Northwest Keepers

A forum to discuss lighthouses on the West Coast Region of the US
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Postby Grover1 » Fri Dec 30, 2005 4:29 am

From Sign-on Sandiego.com

Couple answered coastal beacon's beckoning

By Pat Sherman
December 30, 2005

RANCHO BERNARDO – Peggy and Merv Adams have seen the light. It flashes in the night sky through a blanket of fog.

Its source: a 1,000-watt bulb atop the Yaquina Head lighthouse in Newport, Ore.

The Rancho Bernardo couple spent several summers there as caretakers of the tallest and most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon coast. They first encountered the structure while on an excursion in their recreational vehicle.

"We were going to start south of San Francisco in Half Moon Bay and go see every lighthouse on the Northern California and Oregon coast. That was our (goal)," said Merv Adams, 74. "My wife has always been kind of a lighthouse nut."

The couple were smitten with the historical allure of the 93-foot-tall tower inside the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The land is home to an animal preserve and bird sanctuary.

After inquiring about volunteer opportunities, the couple traveled to Yaquina Head with their motor home and car in tow.

"They put us on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean," said Merv Adams, a volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol in Rancho Bernardo. "They gave us electricity, water, sewer and a telephone (for our RV).

"It was beyond beautiful. You can see whales year-round up there. On a clear day, you can see forever."

However, he noted, "You could also get heavy, heavy fog – and mega wind. The first 18 days we were there it rained, and it rained. We made the Laundromats rich getting everything dry."

The couple also fell in love with the adjoining tide pools.

"This is the only lighthouse we've ever read about or heard about that has tide pools designed for the handicapped, where you can actually take a wheelchair, go down ramps and go into the Pacific Ocean and touch the urchins and the starfish," Merv Adams said. "That really impressed us."

Built in 1873, the Yaquina Head lighthouse soars 162 feet above sea level. It can be seen from ocean vessels 21 miles away, due to a 12-foot-high Fresnel lens.

The lighthouse is under the purview of the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The U.S. Coast Guard operates its lantern.

The Adamses shared duties with three other caretaker couples, working four hours a day, five days per week.

"We always had to work on Saturdays and Sundays," Merv Adams said. "That was our commitment to them."

When it was their turn to guide lighthouse tours, Peggy Adams would lead groups of eight people through the door. Her husband would be waiting 114 steps up a spiral staircase with historical information . More than 400,000 people visit each year.

"When we went in for shifts in the morning there were always people waiting in line," he said.

He said tourists could go into the area where the lighthouse keepers had lived in the 1860s and 1870s, but they couldn't go into the lamp area itself.

"It was so old and so fragile that it would chip if somebody hit it with a jacket or a camera," he said.

The couple's home is filled with figurines and mementos from the many lighthouses they've visited, including Battery Point lighthouse in Crescent City and Lime Kiln lighthouse, on San Juan Island in Washington. Peggy Adams said her fascination with the coastal watchtowers is largely in the stories of people who lived in them at a time before modern navigational technology.

"They signify that people managed to survive and have their families and live there," said Peggy, a New York native. "They had to be able to make do with what they had. ... People just don't do things like that nowadays."

When the Adamses felt bored or restless, they got in their car, Merv said.

"On our two days off we would drive 100 miles just to get an ice cream cone," he said.
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