Posted by: tflana | July 25, 2018

The Sun Parlor – 1927 to present


When we arrived on the island, the sun parlor very quickly became one of our favorite spots on the island, the views were spectacular, and the wind always kept it cool. The big problem was the porch had seen better days, most of the windows could not open, the glazing on the windows was crumbling, much of the wood was rotting, and the paint was peeling on the exterior. Brian and I decided if Essex Heritage agreed, we wanted to bring the sun parlor back to her glory days.

A 1927 Sun Parlor

Historical picture of the sun parlor build in 1927 by the lighthouse keepers

     In 1927, the Light Service Keepers added the sun parlor to the house, probably because they also recognized the gem this porch could be for their families. We picture a future where the guests to the island will have access to the sun parlor, sit in the cool breezes while rocking back and forth on some oversized rocking chairs. But in the 2 months we had on the island this summer, we could at least make it look pretty again.


     The work began on the first volunteer day of the summer on June 8th. The volunteers all happily grabbed scrapers and started prepping the exterior for what we thought would be a quick paint job. As the scrapping progressed, we realized the windows were falling apart and the wood trim and sills were very rotted. This is when we thought we bit off more than we could chew. The next day, when we were in Salem, a quick trip to Home Depot for wood and back to work on the porch.
The result was Brian glazed and caulked all the windows, most of the wood trim and window sills was replaced, the exterior was scraped, sanded, primed and painted, and most of the interior was painted as well. I am hoping next summer, I can sand and varnish the interior bead board and sand and paint the floor, there is always something else on an old house. I also found some washed ashore buoys for decorations and the bottles Brian found around the island have been filled with sea glass and set around the porch. I have already taken the measurements of the 10 windows to sew some valances for next summer as well (I should have brought my sewing machine with me).



P CVD Sun Parlor1


     The happiest day on the island was this weekend with the Commonwealth Victorian Dancers and when they agreed to pose for a picture on the steps of the sun parlor. This photo shoot went on for about 15 minutes with everyone involved coming up with an even better pose than the one before. When I downloaded the pictures that night, I was almost in tears how well the transformation came out! I hope we can finish the work next season, and Greg & Mary (the caretakers coming on island on July 30th) will enjoy the space as much as we do!


Posted by: tflana | July 21, 2018

New Friends Everyday

     Today was a fun day on island for many reasons, we got a lot of work done, a gorgeous location, perfect weather and became friend with many of our guests. The people who come out on Naumkeag want to be here on the island, no one is made to endure the 3-hour tour! The first step the guests take on the beach from the boat, we are already greeted with smiling people who have waited to visit Baker’s Island for years and now they are here.

Stephen Rook Family

The Rook Family Picture in my favorite photo spot for a family picture, at the foundation/stone wall of the old barn

The Rook Family were finishing their overnight visit with us today and they absorbed every possible moment on the island. It turns out, Stephen’s grandfather was an Assistant Keeper here during the WWII era in the 1940’s. Stephen did his best to imagine he was walking in his grandfather’s steps around the island, and maybe even had slept in the same bedroom he did over 75 years ago. The Rook’s also used this visit as a mini family reunion, their niece who now lives in England, surprised them at Logan Airport and caught up with her family after not seeing them for 3 ½ years. Oliver, one of the Stephen’s sons, drew a picture of Pa Baker and left it for us on the kitchen table, an amazing artist for only 9 years of age! There were many hugs and promises to be back next year as the family started their journey off island back to Panama!

Oliver Rooks Picture of Pa Baker

A picture drawn by a 9 year old as a thank you for his stay on the island, he even included the solar panels!

Rook Family Leaving

The Rook family leave to start their trip back to Panama and England

     Tonight’s overnight guests were 2 brothers originally from Marblehead, both had been to the island before as guests of the home owners and Nate had volunteered when Essex Heritage first started work on the buildings out here. He loves how much has changed since he was out here a few years ago and is happy to see Annie Harris’s dream come true. Once having a chance to get to talk with them a little, it turns out Nate and I both went to Tabor Academy in Marion, granted he graduated 22 years after me but many of our teachers and advisors were still the same. I am a firm believer in talking and asking questions because the theory of 7 degrees of separation is usually true, but electronic devices stop us from figuring out our connections to the world.

Finished Utility Ramp at Beach

The finished utility ramp to the beach to help pull up supplies and guest’s belongings with the cart and ATV

Utility ramp or playground for beach babies

Or it the utility ramp a seagull playground or runway for flight practice?

