For 16 years, from 1987 to 2003, my husband, Bob, and I, “The Lighthouse People,” photographed every standing lighthouse in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. We would travel to take photos until we ran out of money, then we’d come back home to Florida and work until we had enough money to go out and take more photos.
In the past few years, due to age and finances, we had thought that our lighthouse travels might be over, although we did take a few small trips. But the Last Great Lighthouse Trip was just meant to be.
First of all, we had two free tickets from AirTran Airlines. Then an invitation came to spend some time in Maine with the folks from Lighthouse Digest. At that time, our lighthouse sidekicks, Tom and Darlene Chisholm, of Albion, Michigan, offered to meet us when we flew into Portland, Maine, and take us up the coast of Maine on our way to Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
Sometime back we had met Carol Livingstone, “The Lighthouse Lady of Prince Edward Island,” so we decided to go there and try to photograph all the lighthouses of PEI. As well as the AirTran tickets and the transportation from the Chisholms, we had a lot of financial support from friends and strangers. Otherwise we could not have gone.
While in the real “downeast” Maine we had a fantastic visit with long time lighthouse friends Tim and Kathy of Lighthouse Digest fame. On one perfect day they took us by boat to the restored Little River Lighthouse on an island in Cutler, Maine. We had been there many years ago when the lighthouse was abandoned, but this visit provided a great surprise. Wow, what an amazing change has been wrought on that island! The restored lighthouse, keeper’s house and grounds looked wonderful. There is something magical about the island and lighthouse.
At the office of Lighthouse Digest, the four of us did something a lot of people would consider work. We spent four volunteer days scanning over 1000 archival photos from the files and if given the opportunity, we will return to try and complete the project. It’s hard to comprehend the large collection of historical images they have collected. Scanning old photos, to us, is a way to help preserve history, and personally, it is like opening Christmas packages: lots of surprises.
Then it was on to Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island is not a small island. It is about 140 miles from tip to tip with 2,184 square miles of land and approximately 1,100 miles of shoreline. It is the smallest province of Canada. The average number of people per square mile is greater than in any other Province although they are scattered in small communities. At one lighthouse per approximately every 34 square miles, it probably has more lighthouses for its size than any State or Province in North America.
We spent seven days and eight nights on Prince Edward Island, six of those nights at Carol Livingstone’s “Lighthouse Lover’s Vacation Home.” Carol’s husband, Wayne, a lobster fisherman, kept us supplied with all the lobster we could eat at a very reasonable price. Since Bob doesn’t normally eat lobster, Carol made him “the best lobster bisque on the Island” and shocked Bob by telling him when he was done that he had eaten two whole lobsters. I learned to eat lobsters like the folks on PEI eat it, with a large sharp knife and a lobster fork.
Carol accompanied us to all the lighthouses and many times paved the way into private property. We photographed all 63 lighthouses of Prince Edward Island in six days, including one, Cardigan Range Light, which had been more or less forgotten and left off the lists. It, like many others, was relocated to a campground, where it is destined to soon be a vacation home. Each day we rushed from lighthouse to lighthouse. Every day it rained and sometimes poured, but if it rained in the morning, the afternoon was clear and bright; and vice versa. One morning the rain was a solid wall of water. We were discouraged, but Carol, convinced us start out. She was right; by the time we got to our first lighthouse that day, the sun was out. Magic!
We started our quest (and ended it) at West Point Lighthouse, the lighthouse closest to Carol Livingstone’s home, “her” lighthouse, the one she had worked to restore and save. Carol’s great-grandfather, William Anderson MacDonald, fondly nicknamed “Lighthouse Willie,” helped build it and was its first lighthouse keeper at West Point. He was the keeper for fifty years. When he retired, he was awarded the Imperial Long Service Medal by representatives of King George V.
We photographed approximately 10 lighthouses a day, but in our rush didn’t manage to miss any meals, although a few were just coffee and donuts at a Tim Horton’s. We put 2,200 miles on the car and thoroughly confused the GPS unit. We hiked to some lighthouses and sometimes we had to use our long lenses and didn’t always get good shots, but we got the photographs.
We drove to the northern and mid-island lighthouses each morning from the Lighthouse Lover’s Vacation home, but to travel at the south end, we had to find motels. We ended up staying two nights at a motel near the Wood Islands Lighthouse, so we were able to photograph it evening and morning.
Most of the lighthouses were fairly easy to get to; although we drove down some muddy red clay roads to get to some of them. More than a few had been moved from their original sites and were in campgrounds or on private property; three or four had been incorporated into houses and were being lived in.
Several of the little wooden lighthouses are privately owned and literally falling apart. We photographed one called Brush Wharf, which in past years had been mistaken for an unusual outhouse. Another pair, the Douse Point Ranges, was on private property although we were able to photograph them. The Front Range looked to be in passable condition in a yard. The Back Range, in a field of weeds, looked to be in terrible condition.
There were two that we just couldn’t get close enough to for a satisfactory photo. The first Cascumpec, is on an island and we didn’t have time to arrange for a boat; this was also the case with Malpeque Harbour Approach Light, which is also on an island. Part of our party hiked quite a way to see it, but it was still too far away to get a decent photo. We did get a boat ride with a local fisherman to view St. Peter’s Island Lighthouse, but the photos were not satisfactory as the lighthouse was on a cliff well above us. We really needed an airplane for that one.
I like to say that taking apples to feed the horses is the price of admission to view Panmure Head Lighthouse. I took a 5 lb. bag and we fed every bit of the apples to the large Belgian horses, a breed that, in earlier years, was used to harvest sea moss. These horses seemed to be pets and as we parked, they galloped up to the fence to greet us. Panmure is in a beautiful place. We were lucky the sun shone so we could get great photos.
It was a great adventure. Prince Edward Island is very beautiful, and the people are friendly. There is a lot of history and many stories on the island and I would go back in a minute.
In fact, I plan to go back next year, as Carol Livingstone and I hope to write a book together: “Lighthouses, Legends and Lore of Prince Edward Island.”
To learn more about our adventures or purchase one
of our books or photographs, you can visit our web site at www.TheLighthousePeople.com.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2010 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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