Most people love lighthouses. And what’s not to love? They are usually found in beautiful locations, feature attractive buildings, and include an element of romance. Their location is part of the romance, but even more so, I find the life of lighthouse keepers romantic. I picture them living on the edge of the ocean, facing ferocious storms with towering waves, and working heroically to save lives in areas that are often remote, far removed from the lives most of us lead. While such a life might not seem attractive to most, I like remote. I’m not so sure about the long hours, repetitious work, and being tethered to a 24/7 job.
I’ll never have the opportunity to find out, however.
The possibility of being a lighthouse keeper in the US today is close to zero. Of the 700 lighthouses presently functioning in the country, only one has a lighthouse keeper. It is located on Little Brewster Island overlooking Boston Harbor and has been in operation since being repaired after the British blew it up during the Revolutionary War. It had originally been built in 1716 on a pile of rubble stone with candles providing the light.
The rest of America’s lighthouses have become automated. When our son, Tony, was flying helicopters for the Coast Guard off of Kodiak Island in Alaska, one of his jobs was servicing the lighthouse in Cordova. As I recall, the salmon fishing was great in the area. He loved the assignment. And we benefited at Christmas with yummy halibut and salmon. (BTW… this past week he was flying a helicopter over Antartica in his new job.)
Today, many of the original lighthouses have been turned into museums. That’s the situation with the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse which is now part of the California State Park system. The lighthouse got its official start with a party in 1909. The head lighthouse keeper invited all of the neighbors within a mile over for its official opening at midnight. It was a pea soup night with the fog so thick that the light couldn’t escape. That wasn’t a problem for the loud new fog horns that started blasting out their warning on the dot at 12, probably waking up everyone who lived further away and wasn’t invited to the party. The lighthouse operated happily until 1961 when one of the towering waves I mentioned above rolled over the top. The third order Fresnel lens wasn’t damaged, however, and the lighthouse was returned to working order until 1973 when the US Coast Guard replaced it with a rotating beacon on a metal stand and the original lens was covered.
It was volunteers that brought the lighthouse back to life. With permission from the state and approval from the Coast Guard, they rebuilt the lighthouse and other structures including the homes of the lighthouse keeper and the assistant back to their 1930 condition when electricity was brought in. The Fresnel lens was cleaned, updated, and returned to service, being one of 70 that still operate in the US.
And this brings us to the bookstore cat. The attractive, historic town of Mendocino is located a mile and a half south of Point Cabrillo. It is another one of our favorite coastal towns. One of the reasons is its excellent bookstore: The Gallery Bookshop. The store’s logo is a cat reading a book. We went there to buy books, meet friends, and visit with the cat.
As I have noted before when I have blogged about my favorite independent bookstores, many of them have cats. I think that they all should. Here’s what the Gallery Bookshop’s website has to say about Catsby:
“The Great Catsby joined Gallery Bookshop in the fall of 2012. He was seen wandering on the streets of a neighboring town, darting in and out of businesses. One day, he found a car with an open window and hitchhiked (without the driver’s knowledge) to the village of Mendocino. There, he was picked up by a friend of the bookshop and offered the job of bookstore cat. His duties include sleeping atop card racks, greeting dogs with a glare and a flick of his tail, and occasionally allowing customers to scratch him behind the ears. He can usually be found sitting in the window, warming himself in a patch of sunlight.”
That does it for today. My next post will be on MacKerricher State Park, which is located just north of Fort Bragg. I should note: When I find time to do it. Our life continues to be insane as we rush into creating a new lifestyle for ourselves. More on that after the post on MacKerricher.
33 thoughts on “The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, a Poet, and a Bookstore Cat”
What a glorious place on all fronts. AND a bookstore cat! Fabulous Curt.
Thanks, AC. And I thought you might like the bookstore cat. Grin. –Curt
We have friends who made a point of visiting every lighthouse within their range. As you suggest, lighthouses have a special appeal, and I have them in several posts over the years, but unlike our friends aren’t fanatic about seeing every one. Some are now rented out, and the thought intrigues me, but we have never gone beyond the thought.
I’m not fanatic about seeing everyone, Ray, although I do think it might be a great excuse to wander down the West Coast from Canada to Mexico. 🙂 I’ll also confess that while I don’t devote my life to visiting them, I rarely pass one up. As for staying in one of the rentals, I’m also intrigued by the idea. Not sure I would want all of the tourists looking in my windows, however! –Curt
I always felt a little sad that our lighthouses are now automated.
I’m like you Curt, I find a bookstore and I can be gone all day (and made myself much lighter in the wallet.
