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Halfway Rock Lighthouse

Halfway Rock lighthouse

Harpswell, Maine
Built in 1871

Location:

In Casco Bay outside of Portland, a few miles offshore from Bailey Island. Best viewed by boat.

Latitude: 43° 39' 21" N
Longitude: 70° 02' 12" W

 

Historic Stories:

Halfway Rock sits on a rocky ledge about ten miles out into Casco Bay. Construction of the tower in 1871 was very similar to Massachusetts' Minot's Ledge Light, with massive granite blocks being cut out at specific angles to be dovetailed precisely together.

Keepers had constant issues with the lighthouse in its cramped quarters so many miles out in the ocean, Reaching the mainland for supplies required an 11-mile row to Portland, often made difficult or impossible by rough seas or ice. Eventually, a buoy tender vessel was set up by the Coast Guard out of South Portland to deliver supplies each week to minimize the risk of the light keepers.

Getting on and off the rocky wave swept ledge was always dangerous with many stories of boats flipping over in the seas. aerial view of Halfway Rock lighthouse

Early Halfway Rock Light
Courtesy US Coast Guard

George A. Toothaker, from nearby Harpwsell, Maine, spent over 12 years at Halfway Rock as an assistant keeper and principal keeper between 1872 and 1885. He felt the isolation bothered him mentally, and he wrote that others who worked with him at the beacon were also affected physically and mentally.

Keepers had to get creative to keep themselves busy. One group created a chart of daily fly killings. One keeper reported to the local newspaper that he picked up a basketball that had washed ashore and counted 2,448 pimples on it in one day.

Arthur S. Strout, of the famous Strout family of Maine lighthouse keepers, spent 17 years at Halfway Rock, beginning as a second assistant keeper in 1928. In 1939, when the Coast Guard took over management of lighthouses from the old civilian Lighthouse Service, Strout joined that branch of the service and thus became the first Coast Guard keeper at Halfway Rock.

boat passes by Halfway rock light

 

 

Places to Visit:

Between Portland and Brunswick, visitors will find many roads leading from Route 1 out into the many peninsulas and some islands that make up Maine’s coastline. Both Bailey Island and nearby Eagle Island are very quiet rustic places dotted with artists galleries, fishing boats, and local places to eat that seem stuck in time.

The lighthouse is best viewed by boat, but can be seen distantly from an area called Land's End located at the southern tip of Bailey Island. You can take Route 24 from Route 1 in Brunswick and follow the signs to Bailey Island. Land's End is at the end of the route, with of course, the Land's End Gift Shop.

Sea Escape Cottages and Charters will provide a "Lighthouse Sail" on certain days aboard the Schooner Alert. remote Halfway Rock lighthouse

Bailey Island offers plenty of opportunities for bird watching, fishing, or simply exploring around this 1 mile by three miles long island. There are only a few roads so its not easy to get yourself lost. A small sandy cove called Cedar Beach located off of Robinhood Road invites visitors to relax and explore. You can also park on a side street at Washington Ave on the eastern side of the island and walk down Ocean Street to enjoy waves at high tide crashing on the rocky picturesque shoreline.

Nearby Eagle Island, only accessible by boat, has recently been designated as a National Historic Site, where you'll find a bird nesting sanctuary with plenty of hiking trails, and it was home to the famed arctic explorer Admiral Peary. It is also a favorite kayak and boating destination, and is maintained by the Friends of Peary's Eagle Island.

On the mainland, taking either Routes 123 or 24, in the town of Harpswell, there are plenty of hiking trails that are easily marked to explore. During the summer, besides good food, the Dolphin Restaurant and Marina (off Route 123) provides the twenty-minute boat ride to and from Eagle Island.

In Brunswick, visit the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, which, among many professional art exhibits, now houses the new Peary-MacMillan Artic Museum, named after Admiral Peary, the first man to reach the arctic north pole, with plenty of arctic artifacts and stories.

 

Contact Info:
American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-4174

 

Local Boat Charters that Pass By the Lighthouse

Sometimes, you may find annual tours out of Portland that may offer views of the lighthouse. The businesses below offer personal charter tours out to the lighthouse and are located nearby on the mainland.

Sea Escape Cottages and Charters
Visitors can stay in nearby cottages with views of the ocean, and partake in various fishing excursions and charters from Bailey Island, including trips out to Halfway Rock Light. Sailing charters aboard the Schooner Alert, a 70-ft Maine built wooden tall-ship, include day and sunset sails, a "Lighthouse Sail" out to the lighthouse, and various sailing tours around around the islands and Casco Bay, along with special event sails. They also provide private charters aboard the Ketch Tevake, and the Friendship Sloop Gannet, built in 1903 as a Maine lobster sailing boat.

P.O. Box 7
23 Sea Escape Lane
Bailey Island, Maine 04003
Phone: (207) 833-5531 or (207) 841-9125 (cell)
E-mail: seaesc@gmail.com or tevakesailingcharters@hotmail.com

 

Rocky Coast Cruises
For those who want a more personal tour around the area, they provide various nature and historical charter cruises around Casco Bay and out to the islands, and offer charter service to go out to Halfway Rock Lighthouse.

Captain Joe Smith
6 Stovers Ocean Ave.
Harpswell, Maine
Phone: (207) 751 6501
Email: rockycoastcruises@gmail.com

 

Books to Explore

Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England:
New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont

This engaging book published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses in northern New England, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special vacations.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions

 

 

book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

Available in paperback, hardcover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

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 of sail were built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies and measured longer than a football field! These true stories include competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages.

 

 

Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

This resourceful book provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses in southern New England, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours.

Look inside!

book about lighthouses and local coastal atttractions in southern New England

 

 

 

 

 

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