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An Opportunity to Shine

© By Mike Keenan
  Aerial View Admit you are finally bored with the typical, hum-drum vacation. The cities that once summoned you with alluring siren calls, their cultural hot spots and vast and sumptuous dining - they no longer excite. Yet, you are a shining beacon of light seeking adventure so why not put your radiant talent to work as a lighthouse keeper on a remote, windswept island, gulls shrieking in the blue as large rolling waves smash against the rocky shore, spraying the air with enticing aromas that once beckoned ancient explorers such as Magellan and Balboa and Vasco de Gama?
     Would you believe, there are multiple opportunities to take advantage of this important role in states such as Washington on the west coast, Rhode Island in the east and Michigan and Wisconsin in the middle? Lighthouse Diagram
     At the Rose Island Lighthouse, near Newport, Rhode Island, there are two options: stay overnight in the museum on the first floor or become a keeper for the week and stay on the second floor. Depending on season, rates range from $165 to $185 and $30 per child 18 yrs and under ($15 with their own sleeping bag) The museum is not suitable for children under five.
     The island consists of 18.5 acres with only two lots, the Lighthouse located on the smaller 1.5 acres lot, owned by the City of Newport. The rest of the island was acquired by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation in 1999 and is not accessible to visitors.
     Rose Island was used during World Wars I and II as part of the Navy Torpedo Station where explosives were stored. After World War II, this use ceased and the island (except for the Lighthouse) was declared surplus by the Government. Mother Nature slowly crept back, taking possession, the only inhabitants, three species of snakes plus thousands of nesting birds protected by the State. There are no mammals; therefore, no ticks!
     The Lighthouse was operated until 1970, when it was abandoned and vandalized after the Pell (Newport) Bridge Rose Island Lighthouse was built. The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation was organized in 1984 to restore and operate the lighthouse on behalf of the City of Newport.
     The Foundation keeps the Lighthouse property open year round from 10 AM to 4 PM. but Rose Island is strictly for the birds so walking around the island is prohibited during nesting season, April 1 - August 15. From late October to early April, harbor seals are spotted on the east side of the island at Citing Rock, which in the warmer months is surrounded by extensive underwater eelgrass beds. There's a kayak for those staying overnight.
     No dishes are required. All you need to bring is food, ice, drinks, clothing, and sleeping bags for kids. They provide bottled drinking water, extra coolers, kitchen and bed linens, Slate Roof Protection towels, pillows, pots & pans, gas stovetop burner (inside) and gas barbecue grill (outside). You take trash and recyclables back with you.
     Transportation is provided by the Jamestown Ferry (40 passengers) in the summer months (July & August), and the rest of the year by "Starfish," the Foundation's 32-ft lobster boat that takes up to 6 passengers.
     You may remain while the museum is open from 10 AM to 4 PM-just hide your gear. The first floor lighthouse museum gets to be "yours" from 4 PM until 10 AM the next day.
     The lighthouse museum has electricity, just not a lot of it: a 20 amp wind-powered service, which runs the beacon and household lights. It can also handle small electronic equipment like battery chargers.
     Fishing is recommended. Bring your own salt-water rod and fish for striped bass, bluefish and tautog (black fish) off the lighthouse rocks. (bait: squid, pogies & sea worms).
     The mussels are edible! They provide lobster pots while leftover meat and fish scraps are also great for bait. A word of warning: toilets in the lighthouse are seldom used. You did come for adventure, right? Everyone uses the outdoor bathroom. The Kitchen
     It is possible to get off the island during the week. A day trip into town for groceries, to do laundry or some sightseeing is not a problem, however, if you want to spend a lot of time sightseeing and shopping in Newport, you should plan it before or after your stay.
     The Foundation relies on the occupants to act as caretaker of the lighthouse and to respond to emergencies. The lighthouse has a single 20-amp wind-powered service to run the beacon. Back up is a diesel-powered generator. The key ingredient according to David McCurdy, Foundation rep, is "enthusiasm and desire to make a meaningful contribution."
     For reservations, contact the Lighthouse Office at 401-847-4242 between 9 AM-1 PM. Staff arrange for secured parking and the boat ride to Rose Island.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Courtesy of Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation

If you go
Rose Island Lighthouse
as seen on
Rose Island Lighthouse, Newport, RI: www.roseislandlighthouse.org
Visit Rhode Island: http://www.visitrhodeisland.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Island_Lighthouse

Other "volunteer" lighthouses:
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bayfield, WI:www.nps.gov/apis/supportyourpark/index.htm
New Dungeness Light Station, Sequin, WA: www.newdungenesslighthouse.com
Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, Northport, MI: www.grandtraverselighthouse.com

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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