June 19, 2018
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Open Lighthouse Day on Maine’s midcoast mixes sentiment, fascination

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ST. GEORGE, Maine — Anna Wells Kalal’s first crush was on the foghorn keeper’s son — the only other fifth-grader on Monhegan Island.

“You never forget your first crush,” Kalal said Saturday.

On Saturday, she returned from Connecticut to rekindle her romance with the Maine coast by visiting three lighthouses on the second annual Open Lighthouse Day. She and her husband, Charles, climbed the towers of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, Marshall Point Light in the St. George village of Port Clyde, and Owls Head Light, where she recalled her Monhegan days.

Open Lighthouse Day is an annual event that welcomes visitors to climb into the usually closed towers to see vistas along the Maine coast.

In St. George, people ventured down the dock made famous by Forrest Gump and up into the 12-step-tall tower, which has views of fishing boats, Monhegan and other islands.

“This is never open,” said Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum director Jim Quinn.

Carol Leonard of Minnesota headed up the steps to the lantern room. She and her husband are retired and decided to take a Maine vacation to see as many lighthouses as they could, she said. Armed with maps, lists of lighthouses and a GPS, the couple found two dozen.

“This is Number 24 that we’ve seen,” Leonard said, checking off Marshall Point Lighthouse on her list of all 64 lights in the state.

The American Lighthouse Foundation, the Coast Guard and The Maine Office of Tourism, with many volunteers manning the towers, worked to keep 25 towers open Saturday for Open Lighthouse Day.

Bob Trapani, executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation, said the goal was to raise awareness about preservation and to celebrate Maine’s coastal heritage.

“It showcases neat coastal Maine spots. It shows off Maine. It shows off our heritage and lets people know these lighthouses are pretty,” Trapani said Saturday after visiting Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. “They are great spots, and we need to take care of them.”

Newlyweds Libby and Lloyd Butler started visiting lighthouses in May 2008. Now, they plan to take their pictures in front of every Maine lighthouse; by Saturday afternoon they had hit 20.

“Our second date was in a lighthouse,” Libby Butler said on the dock of Marshall Point Light. “But he waited to kiss me by a Hannaford Dumpster. He is quite romantic,” she laughed.

The Butlers have seen many of the on-land beacons and now plan to start renting boats to see the rest.

“There is just something about a light in a lighthouse. There is just something comforting and reassuring that people find fascinating,” Trapani said. “Lighthouses used to beacon people away from the coast — now they beacon people to the coast.”

For Edward Gaunce of Owls Head, the lighthouse comforts him when the harbor gets foggy, and he is trying to get home with his boat. He said hearing the fog horn blasts of Owls Head Light lets him feel safe.

“It’s very comforting. It’s nostalgia, but still it is important to mariners.”

Last year, on a foggy day, the event brought 15,000 people to lighthouses. This year, Trapani expects more, but the official tally will take until the end of the week. Trapani plans to hold Open Lighthouse Day next year.

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