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May 20 - Craighill Channel Range Lights
by Joyce Holland

A cruise on the Chesapeake Bay in May? Was this a good decision? As Robert and I headed across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge recently and we looked at the haze over the bay, the answer is definitely, YES. We could not have asked for a better day to cruise on the Bay, and view and photograph lighthouses. Twenty-eight lighthouse enthusiasts met at the Deep Creek Restaurant and Marina, and after some confusion on the parking situation, we waited for the SellfishII to arrive for our tour. During this wait, "The Loft" was made available by Karen McMichael out of the back of her vehicle. We also took advantage of the wait time and sold our fundraiser raffle for a Harbour Lights Craighill Rear Range piece, which was won by Andy Burger, Jr. Finally underway, our first stop was Baltimore Light, near the mouth of the Magothy River. This caisson-style light is located west of the south entrance to the Craighill Channel, at the entrance to the Baltimore Harbor. We then turned north to head up the Bay to the Lower Craighill Channel Range Lights. Although not originally scheduled for this tour, we then held our wet tee shirt contest, which was won by Karen Danchak. (Karen, thanks for being such a great sport about getting completely soaked. I'm sure you will never forget your first lighthouse trip with the Chapter.) We need to remember to let everyone know in the future that this is a part of our tours when utilizing a small boat to get up close and personal with off shore lights. It didn't take us long to arrive at the first lower range light, the Craighill Front Range. Also a caisson-style light, it sits near the mouth of the Patapsco River, in the direct prolongation of axis of Craighill Channel. Our guest Cathy Taylor, founder and president of Historical Place Preservation, Inc. (HPP), is the new proud owner of this light. It was officially transferred to HPP from the General Services Administration in October 2005. HPP hopes to start work on the lighthouse shortly to restore it back to reflect life when keepers lived inside, and then ultimately open it to the public.

We were fortunate to have Cathy aboard to assist Capt. Jeffries through the shallow waters of our next stop, the Craighill Rear Range. This light is an open frame pyramid of four sides, on the shoal near the southerly end of Hart Island, on the direct prolongation of axis of Craighill Channel. We maneuvered up a shallow channel to the west side of the light station. After passing the light station, we turned around and got a second opportunity for more photos as we worked our way back out of the shallow waters.

Onward to the Upper Craighill Channel Range Lights, the Front Range light is an octagonal brick tower, sitting on a pier on the north side of the mouth of the Patapsco River. It marks the cutoff channel between the Craighill and Brewerton channels at the entrance of Baltimore Harbor. The Rear Range light is a four-sided open iron-frame pyramid with a square central shaft and is located on mainland at the head of Old Road Bay. We maneuvered into approximately 6 feet of water to get the best photos that we could.

At this point, with time available, we contemplated heading over to Pooles Island, but since the Bay was getting rough, we decided to just cruise up the Patapsco River to Ft. Carroll. This became a bonus light for the tour, since it was not originally scheduled nor planned, but we jumped on the opportunity. The little tower on this fort is in grave danger of becoming extinct, which could be sooner than we think. The next strong storm could take out what is currently left of this light.

The ride back down the Bay was smoother than the ride up the Bay, and we weren't getting as wet at the back of the boat as we were on the way up the Bay. We made one more stop before heading back to the marina, Sandy Point Shoals, a caisson-style light, on the shoal extending out from Sandy Point State Park beach, one and a half miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay. Talk about up close and personal, we had to resist the urge to touch it. We had to ask for Capt. Jeffries to back off so that we could get the entire light in our frames to photo.

This was the first time that the Chapter used a very small boat for a lighthouse tour. And, in using a small boat, you sacrifice comfort. But in sacrificing comfort, I believe we were able to get closer to the Craighill Channel Range Lights than we have ever been before. I think those of you that were sitting in the back of the boat that got wet, forgot they were wet when we cruised in on these hard to see lights, which in the past was done from a great distance. I want to thank all of you, particularly those of you that did get wet, for being our guinea pigs, so to speak. I want to especially thank Cathy Taylor for coming along with us and helping to make this a memorable lighthouse cruise. And, a very special thanks to Tom Wade, our Education Coordinator, for narrating the history of each of the lighthouses that we visited. Thanks, Karen, for bringing "The Loft" and making it available to everyone on the trip. Personal thanks to Danny Lester for selling our raffle tickets. I look forward to seeing all of you again on future Chapter tours.

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