron in Rogers Township. On January 10, the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners chose a family of caretakers to live at the property: Eric Kleon, his wife Lisa, along their three children and his sister, Sabre. The family plans to move into the living quarters of the lighthouse when renovations are complete in the next few weeks. At the moment, they are painting and redoing the wood floors with the assistance of the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse Society.

Eric dresses in period clothing as a lighthouse keeper when greeting the public. “I get asked if I am a train conductor a lot,” he said.

You can read more about this story here.

Visit the home page for the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse here.

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Restoration of keeper’s house at St. Augustine Lighthouse (FL)

Preservation of the keeper’s house continues at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Replacement of the shingles, gutters and wood soffits is currently underway. The house is restored to the year 1888, when two summer kitchens were added.

“We are using photographic evidence from the 1880s to determine that the roof was cedar shake/shingle at the time,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

 

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The keeper’s house at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Photo by Viktoriya Sorochuk, Creative Commons license.

You can read more about this story here.

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Eilean Glas Lighthouse (Scotland) slated for changes

The Eilean Glas Lighthouse, on the Hebridean island of Scalpay, one of the four oldest lighthouses in Scotland, is slated to receive a number of improvements. Alastair Rae, Northern Lighthouse Board project leader, said: “Our planned works include replacing the lighthouse’s existing sealed beam lamp array with an updated LED optic, in order to achieve more energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. As well as the lighthouse tower, the adjoining building . . . will be fully refurbished and redecorated both internally and externally.”

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Eilean Glas Lighthouse. Photo by Simon Stewart, Creative Commons license.

If approved, the existing operating and monitoring system in the structure will be replaced by an equivalent updated system with LED optic technology.

You can read more about this story here.

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.

Kate's Corner · News

Kate’s Corner #29

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Sand Island Light Station, Alabama, in 1893. National Archives photo 26-LG-38a-81A.

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef.

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Danville Leadbetter (Wikimedia Commons)

Third District Inspector A.S. Snow told me the sad story of the Sand Island Light Tower, located three miles south of Mobile Point at the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama. Before the Civil War, Mobile was the South’s second-largest cotton exporting port. A lighthouse was built on Sand Island in 1838 to mark the entrance to Mobile Bay. A new, 200-foot-tall Sand Island tower was completed in 1858 by Army Engineer Danville Leadbetter — the tallest lighthouse ever built on the Gulf Coast.

 

In the first months of the Civil War, Confederate States collector T. Sanford hired a contractor to remove the nine-foot-tall, first-order lens for storage, first at Mobile and later at Montgomery. The empty tower was used repeatedly as a lookout post as forces of both sides spied on each other’s strengths from aloft. Union glasses searched for weaknesses at the forts commanding the bay entrance and stood careful watch for the dreaded ram CSS Tennessee. Southern forces occasionally studied movements of the fleet from the tower.

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The CSS Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)

To keep the tower out of Union hands, Confederate Lieutenant John W. Glenn decided that the tower should be destroyed. On January 31, 1863, he sailed his yawl down the bay and begun a hurried reconnaissance of the island. When his movements were detected and a Union boat approached, “As hurriedly as possible I set fire to the five frame buildings on the island and then returned to my boat and by keeping the island between

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John W. Glenn (Wikimedia Commons)

me and the enemy’s vessel, I managed to get a mile away from her before she discerned my exact position.”

He added that,” The island is now a barren sand waste. Even the grass and brush is burned off and at such a time as I shall judge expedient, I will tumble the lighthouse down in their teeth.” He followed up his threat on February 23. He sapped the lighthouse with 70 pounds of gunpowder buried under its base and lit the fuse. He reported that, “Nothing remains but a narrow shred about fifty feet high.”

Glenn’s gleeful report was addressed to Confederate States Brigadier General Danville Leadbetter, the U.S. Light-House Board engineer who had built the magnificent tower on Sand Island only a few years earlier. How do you suppose General Leadbetter felt about a brash young lieutenant destroying his masterpiece?

The 1872 Annual Report of the Light-House Board noted that “a temporary frame tower, with fourth-order lens, was erected to replace a brick tower destroyed during the war . . .. The island lies three miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay and is merely a bank of sand, about four hundred acres in extent, constantly changing its outline. . . . The foundation, consisting of a double course of sill timbers resting on one hundred and seventy-one piles and overlaid with a depth of 12 feet of concrete, was put down.”

