Monday, June 4, 2012

A visit to the Cape May Lighthouse

Diarist Familjen took their semi-annual day trip down to Cape May during the past Memorial Day Weekend.  Women were keen on exploring the shoe shopping opportunities afforded by Washington Street.  However when we arrived the public parking lot was chock-a-block full.  This gave your fast thinking old diarist the "out" he was looking for; I dropped them off in the middle of Collier's liquor store parking lot--within walking distance for their shopping safari and then headed down Sunset Blvd. to Cape May Point.  My objective: to take in the views from the top of the Cape May lighthouse.  Care to join me?

The lighthouse, while still maintained by the Coast Guard as an aid to navigation is now owned by the state of New Jersey and is part of a state park.  In turn, the state leases the lighthouse to MAC (Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities).  MAC gets to use the lighthouse for various functions, sell admission tickets, etc. and in turn is responsible for the restoration and upkeep of the structure.  OK, like many good relationships, this one is a little bit complicated...

You know you're in a state park if Smokey the Bear is on duty.

Shoes-Schmoes, this is more like it.  This tower is the third one on this site and it dates to 1859.  The first two, built in 1823 and 1847 were lost to erosion by the ever hungry sea.  The current tower is 157 feet 6 inches tall.

This is the "Oil House".  Back when the lighthouse used oil for the beacon the supplies were kept here.  Now this little building is used to orient visitors.  "Orientation" apparently consists of selling knick-knacks to visiting tourists.  You buy your ticket in the actual lighthouse.

There's 217 steps but who's counting?

The view through this port hole gives a sense of the thickness of the walls as one ascends to the top.

Zooming in on the Cape May-Lewes ferry from one of the port holes.  I blogged about the CM-L ferry in an earlier post.

We're getting near the top.  These stone brackets are flush on the inside of the tower but extend about 5 feet on the outside to support the balcony or "watch gallery" in lighthouse-speak.  You can see them in the photo of the lighthouse earlier in this post.  They're the grey supports just beneath the red platform which forms the watch gallery deck.

Only a few more bloody steps to go until we get to the lantern deck.  Many small children raced by your diarist as he climbed the spiral staircase.  What's the rush?

No more oil lamps.  The current beacon consists of these two 1000 watts lamps. The light is visible for 24 miles.  The beacon rotates every 30 seconds which causes the beam to flash at 15 second intervals.  The original oil beacon had a first order Fresnel lens.

These weird looking cones were all along the outside of the watch gallery.  I had to ask...

They turned out to be ventilators.  This is one viewed from inside the lantern deck.

The thumb screw opens them.  You can see the drain hole in the bottom.  That way rain doesn't accumulate in the vents.  Clever chaps those lighthouse builders.

Here is a view looking north from the watch gallery. One can see the town of Cape May in the upper right. 

This is another one of those World War II fire control towers.  There are several more on the Delaware side of Delaware Bay (I mentioned the Delaware ones in the earlier post about the Cape May-Lewes ferry; see link above).

Twenty five years ago I dug an old Moth Boat, buried in sand, out from under the raised side porch of one of those houses down there.  I can no longer remember which house or the name of the family who sold me the boat.  She was a good boat though and she's still sailing down in Charleston, South Carolina.

The large red roofed building is the old Shoreham Hotel.  It is now St. Mary-by-the-Sea, a retreat for nuns of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  You can read a short history here.  I was told that very few nuns come any more.  For access to beach front property like this I might consider becoming a nun myself.

Back down on the ground I decided to take a peek at the beach.  This state park beach is open for sun bathing and fishing but not for swimming.  The tides and currents at the point are too strong.  It must be a terrible temptation for kids.

Also on the beach at the point is this old bunker from World War II.  Remember the fire control tower?  It directed the cannons which were part of this bunker.  I was all set to explore this when my mobile rang.  It was diaristwoman.  She informed me that money had been satisfactorily spent and that women wanted to be picked up.  And so, dear reader we'll have to explore the bunker on another occasion.


  1. Screw all the architectural gewgaws, Cape May is supposed to be the best warbler watching on the east coast. Whadda see?

    1. Gunnar: In the pix of the fire control tower there's either a token turkey buzzard or perhaps a flyspeck on the camera lens. Other than the obligatory gulls and a couple red wing black birds I'm afraid I've nothing to report. You are quite correct how-sum-ever, Cape May is quite the birder's (and bird watcher's) paradise. I must remember to bring a tripod and some binoculars in the fall. Elisabeth will probably need more shoes by then...

      The marshes around Brigantine are also a haven for birds and their watchers--BYOBS (bring your own bug spray)...

  2. George, for someone who lives in Maryland, you're giving my home state a damn good amount of attention lately. Keep up the good work!

  3. Baydog: I grew up on Brigantine. We still have a summer house on the island.

  4. Replies
    1. Aw, I'll bet you say that to all the sailing bloggers. Even Tillerman "did time" in Jersey. New Jersey must be good for bloggers!

  5. Hej George ! Vilka fina bilder, men det brukar du ha på din blogg.
    Intressant att se och läsa när man aldrig varit där.
    Take care !

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hej Johannes: Jag är glad att du fortsätter att njuta av bilderna på min blogg. Jag njuter av din blogg också. Nyligen var vi i Maryland under en tromb (tornado) varning men lyckligtvis gick stormen norrut utan några skador.

    Jag hoppas att allt går bra med din partners knäledsoperation. En vän till mig som gillar cykeltouring hade en av sina knän opererade för några år sedan och nu mår han bra. Du kan läsa om hans erfarenhet här:

    Du kanske också skulle vilja läsa om kust-till-kust cykeltouring han och hans fru gjorde ett år innan knäledsoperationen:

    Bästa hälsningar,