Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2021

Keeper Memories of Burnt Island Lighthouse - Randy Griffing

Randy Griffing (KEEPER 1974 – 1977)


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Former Coast Guard keeper Randy Griffing ...
Photo by: Debra Baldwin

Originally from Brunswick, Maine, Randy enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1970 and served on the ice breaker tug Apalachee out of Baltimore as his first assignment. Two years later, he was sent to help establish an isolated LORAN-C station in Italy on a seven-mile rock island between Tunisia and Sicily. There were 20 people at the station, including some locals, a truck driver, cook, maintenance man, and a beautiful interpreter named Anna Gurreri. A little over a year later, he and Anna had married and came back together to American shores in the fall of 1973.

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Randy Griffing takes his oath on July 27, 1970 ...

Randy was next assigned to Coast Guard Group Portland on search and rescue duty for nine months, during which time he was a substitute keeper at Doubling Point, Wood Island, Squirrel Point and Portland Head Lighthouses in place of the regular keepers who went on leave. His enlistment ran out at that point, but he told them that if he could get orders to lighthouse duty, he would re-enlist, so they agreed and he was sent to Burnt Island Lighthouse for the next three and a half years.

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Randy stands with his Doberman station dog, Jet, ...

Randy’s claim to fame at Burnt Island Lighthouse was to establish the rope swing which is still there. The tugboat Yankton had parted its towing hawser down in Portland and Randy saw the pile of nylon and asked if anyone had any use for it. They gave him permission to take it out to the lighthouse and he remembers that he feared for his car as it was really too heavy to load into the trunk for the rear shocks, but he made it back okay.

Randy and Anna had a station dog, a black Doberman by the name of Jet. They got him as a pup a few months after going out to Burnt Island. Randy remembers taking Jet out in the boat and watching him try to bite the wake. They also had a black and white cat named, appropriately, Fog Horn.

Whenever it rained hard at the lighthouse, the keepers needed to use the extra water supply immediately or it would overflow the cistern tank and flood the basement. Randy remembers waking Anna up in the middle of the night when it was storming outside, saying, “Is there any extra laundry we can do right now?” But midnight laundry was a necessity if they didn’t want a mess to clean up the next morning.

At the end of the 200th anniversary celebration out at Burnt Island Light this August, when everyone got absolutely drenched from Hurricane Fred while waiting for the boat to shore, Randy mentioned that Hank Sieg, who had served there a decade after him, turned to him and said, “This is the kind of rain where we would get caught up on our laundry!” So, it appears all the keepers knew that was the protocol for storms, no matter when they served.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2021 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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