This past September, my husband, Tom and I, along with a number of other lighthouse aficionados, experienced a lighthouse cruise adventure on board the historic Wanderbird, a 90-foot restored Dutch North Sea fishing trawler that is owned and operated by Rick and Karen Miles. Our journey began in Belfast, Maine to the rugged Downeast coast of Maine and into south New Brunswick, Canada. We had an adventure of a lifetime. Come with now as I relive this trip for you.
As we settled into our small, comfortable cabin, one of six, we found space for everything either under our bed or in the 4-shelf closet. Our cabin with its highly varnished wood and braided rug had a long curved double bed along one wall and its own unique head with composting toilet.
That first night we became acquainted or reacquainted with our shipmates, as a number of us had traveled together before on another lighthouse tour. Actually, I knew most of the travelers since my husband Tom and I had put the trip together. We had taken the Down East Maine Lighthouse Tour in 2006 and enjoyed it so much that we envisioned a new tour-Belfast, Maine to Grand Manan Island, Canada.
For seven days we sailed aboard the Wanderbird. Each and every day was an different adventure, with the seas, the wind, and, of course, Captain Rick Miles, determining our course. Saturday we sailed by and photographed the following Maine lighthouses: Dice Head, Eagle Island, Mark Island and Burnt Coat Island. At sunset we sailed past Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse and anchored in the harbor for the night in sight of the light. The next morning we once again sailed past by Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse with its unique bell tower. Although the tower appears to be in good shape, it appears that work is being done of the keeper’s house, which is in need of a good paint job.
On Sunday we decided to get as far north as possible. We came close to the 1890 Great Duck Island Lighthouse with its one out of three surviving keeper’s houses. Near sunset we photographed Moose Peak Lighthouse and fog signal building on Mistake Island before slipping between the islands for a safe anchorage for the night. The Wanderbird had traveled 57 nautical miles through some rolling seas. We were all glad the day was over.
Although the air was cool Monday morning, the sun shone bright and the sea was calmer than the day before as we sailed past Libby Island Lighthouse, the third oldest in Maine. The 1824 tower and 1884 fog signal building still stand. Although this area is highly known for its dense fog, we were lucky, there was no fog.
Our first Canadian lighthouse was Machias Seal Lighthouse, which is fully staffed by lighthouse keepers, due to a boundary dispute with the United States. The 1915 concrete white tower with a red lantern stands on a low rocky island near the boundary of Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy with its tremendous tidal currents and appeared to be in very good condition, something that is most likely attributed to the excellent maintenance of the keepers.
As impressive as Machias Seal was, Gannet Rock our next light was even more impressive. This 1831 wooden tower with black and white vertical stripes stands on a very small rock island 6 miles southwest of Grand Manan. Unmanned with solar panels powering the light, this grand old lighthouse appeared very lonely, especially with the tidal currents swirling about. One can easily imagine the waves washing over the low-lying rocks and the vibrations that the keeper’s must have felt as the waves hit the lighthouse.
We continued on past the Grand Manan lighthouses: Southwest Head in the distance, Long Point, Great Duck Island and Swallowtail. Wow, what a day it had been!!!! We anchored for the night near Swallowtail lighthouse.
Originally we planned to get off on Grand Manan Island but since we had lost several days due to the weather, we decided to not stop and continue on our journey to see as many lights as possible. We continued on to view the Southern New Brunswick lighthouses: Long Eddy Point, S.W. Wolf Island, and Point Lepreau.
What an awesome sight - the Point Lepreau Lighthouse, a 59-foot white concrete tower with three horizontal red bands situated on a bluff on the Bay of Fundy. Unfortunately the lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Point Lepreau nuclear power station and is not accessible to visitors by land. Before we anchored for the night near Pea Point Lighthouse, we saw Musquash Head Light in the distance and we sailed by Drews Head Light.
Wednesday morning we awaken to another cool but beautiful day. Once again we sailed passed the very interesting fish farms and traps, Roaring Bull Rock Day mark, and Pea Point Lighthouse. We sailed past Bliss Island Light and L’Etete Passage, which is located near the Deer Island ferry terminal and guards the passage between Deer Island and the mainland. Although the fog signal is still active, ownership of this 39-foot white wooden lighthouse has been transferred to the Green’s Point Light Association and the keeper’s house is now a museum. We sailed by Leonardville Light, a small 28-foot pepper pot light set on a cliff at the entrance to Leonardville Harbor.
The Head Harbor (East Quoddy Head) lighthouse with its bright red cross of St. George could be seen for miles before with reached it. What an awesome sight and a much easier way to view the lighthouse from the water than all those steps and the walk across the rocks! As we continued our downward track, we passed into Maine waters and saw Lubec Channel and West Quoddy Head lighthouses. Seeing the West Quoddy Head light with its red and white strips from the water was very special! Tuesday night we tucked safely inside Cutler Harbor.
Wednesday morning Tim Harrison and Kathy Finnegan, in one of the Little River Light Station’s boats came to the Wanderbird to pick us up for a tour of Little River Lighthouse, which sits on a 15-acre island in Cutler’s harbor. What a beautiful lighthouse!!! We climbed the tower, toured the restored and nicely furnished keeper’s house, visited with Tim, Kathy, and the caretakers, walked the grounds, spent our money, and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The volunteers of the American Lighthouse Foundation, under Tim’s leadership, have done a wonderful job restoring this light. It’s hard to believe that Little River Lighthouse was once on the Doomsday List.
Our trip continued past more lighthouses, Narraguagus (Pond Island), Nash Island, and tall Petit Manan Lighthouse. Friday morning the rain began as we sailed past Bear Island, the top of Baker Island, Bass Harbor Head, Blue Hill, and Pumpkin Island Lights and on into Belfast, Maine. The rains had set in. Although the trip had been cut short due to weather, we had seen so much more than we had originally anticipated. When all was said and done, we had sailed 349 nautical miles and photographed 29 lighthouses up close, six lights in the distance, and four minor lights or daymarks.
Each day we had wonderful meals, starting with Captain Rick’s special breakfasts. Karen and her staff brought forth delicious lunches and dinners. The scenery and solitude left one in awe. We had indeed had a successful lighthouse cruise! We hope to have future Wanderbird cruises to other areas of Atlantic Canada. Maybe you will join us on a future trip. In any case we invite you to check out the www.wanderbirdcruises.com. If you have questions or comments about this article, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story appeared in the
December 2008 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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