Do you have what it takes to be a lighthouse keeper?
Posted on 28 September 2012
Written by Jim Flannery
As dream jobs go, the keeper of Maine,s Cuckolds Fog Signal and Light Station could rank right up there with St. Peter's gig as keeper of the keys at heaven's gate.
Rising from one of two granite ledges known as the Cuckolds, the historic navigational aid stands sentry over the approaches to Boothbay Harbor from 3/8-mile offshore, its signal guiding mariners for 120 years. The non-profit Cuckolds Council plans to open the newly renovated lighthouse as a high-end inn for overnight visitors next April and is looking for two partners to live in the keepers' quarters and cater to guests from April through mid-October.
A dream come true for the right couple, the job demands a diverse skill set. The pair should be "gracious hosts, skilled in hospitality and guest services, adept at building maintenance and repairs, and able mariners," the help-wanted ad says. It could be a good fit for a couple who have worked together on a megayacht hosting the owner and guests, or charterers, says Janet Reingold, who with her husband, Philip Yasinski, co-founded the volunteer rescue team that acquired the light from the Government Services Administration as surplus property in 2006.
Reingold also could see a couple who have run a bed-and-breakfast inn or worked in the hotel industry ó or teachers, museum docents, a retired fisherman and spouse steeped in local lore ó filling the positions. She says the couple should be conversant in the history of the light and the Boothbay region and must be fussy housekeepers. They also will need the culinary skills to prepare bed-and-breakfast and picnic fare. More elaborate meals will be catered shoreside and motored out to the island.
At least one of the keepers must be licensed to take guests on sunset or historical cruises on the lightís launch, a restored 51-year-old, 26-foot Navy lifeboat. A six-pack license is the minimum required, although a 100-ton license is preferred so the keepers can take larger parties on cruises, Reingold says.
Reingold expects to lay a megayacht mooring near Cuckolds so the yachts can overnight there and their guests can spend time on the island.
"We wish to ensure that every guest has a memorable experience, learns a bit of the history of the region and the light station and is treated as a guest would be in a boutique hotel or high-end inn,î the ad says. ìWe are seeking keepers with a service ethic, an appreciation for maritime tradition and an ability to make every visitor carry away lasting memories from their experience aboard this historic light station."
Reingold isnít sure how much the pay will be. It will be a stipend, not a full-blown salary, the real reward being the opportunity to live six months of the year on an island off Maine. They will live in the keepersí quarters. There also will be two guest suites.
"What makes this different from your ordinary bed-and-breakfast is that it has a bit of daring and adventure,î she says. ìIt is elegant, but a little rugged, a little wild."
And a little unpredictable. She says a local lobsterman went out to the island for what he thought would be a weekend stay and wound up fogged in. The seas, too, can ruin the best-laid plans, being so rough at times that the island is inaccessible by boat, though a helipad will enable those with deep pockets to come and go. ìIt is not always like a duck puddle out there,î Reingold says.
The job entails a lot of hard work ó tending to guests, maintaining the property, crewing on cruises, preparing meals, housecleaning, serving as concierge and docent. Located off Southport Islandís Cape Newagen, 5 miles from Boothbay Harbor, the station has guided mariners past the treacherous Cuckolds outcroppings through fog, rain, snow and dark of night since 1892, when the fog signal building was built.
In 1907, crews erected an octagonal tower on the roof of that building and installed a flashing 600-candlepower oil vapor lamp 59 feet above the water. Cost of the renovation: $1.4 million. Besides hosting paying guests (at probably $300 or more a night), the light and island will be a community resource and host youth, public and group events.
Reingold put out test help-wanted ads on Craigslist and in The Caretaker Gazette in the fall of 2011. The ads drew 56 applicants, but the opening was delayed, so the lighthouse council is starting its search anew. Reingold says applicants in the first search ran the gamut of hospitality, shipís crew, mechanical, house caretaker, marine and museum docent experience.
"They were an amazing collection of people," she says.
For information about the position, email
October 2012 issue.