When the online job posting appeared at last, I applied and waited, interviewed and waited; and finally, was informed that if I passed the medical, I would be accepted as a candidate. Assistant lightkeeper. Entry level position: relief. Much like a teacher-on-call, I would fill in for someone going on leave. Variable times. Various locations along the coast. Yes please.
|Tower Stairs at Lennard Island|
And we climb stairs, countless stairs, and cement steps, some ancient and uneven. We scramble up and down ramps, hike forested trails (whenever possible) and pick our way through rocks and boulders. It’s all hard on the hips and knees. I’m petite, so even getting in and out of the helicopter is a challenge for me.
Apart from doing a marine weather report every three hours, lightkeepers take care of the station, inside and out. Here’s just a sampling of work I’ve done in the last few months:
- Dipping diesel fuel tanks from atop a ladder.
- Helping to refuel domestic tanks.
- Dipping cisterns. Rainwater collects in a 5,000 gallon cistern in the basement and is filtered for drinking. Filters require changing.
- Scraping and painting buildings, decks, and walkways.
- Testing the fire pump and hoses, and checking fire extinguishers.
- Pumping up the zodiac and angling it down the high line
- weed-wacking, hedge-trimming, grass-cutting
At one station, armed with trimmers and clippers, I battled English ivy, knowing full well that in weeks, it would be back, sucking the life out of every living thing in its path. Carving a space in the salal is a constant challenge.
Still, wearing personal protective equipment, we maneouvre and maintain self-propelled lawnmowers--my personal bane--weed-whackers, hedge-clippers, tractors, and pressure-washers. We are coastal caretakers.
Lifting. Besides packing in all of our own food--that’s a whole story in itself--when there is a grocery tender, lightkeepers unload boxes from the helicopter, deposit them in a trailer, and then carry them gleefully into the house. Those days are like Christmas.
You should be able to lift about fifty pounds. When I fell at the beginning of August and injured my back, I had to stay off work until I was healed sufficiently; in fact, I had to see a Coast Guard doctor before returning to the job.
So, what do I love about being a lightkeeper? The adventure.
|Carmanah from the Air|
Lift off in the helicopter.
|Clouds that are never the same twice.|
The wind. Even the rain.