Brian and I did get some work done today as well. Brian finished the utility ramp at the beach to enable the ATV cart to move easily down to the beach and hopefully, back up again. Personally, I think he built a playground or take off runway for the beach babies. The ramp was incredibly useful when the Interpretive Campers/Dancers arrived on the island just before sunset tonight. The group will be here throughout the weekend as turn of the 20th century characters. They arrived with a lot of supplies and equipment and if the ATV and the 2 carts were not on the island, we all maybe still carrying bags up the hill after sunset.


Brian did decide to set off the sunset cannon tonight, the brothers were on the plateau with their cameras and drone for the sunset experience. They asked Brian if they could be the ones to take the flag down at sunset, and the quick pictures I took are some of my favorite from the day.


Low tide: 12 noon
High tide: 6:24pm
Sunrise: 5:23am
Sunset: 8:14pm
Man hours worked: 13

Posted by: tflana | July 18, 2018

Stormy Weather

     The forecast today was for unsettled weather this afternoon and since we took yesterday off for a fun day, we needed to get to work on our chores. We also know this coming weekend is going to be jam packed with a special tour on Thursday called Wild Edibles, 3 sets of overnight guests, 10 reenactment campers starting on Friday night, and 5 short tours as well. Not much time from Thursday on to get anything done but to answer questions and show how great the island is to everyone.


Two simple tasks for me this morning was to paint one more coat of gray onto the benches, so they can find their permanent home for the weekend. Once this was done, I took the weedwhacker to the new path along the property line and finished the upkeep there as well.Brian making use of the new bench
Brian was heading out to install the last 2 storm windows on the Assistant Keeper’s House when I asked him to pump up the tire in my cart I was using for the porch demolition project. This send him on a distracted line of work, he patched the 2 tires with flats, double checked all the lawn equipment for oil & gas, then realized since the compressor was out anyway, he would check the water pump pressure in the AKH, the shower is literally a few drops per minute from the shower head. While he was adjusting the water pressure to match the parameters in the Keeper’s House, I went to work on day 2 of cement porch demolition!


My goal was to get this demolition done today and finish moving the debris where it should go, the cement crumbles are going down to the ramp at the beach to fill in the drainage system Brian started, and the many beach rocks found will go to the duck vista walkway leading to the pond. After about 2 hours of hammering and prying, the porch is ready for a new deck to be built! Brian finished with the water pressure with success and came to help me move the buckets of debris down to the beach. While I was done there, the beach babies were spreading their wings like they were trying to fly, no one left the ground, but they are getting closer. I was also a little concerned because I could only find 2 of the 3 babies, they have provided so much entertainment for me for the past 7 weeks, I can’t imagine not having all 3 see us off at the end of the month. Hopefully, he was just taking a relaxing nap in the shrubs.

The Beach Baby spreads his wings, sill cant fly

The Beach Baby spreads his wings but still can not take flight


The charter vessel Fame just off the beach

  As we got back up to the house, the clouds were filling in and thunder was rumbling from the mainland. I kept loading the cart with rocks from the porch until suddenly, a torrential downpour hit. As we ran in to close windows, the wind picked up and the skies turned into something from a scary movie. Once we changed into dry clothes, we watched the storm from the sun parlor for the rest of the afternoon. The best part of the sun parlor is depending on which way the wind is blowing, some windows can stay open for fresh air, while the other windows are getting drenched. There were a few lightening strikes on island, which were spectacular to watch if no damage or fire results from them. The fog horn started up again for the rest of the evening as each front passed through with rain and fog.

Raining out

Watching the rain from an open window on the porch

Torrential rain enjoyed from the sun parlor

The wind was coming from the north and the wind was coming down hard against the windows


Low tide: 9:15am
High tide: 3:39pm
Sunrise: 5:21am
Sunset: 8:17pm
Man hours worked: 13
Total man hours worked: 441

Posted by: tflana | July 17, 2018

A Foggy Day Off Island

     The fog horn had been going off all night, a sound every 30 seconds and when I finally gave up sleeping, it was pea soup fog outside. This would not be an issue usually, but we decided today was going to be our day off island for chores and a bike ride. Tuesday is predicted to be very unsettled weather and Wednesday, we have a possibility of a sail out on Salem Sound. Today’s original plan was to leave the island at 7am to get a full day in, however, The Weather Channel advisory was for a dense fog until 9am. This was a good morning to get some foggy pictures and have a second cup of coffee.


