Notes to Self: On Becoming Lighthouse Innkeepers

There are certain jobs that people dream about. A frequent fancy in a troubled world is being a lighthouse innkeeper where one can enjoy the peace and serenity of the ocean and abundant sea life. 

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We wanted to see if the lifestyle of a lighthouse innkeeper might be in our future. We arranged for a visit to East Brother Island and its popular light-station located just a 30 minute drive from San Francisco. Join us, this just might be your cup of tea.

Where are we

East Brother Island is in San Pablo Bay, which connects to San Francisco Bay.

East Brother Light Station is managed by a Richmond nonprofit preservationist group, which in 1980 obtained permission from the Coast Guard to renovate and maintain the active light station.

The organization has many volunteers to help with the constant maintenance, and pays most of the bills by renting out the island’s five bedrooms, four days per week.

Getting to the island

After a series of email communications, we arranged to meet and interview the lighthouse innkeeper couple on East Brother Island.

On Monday morning, we were waiting at the less than luxurious Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor when our Captain/innkeeper pulled up to the dock in the island’s aluminum tender. There is plenty of free parking at the Yacht Harbor.

Before we could board the boat, the Captain first assisted the guests that were leaving the island. The visitors must have enjoyed their island experience because they were all laughing and carrying on as if they were old friends.

After introductions, our host started the engines and headed out of the harbor for a short 10-minute ride to the island.

He immediately gave us a briefing about what to expect when we arrived dockside. He described how we would be required to climb a very vertical stainless steel pool type ladder that extends from the boat deck to the landing pier that is joined to the island.  Depending on the tide, the climb can be as much as 12 feet. Think about that before you make reservations if you are not physically able to climb a ladder. Also, the island is unfortunately not able to be ADA compliant.

Buildings and facilities on the island

 

The one-acre island has two vintage buildings in addition to an 1874 Victorian Lighthouse. The old work shed has been converted into a cozy innkeepers’ cottage, and the other out-building houses the machinery necessary to power the working foghorns.

The island has electric power supplied by an underwater cable from the mainland, and a self-contained water system that holds about 90,000 gallons of rainwater stored in a white-clad underground cistern and an above-ground redwood water tank.

Because of the ever-present danger of water shortages in the Bay Area, there are no showers available for guests staying only one night. No one seemed to mind the inconvenience.

After gathering our photo equipment and walking up the steep ramp between the pier and the island, the Captain gave us a tour of the first building we encountered, which houses the machinery to operate the foghorns. For our benefit, he cranked up the diesel generator and gave us a live performance of the horns. Give a listen.. EBLS Foghorn

Becoming an Island Innkeeper

We soon found that our hosts had only been lighthouse keepers for ten weeks, and as of this writing they have already moved on to their next adventure. Lighthouse keeping is fun, but demanding work, and the turnover is quite high, but that’s apparently not a big problem for the stakeholders.

How many folks would love to run a Victorian Bed and Breakfast on a small island in California complete with a good salary, room and board, seals, pelicans, and a five-star view of the San Francisco skyline? Lots, that’s how many.

We are told that the number of applicants for the job is usually large, but there are serious knockout factors in the innkeeper application.

One of the applicants must be an excellent cook and capable of preparing and presenting food for a table of ten.

Another qualification is that one of the applicants must have a Coast Guard commercial boat operator’s license.

Lastly, both of the prospective innkeepers must be charming. Now we are getting somewhere.

About the work

In the case of East Brother Light Station, the island is open for business four nights per week starting on Thursday.

Prepping for the guests

On Wednesday morning, the innkeepers are on land shopping for provisions for up to 40 guests (5 rooms x 2 guests x 4 nights). They select the food for the menu, pick up the mail, laundry, fuel, and anything else they will need for the coming week on the island.

On Thursday morning, they boat back to the island with the supplies, unload their cargo into a large wire cart waiting on the pier, and winch the cart up a steep ramp that connects the pier with the island. They unload and store the supplies, and get the island ready for visitors.

A day with guests

On Thursday afternoon promptly at 4pm, the designated Captain/innkeeper returns to the marina dock at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor to board the guests for Thursday night.

Upon arrival back at the island, the hosts provide a tour, hors d’oeuvres with champagne, and show the guests to their rooms.

