In September, the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation Board met to discuss conservation work needed for Delaware Bay’s two lighthouses, the Harbor of Refuge and the Breakwater Lighthouse, and to celebrate a successful tour season.
The year started with the Coast Guard’s March announcement that it was considering shutting off the fog signal at the Harbor of Refuge lighthouse permanently. The board opposed the action because local mariners rely on the light and the fog signal, especially at night. After emails from charter boat captains, foundation members and the pilots' association, the Coast Guard decided to keep the fog signal operational.
However, the foghorn was not working as of Sept. 8. The fog signal is an FA/232 and is solar powered, emitting two blasts every 30 seconds. This version replaced the 1908 fog siren operated by compressed air.
The possible loss of the foghorn was just the latest problem at the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, the white lighthouse visible from Lewes Beach and from Cape Henlopen State Park. On May 4, the Foundation Restoration Committee took two local contractors out to evaluate the condition of the dock. Two of the 13-ton stones that the Army Corps of Engineers placed around the cement collar in October 2011 were missing.
In addition to back to back nor’easters in November 2009, the lighthouse takes day-to-day punishment from wave action, but it was Hurricane Sandy that dealt the latest blow to the steel frame. After these repairs, the Harbor of Refuge dock will once again be accessible for tours and preservation trips. Currently, tours include a sail-by to take photos.
The first Harbor of Refuge lighthouse was completed Nov. 20, 1908, but was uninhabitable by 1925 from damage caused by Atlantic storms. On November 15, 1926, the current, cast-iron Harbor of Refuge light was built. Replacing the steel frame work is sure to be costly. The Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation has embarked on a five- year fundraising campaign, to include an application for Hurricane Sandy Relief for Historic Properties. Approximately $400,000 will be needed, and about a quarter of that has been raised.
The Breakwater Light, the red lighthouse, is the other lighthouse supported by the foundation. The state of Delaware has contracted out the replacement of the windows, re-glazing of the glass in the lantern room, and a repair of the stress crack on the watch room level outer deck. Contractors are currently doing the shop work for installation of new windows.
Tours include a visit inside this lighthouse, where guests can purchase souvenirs in what was once a light keeper’s galley and climb up to the lantern room for a spectacular view.
The group led nine tours between May and September, 2013. Area locals and vacationers made up the 158 visitors. Pam and Garrett Coleman were on the first tour in May. The Long Neck couple had talked about taking the tour for a couple of years and the tour exceeded all of their expectations. Garrett enjoyed the day so much he has become a tour guide.
Dr. Jerry and Connie Groll also had tried several times to take a tour. They were on a tour in June when the door latch at Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse would not open and the group was unable to gain access inside the Light. They finally rescheduled for the last tour in September. “We were thrilled with the trip and experience of spending time on the light,” they said.
For membership information or find out how to get involved or donate, go to delawarebaylights.org, call Foundation President Red Moulinier at 302-226-3866 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.