Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2013

Post Hurricane Repairs at Robbins Reef Lighthouse


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Shown here is the barge at Robbins Reef ...

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Volunteer Blaise Wollman is shown working on the ...

This past May, seventeen volunteers from the Noble Maritime Collection began repairs to New York’s Robbins Reef Lighthouse that had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012.

The 32-foot plus waves from the hurricane broke through the back door of the lighthouse and destroyed parts of the caisson, the platform, and lighthouse interior, as well as all of the museums equipment and supplies.

Museum Trustee Glen Miller of Miller’s Launch provided transport to the site and a barge that was equipped with a bucket excavator and dumpster and staffed by four men. Trustee Jeff Wollman of the Reicon Group provided the generator, welding machine, gasoline and propane tanks, as well as a new steel door to replace the one that had been blown in during the storm.

Museum Board Chairman Steve Kalil of Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Company fabricated a new docking platform grating to replace the one blown away, and Russ Powell and Don DeFillo of Island Housewrights removed the ruined wooden first floor and uncovered the cast iron floor and flanges that support it. 

Under the supervision of welder Scott Van Campen of New York Custom Fabricators and museum Trustee Brian DeForest of Atlantic Salt, volunteers demolished the basement furnace with a sledge hammer and sawzall and hauled it out to the dumpster.

With two of his colleagues from the Reicon Group, Blaise Wollman installed the new docking platform; the original had been carried off by the storm.  They then replaced the wood and sheet metal door that had been blown in by the storm with a steel door, welding it onto the old door surrounds. 

Everyone helped bring a new generator, welding machine, propane tanks, a new shop vacuum, and supplies onto the caisson.  They all pitched in to remove the wooden floor boards and the damaged equipment and materials, such as the museum’s generator, shop vacuum, and supplies.

However, it was discovered that the under-floor and flanges were wet, rusty, and covered with scale and will need to be cleaned and painted before a new floor can be installed. On the next trip, volunteers will scrape and paint the first floor walls and ceiling, as they are grimy and flaking from the dampness of the storm.  They will also remove scale and rust from the sub-floor flanges and surface.  After the walls and ceiling are clean and dry, they will paint them and install a new wood floor.  The secondary work project will be funded in part by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which provided $10,000 to restore the floor,and the museum will also install a solar fan for better ventilation.

However, none of the recent repairs at Robbins Reef Lighthouse would have been possible if it had not been for the dedicated efforts of the local business owners who donated their equipment, time, and supplies, and the other volunteers who assisted with the labor. They are all to be commended.

To learn more about Robbins Reef Lighthouse, you can refer to the story, “Kate Would Be Proud” that appeared in the March/April 2011 edition of Lighthouse Digest, which is the most complete and accurate account of Kate Walker’s extraordinary life at the lighthouse.

For more information about the Noble Maritime Collection and Robbins Reef Lighthouse, or to make a much needed donation for the Robbins Reef Lighthouse, visit the museum’s website at www.noblemaritime.org or you can write to them at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301.

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2013 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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