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(From Thompson Engineering Sand Island Light House Report)

Have you seen pilings supporting a dock or pier? Can you picture 171 piles sunk in a solid circle to hold the concrete base of this lighthouse (Sand Island)? You can see the base of the lighthouse in this drawing. It is surrounded by stone riprap to cut the force of water washing against it. Is riprap a new term to you?

The 1873 Annual Report of the Light-House Board indicated that the total height to the focal plane of the light will be 125 feet, or 132 feet above sea level, and the visibility of the light will extend to a distance of seventeen and one-half nautical miles.

The light was deactivated in 1971. The island has since eroded away, and the tower is exposed to the sea. The Sand Island Lighthouse Preservation Group hopes to restore the lighthouse.

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Information is from David Cipra, Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico, p. 72, and this web page.

News

Lighthouse News of the Week

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White Shoal Lighthouse (U.S. LIghthouse Society archives)

White Shoal Lighthouse (MI) to open for tours in 2019

Isolated White Shoal Lighthouse, under the care of the White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society, will open for tours in July 2019 — five years ahead of their original schedule. The group announced on their Facebook page:

“This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view and photograph White Shoal before access once again becomes extremely limited during the planned 5-year restoration process. By participating in the many exciting events we are planning for the summer of 2019, you will be helping us raise the much-needed funding to restore this Queen of Great Lakes Lighthouses! Stay tuned as we reveal additional exciting details in the coming weeks!”

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Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse (Wikimedia Commons)

Night Tour at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, Florida, on January 30

On January 30, visitors will have the opportunity to climb Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida, to take in the spectacular sunset views and witness the light turning on to illuminate the night sky. Visitors get an inside look at the nuts and bolts of a working lighthouse watch room. Tour time is approximately 75 minutes. The cost is $20 per person, $15 for members. Tickets are required and may be purchased online. Tours are weather permitting. Children must be at least 48” tall to climb the lighthouse and must be accompanied by an adult.

Click here for more information on this and other events.

 

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Souter Lighthouse (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

Keeper’s cottage at the world’s first electric lighthouse will switch to gas

When the Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside, England, was built in 1871, it was the first lighthouse in the world to be designed and built specifically to be powered in electricity. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988 but remains a popular tourist attraction maintained by the National Trust. One of the two keepers’ cottages, utilized for vacation housing, will soon be converted from electric heat to a more efficient gas heating system.

You can read more here.

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.

News

Kate’s Corner #28

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef.

A reporter from the New York Times visited the lighthouse in 1906, asking me all kinds of questions about life on Robbins Reef. I told him, this lamp in this tower, it is more difficult to care for than a family of children. It need not be wound more than once in five hours, but I wind it every three hours so as to take no chances. In nineteen years that light has never disappointed sailors who have depended on it. Every night I watch it until 12 o clock. Then, if all is well, I go to bed, leaving my son Jacob in charge. Jacob was appointed assistant keeper in 1896.

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Kate Walker filling the kerosene lamp at Robbins Reef Lighthouse.

The wicks of the lamps had to be trimmed every time they were used. In winter I removed the frost from inside the glass windows of the lantern, and during snowstorms I climbed outside onto the balcony to clear the snow off of the windows. The official instructions were:

To prevent the frosting of the plate glass of lanterns, put a small quantity of glycerin on a linen cloth and rub it over the inner surface of the glass. One application when the lamp is lighted and another at midnight will generally be found sufficient to keep the glass clear during the night.

Sperm oil became expensive in mid-century, and many lighthouses switched to lard oil. Kerosene proved a much cleaner illuminant, and many lighthouses switched to kerosene in the 1880s. An incandescent oil vapor lamp was very similar to the Coleman lantern that many people take camping.

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Keeper Maurice Babcock with the IOV (incandescent oil vapor lamp) inside the second-order Fresnel lens at Boston Lighthouse circa 1940. (Courtesy of Diana Cappiello)
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Fannie Salter on the stairs of the Turkey Point Lighthouse.

Until 1943, when electricity was installed at Turkey Point, Fannie Salter made four or five trips daily to the top of the tower. When a 100-watt electric bulb was placed inside the Fresnel lens, increasing the light to 680 candlepower, the keeper’s time-consuming duties were reduced to the mere flip of a switch. Then one trip a day up the tower kept the light in working order. Only during cold weather were additional trips necessary to defrost the large windows surrounding the light. The heavy brass oil lamps used earlier were kept in readiness in case the electric power and auxiliary generator malfunctioned.

