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Couple Run Lighthouse Inn on Tiny Bay Island
Having been engaged at a different lighthouse, the couple admits to being 'lighthouse nerds.'
By Mike Anderson
| Thursday, Jun 30, 2011 | Updated 8:24 PM PDT
It's not every day you get a chance to work in a Victorian lighthouse ... on an island ... with your fiance.
So when Peter Berkhout and Dina Kashou saw a job opening for innkeepers on East Brother Island, they went for it.
"You need a captain's license to drive the boat, and I have that," Berkhout said. "And then you need somebody who's a really good cook, and of course that's Dina."
The couple run a bed and breakfast on the acre-long island, which is about a mile north of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It sits right where San Francisco Bay turns into San Pablo Bay and is home to the historic 1873 East Brother Light Station.
Hosting up to 10 guests Thursday through Sunday, the couple work 14-hour days doing everything from changing sheets to making food to cleaning. One of the hardest parts about the job is hauling food, laundry, propane and garbage on and off the island by boat.
East Brother is one of the very few lighthouses in Northern California where guests can actually visit the lantern room. A real flame lantern was originally used to guide mariners safely through the bay. Today, a modern, electric lantern is used in its place.
The limited water on the island comes from a cistern that collects rain water, which means there are no showers allowed. It's all just part of the adventure, Kashou said.
Living a 10-minute boat ride away from civilization isn't always pleasant for the couple.
"It really is nice to work together, but you know, when you have a moment when it's not nice, you notice that," Berkhout said.
Kashou thinks being together all the time helps them build a stronger relationship "because you're forced to."
It's not your stereotypical, awkward bed and breakfast, Kashou said. Sometimes guests stay up all night playing games with each other and even exchange emails.
"If the food is good, if the wine is flowing and the setting is right, it doesn't matter if you're out here with your worst enemy, you're going to make friends," she said.
Berkhout actually proposed to Kashou at a different lighthouse. And now that they live in one, he thinks they are officially "lighthouse nerds."
Berkhout and Kashou have only been working at the island since December 2010, but they can already see why most innkeepers stay for just a few years. It's hard work. But despite all the manual labor, they find the job rewarding.
"I certainly wouldn't trade it for sitting in an office, that's for sure," Kashou said.
To learn more about the island, visit ebls.org or call 510-233-2385. Rooms start at $315 per night. If you are interested in volunteering at the island, visit ebls.org/volunteering.html