Staying Overnight in a Lighthouse Tower, Offshore at Borden Flats Light in Massachusetts
Sometimes we need to give ourselves new experiences, to feed our souls, to help us grow, and take time to reflect on important things that matter in our lives. My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to stay overnight in late August in an offshore lighthouse tower, Borden Flats lighthouse in Fall River, Massachusetts. The owner, Kevin Ferias, wanted to share with us the passion he had for this unique fully restored and renovated lighthouse he purchased, and provided a marvelous experience for us we’ll remember and tell our friends for many years.
The lighthouse was built in 1881 on a dangerous reef in the middle of the Taunton River, to accommodate the ever increasing shipping traffic as Fall River became a major player in the development of textiles during the Industrial Revolution. In fact, it was known as the “textile capital of the world”. The beacon was named after the Borden family that had been a fixture in the region for generations, although today known more for the trial of the century where Lizzy Borden was accused of killing her parents with an axe and was acquitted.
There are some lighthouses in New England where visitors can sometimes stay overnight in mainly the keeper’s quarters in adjacent buildings where the keepers of these beacons would stay with their families, and where most of these beacons were situated on the mainland, or on islands for easy access. However, there are only two current lighthouses in New England where visitors can stay overnight in an offshore lighthouse, where the tower is built on top of an underwater reef, and where access is directly from a boat, one being Borden Flats light here, and the other is Goose Rocks lighthouse, off Vinalhaven Island, in Maine.
The previous owner, James Nick Korstad of Portland, Oregon, purchased Borden Flats light at auction a decade ago, after the lighthouse had fallen into disrepair. He painstakingly restored and renovated the beacon for about 8 years, and was also responsible for most of the historic décor and furniture which he brought over to give visitors this unique experience. He set up the program for overnight stays for visitors to experience what previous keepers enjoyed.
Today, with Kevin Ferias continuing the tradition and vision of his predecessor, visitors can stay overnight as part of the Light Keepers Overnight Educational Program, where as guest light keepers, they can relax and enjoy the peaceful existence the earlier light keepers enjoyed. Guests can provide assistance if there is an emergency near the lighthouse by dialing 9-1-1, and voluntarily assist in making sure the beacon is working in the lantern room once in a while. We were also instructed to make sure the lights were turned off in the first floor before going to bed to conserve solar energy. The lighthouse is still a working aid to navigation for the Coast Guard, and they are responsible for managing the beacon light itself, and those who stay overnight will know that funds from their overnight stay go towards continued preservation and maintenance of the lighthouse property, Kevin purchased this property not for financial gain, but to share with others. Paying it forward.
It only took a few minutes to reach the lighthouse from the marina, and a small climb up about a half dozen steel ladder rungs from the boat to get to the deck. Most anyone in any decent shape will have no problem with this. Kevin has such a kind and very comedic nature, and his enthusiasm and pride as the current lighthouse owner is infectious as he provided us a tour of the safety measures, and the historical nature of Borden Flats light, with some great stories as well. Before he left for the mainland, Kevin brought his boat around the other side of the tower, had us stand on the main deck and took some great pictures of us in front of the tower which he sent to my phone as a keepsake for our stay. The images with us dwarfed by the five floors of the lighthouse tower provided a great perspective for us to share with family and friends.
The light uses solar energy for power and panels are laid out by the deck. There is also a grill nearby for cooking outside. There is an assortment of chairs and small tables placed around for visitors to relax and enjoy. We spent most of the time relaxing on the wooden Adirondack chairs, that sheltered us from the gusty winds that were blowing over the water that late summer day, but the following day as the winds subsided, we enjoyed relaxing on the lounge chairs watching the boats go by and birds feeding.
The view towards Fall River and the marina was lit up by the setting sun across the Taunton River, illuminating the marina along the shore and also the ships at Battleship Cove under the Braga Bridge nearby where you could visit for the day. Great experience to see how the greatest generation lived on these magnificent vessels during World War II up through the Cold War era, including the USS Massachusetts.
We watched various seagulls, terns, and cormorants flying close by the water and diving in to capture fish from a school that was passing by. During our entire stay, no birds perched or pooped on any part of the lighthouse structure even while we were eating outdoors, which is quite rare, and the fact there are no bird droppings to be found anywhere on the lighthouse provides a great mystery. It is believed that the spirits of one of the previous lighthouse keepers, John H. Paul (mentioned below) and a little girl Lucy, whom a keeper tried to save when her family’s boat capsized nearby, guard the lighthouse and protect it and any inhabitants from harm, keeping everything and everyone safe. They are friendly benign spirits and don’t show themselves or anything like that. We never heard or saw anything strange in our stay, just enjoyed the peaceful quiet.