In my years at Robbins Reef I switched from lighting kerosene lamps with matches to pumping up an incandescent oil vapor lamp to switching on electricity. The Light-House Board began experimenting with electric light at the nearby Statue of Liberty and Sandy Hook East Beacon in the 1880s, and after 1900 gradually converted those lighthouses that were near power lines.

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Information is from National Archives, Record Group 25 Entry 3 (NC-63); 1902 Instructions to Light-Keepers, p. 21; Clifford, Women Who Kept the Lights, p. 206.

News

Lighthouse News of the Week

Pensacola Lighthouse (FL) celebrating 160th birthday

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Pensacola Lighthouse (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

There will be three days of special events in commemoration of the 160th anniversary of the first lighting of Pensacola Lighthouse on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, this weekend. The celebration began today (Friday, January 11) with a ribbon cutting marking the end of a four-year, $3 million project restoring the lighthouse and surrounding buildings.

 

At 2 p.m. Saturday, January 12, a group will gather at St. John’s Cemetery to place Lighthouse Service plaques on the graves of former keepers. The cemetery celebration will include bagpipe music by the McGuire’s Irish Pub band. From 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Sunday, the lighthouse and museum will offer free admission to all visitors. Tour guides in period costumes will greet visitors.

Vance Buras, now 85, son of a former keeper, has returned to Pensacola for the event. “My dad was the keeper and there were two assistant keepers. One of them would carry a tin of kerosene to the top every night to fuel the light,” he told the Pensacola News Journal.

You can read more about the celebration here.

You can read about the recent restoration here.

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Manitowoc South Pier Light (WI) gets washed into Lake Michigan

It was not really a lighthouse, but it was an official aid to navigation at the end of a pier at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. At about 8:30 a.m. on January 7, Ann Barbeau of Manitowoc was out taking photos as the winds were gusting to 50 mph and the waves were as high as 12 to 15 feet.

Barbeau took a series of 16 photos of waves crashing into the pier around the 20-foot-tall fiberglass aid to navigation. Then she realized it was gone. “I looked in the water, and it was floating for about five seconds, then sunk,” she said. “I looked around and cleared my eyes because I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed.”

“Rest In Peace, South Pier Lighthouse,” Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nikels posted on Twitter. “We can now add this to our upcoming attractions in our Marine Sanctuary along with the shipwrecks. In all seriousness, the Coast Guard has been notified about this since it is their lighthouse. All will be well.”

You can read more here.

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City of Marquette (MI) to build a new park around lighthouse

The city of Marquette, Michigan, obtained ownership of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse two years ago, and they announced plans to establish a new park around the property. “The commission about a year ago set aside 1 million dollars to make this happen,” said Mike Angeli, Marquette City Manager. “We’re working to stay within that budget. I think we’ll be able to do that with the overall goal of creating a park that the entire community can enjoy.”

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Marquette Harbor Lighthouse (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Construction on the park is expected to begin early spring and to be completed by mid-summer. The park will provide improved ease of access to the Maritime Museum/lighthouse.

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Lighthouse is shut down

We reported here recently that Sullivans Island Lighthouse in South Carolina had gone dark, and that its 56-year-old DCB-224 aerobeacon-type system would have to be removed and replaced. That work was due to be completed soon, but the latest word is that it is on hold due to the federal government shutdown.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. James Zorn said the staff needed to do the work can’t travel to South Carolina until the government reopens.

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Lighthouses are for Lovers and Friends

The National Lighthouse Museum at Staten Island, New York, is presenting their fourth annual “Lighthouses are for Lovers and Friends” event featuring the “Dreamers Quartet” on Saturday, February 9, 2019, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the museum, 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point, St. George, (adjacent to the Free Staten Island Ferry) Staten Island, NY.

The Dreamers feature the music of Motown, The Jersey Boys, Carole King, Skyliners, Smokey Robinson, Chicago, The O’Jays, Harptones, Tavares, Temptations, and many more. Gourmet Buffet Dinner catered by Franboise. Cash Bar Available. Tickets $75.00. For info/reservations: Lighthousemuseum.org. email: info@lighthousemuseum.org. Tel. 718-390-0040.

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member.

If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.