Recently I went on a Saturday afternoon tour of selected Puget Sound Lighthouses organized by The United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS). The USLHS chartered a high speed whale watching catamaran that cruised at 40 mph which let our tour cover 142 miles and 9 Lighthouses in one afternoon. The United States Lighthouse Society decided in celebration of their 35th anniversary to organize a tour with views from the water since most people only see lighthouses from the land side when they tour a Lighthouse.
The weather was great with sunshine, light wind and no waves or chop. The high speed whale watching Saratoga sails out of Edmonds. We left just after 3:00pm and viewed the Mukilteo Lighthouse first, then out Admiralty Inlet then looping back south to get to Point Robinson Lighthouse at sunset then returning home a bit before 8:00pm.
Along the way we had a nice buffet lunch that was great (I was pleasantly surprised on the salad, many places dump gunk on the salad that I can’t stand, but I liked whatever they did). A nice congratulations to whoever planned and prepared the buffet lunch. There was also a special 35th Anniversary Birthday Cake for dessert.
Given the speed and wanting to view 9 lighthouses in short order we only spent a few minutes at each lighthouse, but the captain did a great job positioning the boat and letting it drift past the lighthouses so we had a choice of angles and the Saratoga drawing only a few feet of water we were able to safely get close to the Lighthouses for a good view. The Saratoga has a lot of outside viewing areas so getting a good view to take a picture was not a problem.
The United States Lighthouse Society had one of their tour guide/historians along so we learned a bit on the history of each Lighthouse. He did a nice job, I was able to nitpick him a bit but only because I help as a tour guide at the Alki Lighthouse and have researched a bit on all of the Lighthouses in Puget Sound as well as the history of the Fresnel Lens and the history of Lighthouses in general.
Many of the Lighthouses are open to the public, some seasonal and others are open year around. The Alki Point Lighthouse in West Seattle is open to the public from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend, the last two summers it has been open on Sunday’s and staffed by volunteers from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Check the schedules for any lighthouse you plan on visiting.
They also had a special handout page of Lighthouse Stamps for all 9 lighthouses we visited.
Overall a great tour if you want a chance to to see the Lighthouses from the water. Will they have it again next year? Maybe, was a full signup, so that is always a good sign for a repeat performance, so head over to The United States Lighthouse Society and signup for their notice emails, don’t worry about spam they seem to only send an email every few months.
ADA Notes: Getting onto the Saratoga with a walker was not too bad with the ramps. The doors have knee knockers to keep water out of the boat, one of the crew helped me lift my walker over the knee knocker but I would have been able to lift it over I think, just would have looked awkward, one of the crew stored my walker out of the way with the lifejackets. Later one of the crew got me some food, was great help. I was able to move around the cabin and outside by using seat backs and posts without much problem. Leaving the boat was a bit tricky as the off ramp was a bit steep but the Captain took my walker to the bottom of the boat ramp (thanks again for the help captain!)
Thanks for your interest in and support of Boating Safety.
Click on each picture for a bit of history for the lighthouse.
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01-The Mukilteo Lighthouse was lighted on March 1, 1906. In 1977 the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was automated in 1979 and the original Fresnel lens was kept. In 2001 the City of Mukilteo took over ownership of the lighthouse and the area is a city park. The Coast Guard continues to maintain the light to guide mariners.
02-New Dungeness The New Dungeness Lighthouse was lighted on December 14, 1857 with a fixed white light. Dungeness Spit is a low narrow ribbon of sand about 5 miles long that is very difficult to see from a distance. The light was automated in 1976 with modern optics. In 1980 Seaman First Class Jeni Burr became the first woman in the Coast Guard to be assigned as a lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse was the last Coast Guard manned station when the keeper was transferred. The 4th Order Fresnel Lens from the Lighthouse is on display at the Coast Guard Museum in Seattle.
03-Point Wilson has had an Aid to Navigation since 1865 when Captain J.W. Seldon donated a bell to the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the condition the bell be rung on foggy days. The first Lighthouse was constructed in 1879 and lighted on December 15. The present Lighthouse was constructed in 1914.
04-Admiralty Head The first Admiralty Head Lighthouse was Lighted on January 20, 1861. The second and present lighthouse was built by the War Department and Lighted on June 14, 1903. The light was extinguished in in 1922 due to changing vessel traffic patterns. At the start of World War II, Fort Casey was reactivated as a training center and the lighthouse used for housing sentries. Today the lighthouse is an interpretive center for a Washington State Park.
05-Skunk Bay The Skunk Bay Lighthouse was built by maritime author Jim Gibbs. The lighthouse is topped by the lantern room and lantern from the Smith Island Lighthouse, the lantern Room and lantern was removed before the Smith Island Lighthouse toppled off a cliff due to erosion. One night the light was left on by accident and the Coast Guard received many calls about an unauthorized light. The Coast Guard paid a visit to Mr. Gibbs and explained to him that he either needed to keep the light turned off or have the light listed as a Private Aid to Navigation (PATON). Mr. Gibbs, a former Lighthouse Keeper successfully applied to the Coast Guard to have the light listed as a PATON in 1965, the light is still operated as a Private Aid today.
06-Point No Point The Point No Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Puget Sound. It was lighted on January 1, 1880 with a household kerosene lantern as the neither the lens nor the glass for the light had been delivered and the lighthouse buildings had not been completed. In 1915 the lens was changed to a larger fourth-order Fresnel lens. The lighthouse was struck by lightening and the lens damaged in 1931. The lens remained in service until 2006 when the Coast Guard replaced the lens with modern optics.
07-West Point The West Point Lighthouse is located at the foot of the Magnolia Bluff in Seattle’s Discovery Park and was lighted on November 15, 1881. In 1977 the lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was automated in February of 1985. Modern optics were added in 2006, the Fresnel lens remains in the lighthouse but is no longer used.
08-Alki Point Tradition has it that Hans Martin Hanson first set a lantern on the beach to provide a light to help vessels in 1868. In 1887 a Post Lantern was hung from a scaffold and became the first official light. Post Lanterns could burn continuously for eight days and in some remote locations they were refueled and serviced weekly. The original Alki Point Post Lantern is on display at the Coast Guard Museum on the Coast Guard Base in Seattle. The lighthouse was built in 1913 and first lighted on June 1 of that year. The light was automated in 1984. Senior Coast Guard personnel live in the the lighthouse keepers homes.
09-Point Robinson The first Aid To Navigation at Point Robinson was a fog signal dedicated on July 1, 1885. In 1887 a Post Lantern with a red lens was installed on a 25 foot tall post near the fog signal. A wooden tower was built in 1894 to raise the light to 31 feet to aid vessel traffic from the south. The current lighthouse was built in 1915 that raised the light to 38 feet. The lighthouse and fog signal was automated in 1989 and modern optics were added in 2007. The original Fresnel lens remains in the lantern room.
The Saratoga our trusty high speed whale watching catamaran, diverted for Lighthouse Watching.
USLHS 35th Anniversary Stamps