By 8am, it looked a little better and we decided to go slow and follow our track on the chart plotter we have been using since the day we arrived. The key is to make sure the other vessels out there see us as well. Radio Waves has running lights, like a cars headlight, which we turned on for one more safety feature. When we made it to the boat and Brian was dropping the mooring pennant, we could just make out the beach which was less than 100 feet from us! Normally the trip to Salem Willows takes about 20 minutes, today it was close to an hour.


The first order of business today was to get breakfast at a diner, today I had picked out the Peabody Diner along our way to the highway. As we were enjoying our breakfast, we hear someone say Hi Tara & Brian. Really, we know a handful of people in this area and most of them are from the Essex Heritage office, it turns out it is Bill from the volunteer group who comes out to the island on Wednesdays. He meets his friends on Mondays here for breakfast, and a chance to talk cars. Bill had arrived at the diner in his 1957 Chevy Station wagon, a good-looking car. Reminds me of a lot of MomMobiles from when I was growing up, pre-minvan era!

57 Chevy Stationwagon

1957 Chev Station wagon, owned by one of the island volunteers

Once we were on the road again, the plan was to drive into Bedford, MA and ride the Minuteman Bikeway into the Arlington/Belmont area. It was about a 20-mile ride which both of us needed, we miss biking when we are on the island. This trail is considered a Rail Trail Hall of Fame site, it is one of the oldest and most used trails along an old railroad track, it is used as a commuter rail for bikes into Boston. This is something that is near and dear to Brian, he biked back and forth to work for over 20 years, a 13 mile ride each way along busy roads in Connecticut. He never could understand why more congested traffic communities don’t invest in bike trails like this one to ease the highway congestion and pollution. The best part was when we arrived at the Alewife T station to find a parking garage for bikes and there were 100’s of bikes locked up in the building, makes me almost want to go back to work near Boston just so I can commute on my bike.



We did a loop around Fresh Pond and back along the rail trail to Bedford. All in all, we biked about 26 miles over 2 hours. The overcast skies kept it from being a scorcher of a day, and it was now time to get back to the chore portion of our day, yuck. Unfortunately, the plans changed when Brian went to put the bikes on the roof and noticed one of our van tires had a nick in the tread. This is when I come in and do what I do best, manage. I found a tire place less than a mile away from the Bedford Depot Parking Area, they could take our van immediately for new tires and, the best part, it was across the street from Bedford Farms Ice Cream, so lunch for me was now covered.

Ice Cream

Major Ice Cream fix, I could only get a 2 flavor combination if I ordered a large, so that is what I did.

This was becoming a long day off island, off to groceries and laundry then back to the island. As we were driving towards Salem Willows, we realized it was foggier here than it was in the morning. This will teach us to watch the weather all day long. Again, we are always safe when making decisions and we knew if we went slow and followed the course, we should be fine. The visibility was about 100 feet while crossing Salem Sound. We saw one other small boat out fishing but did hear a lot of chatter on the VHF radio from captain’s announcing their locations as well as a report of a vessel aground at Pleasant Cove, not sure where this is. We did fine on getting back to the island, just wet from the fog and tired after a long day of playing. Both of us have decided the only way our day could have gotten better is if a valet met us at the beach to pull the cart back to the house for us.


Returning home trying to find the dinghy and the beach

Returning to Baker’s Island in the evening, trying to find where the dinghy and mooring are. You can just barely see it and the beach outline

The fog horn was still going off until just after sunset when we could start seeing Great Misery out the window. And finally, there was quiet again on the island.


Low tide: 8:23am
High tide: 2:43pm
Sunrise: 5:20am
Sunset: 8:18pm
Man hours worked: 0
Total man hours worked: 428

Posted by: tflana | July 16, 2018

The end of another week

     The morning started out with my cup of coffee walking the low tide line looking for sea glass, this is one of the lowest tides I have seen since arriving in May. The sea glass hunting hasn’t been great lately, I think I need to stop telling visitors about it, maybe they are wiping the supply out and is now becoming an endangered species! As always, the beach babies were there to provide extra entertainment, always willing to pose for the perfect shot, they are now 34 days old.

Once everyone was awake, we started out rescuing one of the game balls from under the gardening shed for our 2 little overnight guests. It is fun trying to get an object from under a dark shed with advice given from 3 different parties and Brian completed the task without complaint. As we wrapped up this rescue the first tour group of the day was due to arrive. This group included a few VIP’s coming to the island. Beth and Heather from Essex Heritage brought out 2 ladies researching ideas on educational programs on the island for children. Also, in this group was an artist who was hoping to bring a group out to paint different aspects of the land and historical features. I think we could have take all day to show them all this 10 ½ acres has to offer, instead, we got it done in 90 minutes with a raspberry snack along the way.