Automated like more and more of our life, G! Scary to think about sometimes. Yes! There is that ‘lighter wallet’ factor! 🙂 –Curt
what beautiful captures of days gone by and pictures of your favorite places Curt. Love the cat bookstores you visit and good friends!💖
Thanks, Cindy. Blogging is always a great way to share, as you so well know. But I also do it for myself. It’s a great way to capture memories. When I get old, I’ll probably be glad to sit and reread my old posts, remembering ‘the days gone by.’ Grin. –Curt
I think it’s a great way to capture time and in case peggy forgets too, you’ve got the “goods to prove it”. 🤣🤗
It is a great way to share and lucky us to read you! 💖
Laughing. Peggy’s memory has as many gaps as mine does. Between us, we can promise one who;e brain, however. Watch out world. 🙂 And thanks for the compliment. Appreciated, Cindy. –Curt
oh that is soo funny.. That’s one reason I could never leave my husband.. hahahaha .. promises ,promises.. 🤣
It’s fun to see you back for a bit.. 🤗🤗💖💖💖
🙂 We are still up to our eyeballs, Cindy, but I have hope we can hit the road in six weeks! Thanks. –Curt
you are the traveling man these days and I was so loving having you at home responding and having fun! 💖💖
Thanks for the travels. Every bookstore needs a cat.
Always, Peggy. I’m not sure how the tradition of the b bookstore cat started, but it certainly adds charm, and I would argue, a bit of class. 🙂 –Curt
It looks enchanting. And I love the book store cat!
The cat is a beauty, Alison. And he is 100% cat in his behavior. 🙂 Hard not to find enchantment anywhere along our shared Northwest Coast. –Curt
I hated the end to our foghorns, too. For my first years in this area, there was one at the end of the channel into Clear Lake, and it was the best sound — especially when the wind was out of the east. There are a few lighthouses around our coast that have been moved and restored; most are small, and resemble the one you’ve shown here, although there are a few towers with accompanying keepers’ houses. I keep telling myself I should hie me to our nearest one, next to the Texas City Dike now, and see if its worthy of some photos. Maybe your post finally will get me moving!
The foghorns of the Pacific Northwest keep blasting away, Linda, because of the modern heavy fog. I love the almost mournful sounds on a foggy day or night. I’ve never met an historic lighthouse that I don’t find photogenic. By all means, head over to the City Dike. –Curt
Footloose and fancy free? The life of a lighthouse keeper has a very enticing aura. Good to see you two kids enjoying life on the road. A wonder you have time to post! 😉
“Footloose and fancy free?” Not yet, my friend. Hopefully by mid-March. It’s the getting ready that is keeping us from posting. Damn, there is a lot to do. 🙂 –Curt
I think you’re right about the romance of lighthouses. I could live with the isolation easily. Peggy got some wonderful shots, I especially like the foggy morning photos. So picturesque. And thanks for the intro to the Reading Cat. He found a lovely home!
That cat was quite the character, D. He was all cat! He rules.
Peggy has a good eye for photography. I’ve been doing what I can to encourage her to do more. Thanks. –Curt
I hope she does more too. And it’s wonderful of you to give her credit on the blog. I notice. 🙂
I am also fascinated about lighthouses, although I’m not so keen to live there, some of them are very remote. Not sure if the volunteering program is still up in U.S., we met a couple in 2017 who were just moving in for the season to Au Sable Light Station, in Michigan to take care of the lighthouse for 4 months, to greet the visitors, and explain the things around, etc. I found it really interesting!
I am sure the volunteering continues in full force, Christie. Most national and state parks make good use of volunteers. It keeps costs down and provides volunteers with something to do and offers a valuable experience. Laughing. As I said, I like remote. 🙂 –Curt
I’ll admit that the mention of your son flying helicopters over Antarctica has completed distracted me Curt. What an extraordinary job that must be! I have about 10 questions if to why and how and does he get to spend time there.
As to the lighthouses I have long been fascinated. Perhaps always living in a landlocked location does that. I had no idea only one in all of the US still had a keeper.
Tony just returned from six weeks down there, Sue, absolutely thrilled. We just received a couple of videos from him. He is working for a very high-end cruise company that travels with a helicopter and a small submarine. Each suite comes with its own butler. Beyond our price range. 🙂 And I really don’t know how anyone can’t love lighthouses! –Curt
You’re not alone in finding lighthouses enchanting! Pre-pandemic we were looking at visiting the East Brother Light Station right outside of San Francisco. They turned it into a B&B, remote and yet accessible 🙂
I think it’s great that some of the lighthouses now are designed to accommodate visitors. What a great way to enjoy them and their surrounding beauty. Thanks. –Curt
I loved this post Curt! The photos, as always are beautiful. I too could spend hours in little book stores and most especially, those with cats! Also this: “While such a life might not seem attractive to most, I like remote.” Yes.
One of the first things we always do when we hit a new town is check out the bookstores, Sylvia. And the cats. 🙂 We are looking forward to camping in some of those remote areas and enjoying the solitude, as well as the beauty. –Curt