January 2016 -- Although the lighthouse beacon keeps shining, everything else at the light station is “buttoned up” for the winter. The keepers houses are closed; the water is drained from all the pipes (we hope); and the boats are pulled and sitting on the “hard.” But in years past, this wasn’t always the case. To keep the light lit, keepers and their families lived year round at the light station, and even in the dead of winter they had to row to the mainland periodically to buy food and fuel. Rowing ashore in any weather across the open water between Bakers and Salem is difficult but in winter it can be extremely treacherous as it was in the a fatal crossing in March 1825 when Keeper Nathaniel Ward and his assistant Mr. Marshall were caught by a storm returning to Bakers Island in a flat bottomed boat with wood and other supplies. Ward’s body washed up on the island and Marshall died in the boat. Ward was 49 years old and left his large family destitute.
The lives that these early keepers in the US Lighthouse Service lived will be recounted at a future time in these pages, but in the meantime, if you want more information on the history of Bakers Island Light Station, I refer you to the History of Bakers Island Lighthouse written by renown lighthouse historian Jeremy D’Entremont.
Fortunately, in this age of solar powered lights and GPS positioning, we can plan for next season in the comfort of our office. What’s more we can even see on what is happening at the lighthouse from our desk chair - just by logging into the Canary video cameras which keep an eye on the property day and night.
So what is the plan for next season? I don’t want to get too far ahead just yet because there are still almost 6 months to go before we open everything up and welcome visitors again, but here are a few hints of things to come: Our wonderful keepers from last summer, Greg and Mary, have flown south to escape the winter on a Caribbean island (lucky!) but they promise to come back and help us when things thaw out. Next summer’s full time keepers are an energetic couple from Maryland who have experience as volunteer keepers at Sequin Light. Also, offering to help next season is Russ Cohen, recently retired the Rivers Advocate for Mass. Department of Fish and Game, and known to many of you as the “wild edibles guy.” He visited last August and has decided to help advise us on native species that would be appropriate for the island. Lastly, we anticipate that there may be an opportunity for some of our members to stay overnight in one of the keeper’s houses next summer. Fingers crossed about this last idea but we are hopeful.
In any case, we are excited about next summer and hope that you are too as there are going to be lots of opportunities to experience the remarkable Bakers Island Light Station like nowhere else.
And the last, but not least...