My 50th Birthday Surprise Celebration at Forbes Island Lighthouse Restaurant

Forbes Island Lighthouse

It was the best 50th birthday celebration I could have ever imagined. In fact, I didn’t even imagine it. It was all a total surprise. As my brother-in-law drove our way through the crowded traffic of San Francisco along the Embarcadero, passing by the baseball stadium, the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, the cruises to Alcatraz terminal, Piers 9, 19, 29, I had no idea where we were going. Even as we approached Pier 39, I could not even guess where he, my sister, and my niece were taking me to celebrate my 50th.

It was only hours before we took this drive that I even knew that we were going out to dinner. My sister finally mentioned that she should have told me to pack something nice to wear. For what? I wondered. So I borrowed some of her clothes. I was hungry. “Should I eat now, or wait,” I asked? “Wait,” she said, “there will be plenty of food where we are going.” Going? Where? For my birthday? What a surprise! I had no clue.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

We parked the car a few blocks from Pier 39, but I still could not figure it out. An ice cream shop appeared. Certainly that would not be the place for dinner. I knew there was a carousel at Pier 39. Certainly that would not be the place. The restaurant that features rock and roll memorabilia? Nope, not there either. A seafood restaurant? Italian? Japanese? Pizza? A wine bar? The aquarium? No, no, no, no, no, no.

Then my sister stopped us in our tracks, pointed in the distance, and asked me, “What do you see?” Well, right in front of me were a couple of mini cruise boats, so I wondered if perhaps if we were going on an evening dinner cruise around San Francisco Bay. Nope. “Look further,” she said. I needed to put on my glasses.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Then I saw something that looked familiar in shape to me, but yet I did not quite comprehend what it was at first. But it was something that I have a passion for visiting, but I had no idea that there was even one in this area of San Francisco. I squinted through my glasses to make sure what I was seeing was what I thought it was. “A lighthouse?” I asked with complete uncertainty. Here? Really? What? “Yes!” my sister exclaimed, as she knew about my love for these intriguing buildings. Not only is this particular building a lighthouse, it is also on an island, a floating island. And not only is this particular one a lighthouse on a floating island, it is a restaurant. What? A floating island lighthouse restaurant at Pier 39 in San Francisco? In all my 50 years, I never knew such a place existed. Even growing up near here, I never knew.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Now my thought had changed from surprise to uncertainty to now excitement and increasing hunger, as we tried to figure out where to catch the small ferry that would take us to the island in less than five minutes. The four of us boarded the ferry, and as the driver explained the history of this floating island lighthouse restaurant, my hunger, and excitement, grew even more. We were on our way to Forbes Island, advertised as “fantasy fine dining aboard the world’s only floating island.”

Forbes Island was originally built in 1975 in Sausalito by a millionaire houseboat designer, Forbes Thor Kiddoo, as a private floating home. Built as an island paradise, due to his love for the tropics, there are also palm trees, white sand patios, and waterfalls.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Of course the first thing I wanted to do when we disembarked the ferry, however, was to climb the 40-foot Forbes Island Lighthouse to the top via its spiral staircase for the 360-degree view of San Francisco, but that would have to wait till after dinner, so that we could make our dinner reservation time. And eat!

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Instead of ascending the lighthouse at this time, we descended to the restaurant, as the dining area is located below sea level. With underwater portholes (currently not washed, and at night too dark to see out of anyway), and surrounded by a collection of “nautifacts,” we sat down to what would be a delicious four-course California cuisine meal. Some of my meal included a wild mushroom ragoût, roasted halibut, and a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Quite the extravagant birthday dinner!