Coming into the first floor of the five floors of the tower, guests are welcomed with lighthouse images, its fog bell, and a special bathroom that uses pumped water to conserve the limited resources of water that one might find in an expensive RV vehicle. No showers provided in this rustic experience but a sink is available for washing. There is a photo of Keeper John H. Paul with his three sons, who stayed with the lighthouse from 1912 to 1927 and was involved with one rescue which earned him a bronze Carnegie lifesaving medal.
The kitchen on the same floor is decorated in a style reminiscent of the 1950’s, along with the entire decor on all floors, but with outlets to charge your phone or tablet, phone access with a good signal, and a Keurig coffee machine, for those not ready to totally disconnect. However, for those who want to create coffee made by a percolator as my father used every day until his passing a few years ago, there is a coffee percolator you can use. We decided to really dive into the experience and create percolated coffee, it was nice strong coffee to rival any Starbucks connoisseur.
The second floor is a living room for mostly reading. Access to all floors is a spiral stairway which lights up with motion sensors for safety, and lighthouse decorations along the walls. One of the architectural marvels of the lighthouse is the outer caisson over the enclosed brick protects the lighthouse from lightning strikes, which acts as a grounding device to dissipate the energy. However, what is interesting is the the bottom floor the brick walls are over a foot thick, but as you travel up the stairs to the rooms, the brick wall thickness decreases to about a few inches in the lantern room.
My wife and I spent most of the night actually just sitting and reading in the living room, enjoying the amazingly quiet atmosphere. My wife brought some magazines, and I brought an original copy of one of Edward Rowe Snow’s books (of “Flying Santa” fame who would drop presents from an airplane during Christmas to help isolated keepers) entitled “New England Sea Tragedies” which I had received after my aunt’s passing a few years ago. The book was published in 1960 and was a gift to my grandfather on his birthday from my uncle way back in 1963. As I never had a chance to start reading it, the stories from the 18th and 19th centuries of New England provided a nice backdrop for me to get connected with the lighthouse. Coincidentally, the last full time light keepers of this beacon left in 1963 when it had become fully automated.
For those who want some current amenities, there is a TV and DVD player on the third floor as the entertainment room, which also acts as a reading room, with a collection of books and DVDs, where everything is lighthouse themed.
The fourth floor was the bedroom or “Watchroom” and very comfortable. It was very windy when we came to the lighthouse and you could hear the flapping of the flags draped around the outer tower, but even though I’m a light sleeper, the tower was very quiet, and was extremely comfortable and we both had a great night sleep. It was amazing to find how quiet this lighthouse tower was, a testimony to its original construction, and current renovation. The fresh air was invigorating and you can choose to open the portal in the bedroom, or on each floor to open or close the windows.
The top floor was the lantern room where you got a 360 degree view, and could go outside around the protected deck, although a bit too windy for us. On a quiet night guests could sit outside at the top of the tower, protected by the railings, and watch the sun set. A great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. The light itself is a new strange but functional replacement by the Coast Guard and looks like a little “flying saucer” disc shape (VLB-44 Optic). This is the new technology for the “upgraded” beacon, that once had a forth order fresnel lens until 1977. The previous “plastic” VRB-25 lens was removed in 2017 and is used at Beavertail lighthouse in Rhode Island.
It was sad to leave the next day, as we just hung out in the lounge chairs on the first floor deck watching the boats, birds, and traffic on the shore. Kevin’s assistant, John, who also goes by “JC”, and is Kevin’s right hand man, picked us up and brought us to shore. He is a retired musician who obviously enjoys life. I watched and tried to photograph the building cumulus clouds behind the lighthouse as a parting shot, as we sped away.
The experience at this lighthouse was quite memorable and was such a great escape to disconnect from the daily hustle and bustle we find ourselves thrown into over the years. Appreciate Kevin’s hospitality, his passion, and his dedication to preserving this nearly 140 year old lighthouse.
Find something you’re passionate about, share it, and the rewards spiritually and emotionally will help to ground you in life. Pay it forward.
Reserving Your Stay at the Lighthouse
For more information about staying at Borden Flats lighthouse, visit Kevin’s website at BordenFlats.com where you’ll find lots of history, some great photos he has taken of the lighthouse, and where you can reserve to stay overnight. The lighthouse is available for overnight stays for at least 7 months out of the year. You won’t be disappointed. Feed your soul!
Here are a few of the photos I’ve taken of and from Borden Flats lighthouse.
Enjoy your stay!
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special 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 and adventures, special parks and museums, haunted lighthouse stories, and 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 all you weekend explorers.
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