The visitors then have ample time to explore the small island and enjoy the sea birds, animals, and fabulous views before dinner.

At dinner, the visitors are served an exquisitely prepared multi-course meal of the finest fresh ingredients.

All the guests are seated at one large table, which makes for a convivial atmosphere and an opportunity to socialize.

Friday morning would come all too soon, but a sumptuous gourmet breakfast would await all guests. Pity those one-night guests who must now head back to the mainland to resume their everyday lives.

After transferring the guests and their baggage to the mainland dock, the captain returns to the island to help his partner clean and prepare for new guests on Friday afternoon.

Saturday and Sunday are a repeat of Thursday and Friday.

After bidding farewell to the last guests for the week on Monday morning, the innkeeper heads back to the island and the chores that couldn’t be completed during the workweek.

Later in the day, the innkeepers load the laundry along with the empty bottles and trash into the island wire cart. The cart is pulled to the opposite end of the island and hooked and lowered by winch down to the island’s waiting boat. The innkeepers depart for the harbor, unload the cargo, and start a well-deserved Tuesday day of rest.

It’s not for everybody  

East Brother Light Station innkeepers live a romantic life full of guest kudos, fresh air, sunshine, seabirds, and seals. There are probably several of our readers that would trade places if they could. Life is short, you might want to give it a try! However, we decided not.

If you would like to be a guest at East Brother Light Station click here. Safety is important so there are several unique restrictions, be sure to check them out before making reservations.

Happy travels!

***************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

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The “New” Long Beach, California is an Easy Drive from Los Angeles

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Recently, we had an opportunity to experience Long Beach, California, in depth – the transformation of this city over the decades is nothing less than astonishing.

17-35-066-182-IMG_4805What was an unremarkable middle class town has magically morphed into an exciting convention and vacation destination that rivals the best of what other Southern California beach towns have to offer.

Note: Everything you will read about our Long Beach holiday is available for your enjoyment. We have provided links to each topic. Just click on a link for more details about the subject.

We started out at SFO

49-87-035-137-P1010331Our Long Beach adventure began with a flight from San Francisco on Jet Blue airline. This was our first experience on the airline and it certainly will not be our last. We found that on our flight, the extra leg room in standard economy was enough to make Jet Blue our new coach-class favorite over the ever-shrinking, sardine-like seats we are all too familiar with on our United and American flights out of SFO.

Additionally, we liked the fact that there was no charge for our checked luggage.

As long as Jet Blue provides these benefits we will be “True Blue,” when it comes to flying coach.

LGB is a delightful airport

50-88-036-141-P1010335We relish flying into small town airports, and although Long Beach is certainly not a little town, the LGB airport has a small, open, easy-going vibe.

Stay at the Westin

47-85-033-126-P1010320Within minutes of our arrival at LGB we were relaxing in our room at the Westin on Ocean Boulevard.

01-01-084-028-FSCN0063The hotel is close to the Queen Mary and many of the other attractions on our itinerary.

02-07-090-083-DSCN0124After getting settled we were off for a tour of the Queen Mary led by Honorary Commodore Everette Hoard, followed by dinner aboard…

06-19-053-102-IMG_4721at the Sir Winston’s restaurant.

07-20-054-111-IMG_4733What delicious French Onion Soup!

08-22-056-117-IMG_4739Our main course was classic “Surf and Turf” that was cooked to perfection.

About the Queen

14-31-060-141-IMG_4763The city of Long Beach went into promotional overdrive in 1967 when it acquired the iconic RMS Queen Mary.  Like the city itself, the Queen has known good times and bad, and through it all has become a symbol of pride and enduring strength in America.

Highly visible in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary humbly accepts daily accolades for her beauty and durability, and for those who know, for her valiant courage.

When launched in 1936, the Queen was the fastest ship afloat. During WW2, she made 72 wartime crossings of the treacherous Atlantic and was the prize never won by Nazi U-Boat captains determined to sink her for the Fatherland and Adolf Hitler.

During the war, Winston Churchill said he felt as safe aboard the Queen Mary as he did in Parliament.

IMG_1005Churchill’s comfortable suite on board the Queen is now part of the array of staterooms available by reservation at the Queen Mary hotel. A stay on this venerable ship is an extraordinary historical privilege.

