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Secluded vacation at an island lighthouse

Jun 29, 2018
Stewards are needed to help maintain White Island Lighthouse Station, located six miles off New Hampshire. The island has a mooring for sailboats but no scheduled transportation.

Stewards are needed to help maintain White Island Lighthouse Station, located six miles off New Hampshire. The island has a mooring for sailboats but no scheduled transportation.

Courtesy Sue Reynolds

Looking for a no-frills summer sailing getaway? White Island Lighthouse Station could be the place.

The island, located six miles off Rye Harbor, N.H., in the Isles of Shoals, is home to the Granite State’s only offshore lighthouse. Perhaps best of all, it costs nothing to stay on the island, and there are plenty of openings left for the 2018 season.

Before you start making plans, there are some important caveats.

First off, there is limited electricity, spotty cell service and absolutely no Wi-Fi. Rainwater is used for washing, and all food and drink is carry-in, carry out. Up to four visitors at a time stay in a former caretaker’s home. Children are not allowed.

Visitors must provide their own transportation to the six-acre island, or arrange a private charter costing about $300 per round trip. The state-owned island has a mooring but no dock, and it is only accessible by dinghy.

“Access is a little hairy if there is any kind of sea going,” Sue Reynolds, who oversees the White Island Stewardship program, said in a recent interview.

“You have to have flexibility enough so you are going to arrive safely and leave safely,” she said, even if it means waiting for calm waters.

Finally, there are the chores. In return for free lodging, guests contribute to the facility’s ongoing restoration efforts. Typical jobs can include weed-whacking, painting and light carpentry.

John Whedon has participated in the White Island Stewardship program for four years and plans to return this summer. Visitors stay on the island at no charge in return for light maintenance duties.

Courtesy Sue Reynolds

So what’s the appeal of White Island Lighthouse Station?

“It is spectacular out there,” Reynolds said, adding that some guests enjoy solitude, touring the small island and fishing from the rocky shores. “And you don’t have to work all the time.”

“It’s just awesome to be on such a remote place,” she continued. “It is cool to be there, but it’s just not an easy place to get to.”

The stewardship program formed about six years ago to facilitate maintenance for the 158-year-old lighthouse. The Coast Guard ceded the station to the state in 1986, which turned it into a state park.

Numerous people travel to the island each year for educational programs and day trips. Biologists from the nearby Shoals Marine Lab stay on the island during the summer months. Many stewards also come year after year.

John and Margaret Whedon of Franklin, N.H., have visited the island for the last four years and will return this summer. John Whedon believes the island’s unique location and history are the main attractions.

“You can sit out there in the fog and enjoy the foghorn and take yourself back to the turn of the century,” he said. “Not much has changed.”

For details, visit www.lighthousekids.com, which also has information on the stewardship program.

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