It’s a cool night in October. The temperature has dropped and the fog is rolling in along the coast. The salty ship’s captain is in trouble- he can’t see the stars to navigate. It’s been a long journey “across the pond” and they’re all tired. He can’t see the coast. Heck, he can barely see the front of his own ship! He just has fog. Waves, and waves of fog. He tries to maintain his calm so as not to alarm the rest of the crew, but they know they’re in trouble. Blind, and in trouble. He issues the order to proceed, dead slow. If he has to run into something, better to do it at a crawl than at full steam. The engine room responds, but it takes awhile to slow down a large ship. He’d love to stop, but the company won’t let him. They must deliver their cargo on-time or there will be trouble. Lost money, and trouble.
Then, as they creep through the fog, the captain spots it… the light, circling across the fog like a friend in the distance trying to sweep it off the water’s surface. Then, a second light. Perfect. “Helmsman, 30 degrees to port, ahead slow!” “Aye captain, 30 degrees to port, ahead slow.” The captain knows they’ve just spotted the Twin Lights of Navesink. A few minutes later he spots a third light, just to the north of the first two- Sandy Hook! Now the navigator can triangulate- they know their exact position. The captain hears the engines perk up and he feels the ship start to come around, heading toward the coast. The crew sighs, you can feel the tension on the bridge subside. The only danger now is other ships- but there’s not much they can do about that. Just then he hears the first blast of the fog horn from the lighthouse. They’re close now. “Navigator, set course to parallel the coast…” “Aye captain!” It won’t be long now. Port is just a few hours away.
It’s October… ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, kids with costumes, candy, decorations, lighthouses… Wait, what? Lighthouses? Yup, it’s that time of year to take the NJ Lighthouse Challenge!
You see, NJ has 11 or so lighthouses in various states of operation. There are also two museums and two life saving stations. Most are now museums and are in need of your support. The idea of the challenge is to visit all fifteen of these facilities over the two day weekend (this year, Oct. 15-16). For a $1 donation at each lighthouse, they’ll stamp a comemorative card that proves you were there. Here’s a link to their web site with all the details:
Can you go inside, and climb them? You bet! Here’s a rare view from the Twin Lights of Navesink. Why is it rare? Because the south tower is usually closed to visitors, except during the Lighthouse Challenge. The view is majestic and beautiful. In the museum, you can see the first order Fresnel lens that was once installed in the south tower. For a brief time in history, it was the brightest light on earth and could be seen thirty miles away. Think of how comforting that was to a ship’s captain.
The Sandy Hook light house is still in operation, guiding mariners around the hook. She stands, majestically, at the north end of Sandy Hook, on the now decomissioned Fort Hancock Army Base.
So, you have nothing to do this weekend? Go support a lighthouse! They need your help and it’s loads of fun. If they get closed, they’re gone forever.
And while you’re up there, remember that ship’s captain and tip your cap to the ghost of the Lighthouse keeper…