Boston Harbor Islands

One wonderful aspect of playing hookey in Boston is that I get to do Boston Things that I never had the time or inclination for before. For instance, I have probably had as many trips to the MFA since going up to Canada as during the previous years living in Boston. During this visit, JMD suggested a trip to the Harbor Islands; I chose a Boston Light tower tour on Little Brewster Island (one of the outer islands).

The ferry leaves from Fan Pier--if you have not walked around there since they renovated, there are a bunch of displays that deal with the history of Boston Harbor and the shipping industry. One cool surprise is that the name of Fan Pier comes from the (now removed) railroad tracks which used to spread in a fan-like arc, for loading/unloading connections to ships. The boat ride out was about 45 minutes, and it passed Spectacle Island (formerly a horse-rendering factory, then a garbage landfill, then covered up with the dirt from the Ted Williams tunnel, and now a park), Deer Island (sewage treatment plant--the big "eggs" that you see when you land at Logan), a creepy-looking mental health/rehab facility, and various harbor forts and World War II-era bunkers. One surprising thing is that the harbor bottom is not very deep--we were reading soundings of about 40 feet while we were most of the way out; the harbor islands are glacial drumlin hills that were flooded by sea level rise.

The lighthouse is on a rock outcropping; there is enough room for a boathouse, a lighthouse keeper's house, and other ancillary buildings. Boston Light is the only non-automated (i.e., manned) lighthouse in the US; the lighthouse keeper (Mary) led the tour dressed in full-on Laura Ingalls bonnet and dress. She was incredibly nice, but I wonder if you have to be a little bit crazy to be a lighthouse keeper. We also got to meet Sam, the lighthouse black Lab.

So part of the tour is climbing the tower. You might remember that I don't like heights, but I figured it's necessary to push myself whenever possible. The spiral staircase up (inside the tower) was fine; there were good handholds, and I could just keep staring horizontally at the brick walls. The ladder up to the machinery room was mostly ok as well--it's a windowless space. But heading up into the glassed-in light chamber was pushing it. I managed to enjoy the view... a little... while holding on to the glass mullions.

[Note: photo by JMD, not me.]

We wrapped up the day with lunch at Brehznev's, and an afternoon nap. Well, if it is any consolation to those of you stuck at an office, I'm going to spend most of today working on a PowerPoint presentation for a conference (albeit in an airy living room).


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