Friday, December 31, 2010

Alfred E. Newman No More!

All I can say is thank goodness for Russell Totman and Son.

I have mentioned before that there is no easy way to pick up 1,000 rocks. Turns out I was wrong. The Town of Scituate had Mr. Totman return the stone and sand thrown up on Boxing Day to the beach that protects the Tower and the Lighthouse Park. He moved his 1,000 (1,000,000) rocks with three neat machines that could hoist in bulk and with precision. It was a tremendous operation to watch.

My role was to run a shovel and get to edges, especially near the house, that the machines could not get to. I also worked on rounding up the shingles caught in the sea roses. There is a full wheelbarrow in the driveway ready for a dump run. Late in the day I took shovel and broom to the flagpole bench and got that looking a little better. Not Fourth of July better, but New Year's Day better at least.

A year ago there was the first of the many storms that culminated with the Tower wrapped in stone for two months. This time around, the stone scattered more widely and the loss of the fences, shingles, and shed wall demonstrated the power of water is even greater than that of stone. Last year three blocks of granite had shifted toward the beach, opening up a path that funneled the stone around the Lighthouse. As I posted two days ago, this storm moved a block of granite roughly 15 feet, plucking it as cleanly as a kid loses his first tooth. Yesterday, the dentist arrived to cap the gap and to reset the others properly. The MAD magazine look is gone: hopefully gone for good.

Wednesday had been my day to clean out the shed. The top is before; the bottom after.

I discovered that there were several things broken but nothing prized. We fit a lot of stuff in there though and I look forward to having it put back in order soon.

So, bit by bit, ground was gained over the last two days that left the yard in the shape you see below. I washed windows today. I got the Christmas tree out and down to Mr. Lopes, and rehung one of the wreaths. The Christmas decorations have been packed and stored. I graded papers and will do a few more when I wrap up this post. This afternoon Julie and I did some work on the fence in the background, using pieces of the fence that snapped on the walkway side of the house. A wedding party caught the last great light of 2010 as we hammered and moved, all the while crossing our fingers against the next event.

I have been asked several times if this was a warning shot for me and if I have had enough. Not so fast I have answered. Where else could I get the sunrise shot you see below and minutes later notice that there is a refrigerator washed up on the beach. This place places the sublime next to the absurd every day. I am not going anywhere willingly.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Earning Stripes

This one is going to need a name.

A blizzard was forecast and a blizzard arrived with a very dangerous tidal surge in its sidecar.

Knowing that high tide was set for 3:30 am, I put myself to bed at 10:00 and woke at 1:15 to follow the action.

Other than the wind I had noted in the last post there was not much to see until stuff started to move around the yard around 2:15. The small flower bed I had added to the courtyard on the Harbor side of the runway vanished in a single wave just about that time.

At 2:40 there was a large crack and I flew to the window to see the fence had been reduced by several rails. The wave action in that courtyard was amazing. The wave would hit, the wash would drench the Tower to a height of 15 to 18 feet, then the runoff would fill the courtyard, swirl in a counter clockwise direction and rush off down the walkway and into the road.

All night long the air was filled with foam - a froth of meringue as thick as a ream of paper let loose in the wind. The movement of lots and lots of very large stone was apparent on both sides of the house.

If there was one wave more memorable than every other, it hit at 3:15. This wave broke over the runway and into the yard. It sent me scurrying downstairs to see what I could see. The fence on the harbor side was broken in two pieces, one long timber aligned with the runway, the other torn into the yard. The decorative buoy that held my thermometer was gone. (I found it this morning with the other logs we use for kids to sit on.) The yard furniture was a tangle but none was bashed or damaged. The Adirondack pair that is connected with a table anchored everything that landed against it.

I tried to take some pictures through the storm windows and got one half decent shot that I share below. There was not a single temptation to head out into it for better shots. (I saw this movie once where it got really windy and a whole house fell on this lady and this little girl stole her shoes.) I did check the runway and got a picture of it with the floor covered with an inch of water. It was very, very, cold out there and I had a great deal of trouble closing the the door from the kitchen to the runway. I finally pegged it closed with a screwdriver.

By 4:30 it was apparent that the tide had changed so I tried to settle in to get some sleep. The power dropped out at 6:35 and I rousted myself at a little past 8:00 to check into the damage.

The first thing I noticed was that the yard had been scoured by the water. The finger piers had moved even more than I had noticed in the night and the bench/bar was tipped over in the hole that had been created when the piers moved. The picnic table was wedged between the logs and the fence and a window box from under the kitchen window was on the ocean side of the fence. That got my attention as I had to wonder if a rock got it or if the wind got it. (The picture directly above shows the bar removed)

Moving toward the Tower to shoot the whole of the yard from that angle I saw that there was a whole new level to the yard. Each wave must have brought a fortune in sand with it and there was a new elevation. Where I had stood two plus feet below the level of the walkway to raise the Tower flag, I was now nearly even.

