August 7th commemorates the day in 1789 when our country’s ﬁrst Congress created the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Signed into law by President George Washington, the Act authorized the federal government to build and maintain lighthouses and aids to navigation at all ports and harbors. This year on August 7th and the preceding weekend, celebrations of National Lighthouse Day will take place all along the Southeast Coast, which has some of the nation’s most interesting lighthouses. At 208 feet, Cape Hatteras Light, on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks, is the tallest brick lighthouse in the country and ranks as the 29th tallest in the world. Bald Head Light, North Carolina’s oldest-standing lighthouse on Bald Head Island, celebrates its 200th anniversary of guiding seamen safely around Frying Pan Shoals and across the bar of the Cape Fear River.
When ﬁrst lit with a 28 million candlepower optic, Charleston Light on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, was the second-most powerful lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere. Mariners actually complained it was too bright, so it was reduced to 1.2 million candlepower. Charleston Light can be seen from a distance of 26 miles. St. Simons Island Light on St. Simons Island, Georgia, is still a functioning aid to navigation and is the only lighthouse reputed to be haunted by a former lighthouse keeper.
St. Augustine Light, on Anastasia Island, Florida, stands on the grounds of the oldest navigational beacon in North America, dating back to 1589. Ponce de Leon Light, at 175 feet, is the tallest lighthouse in Florida. And Cape Florida Light is the oldest-tanding structure in Miami-Dade County. Most lighthouses in this country are now under the care of nonproﬁ t or volunteer groups that maintain the grounds and structures, so everyone can learn about the major role lighthouses play in the commerce and defense of our nation. Many of the lighthouses listed above have special activities planned for the weekend of August 5-6. Your attendance provides the support needed to protect this important part of our nautical history. Learn more about National Lighthouse Day from the American Lighthouse Foundation at lighthousefoundation.org/national-lighthouse-day/.
By Bob Arrington, Southern Boating August 2017