The Challenges of Saving Lighthouses

This is reposted from Swallowtail Keepers Society blog. The blog is abandoned but the post is worth saving. Far more involved with saving lighthouses than I would have thought. (I did think about the weathering).

Lighthouses are usually located in the face of storms, exposed on several sides to strong winds and sea spray, frequently difficult to get to and challenging to maintain. With lighthouses de-staffed or de-commissioned, budget cuts rampant, and maintenance minimal, it is hard to see these once well-maintained structures deteriorate to a point that they begin to crumble but it is becoming all too common. The magnitude of the maintenance or restoration, and the ability to get to the lighthouse is often overwhelming. We have been fortunate with Swallow Tail that ownership has been transferred, access is challenging but better than many, and through the support of the community and access to various sources of funding, restoration work has been possible.

Unfortunately, in five months, three other lighthouses in the Maritimes have disappeared. Two collapsed during storms, the abandoned Fish Fluke Point on Ross Island decommissioned in 1963 but defied gravity for years (November), and Church Point on St. Mary’s Bay, NS, decommissioned in 1984 (March), and one burned to the ground, the remote fibreglass lighthouse at Point Aconi on Cape Breton Island (February). Fire was always a worry before lights were electrified. Elodie Foster, one of the light keepers at Swallow Tail, died from her injuries after her clothes caught fire while trying to start the burner for the light. More recently, electrical issues may be the cause of some fires because of the heavy salt presence and corrosion of electrical connections. Two electrical issues at Swallow Tail threatened to cause fires last fall and had no one been working in the lighthouse, the problems would have gone unnoticed until it was too late. Vandalism has also been a cause of some fires and has plagued locations such as Partridge Island in Saint John, and may have been the cause of the grass fire at Swallow Tail in April, 2007, which threatened the lighthouse and keepers house. It has prompted some communities to install security cameras. The ones at Swallow Tail can be viewed on the Village of Grand Manan website (

Fish Fluke Point lighthouse in better days.  (unknown origin of photo)

Collapsed Fish Fluke Point lighthouse as seen from the air in November 2013.

Church Point lighthouse before collapse. (from


Church Point lighthouse after collapse, 27 March 2014. (from

Point Aconi lighthouse before it and the building beside it, burned to the ground in February, 2014. (from Cape Breton Post)

Collapse was not thought to be an issue at Swallow Tail but once work began last fall, it became apparent that it could have been possible. The lime had eroded out of the mortar, making the mortar crumble. The stone foundation was slowly pancaking, with the stones being pushed outward. The eight guy wires and the massive concrete floor in the equipment room were the only things holding the tower upright with probably only five large stones in the foundation carrying weight. Had any of the guy wires failed, the tower would have begun listing or worse. To fix this, all the stones were removed, one side at a time, and then returned with new mortar between the joints. The large corner stones, too heavy to easily lift, were adjusted back into place. The foundation is now functional again and should last for many more years with minimal maintenance.

Peter Devine rebuilding stone foundation at Swallow Tail, September 2013.

During this process, it was discovered that the large wooden beam under the front door had completely rotted away. The remains of the beam were removed using a dust pan. Instead of trying to fit a new wooden beam back in a very tight space between the large immovable concrete step, stone foundation and the floor joists, a concrete beam was constructed. One of the 1859 wooden pegs, used to hold the heavy timber structure together, was discovered in the crawl space during the work, looking the same as the day it was made. This was the only spot were the heavy timbers of the lighthouse had completely rotted.


Rotted timber beam under front entrance, September 2013

New concrete beam to replace rotted timber, September 2013.

Salt corrosion is another challenge, rusting nails so they no longer do their job. When some shingles were removed on the northern side of the bell house, the boards underneath came off as well. This was also an earlier problem with the boathouse and the entire southern wall began to fall off in large pieces as the nails disappeared and that wall had to be rebuilt. The shingles were stripped off the bellhouse, the boards renailed, and new shingles returned. Shingles on some sides of the tower were also falling out because the nails were gone. Face nailing to hold them in place during previous work only complicated the problem with water getting behind the shingles and rotting the wood. Several places on the tower, notably where the windows had been boarded up, were in worse shape than the rest of the lighthouse, even though the boards were only 40 years old compared to over 150. As the rot continued, longer nails were used to hold the shingles which further exacerbated the problem. It was very noticeable while scraping the sides where the problems were located because of the sponginess. Replacing the rotted wood and shingles where required, caulking the nail heads, plus one to two coats of primer and two coats of finish paint will prevent this for a few years. Because of the extreme weather conditions experienced on the point we hope in the future only the paint will suffer and not the wood behind.


Northern wall of the bell house.  The nails had rusted off and the boards had to be nailed back in place before the shingles could be attached.

Areas on the lighthouse that needed repair because of water penetration causing rot.  The area around the fog horn was because of caulking and flashing failures.  The upper area on the tower was probably because of face nailing shingles allowing water to penetrate.


Custom blade on paint scraper.

The entire lighthouse and bell house were scraped, primed and received two coats of paint.  The new shingles were primed twice.

Removing the windows in the tower in the 1970s was actually beneficial in many respects since there was little maintenance after the lighthouse was destaffed, but it changed the interior with no natural light or ventilation. Having the opportunity to return the windows to the original locations in the lighthouse was a goal during the restoration but a challenge since everything had to be built from scratch. One window could not be returned because the current fog equipment is located in that spot on the first floor. Windows from an 1849 house in Ontario were donated by the owners, who had once worked at a lighthouse in British Columbia. They were honoured to have them reused at Swallow Tail. The storms and gablets (or dormers) were new construction from mahogany with copper flashing and sills in an attempt to resist the harsh climate. The interior has been completely changed with the additional of natural light and makes it a very pleasant inside.


