American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Lighthouse Keeper Programs Throughout America, Part 1
While looking into the Keeper Program at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport, Michigan, I was surprised to discover how many other U.S. lighthouses offer similar programs – some of which require payment and some of which offer free accommodations in exchange for keeper duties. Of course, as interesting as these experiences sound, such programs are certainly not for everyone. The duties are often strenuous, the time constraints are typically challenging for those with full-time jobs, the compensation is often nonexistent, and in general, all applicants should be in good physical health, able to accomplish multiple tasks, and proficient in first-aid training. But, for those who have the time, energy, and inclination, such weeklong or, in some cases, season-long tours of duty can be infinitely rewarding.
In this three-part blog series, I'll share some of the keeper opportunities available from coast to coast. Here are a few suggestions from Maine to North Carolina:
Maine: The Seguin Island Lighthouse, situated on a 64-acre island two miles from the mouth of the Kennebec River, offers a seasonal caretaking position for two compatible individuals. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the volunteers are required, among other duties, to greet visitors, provide tours of the lighthouse and adjacent museum, monitor shore-to-shore communication and authorized on-site work parties, make daily security rounds on the island and weekly supply trips to the mainland, and maintain the grounds and buildings. During the season, they must live in the keepers' quarters on this often foggy, offshore island, which is only accessible via boat. There is no cost for this program; in fact, the Friends of Seguin Island (72 Front St., Ste. 3, Bath, Maine 04530, 207/443-4808) may even pay a weekly stipend of up to $75 per person.
Massachusetts: The Thacher Island Association (P.O. Box 73, Rockport, MA 01966, 978/546-7697) oversees the Cape Ann Light Station, a National Historic Landmark, on 50-acre Thacher Island, not far from the harbor of Rockport. America's only operating twin lighthouses, each standing 160 feet above the sea, have stood on this windswept island since 1771. Also on this island, you'll find a complex of trails, railroad tracks, oil houses, and granite storage buildings, plus a landing ramp and boathouse. During the season, visitors can kayak to the island, enjoy scenic vistas, and even camp on the premises. From June to October, full-time volunteer lighthouse keepers supervise the island, welcome visitors, offer tours, and perform basic maintenance. They should be skilled in carpentry, landscaping, boat/tractor operation, and CPR. There is no fee for this program, and housing is provided in the keeper's quarters.
North Carolina: The Cape Hatteras National Seashore (1401 National Park Dr., Manteo, NC 27954, 252/473-2111) operates three historic lighthouses, two of which are maintained by volunteers: the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is open to the public from mid-April to Columbus Day, and the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, which, though not available for climbing, is the second oldest operating lighthouse in America. During the tourist season, volunteers for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse must welcome visitors and collect tickets, monitor weather conditions and provide safety messages, orient visitors to attractions and programs, answer telephones, and serve as a tour guide at the top of the lighthouse. All volunteers must be physically fit, tolerant of summertime insects, and able to climb the spiral staircase several times per day, often in hot, humid conditions. Having an RV of your own is helpful, as volunteer RV hookups (with water, sewer access, electricity, and laundry service) within the park might be available in exchange for a commitment of 30 hours per week, for a minimum of six weeks.
For more suggestions, check out the second and third parts of this blog series, and for even more information about U.S. lighthouses that allow overnight stays and volunteer keepers, consult the United States Lighthouse Society. If you're curious about other seasonal attractions in the three gorgeous states listed above, consult the following Moon travel guides: Moon Maine, Moon Handbooks Massachusetts, and Moon North Carolina.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Photo & text © 2010 Laura Martone