Benches Finished

One of the two completed benches made from scrap wood. Painted and ready to be put to use by visitors this coming week

     The short time between tours, we sat down for a quick lunch and went back to our task list. We are now just about 2 weeks from leaving the island and we want to make sure all our jobs we started are completed. I needed to get a few more coats of paint on the new benches, Brian wanted to take all the security camera wires on the sun porch and enclose them in pvc conduit to keep the wires from damage and to improve how it all looked as well. The painting did not take very long, and my next project was the destruction of the cement porch on the Assistant Keeper’s House that goes nowhere.



   The existing platform porch is useless, but the plan is to build a deck in this area and change the window to a functioning door. The hope is the room the new door will lead to will be a small museum for Baker’s Island Light. But before a deck can be built, the cement platform needs to be about 6 inches shorter and this is where my love for destruction comes in. I found a small sledge hammer, pry bar and safety glasses and let the destruction begin. Once I was able to break through a small area in the cement, I realized a box was built and filled with beach rocks, then cement was poured over the rocks to create the flat surface. This made the project a little easier because if I moved out the beach rocks from under the cement, the cement cracked and broke away much easier. But I needed to take a break to go great the second tour today at the beach, but this should be done in less than 2 days.

     The afternoon tour was a fun group and the skies started to clear to a bright blue while they were here, Baker’s Island always looks better in blue! At 4pm, all the visitors were on their way back to Salem. I would be lying if I didn’t say when 4 pm rolled by and waved the group goodbye, we both had our first chance to relax fully since Thursday morning. We had 3 sets of overnight guests and 5 different tours of guests arrive this week, and we finally had the space to ourselves, ahhhh!


     We let Pickles run around for a long time, not worrying she would be bothering anyone. She was being silly in her crooked head way tonight. Her happiness and resilience in life will always bring a smile to me. And after dinner, Brian and I decided we would sit up in the tower for the sunset and an end to another busy week here on Baker’s Island. And just like in yesterday’s blog, I would normally end the blog with the sunset, but tonight’s skies kept giving us a treat to see. Over the skies of Salem, the crescent moon was shining brightly with Venus shining brightly close by, and shortly before midnight, the fog rolled in and the fog horn started blasting. This time the fog horn went off for the dense fog and not just heavy rain (I am writing this post on Monday morning and the fog horn is still sounding every 30 seconds and the fog advisory is in effect until 9am, hope no one minds the horn).

Tower Selfie

Our happy place to watch the sunset, on the gallery decks of Pa Baker


Low tide: 7:30am
High tide: 1:50pm
Sunrise: 5:20am
Sunset: 8:18pm
Man hours worked: 12
Total man hours worked: 428

Posted by: tflana | July 13, 2018

The Coal Room

    Sunrise      Another early morning for Brian and me. I wanted to get cookies baked for the overnight guests and if, I have time, pick raspberries for them as well. Brian wanted to install the bathroom storm window on the Assistant Keeper’s House before the guests arrived at 9am. Needless to say, I woke before sunrise and Brian hesitantly woke up at 7 with some gentle encouragement from me, did I mention in the past, I am the morning person and he is the night owl?

AKH treats
As the coffee kicked in, both of worked on our list of things to do. Brian needed to set up his mobile carpentry shop with the generator and table saw, the bathroom window needed trim pieces added inside the frame to make the storm window fit. This always seems like an easy task when he starts but the lack of electricity and how far apart all the workshops are located, it almost becomes a cardio workout. He finished and cleaned as I went down to the beach to greet the Naumkeag and the 4 overnight guests. The last 2 storm windows will wait until Monday when there are no guests in the house.


Once we got the guests settled in to the cottage, it was time to get back to work. I also work remotely for the Annapolis Boat Shows as the Educational and Employment Coordinator. Today I had a long list of phone interviews to complete with perspective employees who will work with Brian and I getting the fall boat show underway. I will hire over 100 people to work 3 weeks to put on the largest in water boat show in the world. My hope today was to add about 10-15 new employees to the roster. I guess this is a perfect job for me due to the fact I love to talk, and I will have 20 new people to talk to today.
Brian’s goal was to glaze and caulk the last 3 windows on the sun parlor. No matter what, this project of ours needs to be finished this weekend. I want a chance to clean up and enjoy our work instead of sitting around with saw horses and ladders. As he was scraping the windows, he went to start the small Honda generator to use the vacuum and it wouldn’t start. He headed back to the shed to figure out what was going on and ended up rebuilding the carburetor and choke mechanism on the generator, and now it runs better than before. Once this was done, he did go back to work on the windows because he knows how much I really want this project done. The only thing left to do tomorrow is for me to paint the 3 windows and Brian will reinstall them.