Reglazing 1849 windows donated for the lighthouse.  The bottoms had to be cut down to 8 from 12 panes.  New glass was installed in each window.

Window unit – gablet with storm, all new construction.


Windows restored on the southern side of the lighthouse.

The harsh winter weather stopped work in mid-December at the lighthouse. Work will begin again sometime in April. The windows and interior will be completed including repairing the lathe and plaster and painting, the boardwalk from the keepers house (cabled in place to protect it from the strong winds) will be built, and museum displays installed. We are hoping to have the lighthouse open again this summer. Restoration work could not have been possible without the financial assistance of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Regional Development Corporation, New Brunswick Built Heritage, Village of Grand Manan, Grand Manan Rotary Club, and generous donations.

The Red Well with Warnings of Ghosts and Witches

Somewhere in Scotland. What an interesting little place. Likely the tales of ghosts and witches were based on suspicion/ fear and just trying to keep people from getting hurt in there. Now it’s locked. What a sad, and yet sensible, ending.

There must have been (or still are) other places like this. Is it even a well? Seems an odd structure to use for water, wouldn’t it get stagnant without some sunlight and air flow?

Below is the Red Well, said to date from Roman times, also said to be haunted by an old lady ghost and to be aligned for sunrise sunbeams on the summer solstice. I lived in Whitehills for a short time as a child and remember the beehive shaped building being called ‘the witch’s hoosie’ and kids shutting each other in there for ‘fun’. It’s now locked.

Source: going coastal – Ailish Sinclair

Male Witches Out Of The Broom Closet

Male Witches Unite

Male Witches Out Of The Broom Closet

The Male Wiccan

The Male Witch

Guys Can Be Witches, Too

The Pagan Man (abandoned in 2012)

Pinterest – Male WitchPagan Men

14237520_1190787820994821_7900603049163924002_n malewitch

1. Magic is everywhere
2. It’s important to stay grounded
3. All seasons are great
4. Poker isn’t the only card game worth playing
5. Intent is everything
6. You get back what you throw out (with interest)
7. The Wicker Man is a really good film

Via – 7 things paganism can teach the modern man – Telegraph

Stop Calling them Uniforms

mountiecostumeWhen a uniform becomes customized for various cultures it stops being a uniform. A uniform is… uniform. When it isn’t uniform, all the same, then it becomes similar, not uniform. If the Mounties, police, fire fighters, etc. want to adapt their uniform doesn’t it become a costume? I think allowing various cultures (I am purposely not being specific because the specific culture is not the issue) to have different uniforms makes the uniform mean less.

The original point of a uniform was identification, everyone looking the same, being recognizable and having respect. You see the Mounties and know who they are by the uniform. If you see someone wearing a Mountie costume, you think they are on the way to a party and you don’t consider them someone you need to pay much attention to. Badges don’t mean much from a distance, behind a door or to anyone who couldn’t tell a real badge from a fake one.

People in authority like Mounties, military and government employees need to be recognizable in order to have that authority and be trusted. Since we were children we have seen Mounties in their dress uniforms and we expect a Mountie to be in that uniform.

But, more than the public, what about the Mounties themselves? Why change the uniform which has severed generations of Mounties of all cultures up until now? I’m assuming all Mounties have two arms, two legs, one head so they should all be able to wear the standard uniform. What is the real need for change in this very old tradition worn with pride by generations of people.

I don’t know. But, I do think they should stop calling them uniforms, because they aren’t uniforms any more. That tradition has been lost. mountie

Why Don’t Mice Believe in God?

First you may try to debate the point that mice do believe in God. But, if they did, there would be signs of their worship. I don’t see mice building monuments, fighting holy wars, etc. I’ve never seen one pray, as far as I could tell by human standards. There may be a mouse god, but if the Christian (or any human version of a god) god were real wouldn’t mice also believe, pray and worship. Or, do you think mice don’t have a soul they need to save?

Many people may not care what mice do or do not believe. They are small rodents after all. Pestilence. Laboratory animals and pets spinning wheels for human amusement.

But, of course, mice matter. They are one of god’s creatures. Even as an atheist I still think of mice as one of the little creatures on the planet.

So why don’t mice believe in God? A God, any god?

Don’t they need protection and help? Or are they really just alone on the planet, responsible for their own actions and uncared for and unknown but almost every other creature?

I don’t think mice know there is a god. No one has ever told them god is an option. They just go about their mouse lives, oblivious to all the benefits they could have if they just worshipped god. What has god ever done for a mouse? Could it be such a vicious circle where if god only knew and the mice only knew… they could be so much better off. But, they’ve just never been introduced. Although, god did create the mice, right?

So does god just not care about the mice? In all this time god just let the mice go on, not knowing how much better they could be if they just knew there was a god who would offer them eternal life, shinier souls, angels, heaven and of course… demons, devils and hell.

The poor mice. Maybe all of them are just being shipped straight to hell because they don’t worship or believe in god.

Someone really should do something about this. Save the mice!

Well, I will think more about it all. Right after I check the mouse trap under the kitchen sink.

From Fred, the Missing Strange Traveler

The following is cut and pasted from an abandoned site, on Tripod. I would have reposted more newsletters, but I only found two.


Adobe Photoshop Image

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