I want to live in a lighthouse.
July 23, 2010 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Help me live in a lighthouse.

I want to live in a lighthouse. I have a somewhat random but longstanding interest in living in a North American lighthouse as my primary dwelling (i.e. not as a vacation or seasonal rental). I'm not sure if I have a preference between owning and paying rent. I don't have any preference as to the operationality of the lighthouse.

My searching always gets clogged with lighthouse bed-and-breakfast-type deals and limited tourist stays, or great sources for enthusiasts like the United States Lighthouse Society that unfortunately don't extend to living in a lighthouse.

Does anyone have experience with actual permanent/semi-permanent living in a lighthouse?

How did you find one to live in?

I know that some lighthouses house permanent caretakers or operators--is there some type of (Coast Guard?) training I should pursue if I want to live in a lighthouse?
posted by ollyolly to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I know that some lighthouses house permanent caretakers or operators--is there some type of (Coast Guard?) training I should pursue if I want to live in a lighthouse?

It's my understanding that all operating lighthouses are now automated, and there are no more "lighthouse keepers" who operate lights. However, there may be some which require the services of a live-in caretaker to see after the property.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on July 23, 2010

I also just tried Googling "lighthouse for sale." A while ago many decommissioned lighthouses were going for $1.
posted by Miko at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2010

well, my original answer seems to have been deleted, so let me try phrasing it another way : the site linked by the OP for the USLS actually DOES have information as well as contact links for a number of organizations regarding this information, and even has an entire section dedicated to being the keeper/tender/resident of a lighthouse.
posted by radiosilents at 1:38 PM on July 23, 2010

Does it have to be a lighthouse?

Coincidentally, while looking for a weekend getaway I found this converted Coastguard tower on the south coast of England, which you can rent long-term. Anyways, just throwing it out there.
posted by vacapinta at 1:42 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think you want this page from the US Lighthouse Society (it's basically "so you want to live in a lighthouse"), and at the bottom of that page, a listing of lighthouses for sale.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:46 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

^ that's the page i had linked to
posted by radiosilents at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have experience with actual permanent/semi-permanent living in a lighthouse?

Not I, but here's a detailed website about living in a lighthouse on Granite Island, in Michigan.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2010

The couple tending to the Scituate lighthouse were retiring, and there was a search for someone to replace them. This was two years ago, but given how recent it was and how much work is going into the Scituate lighthouse at the moment, you may be able to talk to the new keeper about how to go about doing just what you want to do.

I would say one good in for such a thing would be to start volunteering at lighthouses each summer, learn as much you can about their history and how they operate now.
posted by zizzle at 2:43 PM on July 23, 2010

Weird radiosilents, are you sure your answer was posted and not just previewed? I can't imagine why it was deleted (unless you said something mean, I guess).
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:58 PM on July 23, 2010

You're dismissive of "limited tourist stays," but why not try volunteering at a lighthouse for a short stint before committing to a more permanent arrangement?

You could also prepare yourself by gaining all-around "handy" skills; maintenance seems to be a big part of any keeper's job.

Have you ever lived anywhere really remote, where self-reliance is a necessity and you can't just dash out to the grocery store or call in an electrician or a plumber on short notice? Where you may go for weeks without seeing another person? If you want to prepare for life in an offshore lighthouse, maybe you should try living somewhere isolated.

Do you have experience around the water? Can you pilot an ocean-going (or Great Lakes) boat? I would guess that not all lighthouse keepers pilot their own boats, but it seems like a highly relevant skill.

Do you have a career or source of income that can be maintained while living in isolation, possibly without phone / internet / daily mail links to the mainland? If you really want to live in a lighthouse year round just for the romance of it, you should probably work on becoming independently wealthy, if you're not already.
posted by Orinda at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2010

Does anyone have experience with actual permanent/semi-permanent living in a lighthouse?

I had a friend who grew up as the daughter of a lighthouse keeper and wasn't very positive about the experience. granted she had lived in some spectacular places, but the reality was it was a poorly paid job subject to the whims of bureaucracy which both moved them around a lot and left them tied to the same place for months on end. Plus all the isolation (and conservatism) that you would expect form living in the middle of nowhere. By all accounts she spent her time counting the days till she could up and leave and head for the big city.

You are aware that lighthouse keepers tend not to live in the actual lighthouse but in attached buildings, much like a normal house (though often with fewer facilities)?
posted by tallus at 4:35 PM on July 23, 2010

As an assistant lighthouse keeper at Boston Light (the last US Coast Guard manned station in the US), I can say that living at a lighthouse can be more work, and more isolated, than I even expected (and as an assistant, I only do it for 3-4 days at a time). I second the recommendation that you try a limited stay first to be sure that it's what you really want.

There is no longer any Lighthouse Keeper training that I know of. We're required to be crew qualified through the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, which means that we have a basic boating safety class, then take another, more hands-on crew-level class which includes some search and rescue training. Depending on your level of boating knowledge, you may want to do at least a basic seamanship class - they're offered through the Auxiliary throughout the country for a small fee. The rest of our training is on the job, and you could do most of it that way, too. There are books that will give you a lot of knowledge about the workings of different types of lamps, but your lighthouse will inevitably have its own quirks.

There are lighthouses for sale, including the one noted above that's just south of us. Be aware that maintenance can be expensive, and depending on whether your on an island, other costs can be higher, too.
posted by ldthomps at 4:45 PM on July 23, 2010 [12 favorites]

You can buy one in Canada. If you have a good business plan, it could be cheap!
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:52 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

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