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  • Writer's pictureKeeper

When the Light Goes Out

What happens when the light goes out at a lighthouse?  It’s bound to happen, right?  Fortunately, since I’ve owned the lighthouse over the past 12 years, it’s only happened twice.  Both times, in the dead of winter.


The US Coast Guard Aid to Navigation Team Buffalo (ANT) is responsible for the care and maintenance of the active aid to navigation light located at Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse and many other markers, buoys and lighthouses along the Eastern Great Lakes. That’s a lot of work to keep such important navigational aids needed by commercial shipping and recreational boating in good order. 


The ANT makes annual inspections of the light, its wiring, batteries, and power – as well as the foghorn – to ensure they’re working correctly. But things happen. If the light goes out, it’s generally noticed rather quickly by the staff at nearby Coast Guard Station Fairport. They will report it to Buffalo, and a team from Buffalo will come down for needed repairs. Of course, I also get notified by the eagle-eye residents of Fairport Harbor, who have watched the light blink on and off for nearly 100 years. If that’s the case, then I call ANT Buffalo directly.


The New Year of 2024 started with a call from ANT Buffalo informing me that the light was out at the lighthouse. Given their long list of responsibilities, they expected to be down to the lighthouse to check on it within a week or two. Once their schedule was arranged, they let me know when they’d be arriving. They try to be as efficient as possible and were also planning a stop at the Conneaut Lighthouse on the way. 


For years I have made sure both the ANT in Buffalo and the local Fairport Coast Guard Station have keys to the lighthouse. This is in accordance with my lease with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Coast Guard must have access to their equipment. However, turnover is high at both Coast Guard stations as personnel rotate in and out on assignments. Inevitably, nearly every time they need access to the lighthouse, neither station can find the key. Such was the case again.


After several phone calls and texts, I was able to locate another key for them. They made their way to the lighthouse and checked on the light. While they were able to make sure it was functioning, they said more significant repairs will be needed come summer.  #Semper Paratus – Always Ready.

LED light at Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse

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