Coal House Pre2

The overgrown mess of the old coal room

Coal House Pre

The before picture of the coal room

Coal House Post2

The completed excavation of the old coal room or house

By mid-afternoon, I needed a break from work and went down to the beach with my cameras, garden shears, a bow saw and some loppers. For most, this doesn’t sound like a break from work, but it was a chance for me to have alone time, get some fun pictures of the most photographed seagulls in Massachusetts and work on a project I have wanted to do since we arrived on the island: Tackle the Coal Room down near the beach steps. Coal on the islands was a source of heat and cooking for the keeper’s but during the late 1800’s into the early part of the 20th century, coal was also used to run the fires which helped produce steam which allowed the fog signals, at the time they were steam whistles, to run over a long period of time. It was reported in 1887 at the Point Reyes Lighthouse, in Northern California, the keepers kept the fog signal working for 176 hours which involved shoveling almost 25,000 pounds of coal into the fire. The normal routine would be for a coal barge to beach itself and unload the coal for the island’s use. It was most likely stored as close to the beach as needed and then transported to the Whistle House as needed. When you walk up the beach steps to the grassy trail, look to the right and you will see the walls of the coal house and it still has a large supply of coal strewn within the walls.Scarred Seagull and beach baby


Also, I spent some time with the seagulls and the camera. A new adult seagull appeared in the area where Larry, Moe, and Curly call home. I saw this seagull about 3 weeks ago near the Norseman Point Trail, it had received some major injuries and I thought for sure, nature was going to win this battle. However, it appears the seagull made it and is now hanging out with the beach babies. I am always looking for a Disney ending to my stories, so maybe he was last years’ beach baby and is recuperating in his safe place. No matter what the back story is, I am thrilled he is alive and is hanging with the 3 goof balls!


Future edibles found today on island – grapes


Edibles found on island today – blackberries

Low tide was at 5:06pm and I found the 4 guests enjoying a little quiet time on the beach. I showed them what wishing rocks looked like and to make a wish as well as gave them some hints on sea glass hunting. When I left them, they had many wishing rocks and a fair sampling of sea glass. The rest of our evening was spent in the sun parlor enjoying the sailboats racing by and watching a picture-perfect sunset. Does not get much better than today!


The sunset picture taken from our seats in the sun parlor

High tide: 11:07am
Low tide: 5:06pm
Sunrise: 5:16am
Sunset: 8:20pm
Man hours worked: 12 (Brian did most of them today)
Total man hours worked: 284

Posted by: tflana | July 12, 2018

Volunteer Day on Island


   Brian and I took two days to visit with family at the Flanagan family reunion on Prospect Lake, near Great Barrington, MA. We arrived back last night and knew by taking a few days off, we would be behind schedule getting the yardwork done before guests arrive on Thursday. I had a game plan for Wednesday when the volunteers were coming out to work for the day, Brian and I would work on the yard and trails, and the volunteers would start scraping the paint off the north side of the Keeper’s Cottage. This all seemed logical and was what we thought up until about 8:30 this morning. I received a call from Annie Harris, the Essex Heritage Director, letting us know the storm windows for the Assistant Keeper’s House were on the Naumkeag along with Heather and 3 volunteers. The Game Plan has now changed!


When the Naumkeag arrived, we quickly unloaded the 9 storm windows and used the ATV and cart to move them to the cottage, thank goodness we had extra hands to help. Today, the volunteers were Tom, Ingrid and Bill, whom have been out on each volunteer day and are always willing to help with anything needing to get done. And did we need them today! The new plan was to install the storm windows today while we had help, especially the 2nd floor windows. Brian is not a big fan of heights and I can’t even imagine how he and I would have gotten these windows done by ourselves, the upstairs windows took 5 of us to complete. Ingrid and I were responsible for ladder stabilization, Tom was inside making sure all was in line and functioning, and Bill & Brian carried, climbed and mounted the windows while on top of the ladders.


