Sunday, September 9, 2012

Curtis Island, Camden, Windjammer Part 3

    "I love that lighthouse,"  I told Mark, as we rounded Curtis Island.
    "That's because it's round."  Mark replied.  We'd already paddled by Indian Island and its square lighthouse as we left Rockport.
    "And the roof is red." I added.

   I do love Curtis lighthouse; it was the November picture in my 2011 calendar, Taken By Paddling.  For this year's calendar, with a  tentative title of "Stick a Boat in it",  I was determined to get a great shot of Mark paddling by Curtis Light.  That's always a challenge on moving water, but I had to try.

  Later, after exploring Camden's inner harbor and the schooners there, we headed back to Curtis Island for a lunch break.  We'd stopped there once before, in 2007, on basically the exact same paddle as we were doing today, Rockport to Camden.  But on that day Penobscot Bay had been still, so the paddle up was a bit boring.  Also, it was low tide, and Curtis Island seemed to be filled with kayaks, so we landed on a side beach.  Good "Leave No Trace" advocates that we are, we stuck to rocky area, and didn't even attempt to scale the slope at the edge of the beach to explore the island.

   This time, with an incoming tide, there was only one gravel beach available and we had it all to ourselves.  At the beach was a set of stairs.  I might worry about the damage caused by scaling a hill, but not climbing a set of stairs.
  At the top, was a kiosk, a guest book, and a sign giving some history of Curtis island. Curtis island was given its name in 1934, named for Cyrus Curtis a long-time summer resident and benefactor of Camden.  

   The kiosk also had a sign declaring Curtis Island a public park.  So we decided to explore, hiking the wide grass trail from the harbor side to the lighthouse.

    "There's someone in the house,"  Mark whispered to me, as grew close to the lighthouse.  I continued forward, spellbound by the opportunity to see the view from the edge.
   As we hiked through the yard, a woman came out of the house.  We stopped, fully expecting to be told this was a private area off limits to visitors. 

   Instead the woman, Dee Dee Conover, had come out to invite us to climb up into the lighthouse!!!!  Heaven!  We talked for a little while about her life out on the island (note the rain barrels on the gutters for water) and then we went off to climb the tower, and she returned to her house.  To get to the top, first you climb a set of spiral stairs,

then a ladder,

After which you crawl out a window-sized opening to get to the balcony.  Curtis Light has a distinctive green Fresnel lens that can be seen six miles to sea.
The light, the hole we crawled through, and if you look carefully along the bottom, the ladder landing

   The first lighthouse on Curtis Island was built in 1836, the current structure dates from 1896.   Once you are on top of the lighthouse, you are standing 52 feet above sea level.  The views are amazing!
A kayak tour out by Northeast Point
The same tour group rounding Curtis: we were up there a long time.
  The lighthouse has been automated since 1972.  Starting in 1980, Garrett Elliot "Connie" Conover Jr and Dee Dee Conover began a long stint as caregivers of the island.  Connie Conover passed away in 2010, and Dee Dee is still there tending.

  The grounds and lighthouse are generally off limits to the public.  A couple times a year, Maine offers Open Lighthouse Days. September 15, 2012 is the next Open Lighthouse Day;  Curtis Light is scheduled to be open then.  Curtis Light may also be open for future Windjammer Festivals

  The entire time we were in the lighthouse, Mark and I were the only ones there.  It was a magical time that will stay with me forever.   Thank you Town of Camden and Dee Dee Conover for letting me have this magical experience!
  More Information:
  Curtis Lighthouse History 
  Curtis Island Light
  Curtis Island Maine


  1. I've always enjoyed lighthouses myself! When I lived on the Outer Banks, NC., I got to climb the Cape Hatteras lighthouse both before and after it was moved to its new location. But, it's quite a workout! 248 iron spiral stairs (approx. a 12 story) building, so you better be in some kind of decent shape to make the climb! I'll take your "little" lighthouse climb any day! Looks like you both had a fun paddle and island exploration trip!

    1. Wow that sounds like quite a climb! I bet that takes pretty steady nerves,. Are the insides claustrophobic and shaky as you get higher?? I think I'm happier with the lower lighthouse.

  2. Great 3 part tour of the Camden area..

  3. What a cool paddle and visit to something special. And I see that war ship again in the distance.