Lighthouses for centuries have protected advancing mariners from fatality. They have a way of touching people in unspoken ways evoking a union that becomes entwined in the lives of the people they touch. Sometimes these people are able to speak of this connection or their lighthouse experiences through stories.
This page is for you to share with us how these historic lighthouses have touched you or your family. You may talk about one or both, the choice is yours. We began by telling some stories of our own or stories as they were told to us. We hope you enjoy them as much. We greatly look forward to enjoying your stories.
To tell your story, CLICK HERE
Port Boca Grande
“I remember the first time my father allowed me up to the lantern room to see the lens. It was shaped like a clam and opened up as it spun around. It was the most beautiful light I had ever seen.”
Dian McKeithen Miller, Light Keeper’s Daughter
Port Boca Grande
“They said my sister burned down the bath house, but I do not believe she did.”
Evelyn McKinney Carter, Light Keeper’s Daughter
Gasparilla Island Light
A Light in the Night
It was a dark and stormy night. A tanker named the Esso Karachi was due at the sea buoy at midnight with a cargo of 120,000 barrels of bunker “C” oil, h for the Florida power and light berth and storage facility at the south end of the island. A pilot (myself) had been alerted to meet the 600 ft. long vessel in the vicinity of the sea buoy at the appointed time. The pilot boat took me to this location. I asked the captain of the ship by radio to prepare to take me aboard 1 mile NW of the sea buoy. The reason for this request was so that after I took command of the vessel, it would be possible for me to get control of the ship whose draft was 31 feet. The channel itself has a depth of only 32 feet and is marked by buoys as a general guideline. But these can only be relied upon by boats or vessels with a draft of less than 32 feet, which is the controlling depth of the channel. My job was to get the ship into the dredged channel without running aground. In order to avoid that, I search for the only aids to navigation that will let me know whether the tanker was in the middle of the channel. Keep in mind, the channel is 300 feet wide; the ship is about 100 feet wide, 600 ft long and as I said, loaded to her marks with heavy oil. The environmental damage that a grounding and consequent oil spill would do is unthinkable, although that possibility is on the pilot’s mind constantly. When the pilot spots his guiding lights, when in alignment with the front range which is 3 miles offshore and the rear range (now the Gasparilla Island lighthouse) marks the center of the channel, the pilot now only needs to make slight course adjustments to keep the ship from going off center until the safety of the deep pass and the dock area is reached. The rear range light performed this service for 87 years, 1927-2002, when deep draft vessels stopped calling at Port Boca Grande. Now tall lighthouse as I call it will soon, with the help of its many friends, be restored to its original iconic splendor. The light will be continued by the United States Coast Guard as an aid for smaller vessels. What a career!!
Capt. Robert W. Johnson,
Ret. Boca Grande Harbor Pilot and Boca Grande Historian