Letter: Relentless pounding takes toll on lovely Sakonnet Light

EastBayRI.com ·

To the editor:

Just to clear your head of the bucolic memories we all carry of warm breezes and gentle waves caressing Sakonnet Point at summer’s end, please enjoy this image captured by renowned photographer, Mike Cohea. This photo is not a one-off tropical storm or midwinter gale. Those of us who spend off-season time in Little Compton recognize and embrace days such as this as run of the mill from late September through March. Mike took this shot in October of this year.

Clearly, we share this snapshot in time not only to stir your senses but to reacquaint you with the forces of nature Sakonnet Lighthouse has battled year in and year out since 1884. It is a testament to the U.S. Lighthouse Service come United States Coast Guard to the Haffenreffer Family and now the Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse (FOSL) that she still stands as a National Historic Landmark.

As we do each year, FOSL undertook a springtime sortie to Little Cormorant Island to assess any damage and prepare a scope and budget for our annual maintenance program. This year was no exception and while the ravages of winter left no permanent scars, we were forced to deviate from our anticipated work order to address the water infiltration we encountered on the light and observation floors. As Mike’s photo and a short video show, salt water is regularly driven horizontally onto the physical plant. Any breach of structural integrity will lead to permeation and eventually corrupt interior surfaces. The light deck hatch was clearly being compromised, despite repeated efforts at sealing.

Our hopes of an exterior rehab and paint job were pushed to 2018, as the resources so allocated would now be put towards the fabrication and installation of a new hatch and remediation of the corrosion left by it’s predecessor. Inherent to the failure of the old hatch was the attempt by the previous installer to effectively fit a linear surface onto a non-linear structure. The new hatch exactly matches the radius of the cylindrical lighthouse and permanently removes a point of entry.

Per usual, staging and prep are the primary drivers of our budget. With no power, water or access, 100% of our materials and labor are transported over water to a steep sided island with no dock. Throw in the cost of a custom fabricated steel hatch (requiring extensive on-site welding) and you can quickly burn through resources, which typically result in substantially improved optics. Although our charge is showing the staining of an extra year between paintings, please know that this year’s work will add some precious time to an icon with few peers outside the pages of history.

Our special thanks to Andrew Cavanagh and Cavanagh Marine Services, to the late, great Bob Higgins whose request upon his passing lead to myriad financial contributions and to Friends who keep Sakonnet Light upright and ready to inspire another generation.

Happy Holidays!

Scott P. Brown

President, Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse

Anyone interested in helping out may send a tax deductible donation to: Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse, P.O. Box 154, Little Compton, RI 02837 


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