During the day, I did get the yard mowed and the trails cut for the overnight guests tomorrow night to enjoy. Ingrid helped by cutting the bittersweet from the trails before I went through with the lawn mower and she did all the dead heading in the gardens. Heather started the scraping of the north wall on the keeper’s cottage and, later Ingrid joined her. Between the 6 of us, we accomplished so much in only 7 hours, what a great group to work with and in the end, everyone was smiling. After the volunteers went back home, Brian and I finished the yard work, put away all our tools and finally sat down in the sun parlor absolutely exhausted.

Heather on scaffolding

Heather, the island coordinator, putting some time in on the scaffolding scraping the north wall of the cottage

Brian Tom and Bill finishing up with a smile

Tom, Bill, and Brian ended their day with a smile

     One of the fun things I enjoy is watching the nature of the island. Most people know I am obsessed with the beach baby seagulls, Larry, Moe & Curly. But when we came back from Great Barrington, the milkweed and thistle are in bloom and the bees and monarchs are everywhere. This is a sign of a healthy ecosystem on the island, and currently with all the chemicals used to keep lawns green, we have effectively destroyed whole ecosystems for these creatures to thrive, but on the island, there aren’t chemicals used to make things greener and I have my own personal butterfly garden to enjoy.


I also wanted to share a feature of the Keeper’s Cottage with you, the skylight. The skylight certainly adds light to the upstairs hallway, but it also looks directly at Pa Baker. I am not sure if this has been part of the cottage since the original building, but it allows us to see the light shining all night long. I would love to romanticize it a little, on a cold night, maybe the keeper would get out of bed to make sure his light was still shining during the assistant keeper’s shift, or maybe Mrs. Keeper would look out to make sure her husband was safe up in the tower. The unfortunate thing about this skylight, is it was damaged this winter and is leaking a lot during the rain we have been getting. Essex Heritage is working on having it replaced this month, which will only make me want to gaze through it even more!

KH Skylight
High tide: 10:11am
Low tide: 4:09pm
Sunrise: 5:16am
Sunset: 8:20pm
Man hours worked: 18
Total man hours worked: 372


Posted by: tflana | June 30, 2018

USCG come for a visit

     There are days when I sit down to write the blog when I realize I have nothing to write about, today this was not the case. We woke up to a beautiful morning with reading the forecasted temperatures for the mainland were going up into the 90’s for the next few days, but with the sea breeze and our position out in Salem Sound, we knew it would be a perfect day on Baker’s Island.


After yesterday’s rain, we needed to do some serious trail work before guests came on island, so after my second cup of coffee, off I went with the weedwhacker and Brian went off with the push mower. The trails didn’t stand a chance against us. It did become somewhat of a challenge because I was trying to avoid all the raspberry bushes, but some were sacrificed to make the trails passable. When I finished I walked up to the house for a cold drink and all of a sudden, I see a few guys dressed in blue walking around the lighthouse. This can give a person a start when no one should be on the island yet!


I guess I need to take a step back and explain the role of the United States Coast Guard here on the island. Even though Essex Heritage has the deed for the 10 ½ acres which the light house and the building stand on, the USCG is still responsible for the navigational aids on the island, the light on top of Pa Baker and the fog horn. Since we arrived on the island, the emergency back up light was open and flashed every 30 seconds even with the main red/white light was working. This should not be the case, the emergency light would only come on if the red/white light went out. This day in age, the lighthouses are not as important since most mariners have GPS on their boat but if you were looking for a certain light pattern on Baker’s Island Light, it would be wrong. Also, since we arrived on the island, the fog horn has never sounded, even on foggy days like yesterday.

Brian did call the USCG out of Gloucester yesterday to report the emergency light and fog horn. After sending an email with pictures showing the light, the USCG said they would investigate it. Now back to the guys in blue walking around the tower, it was the USCG from Boston to fix the navigational aids. Otis and Austin were the gentlemen completing the work which took most of the morning. By the time the guys were done, we had a new emergency light and we finally heard the fog horn. We also found out the fog horn still is activated by the older method of moisture detection and it appears the fog horn will be converted to mariner activated sometime next year.

IMG_0622 (2)

Notice the sideways tilt of the emergency light, this is how it was upon our arrival to the island

USCG Austin on tower
The emergency light was taken down to the gallery decks to repair, they ended up putting a new assembly up instead
repaired emergency light

The newly repaired emergency light is the correct orientation

  As the Coasties were still working, the morning tour was arriving. The boat today had 6 overnight guests for the Assistant Keeper’s Cottage, as well as a carpenter and roofer who were looking into some of the roofing and skylight problems we are having, as well as day guests. The island was hoping again. As the morning progressed, we got everyone settled in and the tradesmen were climbing ladders and making plans for work needing to be done. It really is amazing how quickly the first half of the day goes by when you are busy!

