Portland Lighthouse Tour
Topsham, ME - Events of Tuesday, August 27, 2013
On Tuesday, we headed south to Portland, ME to see some of the lighthouses located in that area. We found a guided, mini-bus tour of several lighthouses we considered taking; but in the end, we decided we preferred to go at our own pace and on our own schedule. We also figured photography would be easier if we were by ourselves instead of with a group of people. Paul was able to find the locations of several lighthouses, program them into our GPS and plot a course around the Portland waterfront.
Our first stop was at the South Portland Breakwater Light, which sits at the end of the breakwater at the entrance to Portland Harbor. This lighthouse is also called Bug Light because of its small size.
Six Corinthian columns cover the joints in the cast iron plates that form the walls of the lighthouse structure.
Less than half a mile to the southeast of Bug Light is Spring Point Ledge Light. The area around it is occupied by Southern Maine Technical College, and since students were arriving for the fall term, we couldn't find a place to park. Therefore, Paul had to run over and quickly snap a couple of photos while Margery stayed with the car since the only place we could find to stop was in a faculty parking lot.
Spring Point Ledge Light was built in 1897 to mark an underwater obstruction at the west side of the main shipping channel into Portland Harbor. A granite breakwater has since been constructed to connect the lighthouse to the mainland.
From Spring Point, we headed in a southerly direction around Cape Elizabeth, which lies to the southeast of the city of Portland and Portland Harbor. We were headed to Fort Williams Park where the Portland Head Light is located. The park is also the location of Fort Williams.
Fort Williams was built in the late 1800s as part of the coastal defenses for all the shipyards in and around Portland. Fort Williams was a sub-post to Fort Preble, which was located at Spring Point. We could see remnants of some of the old fort walls when we were at Spring Point; but since the remnants of the fort are now on the college campus, we weren't able to investigate.
Fort Williams was active during WWI and WWII. In case you don't think our coast was threatened, in 1945, a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the USS Eagle, which was a sub chaser, about 9 miles southeast of Fort Williams. Forty-nine officers and crewmen were lost, and 13 survivors were rescued.
Fort Williams was closed in 1962. It was sold to the town of Cape Elizabeth in 1964 and was turned into a park. At Fort Williams Park, there are gun batteries and a few buildings that remain from the fort, but we were there to see Portland Head Light. The lighthouse is so picturesque, we didn't even get any photos of the remnants of the fort.
Portland Head Light, which was commissioned by President George Washington, was completed in 1791. It was initially illuminated by a whale oil lamps.
Our stop at Fort Williams Park resulted in a "two-fer." Ram Island Ledge Light sits a little over a mile offshore marking another navigational hazard.
We had one more stop to make on our lighthouse tour, and that was at the Cape Elizabeth Lights, also known as Two Lights. Two stone-tower lighthouses were first built here in 1828. We're not sure why there were two lighthouses except that Cape Elizabeth was the location of many shipwrecks, and perhaps they thought two beacons would provide a better warning.
In 1874, the two stone towers were replaced with 67-foot high, cast iron towers. In 1924, the use of multiple lights was discontinued. The eastern light is still in service, but the western light was sold to a private party in 1970 and is now a residence.
Above the trees and rooftops, we could also see the western tower. The glass at the top has been enclosed.
The coast in this area, while very rocky, has a different appearance from the pink granite farther north at Acadia National Park. The rocks here are metamorphic as opposed to the igneous (volcanic) granite farther north. The rock at Cape Elizabeth began as sedimentary layers and were transformed by geological forces. Microscopic mineral grains became aligned to produce sheets and layers that make the rock look like the grain of petrified wood.
From Cape Elizabeth Lights, we headed about 30 miles farther south to Kennebunkport, ME. Our friends, Janice and Dave, were staying near there. We wanted to catch up with them again to hear about their travels since we last saw them at Acadia, so we had made arrangements to meet Janice and Dave in Kennebunkport for lupper.
Kennebunkport is the summer home of the Bush family. It is also a tourist town if ever there was one. Quaint, expensive shops line the streets. Parking is definitely at a premium with most of the spaces in the main tourist areas limited to one hour or less. That wouldn't do if we wanted to have time to meet Janice and Dave, have lupper and walk the streets a little. We ended up finding a spot with no time limit several blocks outside the main tourist area.
We met Janice and Dave for lupper at the Clam Shack, which is technically in the town of Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport. The bridge over the Kennebunk River, which marks the boundary between the two towns, is to the immediate left of the Clam Shack in the next photo.
Margery had seen the Clam Shack written up online as having the best lobster rolls. They are available with either mayo or butter and contain the meat from a one-pound lobster. The two of us split a lobster roll with butter (lobster rolls with mayo are good, but we prefer butter), a pint of fried clam strips and an order of fries.
The food was definitely worth the trip down from Topsham. The lobster roll was far and away the best of the three we have had. The meat on this roll was firm, but not tough like some of the meat we had at the other places.
We hung around chatting with Janice and Dave outside after we finished eating, then we made the drive back to Topsham where we relaxed in the evening and the following day. On Thursday, we headed out to our next destination.