Swan's Island, Maine   44˚8'3.49"N 68˚26' 50.44"W


The Annual Meeting of Friends of the Swan's Island Lighthouse (FOSIL) will be held on Monday August 18, at 4 pm, at the Town Office, 125 Harbor Road, Swan's Island, ME.


Plans for summer 2014 at Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station

This year, the Town is ready to make major progress on the light station restoration. Two grants received over the winter assured that funds are available to make a good start on the tower, and funds from several generous gifts will enable extensive work on the keeper’s house.

One major issue is removal of hazardous materials (hazmats) from the light station buildings. The hazmats include lead paint (in all four buildings), and asbestos tiles and black mold (primarily in the keeper’s house). In the light tower, removal of lead paint and rust would be combined with other tasks to restore the interior of the tower.

The Lighthouse Committee had hoped to get all these tasks accomplished through a single contract this spring, but the plan fell apart when we received only one bid, and that substantially greater than the professional estimates that we had been relying on (and on which our budget was based).

So – back to the drawing board. As to the tower, the Committee has concluded that the better way to start is to issue a base bid request for a smaller component of the project with the option of the contractor doing other alternate tasks through contract modifications once on the job.   It may take a little longer (and the work will not start this spring), but in the end we believe it will give us a wider choice of contractors, better cost control and allow closer monitoring of the work.  

As to the keeper’s house, we will focus first this summer on completing the downstairs rooms. This will include installation of kitchen facilities (in the old kitchen area) and bathroom facilities (in the closed off area to the left of the main entrance). Another task that must be done this year is to improve ventilation through installation of roof and soffit vents. Structural strengthening of the oceanside porch is also on the agenda.

There are two other construction or restoration tasks that we expect to complete this summer. The first is moving the fog bell from its present location near the ferry terminal back to Hockamock Head. It will be placed on a simple granite base in the area near the electrical meter, with appropriate landscaping and an explanatory plaque. The second is replacing the flagpole, which was shattered in a winter storm. Hinckley Yachts has promised the gift of an appropriate mast for that purpose, and we are presently working on arrangements to have it transported from Rhode Island to Swan’s Island.

As always, the Committee prefers to have Swan’s Island contractors doing the work at the light station. When local craftsmen are unable to schedule the work, or when skills are needed that are not available on the island, then we use off-island contractors. When we use off-island contractors, we provide them with information about local businesses, room and board, and encourage them to rely as much as possible on those services that are available on the island.


The Town Light House committee is seeking to fill at least two paid summer positions at Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station this summer. The Site Manager would open the keeper’s house each day (mid June through August) from 11 am to 3 pm, answer questions and manage the “donation station” (keeping track of inventory and donations). Two people could share this position, keeping the house open seven days a week. Alternatively, one person could take the position for 5 days a week. Hours and days are slightly flexible.

We are also looking for a tower tour guide (1 or 2 people) 2 or 3 afternoons a week, days and hours flexible.

If you are interested or if you have questions, please respond to info@burntcoatharborlight.com


Here’s what the keepers’ logs say about severe weather at Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station:

Jan 19 - NNW winds clear and very cold last night had a little snow at 1:30 pm. US Steamer Iris capt Johnston came off the Harbor ran into the Ice off Harbor Island Point had to back out and go round to the Eastern passage ran into the Ice as far as he could and made fast to the Ice by cutting a hole and hooking his anchor into it the Bay all full of rimming Ice Eastern outer Harbor all clear of Ice.
Feb 9 - NW Gale very cold weather at 2 AM so cold could not keep the lights burning had to take them down and heat them on the stove and set them agoing again with hot oil.
Feb 10 - Still cold had to keep a regular watch to keep the light burning the Harbor all closed up with Ice.
Feb 17 - Edward went to Brooklin on the Ice
Feb 18 - Edward returned from Brooklin on the Ice

Jan 25 - Crossed the Harbor to Harbor Island with Horse team

Jan 30 - Moderate NW. Clear. Frank Bridges and Charles Gross came near being frozen on Gunning Rock and was brought in here to the light to get warm and some dry clothes.
Feb 14 - Fresh breeze, NW. Clear. The Vinalhaven had a hard time getting through the ice. The harbor is all frozen over.

Feb 12 - Vapor. Mercury 18 below zero, the coldest ever remembered here.

January 31 - 24 below zero …

How about this bell to ring in the New Year for lighthouse friends!

Season’s Greetings from your friends at FOSIL!


Friends of the Swan’s Island Lighthouse (FOSIL) invites you to take a break from wrapping presents and take time to enjoy these unusual photos. The B&W photos are not snow scenes, but were taken using an infrared-converted camera. The one showing red roofs was selectively colored from a color photo taken at the same angle. The photos were taken last October by photographer Martin Bluhm while on a trip to Swan's Island with a group of camera enthusiasts. Check out Martin’s other photos from Swan’s Island and environs at www.martinbluhm.com.
AND -- have a wonderful holiday season!

Fixing Up the Tower – Help Is On The Way!

1474564 686005968097115 422622107 nThe Burnt Coat Light Station tower, though it looks sturdy and solid, has some serious maintenance issues. Rusting of the metal components has created cracks in the masonry joints. The metal components themselves need repair, and the masonry needs repointing and repainting.

Engineering Workplan.

The Town recently received a comprehensive report from Resurgence Engineering of Portland setting out a workplan for complete restoration of the tower. Professional preparation of the workplan was financed by grants from the Maine Department of Transportation (Small Harbor Improvement Program) and the Davis Family Foundation. Individual gifts made up the balance.

Two Phases.

The Engineering Workplan breaks restoration of the tower into two phases. The first phase covers urgent work inside the tower to address leaks and stop deterioration, especially in the lantern and watch room. This phase will include lead paint abatement, improved ventilation and reglazing of the lantern windows.

The second phase requires scaffolding around the tower to rehabilitate the masonry and paint the exterior. It also includes replacement of the glass brick windows and replacement of the railings on the catwalk around the lantern.

When will the work get done?

With the Workplan in hand, we have applied again to the Small Harbor Improvement Program for a grant to help with the cost of the first phase of the tower restoration. Friends of the Swan's Island Lighthouse (FOSIL) will help to raise funds for this work. If the grant application is successful, we expect the work will be done in spring 2014.

Family Memories – Living at the Light Station

Jackie Kettering and her sister Rene Riggs, daughters of USCG C5 Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Braman and Ronna Townsend Braman, recently visited Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station and toured the tower and the keeper's house. Officer Braman was the lightkeeper from 1968-1973. The sisters remembered their childhood years in the keeper's house, and shared some of those memories in an interview at the lighthouse with Joe Boisvert. The interview adds to the information we have about the lives of the families who lived in the keeper’s house and is our first interview about family life on Hockamock Head during the Coast Guard years. Many thanks to Jackie and Rene for sharing their memories!

November sunset from Hockamock Head.

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For some insight into the daily life of a light keeper

For some insight into the daily life of a light keeper in the mid-20th century, check out this column from Working Waterfront.

1380220678The life of a 'wickie' was difficult, but important
Editor's note: This column draws from a collection of Maine Coast Fisherman newspapers from the late 1940s through the early 1960s donated to the Island Institute.


551200 644753258889053 1909044414 n...and the light station buildings are closed for the season. We counted almost 2,300 visitors to the keeper's house, and many more visited the light station grounds and walked the trails. The photo shows one of the last tasks for the year -- folding up the flag. Look for occasional updates over the winter, and we hope to see you next spring!

The keeper's house and tower will be open through Sept. 14. Opening hours are slightly different from July and August:

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