Once the boat headed back to Salem, Brian needed to go into Manchester by the Sea to get some much needed groceries. The rule we must follow is one of us is always on island while we are hosting guests, and this was the first time, he went off on his own with the boat. He was off with the backpacks and list and a kiss goodbye. Personally, I think he was thrilled to take off on his mini-adventure.Brian off grocery shopping

Once he returned, the rest of the afternoon was spent on the sun parlor with shade and a cool breeze, exactly what we planned when we started cleaning the porch up the week we arrived. In the gutters of the sun parlor, about 5 sparrows were hanging out there most of the day. I got the camera out when it looked like an army of sparrows was flying all around the gutters and the windows. It seems the 5 sparrows are juveniles and the parents swoop down and feed the little noisy monsters. Our overnight guests were spending time at the beach, the guys were fly fishing for striped bass, and then enjoyed a very spirited game of cornhole.



Brian and Sam Salem

Brian enjoying some quiet time with Sam Salem

Unfortunately, as we were cooking dinner, one of the guests came over to let us know the kitchen sink was backed up and there was a leak under the sink. Ok, time to get the tools and see what is going on. I am thankful daily that Brian is so versatile with his skills. He tried to unclog the drain trap, but it appears farther down the system in the crawl space under the cottage. The guests had a great attitude and informed us they are campers and they will make do with the other sinks in the house and Brian will fix the sink in the morning while there is more light everywhere.

Party boat at sunset

Sunset party boat going by the island, it was full of happy people with the music blaring

As the sunset, the guests came up to the plateau for a while to enjoy the scenery and just a chance to unwind even more before bed. The day was busy and full but, in the end,, we all fell asleep contented and happy!

Low tide: 6:47am
High tide: 1:03pm
Sunrise: 5:08am
Sunset: 8:4pm
Man hours worked: 8
Total man hours worked: 287

Posted by: tflana | June 25, 2018

A Historical Find?

Historical Bakers Island Picture

Historical picture of the 2 towers on Baker’s Island, Ma Baker is the tower in the back ground

     One of the favorite past times Brian has on the old USCG lighthouse islands, is looking for the old dump and he spends time looking for treasures. Over the past few weeks, he has found a 1942 Coca Cola bottle and a few other machinery parts. But on Saturday afternoon, he came into the house with a huge smile on his face and said he found pay dirt! He thought he found a full stair and the gallery decks from Ma Baker!


     Saturday night, Brian and I spent time on line researching the history of cast iron use in lighthouses and a little more about the tower known as Ma Baker. Here is a quick review of the smaller tower’s history on Baker’s Island. In 1816, a small octagonal tower was built on the island that stood 26 feet tall and 75 feet above sea level. A taller second tower was conical is shape and built in 1820. Most likely, Ma Baker, the smaller tower, was built of stone and had granite steps ascending the tower. In 1857, Fresnel lenses were installed in both towers and both towers were lined with brick at this time. Cast iron became the popular choice of stairs and railings in lighthouses starting in the 1840’s (as noted in Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook). It is possible when the Fresnel lens was installed in Ma Baker, the stair structure and pedestals needed to be upgraded to support the heavier lens in the tower, and a cast iron spiral staircase would have been in vogue at the time and far stronger than the old stairs. The cast iron staircase would have wound up to the gallery decks which would sit on top of the tower masonry. When Ma Baker was dismantled in 1926, and Pa Baker had some much needed repairing, the mechanic, John Robinson found an 1847 penny under Pa Baker’s pedestal, which backs up the timing of the cast iron installation of the gallery decks in the taller tower as well.

     When Ma Baker was dismantled, her debris was pushed down the hill to the west of the Engine House. And this leads us back to Brian’s search for treasures. There are piles of loose bricks and pieces of mortared bricks and granite pieces mixed in, but if you have a pry bar, a pair of loppers to cut down vegetation and a strong pair of gloves, you can easily move the debris piles around and find historical items, like the cast iron stairs and gallery decks.

The 3 Pieces assembled as a stair case

The 3 pieces of the cast iron staircase assembled with a little help to stabilize the pieces

     When Brian took me out to the Engine House to show me his treasures combined with the pieces Essex Heritage had found, I was able to recreate how the pieces fit together like a jig saw puzzle. Brian had also cleared around the cast iron gallery decks which were partially lined with brick and mortar, most likely where the decks were sitting on top of Ma Baker’s masonry structure. However, the 4 pieces he uncovered were far to heavy for us to lift and carry up the hill. He worked out a system with the ATV to drag the 4 pieces up the hill without anything or anyone damaged. We still have not had a chance to try to put these pieces together to represent how they would have sat on top of the tower, but it will be fun to work on over the next week and I am sure now the weekend guests are gone, Brian will be spending more time on the hunt for buried treasures.