My biggest shock was turning around from those photographs to find that one of the granite restraining stones that creates the chief barrier for the Tower was missing like a kid's front tooth. I asked out loud, "Where did it go?, where did it go?"

Noticeable too, was the way the beach was so much more level. The slope I walked down in the summer to get some photographs had been filled in with sand. (I confirmed this later from the Tower windows. What had been a clumsy rock path at a 20 to 25 degree angle to the ocean was now an flat area you could lay a dozen beach towels in comfortably.) I attended a hearing three weeks ago in front of the Community Preservation Committee on proposals to add storm protection to that very stretch in front of the Tower. This storm has demonstrated the need for that protection once again.

Continuing around the Tower on the ocean side I may have found the block. Six or seven yards from where it belonged, the granite had displaced four other blocks that protect the northern side of the runway. They had shifted four or five feet from their original positions and the plucked stone was wedged in against them. This storm had moved this granite like a preschooler stacks LEGOS.

The next shock was the discovery that the eastern most side of the shed had been caved in at the bottom. A gap of 3 1/2 feet must have been been created by tidal surge as there was not a body of rock pressed against the broken wall. I wondered if this was the loud crack I had heard at 2:40 and mistaken for the breaking of the fence. This also explained the extreme cold in the runway.

The final surprise was to see that courses of shingles had been removed from the wall outside the window of the office. Ruth Downton had told me that during the No Name storm of Halloween 1991, George Downton had gone out to buttress that wall as water had it shifting with each surge. As a result of that story I had watched it (going so far as to move the desk away to feel under the window for any sign of weakness) as I moved through the house during the night and only suspected that a gutter was lost for a trinkle of water I could hear running down the side of the house. I never considered that the shingles were being shredded by the wind.

Moving back inside with the camera, I checked the shed to discover that while items were moved they were not damaged. We keep bikes and recycling and sporting goods and other bric a brac in there. All of it was moved but there were not fatalities. The floor was covered in rock and brick however, stones ranging in size from pebbles to stones you would use in the middle of a wall. The unexpected element in the shed was a four by four floor board wrenched up under the bashed in wall. This plywood was forced up by water and floated the three plus feet the wall was moved. The nails were barely bent as if the piece was forced straight up by the sea.

I sent Julie and Haley to warmer quarters and coffee makers when the tide was low around 10:00. They drove through some deep water by Otis Road and saw first hand an apartment with water flowing through it on Jericho Road. Haley had been hoping for some sledding but got this education and a visit with her new little cousin and her aunts and uncles instead.

After they got on the road, I gathered what pieces of wood I could gather and patched up the outer wall against the wind. (It was noticeably warmer inside the house after having done it. The hardest part was the way the wind caught the big pieces like a sail) The picture of it will not win me any wood working awards but I might get a few points for improvisation. I might have earned some stripes there.

The rest of the day saw the inconveniences of power and water loss but that was small potatoes against other losses neighbors were dealing with down the road.

Following along with WATD on the radio I heard about two house fires, an unprecedented battle by boat and with divers to fight those fires, and the catastrophic collapse of a stretch of seawall I ran almost daily as a kid. Sand and water were combining every where to force evacuations and the hassle that follows an event like this.

My brother and my brother in law arrived to lend a hand and to deliver some water. I gathered the batteries I needed and tuned in the radio for word on National Grid. Power was restored at 5:30 pm and with that the heat was cranked into gear.

Yesterday I called this storm the Boxing Day Blizzard. I know that the snow started on Christmas and all that, but I like alliteration. It was a blow by blow battle for people up and down the coast and for this monument to staying put in bad weather. The Old Light has taken lots of punches and took this one. All the same a plan to keep it safer needs to be ramped up sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Blizzard

The phone has been ringing all day with questions about the weather here.

Wind, wind, and more wind is the word of the day - to step out into the runway is to hear a rain as thick as crickets and a deep voiced howl of wind. We are staying put and will be looking out for the high tide at 3:00am.

As I write it is low tide and there is an inch or so of slush in the driveway. Checking the Weatherbug map I saw we are right on the line between rain and snow. Late last night I checked out our neighbor Mike Wankum with a report he had on line that predicted the snow would not add up to much. He said the ocean is warmer than the land just now and that would knock down any potential snow fall along the coast. "Good Job, Mike" I have thought more than once today.

A steady dose of football and frosted baked goods have carried us this far, with a movie or two and a card game thrown in for good measure. Haley had friends here until almost 7:00 with everyone getting home safely in between tides. Channel 7 news set up in front of the Tower around 5:30. While watching them get knocked around by the wind, I found I had to explain Shelby Scott to Haley. Shelby was the pioneer of the freezing cold news reporter. No one has ever filled those frosty boots as well for me.

Two days ago there was a small amount of rock thrown up on the ocean side walk way and around the Tower. I worked on the walk way as high tide was coming on. The buzz from that splash against the rocks was addictive. Everyone that came strolling up could feel it. My brother and my brother in law helped me move a few things in the yard and to clean up around the base of the Tower. Within in 10 minutes past the high tide things had settled right down. With this wind it will start sooner and stay longer.