Forbes Island Lighthouse

As we made our way back to the ferry after dinner, I had a chance to climb the 54 steps of the lighthouse up the decorated spiral staircase to enjoy the 360-degree view.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Forbes Island Lighthouse

They say that it is the only privately built lighthouse in the United States. (Although in my completion of a Bucket List item of my visiting or seeing a vast majority of lighthouses in Washington State, I believe that the Skunk Bay Lighthouse was also privately built.) But in either case, the Forbes Island Lighthouse is equipped with an authentic Fresnel lens which is on loan from the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

Forbes Island Lighthouse

Forbes Island Lighthouse

During the ferry ride back to Pier 39, the crowded drive back through the streets of San Francisco, I thanked my family over and over and over again for the best 50th birthday surprise celebration at Forbes Island, complete with dinner and a lighthouse!!

Oh, and the picture of the lighthouse during the daylight was taken by my sister the next morning as she rowed passed the island.

Sweet Travels!

Information in this blog from Forbes Island website, and a plaque at the dock while waiting for the ferry.

28 Lighthouses in Washington State – A Bucket List Item Completed

Admiralty Head Lighthouse Whidbey Island

Twenty-eight lighthouses. Some of these, I actually saw more than once. At one lighthouse, my husband and I spent a few weekends one summer doing volunteer restoration work. At another lighthouse, my husband and I got married!! Some lighthouses were seen from the vantage point of a sailboat. My husband and I made a special visit to see one lighthouse at Christmas time. A few offered tours, while others were seen off in the distance from the coast to an island. They are the lighthouses of Washington State. And with these 28 lighthouses, I have completed a Bucket List item of visiting or seeing a vast majority of the lighthouses in Washington State.

Alki Point Lighthouse West Seattle

At one lighthouse I learned the meaning of the word “pharology” – “one who studies or is interested in lighthouses” – that’s me! At another lighthouse, I walked 10 miles round trip just to see it, twice, once by myself and once with my husband. Two lighthouses were close to the border with Oregon so were seen during a trip of visiting the vast majority of the lighthouses on the Oregon Coast.

Browns Point Lighthouse Tacoma

Not knowing which order to list them in this blog, I decided to go in alphabetical order. By clicking on each photo, it takes you to the particular blog I wrote about each lighthouse. If I wrote more than one blog about the same lighthouse, I have included two pictures, each with a different link. In other words, there are more than 28 blogs based on the 28 lighthouses.

The first lighthouse above is Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island where I learned a few lighthouse jokes, and about “traveling libraries.” At Alki Point in West Seattle, the second lighthouse above, I took a tour guided by US Coast Guard Auxiliarists. Brown’s Point Lighthouse in Tacoma, in the picture just above, is where I learned that I am a pharologist. Below are two photos from Burrows Island Lighthouse where we volunteered with doing some restoration work.

Burrows Island Lighthouse

Burrows Island Keepers Quarters

Continuing on with the 28 lighthouses, this is the pyramidal concrete tower of Bush Point Light on Whidbey Island:

Bush Point Lighthouse Whidbey Island

Cape Disappointment is one of two lighthouses we visited near the Oregon border:

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Flattery Lighthouse is located on an island at farthest northwesternmost corner of the Continental United States:

Cape Flattery Lighthouse

Cattle Point Light is located near some good walking trails on San Juan Island:

Cattle Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse on Destruction Island can be seen far off in the distance from Ruby Beach along the Olympic Peninsula Coast:

Destruction Island Lighthouse

Dofflemeyer Point Light in Olympia is on a private beach but can be viewed from the marina of Boston Harbor:

Dofflemyer Point Lighthouse

Ediz Hook has been moved from its original location and is currently in a residential area of Port Angeles:

Ediz Hook Lighthouse

Gig Harbor Light on the Kitsap Peninsula is only 15 feet tall:

Gig Harbor Light

While Grays Harbor in Westport is the tallest lighthouse in Washington State at 107 feet:

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

Lightship Swiftsure in Seattle is one of the few remaining “floating lighthouses”:

Lightship Swiftsure

Lime Kiln Lighthouse is located in the 36-acre day-use Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island, another place with some good walking trails:

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Here is Lime Kiln Lighthouse decorated at Christmas time:

