Pemaquid Point Lighthouse: Maine’s Most Scenic and Dangerous Location
In the Boothbay region, in lower mid-coast Maine, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse sits atop some of the most scenic but dangerous geological rock formations that caused shipwrecks for many mariners in lousy weather.
Two Wrecks During a Fierce Storm and a Strange Coincidence
After a dense fog had lifted, a violent storm with severe gale-force winds came down upon the region on Thursday, September 16, in 1903. In the same storm, the fishing schooner George F. Edmunds loaded with its mackerel catch was attempting to round the point, but the winds were too strong for the sturdy vessel. Captain Willard G. Poole had observed the ferocity of the storm approaching and decided to try and make for the little harbor in South Bristol, instead of trying to hug the coast and land in the larger Portland Harbor some many miles away. He was the only person who had some knowledge of the Pemaquid area and headed for Lighthouse Point near the beacon. The vessel was within a mile from the point as the gale force winds increased in fury, filling the sails and forcing the ship to drift towards the rocks. The captain miscalculated about 800 feet in the drift of the schooner as he was trying to head around the point to the safety of the little harbor, causing the vessel to end up against the dangerous rocks by Pemaquid. The George F. Edmunds started to break apart almost immediately.
The captain ordered the men to launch the dories. The pounding surf smashed these boats to pieces on the surrounding rocks as they were put over the side. Some crewmen tried to swim towards shore, but the strength of the tidal undertow carried them away, and they perished.
One of the dories avoided the rocks and headed for shore with five crew members. Halfway there, a huge wave capsized the craft, and the five occupants were left to struggle for their lives in the fierce and cold surf. Only two of them reached the shore. Of the sixteen men aboard the George F. Edmunds, fourteen of them, including Captain Willard Poole, had perished in the storm.
During the same storm, the small coasting schooner Sadie and Lillie was heading for Boston with its cargo of mackerel when it also became caught in the fierce winds and tried to run for shelter alongside the larger George F. Edmunds. It too, became wrecked by the rocks near the lighthouse as well. Weston Curtis was near the lighthouse grounds and witnessed the wreck. He got a line to the vessel in the raging surf, and after a fierce struggle, two crewmen were brought to safety. Captain Willard C. Harding remained on board to free the schooner but realized it was futile. Harding then tried to use the line and make it to the shore, but the line became entangled in the rocks, and he perished in the attempt amidst the raging waters.
When the storm subsided the following day, all that remained of the George F. Edmunds and the Sadie and Lillie were splintered wood and twisted iron where they wrecked.
William P. Sawyer, a local reporter, who lived near Pemaquid Point, interviewed the two survivors of the George F. Edmunds and wrote down their stories for the public. As a strange coincidence, forty-two years later, the day after the anniversary of the shipwrecks on September 17, in 1945, Sawyer’s body was found near the Pemaquid Lighthouse. No note or documentation was ever found regarding his sudden passing.
Female Ghost at Pemaquid Museum
Pemaquid’s Fisherman’s Museum was once the keeper’s quarters by the lighthouse tower. Over the years, there have been reports of sightings of the ghost of a woman in a red shawl seen near the fireplace of the keeper’s house here. The entity appears wet and shivering, wearing period clothes and seemingly distressed. There is no historical documentation of anyone passing away in the lighthouse; however, with many wrecks near the station, perhaps she is from one of these wrecks or still waiting for lost love at sea.
There have also been reports of lights suddenly switching on, and descriptions of unexplained noises from people who have rented the keeper’s house in the apartment upstairs, such as doors slamming.
Exploring Pemaquid Point Light
The Boothbay region is one of the best places to enjoy coastal autumn foliage around the end of October. The grounds and lighthouse museum are open to the public. Pemaquid Point lighthouse offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Maine, with its unique rocky shoreline and park for visitors to relax and explore. On the lighthouse grounds, you can climb all around these amazing rock formations that jut out to the sea (be wary of high tide with these rocks) or sit and picnic while enjoying the splendor of the surf crashing against the rocks. A one-bedroom upstairs apartment in the keeper’s house is available for weekly vacation rentals.
There are plenty of boat cruises available leaving Boothbay Harbor. Cap’n Fish’s Cruises offers various lighthouse cruises to the Kennebec River, Boothbay Harbor, and up the Damariscotta region to view Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. They also offer puffin cruises, seal watches, whale watching, lobster trap hauling, and nature trips. You can take a trip on Maine’s last sailing lobster boat with Sail Muscongus, on a fully restored Friendship sloop named the Sarah Mead. If you want to help hoist sails or take a turn at the wheel aboard a large schooner, take a two-hour cruise on the 65-foot Schooner Eastwind. The Schooner Lazy Jack provides lighthouse cruises (depending on wind direction) past Burnt Island Light, Squirrel Island, Ram Island Light, and the outer islands of Boothbay.
Take a drive up the New England coast around the middle to the end of October for some great scenic colors. Spend a day at Pemaquid Point light.
Here are some photos I’ve taken of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.
The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships: Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England. In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies and measured longer than a football field! This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships. Stories involve competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides memorable human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore. These include whale-watching excursions, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours, adventures, unique parks and museums, and even lighthouses you can stay overnight. You’ll also find plenty of stories of shipwrecks and rescues. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for weekly and weekend explorers. You’ll also find plenty of stories of hauntings around lighthouses.
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides memorable human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore and tours. Lighthouses and their nearby attractions are divided into regions for weekly and weekend explorers. Attractions and tours also include whale watching tours, lighthouse tours, windjammer sailing tours and adventures, unique parks and museums, and lighthouses you can stay overnight. There are also stories of haunted lighthouses in these regions like the story of the female ghost at Pemaquid Light mentioned above.
Copyright © Allan Wood Photography, do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved.
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