Digest>Archives> November 2008

Safeguarding The Dangers Of Drunkards Ledge

By Bob Trapani, Jr.


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
Among its many other varied duties, the U.S. ...
Photo by: Bob Trapani, Jr.

This past autumn the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter TACKLE continued the longstanding seafaring tradition of maintaining an effective aid to navigation at Drunkards Ledge — a U.S. Lighthouse Service & Coast Guard tradition that dates back to the late 1870s.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
MK2 Eugene Peters (topside) and Auxiliarist Bob ...
Photo by: Dan Kimbrell

For mariners plying Maine’s coastal waters, aids to navigation such as lighthouses, buoys and daybeacons serve as vital ‘traffic signals’ to help guide vessels safely past the dangers of the sea.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<
MK2 Eugene Peters (topside) and Auxiliarist Bob ...
Photo by: Dan Kimbrell

In Maine’s West Penobscot Bay, few locations prove more hazardous to the seafarer than the dreaded Drunkards Ledge, which is located just off the western entrance to the Fox Islands Thorofare, near Vinalhaven and North Haven. Drunkards Ledge is a rocky swath of broken ground barely submerged at high tide, and if not for the lonely daybeacon that stands sentinel over this forsaken site, the ledge might snare many a vessel and cause them to wreck.

It was necessary for the 65-foot cutter TACKLE (WYTL 65604), which is home-ported in Rockland, to carry out the task to repair the daybeacon so that mariners could sight the aid from all sailing directions.

Storm winds had destroyed two of the four triangular, red dayboards on Drunkards Ledge Daybeacon. The dayboards, which are situated atop a

galvanized steel spindle, are important daytime identifiers. Boatswain’s Mate Chief (BMC) John Anders, officer-in-charge of the cutter TACKLE said, “Recreational boats, sailing vessels and

lobstermen all benefit from the presence of this daybeacon, which warns them of the hazardous ledge beneath it.”

Replacing old or missing dayboards on a daybeacon is generally normal aids to navigation work for the vessels crew, but at Drunkards Ledge, there is no such thing as ‘normal’ working conditions.

Arriving at high tide, Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (BM1) Keith Nichols assessed the sea conditions at the ledge, before nosing up to the spindle in the ship’s small boat to allow Machinist Technician 2nd class (MK2) Eugene Peters to disembark on one pass and Auxiliarist Bob Trapani, Jr. on a subsequent follow-up foray.

As the two men climbed the spindle and maneuvered with their safety harnesses to get into working position atop the aid, Seaman (SN) Dan Kimbrell readied the new dayboards aboard the TACKLE’s small boat and prepared them for hoisting.

Once the dayboard preparations were complete, BM1 Nichols nosed the boat back up to the spindle so that SN Kimbrell could toss a heaving line that was attached to each new dayboard up to MK2 Peters and Auxiliarist Trapani.

This evolution, which occurred twice during the event on the ledge, had to be timed just right with the rhythmic intervals of the swells that were rolling in over Drunkards Ledge, and facilitated in mere seconds so that the small boat could deliver the necessary dayboards, hardware and tools, and still have time to reverse the boat’s course safely away from the incoming surge.

What were gentle, rolling swells at high tide when the crew arrived; predictably grew more powerful on the ebb tide. BMC Anders said, “Challenges also present themselves when landing a team of servicing personnel on a ledge like this. We are often faced with tidal and sea conditions that hamper our ability to service or repair this aid to navigation.”

Coast Guard Cutter TACKLE and its crew of seven maintain 34 aids to navigation in Penobscot Bay, including the lighthouses at Curtis Island, Grindle Point, Eagle Island and the often-inhospitable Saddleback Ledge. During the winter months, the TACKLE’s primary responsibilities shift from aids to navigation to domestic icebreaking.

This story appeared in the November 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History