Lime Kiln Lighthouse Christmas

Marrowstone Point near Port Townsend is located along a shoreline quite popular for fishing:

Marrowstone Point Lighthouse

Mukilteo Lighthouse is where my husband and I were married!!:

Mukilteo Lighthouse

New Dungeness is the lighthouse I walked 10 miles round trip to see, twice, once solo and once with my husband:

New Dungeness Lighthouse

New Dungeness Lighthouse

North Head is the second of two lighthouses we visited near the Oregon border:

North Head Lighthouse

Patos Island, one of the San Juan Islands, was originally named “Klu-whit-eton” by the Native American tribe, the Lummi:

Patos Island Lighthouse

Point no Point Lighthouse, which is located on the Kitsap Peninsula, is where I wondered, “What is the point of standing at the point of Point No Point Lighthouse?”:

Point No Point Lighthouse

The two keeper’s dwellings at Point Robinson Lighthouse, on Maury Island connected to Vashon Island, are available for weekly rentals:

Point Robinson Lighthouse

Point Wilson Lighthouse near Port Townsend and Fort Worden usually offers tours every Saturday from 1-4 from mid-May through mid-September:

Point Wilson Lighthouse

The “unusual” Skunk Bay Lighthouse, as seen from the other side of a fence, is currently a private time-share:

Skunk Bay Lighthouse

The keeper’s quarters of Slip Point, located on the beach of Clallum Bay Spit County Park, looks a lot like the Burrows Island keeper’s quarters:

Slip Point Lighthouse

Smith and Minor Islands is one of eight lighthouses my husband and I saw from the vantage point of a sailboat:

Smith and Minor Islands

Turn Point Lighthouse located on Stuart Island is part of Stuart Island State Park:

Turn Point Lighthouse

And last but not least, West Point Lighthouse is located below Magnolia Bluff at Discovery Park in Seattle:

West Point Lighthouse Discovery Park

I compiled my list of which lighthouses to visit in Washington State from a couple of different sources. First, I have a few posters on my wall at home that list some lighthouses, such as the Souvenir Lighthouse Map and The Great Lighthouse Hunt, both from Washington Lightkeepers Association. I also double checked these posters against lists of lighthouses in Washington State on the Lighthouse Friends website, and on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill website.

The lighthouses that I have not visited (yet) include a few that are along rivers rather than along larger bodies of water, such as the Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean. One lighthouse I have not seen is because it can only be viewed while riding on a ferry. And the Coast Guard Museum in Seattle which displays some lighthouse memorabilia will also require a visit someday. But by and large, with 28, I have completed my bucket list of visiting or seeing a vast majority of the lighthouses in Washington State!

I wonder what state will be next on my Bucket List to see all the lighthouses…?

Sweet Travels!

PS. I have also seen lighthouses on the South West Coast Path in England, along the Camino Finisterre to Muxia in Spain, and in Michigan which I have not written blogs on yet. And finally, a blog on the admirable pioneering Female Lighthouse Keepers.

Female Lighthouse Keepers: Women Who Cared for the Lights

To Keep The Light Erica Fae

They were wives, daughters, and mothers. They were pioneers, professionals, and hard-workers. They were strong, physically and emotionally. They were rescuers, saviors, and champions. They were female lighthouse keepers, the women who cared for the lights of lighthouses, and kept them burning.

Women Who Kept the Lights

These women not only cared for the lights, but also cared for their families, the home, visitors, people they rescued. They did household chores, cooked, cleaned. They polished brass, painted, and took care of animals and gardens. Most importantly they made sure the lights that guided those at sea to safety were constantly lit, and the fog bells constantly sounding as needed.

Mind the Light, Katie

Some were daughters who cared for the lights when their fathers could not return to the lights due to weather. Some were wives who cared for the lights after their husbands went off to fight in wars, became ill, or passed away. Some women started out as assistant keepers. Of these, many continued on to care for the lights because it then became their passion, their desire, their career.

