Restored Maine lighthouse now island retreat
SOUTHPORT (WGME) -- Looking for something a little adventurous to do this summer? How would you like to stay on your own private island, off the rugged Maine coast, in a restored lighthouse and keeper's house? While the island may be rugged; the new inn on the island is anything but.
Reporter Brad Rogers and photojournalist Scott Episcopo boated out to the Cuckolds for an exclusive look at the island retreat. The Cuckolds are a pair of tiny islands off Boothbay Harbor. Their story airs this Sunday, July 6th on FOX 23 News at 10. For more information about the island and inn, CLICK HERE.
Here's a sneak peak... Boothbay Harbor is one of Maine's top summer tourist destinations. It's been said more people come here for lobsters and lighthouses than for any other reason. Yet, some believe this fishing village may have never been established were it not for the lighthouses that surround its harbor.
Summer resident Phillip Yasinski says "Imagine coming in here with no lighthouse, no fog signal, after dark on a dreary Maine evening." Yasinski says shipwrecks were common before the lighthouses and fog horns made it safe for mariners to navigate these waters at night and in foggy or stormy weather.
He says "There are 4 lighthouses. The reason there are 4 lighthouses is because commerce could not have happen without those signals. It was too dangerous." The Cuckolds Light Tower was one of those lighthouses. Built on a small island off the coast of Southport, it is situated at the entrance to Boothbay Harbor.
For more than 100 years, the light tower and fog signal have alerted boaters to stay away from the island's treacherous currents and rocky underwater shoal. The station was manned by light keepers until 1974. That's when the Coast Guard automated the light and dismantled the keeper's house and boathouse.
Then in 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard declared this lighthouse excess property. Yasinski says "The base was crumbling and tipping. The concrete between the granite blocks had come loose. The roof had holes in it." People in Southport started to worry the lighthouse might get dismantled like the keeper's house.
Phillip Yasinski and his wife, Janet Reingold, took it upon themselves to save the lighthouse from demolition. The couple created a non-profit to restore the lighthouse and rebuild the keeper's house. 10 years later their dream is a reality. Reingold says "It's beyond a thrill. This was our vision from the beginning."
The light tower has been restored to its former glory. But the Cuckolds Council didn't stop there. It raised enough money to rebuild the boathouse and keeper's house to look exactly as they did more than 100 years ago; right down to the two chimneys, even though only one works.
Yasinski says "Our commitment was to build the outside historically correct and then to repurpose the inside as an inn for overnight visitors." Businesses and people from Southport, Boothbay, Damariscotta and other communities gave their time and money to rebuild the lighthouse and keeper's house.
A former human resources director, Barbara Aube is one of the new keepers of this lighthouse. She laughs and says "Now I'm a keeper. But my husband says he knew 32 years ago that I was a keeper." Her husband Dan, a retired Naval Officer and graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, is the other keeper.
Dan Aube says "It's breathtaking. You can see it in pictures, but you really have to see it for yourself." While the outside looks the same as it did when first built, inside, the keeper's house is absolute luxury. Downstairs is a kitchen with a fireplace, the keeper's quarters, and a parlor in the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse.
Dan Aube says "For the nonprofit to be able to sustain itself, we really need to bring in the income." Upstairs, two suites with dramatic ocean views from every window. The West Suite accommodates up to four people. The East Suite is exclusively for couples. You can even book the entire inn and island.
Barbara Aube says "You expected it to be nice, but this is really beyond. And then you add the ocean to that, right?" Barbara and Dan Aube will serve as hosts. But they'll also take on the roles of concierge, housekeeper, tour guide, chef, and boat captain to take guests to and from shore throughout the day.
Barbara Aube says "We're going to be cooking. We're going to be cleaning. We're going to be launch captains." The Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse will even host weddings, artists and tours of the lighthouse. Reingold says "This is the first time in history the public can come see this beautiful, rugged, fabulous place."
Through the efforts of countless people, this historic 1892 Fog Signal and Light Station was saved. And it will remain an active lighthouse off Boothbay Harbor for centuries to come. Rooms are $350, or $500 a night on weekends, with a two night minimum stay. For $3,000, the entire island is yours for the weekend.