A few years back, we stayed at the Queen Mary hotel. If you would like to read about that experience on the famous ship click here for the story.

Morning on the water

12-27-057-124-IMG_4746The following day we toured Long Beach Harbor on the Triumphant of Harbor Breeze Cruises.

18-36-067-189-IMG_4812This is an excellent way to see all that the waterfront of Long Beach has to offer. Harbor Breeze also offers whale watching cruises.

19-39-071-194-IMG_4817Next we strolled around Shoreline Village with its many interesting shops, boutiques, and attractions.

16-34-064-178-IMG_4801Our walk ended with a seafood lunch at the famous (and delicious) Parkers’ Lighthouse.

Afternoon at the Aquarium

21-41-073-209-IMG_4832Our afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific proved it to be a family attraction we could highly recommend.

22-42-074-210-IMG_4833Exhibits were both entertaining and educational.

23-44-075-216-IMG_4842Great fun for all ages.

Final day

The following morning we had breakfast at The Attic on Broadway. The cuisine was unique and tasty.

28-52-098-321-DSCN0392How about a Bloody Mary with bacon and a pickle?

Tour with Pedego

29-54-100-329-DSCN0400It was a beautiful Long Beach morning so we signed up for an electric bike tour along the ocean bike path. Our host was Pedego Electric Bikes.

55-95-043-BOBS BEACH BIKE 1This is an excellent way to view the 5.5 miles of manicured sand and shoreline residences along the beach.

33-63-008-043-P1010229The bikes were all in super shape, and depending on your shape, you can pedal or leave the pedaling to the Pedego.

53-92-040-Electric Bike GroupThe outing was great fun, and there was an enjoyable group of participants.

Time for culture

36-71-016-072-P1010260There are plenty of indoor activities in Long Beach and in the afternoon we left the sun to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art.

34-66-011-052-P1010238We were captivated by the exhibition Baroque Sensibilities by Sherrie Wolf.

35-67-012-056-P1010242The museum changes exhibits regularly, so keep an eye on their website.

Back in time

A quite unusual attraction that is not highly publicized is Long Beach’s 4th Street, a.k.a. the “Retro Row.” It is comprised of several blocks of funky little boutiques, antique, and pre-owned clothing shops that will take you back to mother’s time – or maybe your time, if you recognize lots of the habiliments. Locally owned restaurants and wine bars add to the joy of meandering.

39-74-020-081-P1010272The Rows landmark 1920’s Art Theatre hosts events such as contemporary and vintage films and live concerts.

A little touch of Venice 

Our next Long Beach adventure had us back on the water.

41-77-024-087-P1010279Gliding along the waterways of Venice, Italy is one of our fondest memories, and we had an opportunity to reminisce in Long Beach on a romantic gondola ride thru Naples Island with Gondola Getaway.

43-79-026-102-P1010295We watched the sun surrender to the Pacific – a perfect ending to an exceptional day.

Last supper

Our last dinner on this getaway was at the Boathouse on the Bay. The water oriented restaurant was busy on a balmy Long Beach evening, and the service and food were as advertised i.e., excellent.

44-81-028-108-P1010301Our entrees consisted of the biggest-ever and perfectly prepared King Crab Legs accompanied by a chopped cucumber sprinkled with dill and drizzled with a light vinegar – a brilliant pairing of tastes.

45-83-030-113-P1010307We can also recommend the tasty sea bass on potato mash amidst a savory sassy mix of carrots, peas and green beans. Delicious!

Things to know before you go

Long Beach boasts 345 days of sunshine and it is cold at 50 degrees in January, and hot when it’s 83 degrees in August and September. How great is that!

The outdoor activities in Long Beach are numerous and include fishing, harbor cruises, kayaking, rollerblading, biking, horseback riding, tennis and of course, golf. If that weren’t enough, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, whale watching, and sailing are also available. Whew!

There are over 5,000 hotel rooms in Long Beach, and 17 hotels that have complete meeting facilities. The public transportation is unsurpassed, and with all the available activities, Long Beach is a spectacular convention town.

As evidenced by its many nightspots and hip restaurants, the city has become an exciting destination for younger tourists.

There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. We recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed.

For additional information check out www.longbeachcvb.org

If you go

48-86-034-134-P1010328Long Beach is 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles and is well serviced by the airlines and the California Freeway System.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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