Dory of the Lighthouse

Many of these female lighthouse keepers were officially recognized, receiving a keeper’s appointment. In fact, 144 women between 1830 and 1947 received official lighthouse keeper appointments. “Most of these women served in the 19th century, when the keeper lit a number of lamps in the tower at dusk, replenished their fuel or replaced them at midnight, and every morning polished the lamps and lanterns to keep their lights shining brightly.”(*1)

The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife

These women were important people who made sure those at sea were safe. Some even did daring rescues of sailors from capsized or wrecked ships. Some lived in harsh and dangerous conditions, survived through storms and hurricanes, and resided in remote and isolated places. However, they persevered through.

Three Beams of Light

I’ve read several books about these women who cared for the lights. I’ve also read some books written by women who experienced life at lighthouses, as wives and daughters of lighthouse keepers.

To Keep The Light Erica Fae

I also recently saw an award-winning independent film, “To Keep the Light.” The main character, inspired by true stories, is a composite character of many female lighthouse keepers “giving voice to their largely unknown experience.” Erica Fae not only wrote the film, but also directed, produced, and starred in the film. Ms. Fae writes that these women “were trailblazers, embodying feminism long before the word existed and far afield from the urban, intellectual circles that spawned the women’s rights movement.”(*2)

To Keep The Light

I am intrigued by these women, female lighthouse keepers, amazed and awestruck by their strength, courage, sacrifices, successes, and desires. I often wonder what their daily lives were truly like even though I’ve read books and saw the film. I sometimes wonder if I was a female lighthouse keeper in a previous life. I wonder if I would have had the ability, bravery, wisdom, stamina, heart, and spirit to be a woman who cared for the lights of lighthouses.

To Keep The Light Erica Fae

To Keep The Light Erica Fae

Sweet Travels!

Quote (*1) from “Women Who Kept the Lights, An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers” by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford.

Some information obtained from above book and from “Mind the Light, Katie, The History of Thirty-Three Female Lighthouse Keepers” also by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford.

Quote (*2) and five photos are from the independent film by Erica Fae, “To Keep The Light.” Note that I saw the film at the Vancouver (Canada) International Film Festival where I also had the honor of meeting Erica Fae.

Click on all five books for links to Amazon.

Lightship Swiftsure – A Floating Lighthouse

Lightship Swiftsure

When we think of lighthouses, we usually picture tall towers and keeper’s quarters, bright beaming lights and loud foghorns, placed on the edges of land or on islands. However, did you know that there were these aids to navigation that were actually floating? These “floating lighthouses” were just as powerful, and used to be just as important, as their sisters on land. The bright beaming lights and loud foghorns were located on ships that were anchored offshore, floating in the seas, in places where building regular lighthouses were impossible or impractical. Known as “lightvessels” and “lightships,” they performed just like lighthouses.

Lightship Swiftsure

One of the oldest lightships in the United States is currently located in Seattle, and on one summer day, my husband and I drove down to the Historic Ships Wharf in Lake Union Park to board this vessel, walk around, and listen to information told by one of the volunteers. The Lightship Swiftsure was built in 1904 with sails and with steam engines. It is the only lightship today that still has her original steam engines.

Lightship Swiftsure

The name “Swiftsure” is this particular floating lighthouse’s current name from 1995. Prior to that, she had several other names depending on where she was located during her 56 years of service. “Blunts Reef ” off Cape Mendocino in California, “San Francisco” where she protected the foggy San Francisco Bay, and then “Relief” when she was first brought to the Puget Sound of Washington State, were some of her other names. Part of her service included time in the Navy during World War 2, in addition to originally serving with the United States Lighthouse Service, and finally the United States Coast Guard.