Information found in Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook (August 1997 ) and Baker’s Island Light History – A Virtual Guide written by Jeremy D’Entremont

Posted by: tflana | June 22, 2018

The Summer Solstice

     This morning when we woke up, Ms. Pickles had not improved and if anything, she was a little wobblier and having a terrible time balancing. The goal was to be ready to leave the island for 8:30am to make sure we were at New England Veterinary Center for the 10am appointment. On good days, most people think a trip to the vet is just another task on their list, but when we need to take our dog to the vet it requires many modes of transportation and a prayer to the weather gods to keep the winds in our favor.

As a quick overview on what is going on with Pickles, on Wednesday morning she was a little off, didn’t want to eat and was acting like a drunken sailor. She has 3 legs and a bad knee so balancing for her is always an act of will power but with the head tilt and wobbliness, it involved many face plants and somersaults. By Wednesday afternoon, she was even worse. She was willing to eat turkey baby food mixed with water, but not that interested in people food, there is something wrong with her. A few of the possibilities that ran through my mind was an inner ear infection, old dog vestibular disease or lead poisoning. The lead poisoning would not have been a consideration if it wasn’t for the fact we have been scraping and sanding the sun parlor with her present the whole time, who knows if any of this paint was lead based.

Brian made sure we were at the animal hospital in plenty of time and I was the typical worried mom. My heart was breaking because on Tuesday, she was an absolute clown around the house and in the yard and now she can’t stand up and is whining. After her exam and some bloodwork, it appears to be old dog vestibular disease, which should right itself within the next 5-7 days, she may always have a head tilt and be off balance but most of the time, dogs have a full recovery. It is like a mini stroke in a human, unsure of the cause but time will heal her. For my piece of mind, we did request a blood lead level test to be done, lead poisoning is easily treated and should not be left undiagnosed. She is going to be taking a low dose of Dramamine to help her with her dizziness.

Pickles coming home

Pickles having to ride with the ice and groceries, she is not loving this new ride to her kingdom

As we were returning to the island, it occurred to us, today is the summer solstice, the most daylight of the year. In most cases, we try to get a sail in on this day, but a ride in the powerboat is our new norm and at least, we did get out on the water.

Nothing better than a newly cut lawn

There is nothing better than the view of the yard after we finish the grass cutting

Chores still awaited us when we got back at lunchtime. The lawn needed to be cut for the weekend guests arrival. Brian started with the weedwhacker and I climbed on the John Deer Tractor and off we went! This is the first time in my life I wore a respirator mask cutting the grass because it is so dry here on the island, as I cut some areas, a major dust bowl is stirred up. What used to take us 10-man hours to cut, we have down to 6 hours. This gave me a chance to investigate a trail we learned about yesterday from on of the volunteers, supposedly it runs the southwest border of the property and ends down at the beach. With a few hints from the volunteer and more from Annie Harris, I found what looked like an overgrown path. From what I understand, the path was cut by last years caretakers and they were concerned no one would find it and maintain it. I grabbed the second weedwhacker and started in, of course, I was lucky because the trailblazers were kind enough to mark areas with white paint to convince me I was on the right path. Brian joined me as I got closer to the beach, but we ran out of gas in the weedwhackers and we are at the point where we need loppers to cut through the beach roses to get to the cliffs, so much fun!


After dinner, we decided to celebrate the sunset at the top of the tower, again, this is a priceless gift we have as caretakers and one we never take lightly, the ability to witness the world high above with water as the backdrop. As we were talking about what projects we want to complete before leaving in July, Brian mentioned he wanted to clear around the old stone fireplace at the edge of the property. As we were looking out at it from the tower, we realized there is an outline of a trail from the fireplace to the northern cliffs, yep, we are going trail blazing this weekend between guest to see if it is a trail or not! In case anyone is wondering, we are kids using adult bodies to get around, it is always an adventure!


Another Possible trail seen from the tower

Another possible outline of a trail from the tower, will need further exploring


High tide: 6:28am
Low tide: 12:26pm
Sunrise: 5:05am
Sunset: 8:24pm
Man hours worked today: 8
Total man hours worked: 222

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