Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sailing Raritan Bay Lighthouses

At least a couple times during the season we seem to have visitors that are looking for a nice sail on the bay.  For these times we do a great sail to take in all the lighthouses.  This ride takes a good part of the day and you can get in some great sight seeing of the Staten Island South shore mansions.  The typical trip is to leave our mooring in Keyport Harbor and head for Romer Shoals Lighthouse.  This lighthouse sits off of Sandy Hook and is at the entrance to Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay.  Lower New York Bay being the northern section near the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge and south and west of this area is Raritan Bay.

Starting with Romer Shoals Lighthouse is just a personal pick so that we can see all three lighthouses in this area of the bay. It is the furthest lighthouse from Keyport Harbor and the most easterly lighthouse in this cruise.  As I review this great cruise I will try to give you a little history of each lighthouse.

Romer Shoals Lighthouse became active in 1898, was taken over by the Navy in 1920 and finally taken over by the Coast Guard in 1939.  This 54' lighthouse was experimental in it's early days and was the testing home for various lamps and lenses.  In 1966 this lighthouse was automated and no longer needed human presence to keep her running. After a storm in 1992 she became inoperable and was destined to be scrapped, but Joe Esposito who was the caretaker of the Staten Island Lighthouse fought to keep this piece of history.   In 2010 she was put on the auction block and was purchased by  person from Staten Island for $90,000.00.  There are hopes of a restoration with tours from Staten Island.

As you round the south side of Romer Shoals Lighthouse you will turn towards the north and then north northwest to the West Bank Lighthouse.  This is a short leg of the trip!

West Bank Lighthouse was built in 1901 and it's original height was 55', but in 1907 two floors were added to make it 70'.  It was automated in 1998 working off solar power.  In 2007 the Coast Guard offered the lighthouse at no cost, but had no takers.  Finally in an auction in 2008 it was sold for $245,000.00 and again auctioned off in 2010 to Sheridan Reilly $195,000.00.  Expectations are to restore her to your original condition.

Rounding her on your port side you will turn and head southwest to the Old Orchard Lighthouse.  The distance is about the same as it was from Roamer Shoals Lighthouse to the West Bank Lighthouse.

Old Orchard Lighthouse became active in 1893 and was built at 51' tall.  She gave many years of service before the Coast Guard offered her at no cost in 2007.  There were no takers and in 2008 she was put up for auction.  The winning bid was $235,000.00 and in 2010 she was back on the auction block and sold for $95,000.00.  To the dismay of myself and many others Old Orchard Lighthouse was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

After we pass Old Orchard Lighthouse to our starboard side we turn northwest and head for the Staten Island shore and Great Kills Harbor. Once we get close enough to the shoreline we run along the shore headed toward Perth Amboy.  There are many nice homes along the shore and we just cruise along enjoying the nice scenery.  Once we get to close enough to where we can see the Great Beds Lighthouse we start to pull away from the shore and head directly for the lighthouse.

Great Beds Lighthouse is located where the Raritan River and Arthur Kill join together in what is known as the back bay.  This lighthouse was placed in this location because of the oyster beds and that is where it got its name.  Before the lighthouse was built New York dedicated some underwater property for the lighthose, only to find out the property was in New Jersey waters.  After some litigation it was settled and the 42' lighthouse became operational in 1880.  The Coast Guard offered out the lighthouse at no charge in 2010 and eventually put it out for auction in 2011 where it was purchased for $90,000.00.  

Once we round Great Beds Lighthouse we head back to Keyport Harbor.  This has taken most of the day and everyone is pleased with the wonderful tour of the bay.  It is disheartening that all of these lighthouses will one day be only seen in pictures.  Most are a hundred years old or older and have long histories of why they were placed where they stand today.  If you take this cruise, please take lots of pictures to make sure you save that piece of history.

Hoping you enjoyed.

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