Lightship Swiftsure

In lightships, the light that shines to protect those at sea is located on a tall mast. Some lightships had two lights on two masts, one being a backup light. Just as the lights in lighthouses on land transitioned from oil lanterns and Fresnel lenses to electricity, so too did the lightships. Many lightships were painted red, with its name in white, because the color red is quite a visible color.

Lightship Swiftsure

As many as 179 lightships had been built in the United States between 1820 and 1983. Not only have lightships been assigned several names each, they were also given letters and numbers for identification. Although not continuous, consistent, and some are skipped, the letters are first A through Z, AA through AZ, then LV-1 to LV-118, and a few with the letters WAL and WLV. The Lightship Swiftsure is also known as LV83 and WAL 513.

Lightship Swiftsure

The Lightship Swiftsure was retired from service in 1960, and is currently undergoing renovation to stabilize her, to replace the wooden deck, to restore the electrical system, and to become a museum. Thus the tent covering over the vessel to protect it and the renovations from the weather. She is currently docked in Seattle as part of a heritage vessel and floating maritime museum area, along with other vessels, many of which can be toured during a visit.

Lightship Swiftsure

The Lightship Swiftsure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in Washington State in 1975, and was recognized by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Of the 179 lightships built, only about 15 lightships remain today. Most of these are located on the East Coast of the United States, and only a few on the West Coast. I feel fortunate that my husband and I live so close to one of these historic and important pieces of history, the floating lighthouse.

Sweet Travels!

Information in this blog from:

Literature on display at the Lightship Swiftsure itself, including articles by Northwest Seaport, Maritime Heritage Center, owner of the Lightship Swiftsure.

Article by Diana Hennick, Museum Specialist, Northwest Seaport, “Rehabilitation of the Lightship No. 83” on display at the Lightship Swiftsure.

Northwest Seaport: 1904 Lightship: No. 83, Swiftsure
Lighthouse Friends.com: Lightship Swiftsure LV83/WAL513, WA
Wikipedia: Lightvessel

The Dofflemeyer Point Light(house)

dofflemyer point lighthouse

My husband and I took a day trip this past summer to Olympia, Washington just to view the Dofflemeyer Point Light(house). More like a light tower, the unusual bit of information about this light is that a formal lighthouse keeper was never actually appointed to this particular light. Instead, “local residents were contracted to care for the light and activate the fog signal.” Located on a private beach, my husband and I needed to walk out on the marina of Boston Harbor for a view of the light tower, and to take a few photos.

dofflemyer point lighthouse

dofflemyer point lighthouse

Dofflemeyer Point Light (also spelled Dofflemyer) is located at entrance to Budd Inlet, which leads to Olympia, the state capital of Washington, and to the Port of Olympia. This light is the southernmost light in Puget Sound. As my husband and I took our photos, we also watched the other flurry of activity on the marina, including people enjoying their fishing boats, motor boats, and sailboats, as well as jet skiing, kayaking, and even playing on the part of the beach near the light that is not private.

dofflemyer point lighthouse

dofflemyer point lighthouse

The original light at this location that was established in December 1887 was a “post lantern” on top of a 12-foot stake. With the lumber trade as the main industry of the times, and other trades such as canned fruit and shellfish, the increase in ships carrying these various cargos made it necessary to increase the light needed to guide these ships safely. Therefore in 1934 the 30-foot pyramidal concrete light tower seen today was built.

dofflemyer point lighthouse

The Dofflemeyer Point Light was automated in the 1960’s by the Coast Guard, with its fog signal automated in 1987, and thus the need for the local residents as “care-keepers” was no longer needed. Today the Coast Guard maintains the signal.

dofflemyer point lighthouse boston harbor marina

In 1995, Dofflemeyer Point Light(house) was listed on the Washington State’s Heritage Register, as well as placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sweet Travels!

Quote and information from this blog obtained from:
Lighthouse Friends-Dofflemeyer Point, WA
Northwest Maritime Heritage-Dofflemeyer Point Lighthouse
History Link.org-Dofflemyer Point Lighthouse