Thursday, September 10, 2015

New London, Connecticut: Lighthouses (Another Crew Perk)

The New London Harbor lighthouse (image from here)

I never really thought very much about the symbolism of lighthouses, although I enjoy visiting them for the historic interest.  Of course, as a sailor I think of lighthouses as guidance, shelter, warning of danger or reaching the comfort of safe harbor.  I think of the dedication, and in many cases, isolation, of the lighthouse keepers, what has been described in this article as a "quaint, unique, and altruistic way of life" that has now been made obsolete by the invention of modern inexpensive automated solutions. I sometimes think it would be fun and cozy to live in a lighthouse on a lonely rock, just the two of us, with a spectacular view, catching up on our reading and making pots of hearty soup, but that's not realistic ... I'm too much of a wanderer, and too much of an extrovert, for that life to appeal for long.  Not to mention the hard work.

So it was fortunate that our visit to the old whaling city of New London coincided with "National Lighthouse Day" (August 7th) and with the transfer of one of the local lighthouses from the government to the nonprofit New London Maritime Society. We were invited to the ceremony, which included one of the most interesting presentations I have ever heard from a bureaucrat, and for a private tour of the light.  Crew perks! I'll take 'em!

The rest of our stay in New London, like the town itself, was "nice, nothing special." We were there for 10 days and I think I was getting just a bit tired.  We had been warned that the town had gone through some rough times and was a bit sketchy in some places, so initially we were a bit wary of long wanderings. Later, one of our local sponsor/helpers told us that it wasn't as bad a it looked; "The town has a tough exoskeleton," is the way he described it.  Heart of gold, and all that.  Exoskeleton. That's the mental image I will forever after have of this town.

Cutting the cake with a sword at the lighthouse title transfer ceremony

We were docked on a nice big pier directly behind the Amtrak station.  We had the benefit of visitors coming to pass the time while they were waiting for their train or ferry.  But the downside was that our tour guiding was frequently interrupted by the train whistle ... it was loud.

We had several pirate-themed parties aboard, with face painting for the kids...

...and a mermaid on the capstan.

Bagpipers on the quarterdeck ...

...and sea shanty singers.

Several of our crew members dressed up and enjoyed the fun as well!

Our ship's captain is a lighthouse fan.  Here she's checking out the fourth-order Fresnel lens in the tower; one of the staffers from the New London Maritime Society arranged for this private tour for us.

View from the top.

Lovely in both directions.

Beautiful iron stairs in the tower, and rope railing in the brick wall.

We took a boat out to the newly-acquired Ledge Light, The story goes that it was originally planned to be a standard tower-shaped structure until some wealthy waterfront homeowners demanded to look at something "prettier" from their porches, and funded the creation of this structure, more interesting architecturally. 

Juan, the lead carpenter, is also a history buff and he joined us on the tour.  He and Dan are good friends and co-workers even though neither can speak much of the other's language.

An extra treat ... from the top, we watched as a submarine returns to the base


  1. The "exoskeleton" description is wonderful. I love when people use words and phrases in unexpected ways.

  2. Thanx! As the visit went on, I realized how true the characterization was.