So tune in tomorrow to find out what the overnight tide brings. Will it be more hockey pucks, more torn up dollars, more golf balls and lobster traps? It is the proverbial box of chocolates here on Cedar Point in bad weather. The Light is on though and we are under the blankets listening to a torrent blow around. I have been reminding the callers we signed up for it because we like it so much.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Year in Pictures

It has been a very good year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!!

Dueling Sunsets

Today's contest is a simple one - guess which of these was taken by Julie and which was taken by your devoted Light Keeper.

Each is a view from the porch as you enter the Cottage. I have been assembling a set of shots to post that will sum up the year in pictures. Look for that on your next trip back.

Checking the statistics today I discover that we have visits from Australia, Canada, Dubai, and Istanbul, Turkey. We are up to 30 countries now.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flying Santa update

Today's Globe has a story on Brian Tague, the keeper of the Flying Santa tradition. Take a look.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Hand Washing ...

Last Sunday we welcomed the annual Scituate Arts Association House Tour from 1:00 to 4:00. A rough estimate would put the guests at 150 for the day. Great fun and high interest mixed together for terrific day.

For a peek at the Cottage and several other homes visit this link to the Scituate Mariner.

We had wonderful help from the Arts Association volunteers. Sharing this house with another non profit organization involved in the upkeep of a Scituate treasure like the Ellis House seemed like a natural when it was first proposed and the day flew by. Thanks to all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Prize

A guest photographer graces the blog today. This is what it means to do it right.

Patrick O'Connor, (as regular readers of this blog know) is a Naval officer originally from Cohasset. Pat has become a much anticipated correspondent from the great carrier USS Enterprise, sharing the stories of the great ship's operations. He has also shared a great number of photographs. It looks like that talent has been passed on to the next generation.

On New Year's Day 2010 Patrick's son Ryan took the photograph below. If there is a more perfect shot of the Lighthouse and Cottage at peace in the winter season, I have yet to see it.

Thank you Pat and thank you Ryan. Season's Greetings to all the men and women in the service of the United States. We owe you all more than we can say.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Jolly Old Elf

Flying Santa picked a great day to visit!

The tradition goes back to the 1930's of pilots ferrying Santa Claus to isolated Light Keepers all over the United States. On our coast the late, great, Edward Rowe Snow played a part in keeping this tradition alive. The whole story can be found here.

The weather for a visit from Saint Nick was ideal. Dolly Bicknell, daughter of Edward Rowe Snow joined the Jolly Old Elf in keeping with her own family tradition. With a tremendous effort from the Scituate Highway Department the parking lot was freed from rock and sand. Scituate Police LT. John Rooney coordinated the placement of barriers for cars and pedestrians, with the Scituate Fire Department keeping a watchful eye in case of mishap. For the Cedar Point Association, Dave Ball and Betty Kincaid did their usual conscientious job. I had it easy; getting gifts and taking pictures is not heavy lifting.

We start with a video clip of the landing:

Below are the photographs Julie grabbed as people anticipated the arrival:

Once the helicopter was down and I had welcomed Santa to the Point I made a run for the Tower to get a wider view of the event.

Julie was up close for these shots.

When it was time to go Santa returned to the chopper and headed North across the marsh.

We eagerly await his return in two weeks!

I will be awarding Lighthouse T shirts to the first five people who correctly identify the singers of the song in the landing video - use the comment box for your replies. Good Luck.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


A few pictures as the holiday season moves along:

This is post 100. 3 pictures is said to be worth three thousand words.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Its Beginning to Look A Lot Like ...

Neighbors make a difference.

The Christmas Wreath flies on the Tower for a second night as I write. There is another on the West Wing lit by spotlight. Purchased from the great R&C Farm on Saturday, the wreaths were rigged and poised for installation yesterday morning.

I had done this alone last year. I had found myself awake on a relatively windless Sunday morning and decided I would not bother anyone with the task. I had no doubt that I could navigate my way through the hoisting to the top and the tying off of the lines once there. Up it went and then the trouble began. (I refer you to the blog posts of a year ago which line up along the right side this column)

This year I called. Dave, George and Jesse arrived, with Haley on camera duty. The pictures follow:

We even have a tree up in the house - before December! The Scituate Arts Association has asked us to participate in their annual house tour to be held this year on Sunday, December 12, 2010 from 1:00 to 4:00. Flying Santa will make his annual visit (weather permitting) here the day before on Saturday the 11th at around 1:00. Check out the Flying Santa link for more information on this amazing tradition. The Friends of Flying Santa

My deepest thanks for all the help.

Update on a prior post - Israel and Saudi Arabia can be added to the list of countries peeking in on this blog - may their holiday seasons be happy ones.

Getting the Work Done

A lot is in place for the summer and that is the result of many having put in some time. Lets start with the boardwalk. It remains a very ...