After sitting for years closed and in disrepair, Race Point’s Keeper’s House & Lighthouse were brought back to life by volunteers of the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation under the leadership of Jim Walker, who has served as the chapter’s president since it was founded. Now offering overnight stays, Race Point attracts visitors from around the world. Guests are “chaperoned” by Keepers — ALF members specifically trained to care for the house and it guests. What follows is a firsthand account of what it’s like to be a Keeper at Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
I was waiting for our first guests to arrive. This was my husband, Bill, and my inaugural as Keepers at Race Point. Our seasonal guests are always watched after by a Keeper family who stays in the bedroom on the first floor of the Keeper’s House. Standing next to Race Point’s seasoned Jeep Wagoneer, I remember thinking, “What will our guests be like? Will everyone get along? Will we be good Keepers?” The answers would come soon enough.
Twenty minutes later, Bill and I drove off with our first five guests. As we shifted into four-wheel drive on Race Point’s over-sand trail, the magic started. A chorus of “ooohs” and “aaahhs” filled the air as everyone took in the magnificent scenery: striking sand dunes, copper sea grass, and, two-and-a-half miles later, Race Point Lighthouse and the Keeper’s House, perched magnificently on the sand.
Guests and gear unloaded, I showed our visitors the house while Bill retrieved the rest of our guests. As Keepers, our duties include transporting guests, house orientation and rules, and house & visitor safety (to name a few!). Our first five guests were a family with three children. The kids squealed with delight when they saw how close the ocean was, while their parents were thrilled with the cozy living room, large kitchen and gas grill. Bill soon arrived with the rest of our group — a retired couple who loved to fish, and a middle-aged man who enjoyed hiking.
As everyone ventured out, Bill and I finally began to relax a little. We had just settled into chairs on the porch when our fishing couple returned, looking quite dejected. Apparently, their fishing pole broke; to them, this was the worst thing that could happen! As we followed them into the house, we heard the young family talking in the kitchen. They too, had a problem: because they didn’t want to be late meeting us at the designated pickup location, they hadn’t provisioned well at all. Bill and I exchanged concerned glances: our guests were very unhappy, and they hadn’t even been with us for an hour!
Race Point’s Keeper guidelines do not include providing in-town transportation for guests. But clearly, this situation called to do exactly that. Bill and I had a short discussion, then went into the living room. “What does everyone think about a quick trip to town for supplies?”
Bill barely got the question out before our guests began jumping up and down, their exclamations of “Alright!” “Yes!” and “Wonderful!” filling the room. Bill and I exchanged a quick smile before he left; then the group was off, bumping down the sand trail towards town.
When they returned, our fishing couple couldn’t stop talking about the great deal they got on their brand new fishing pole. The parents of our young family looked relaxed and happy, now able to enjoy their stay with enough food and drink for their brood. “That was the best decision we could’ve made,” Bill whispered in my ear as our guests filled the kitchen, chattering happily.
Fishing gear in hand, our fisherman set out for the ocean, proclaiming he would bring back dinner. His wife settled into a chair on the porch, content now to read her book. Our young family headed for the beach, exhilarated and ready to enjoy the beautiful day, while the hiker set out to explore majestic parts unknown. Now Bill and I experienced one of the best part of being Keepers: when the guests are happy, you’re happy!
It was late afternoon when we heard the fisherman’s wife squealing with delight. “Look, look!” she yelled, pointing towards the trail leading from the ocean to the house. Sure enough, here came our fisherman, silhouetted by the late afternoon sun, holding his gear in one hand and a huge sea bass in the other! The children ran down the trail, each more elated than the next to see “a real fish,” caught just minutes ago. “I knew he’d do it, I really did!” his wife exclaimed, all the while thanking my husband for the trip into town that had provided the new fishing rod.
Everyone began to gather in the kitchen, while the
kids went outside for a lesson in how to clean and dress a fish. Bill and I were about to experience another pleasure of being Keepers at Race Point: many times, dinner is a gathering of all of the guests, with everyone contributing
a dish. Soon the aroma of fresh, grilled fish floated into
the kitchen as everyone chattered excitedly about their
day. When dinner was ready, we had ten people
gathered around the table! Our feast included the tasty sea bass, grilled chicken kabobs, and three different freshly prepared salads. A blessing was offered, and soon everyone was appreciating dinner together in this magical place
by the sea.
Bill had an after-dinner surprise for our guests as well: a sunset made extraordinary, viewed from the top of the lighthouse! Everyone grabbed their cameras and followed Bill out to the lighthouse. While climbing the circular stairs to the top, our guests actually fell silent. This 360-degree view is certainly one of the most superb anywhere: you can actually see the sun set right into the ocean. This surprise was enjoyed so much, it became one of my husband’s favorite traditions as a Keeper: each day he would announce the time of sunset, then chaperone our guests to the lighthouse for a one-of-a-kind show.
Being chosen as a Keeper or Keeper family at Race Point is a privilege — one Bill and I very much appreciate and enjoy. Every experience is woven into the tapestry that is Race Point: a remarkable place, where the opportunity to serve as Keeper of the light forever beckons.
Debbie Jenkins and her husband, Bill, live on Cape Cod and volunteer for Race Point in many other capacities, including year-round maintenance, operating the seasonal Gift Shop in the Keeper’s House, producing the yearly brochure, and overseeing Race Point’s web site.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2007 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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