By Amy Robinson
Saturday’s powerful storm, the second in 3 days, wrought severe damage to the 1867 boat house belonging to Wood Island Light Station off the coast of Biddeford Pool, and caused exceptional erosion on the east side of the island threatening the 1838 granite lighthouse tower. Thanks to amateur photographer Josh McPhail of Sanford who flew his drone over to Wood Island from Biddeford Pool’s East Point Sanctuary on Monday, the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) were able to get a first assessment of the damage caused by the back to back storms. FOWIL is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) who has license from the USCG and has been charged with restoring and maintaining the keeper’s house and surrounding infrastructure. Damages of this magnitude are crushing for this local group of volunteers. At this point, the ramp has been damaged so severely our front loading boat, the Light Runner which shuttles our summer tour guests, cannot land without major repairs. The boat house itself not only sustained damage on all four sides to the siding and doors, but the entire structure was lifted and moved approximately 20 feet toward the water. The surrounding decking is also mostly destroyed.
Inside the boat house the group houses the fully restored peapod that was the last ever in service for the Coast Guard. The boat is a 17 foot peapod shaped craft that lighthouse keeper’s used for transportation to and from remote island light stations during the years from 1939 through the removal of the last island keeper sometime in the early 1990’s.
This historic artifact’s fate is tied to the fate of the boat house, and any future storms may wash the whole thing into the sea. It’s winter. The Light Runner is out of the water until sometime around May. Without heroic efforts, there is no way to begin stabilizing the building and pulling it further from the water’s edge until spring.
FOWIL is a nonprofit group and relies solely on tour income, our annual appeal, grant money, and occasional generous benefactors. No matter what comes from this historic amount of damage, the dedicated volunteers, who so treasure this local gem, will do everything humanly possible to save it. Anyone who wishes to join our efforts, whether it is a financial contribution, offering technical or skilled expertise, or joining as a volunteer however you are able to contribute, is most welcome and appreciated.
Photos provided by Josh McPhail