Slide show: No bugs turn up in test tour of Bug Light

08/14/2011 8:09 AM |

JULIE LANE PHOTO | The Peconic Star II (as seen from the approaching Peconic Star Express) at Bug Light's new dock, which will allow the public to visit once again.

A test run to make sure visitors will be able to safely reach Long Beach Bar “Bug” Lighthouse during Greenport’s Sept. 24-25 Maritime Festival was declared a success Saturday afternoon.

Several members of the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation Board of Directors took a trip aboard the Peconic Star Express to check out a just completed pier built at the lighthouse by Costello Marine of Greenport to make it safe and easy to dock and come ashore. The dock was built at a discount for the foundation.

There has never been a good dock at the lighthouse since its restoration. Tour boats used to tie up to the rocky island and visitors had to clamber over the rocks to get to the lighthouse.

Regular excursions to the lighthouse were suspended about 10 years because of safety and liability concerns.

Despite a low tide, the crew tied up with ease and, using wooden steps set in place by crew members, the party of eight, along with Peconic Star Capt. Rob Spitzenberg and two deckhands, had no trouble reaching the rocky island on which the lighthouse sits.

The resumption of trips to the only one of Southold Town’s seven offshore lighthouses at which boats can tie up is a celebration of perseverance, according to board president Ted Webb.

On July 4, 1963, arsonists destroyed the original Bug Light, so named for its profile as seen from a distance. It took more than 25 years for a rebuilding effort to gain traction but in 1990 the reconstructed lighthouse once again shone brightly.

“It’s a story of what a community can do,” Mr. Webb said. So many people volunteered time and materials to the rebuilding effort, and many more have been dedicated to maintenance of the lighthouse, Mr. Webb said. Now he hopes that resuming visits to the lighthouse will engender the same spirit in the next generation to whom ongoing maintenance will eventually fall.

For several years, the foundation raised money allowing guests to stay in Bug Light’s one bedroom for $1,000 a night. About seven or eight couples a year signed up for the adventure, which included roundtrip transportation and a catered dinner at Claudio’s Restaurant, Mr. Webb said. But the trips were ended several years ago because of safety concerns about getting onto the rocky island, Mr. Webb said.

“We never had a bad accident,” Mr. Webb said, but concerns about access across slippery rocks led to the decision to the suspension, he added.
While there’s no decision yet on resuming the overnight visits, foundation board members hope to raise money, charging about $40 per person, taking visitors to the lighthouse during the Maritime Festival.

Trips aboard the Peconic Star Express are expected to leave the Greenport railroad dock behind the marine museum about every two hours during the two-day event. Tour guide Bob Allen, whose great-grandfather was a keeper at Bug Light, will conduct the tours, which are expected to last 45 minutes to an hour. The trip between the dock and the lighthouse takes about 15 minutes each way.

From the pier, people will enter the lighthouse from the basement and climb a short stairway to a main room that includes a hammock, picnic table, kitchen area and bathroom. A fenced deck surrounds the level, enabling harbor views from all sides.

A winding metal staircase leads to the mezzanine bedroom. Up another level on the winding staircase takes you to a platform on which a ladder is mounted. It leads to the top of the lighthouse, where its lantern is located.

On a clear day, the shore of Old Saybrook, Ct. is clearly visible across Long Island Sound, Mr. Webb said.

Dick Gillooly, a board member along for Saturday’s trip, recalled a family overnight stay at Bug Light about 11 years ago when his children were teenagers. He remembers being awakened at the break of dawn by seagulls dropping shells on the lighthouse roof.

While his children are now grown, that night spent at Bug Light “is still one of their great memories,” he said.

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