|Media Pitches in to Pitch
Lighthouse Keeper Opportunity
February 24, 2004
The search for The World’s Best Lighthouse Keepers enters the home stretch, boosted by two Bay Area media personalities, Chip Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle and Mike Sugarman of KCBS.
The airwaves have been reverberating to the sounds of Richmond’s East Brother fog horn as Mike Sugarman interviews the departing innkeepers Curt and Caroline Henry, who are literally “going fishing” after two and a half years of outstanding service. If you missed one of the radio spots, your computer will play it back for you at http://kcbs.yellowbrix.com/pages/kcbs/external/external_index.nsp?http://www.kcbs.com/pages/kcbs/newsteam/newsteam_page9.nsp.
Photo: Ellen Gailing
Chip Johnson, who usually takes pokes at Richmond, appears to have warmer feelings for Richmond’s famous lighthouse, penning the following for the February 13 Chronicle:
If you're looking for a job where you can be chief cook and bottle washer, and boating is a strong suit, do I have an opportunity for you.
The other perk, and it's a big one, is that you get to live on your very own rent-free island.
The operators of the East Brother Light Station, a working lighthouse in the straits between San Francisco and San Pablo bays, are looking for a couple to run the bed-and-breakfast there.
The innkeepers' duties are similar to running a hotel. They are responsible for preparing breakfast and dinner, and maintaining the house and the five guest rooms at the station.
They also maintain all the supplies and must hold a commercial boat license to operate the ferry from the San Pablo Yacht Club to the island, which sits about a quarter-mile off the Richmond shore.
After nearly three years, the current innkeepers, Curt and Carolyn Henry, have decided to move on.
"We've loved it, and you sure can't beat the front yard," said Carolyn Henry. "We've purchased a fishing boat, and we're going to go back to that."
The couple will return to Eureka to fish on Humboldt Bay for salmon and tuna.
And, Carolyn warned, like the life of a fisherman, living on a three- quarter-acre rock may not be for everyone.
"If you're the kind of person who likes to go mall shopping or to the movies every week, this job won't work for you," she said.
During the summer season, which runs from June through November, the couple worked 16 hours a day when guests were at the station. "And it took three days to prepare for the next group of guests," Henry said.
But for a couple who don't mind being off the beaten track, the innkeeper job has been a dream.
"We just sit and watch freighters, and kayakers wave as they go by," she said. "There is a whole different perspective on the world when you live on an island. There is a sense of stepping back from all the hubbub when you're out here."
Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt, a member of the lighthouse board of directors, said the job turns over every few years.
"We've done this about one dozen times now, and we end up with about 15 people who are worth taking another look at," said Butt. "If it weren't for the boat license, we'd have 10,000 people applying for this job."
Who can blame them? East Brother Island is a unique place, even for the Bay Area.
It holds the remnants of the final whaling station on the West Coast and still displays the remains of a once-thriving sardine cannery on the island.
And in case you had concerns about operating the lighthouse, don't bother. It's automatic.
The light switches on and off automatically, and the foghorn at the base of the western shoreline blares every 30 seconds from October to April, when tule fog can creep into the bay.
The job pays up to six figures for an adventurous couple with salt water in their veins.
There is a whole raft of information available at the lighthouse Web site at www.ebls.org.
E-mail Chip Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at The Chronicle, 43 Ninth St., Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607.