A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

November 2006 Archives

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November 30, 2006

Fear of Flying?

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

I am sitting in a hotel room in Nashville looking at Vanderbilt University. Flew up here from Jacksonville yesterday at 7:00am for a meeting. I fly back tomorrow. They say you should get to the airport two hours early to go through security. I had not flown since before 9-11 and, being a by-the-book kind of guy, I was up at 3:40am to get to the airport by 5:00. What was I thinking? I mean the traffic was light at that time in the morning but considering that I had a three-hour layover in Charlotte, I spent about 10 hours getting to the hotel yesterday. I can drive to Nashville in 10 hours! I can choose my own company, sip my coffee, see the countryside, and listen to books on CD. I mean…I like to drive! None of that terrorism anxiety to deal with; feeling like a criminal entering a penitentiary while going through security. I was stuffed in small seats next to total strangers, people coughing, sneezing, snoring. Then there is the throttle down moment. You know, the time when, after you have been cruising along for about an hour and fifteen minutes, suddenly you hear the engines shutting down; gives me chills every time it happens. They should warn people before they do stuff like that. The pilot should come over the loud speaker and say, “Just so you folks know, we are going to throttle down the engines in a minute so we don’t fly the wings off the plane while we make our descent into Nashville!” That would be nice.

I’m really not scared to fly. I just hate not being in control. No, give me the old open road any day, cruising in a self-propelled chunk of metal with leather seats, my own stereo, and deluxe cup holders. A machine I control; can pull over any time I want to and see the sites. And if you disagree with me, that is ok. But consider this: In all the years I have spent on top of the lighthouse, the vast majority of airline pilots who climb it are too scared to step out on the deck once they get up there. Hmmmm?

November 14, 2006

Sitting in the Seat of the Past

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

In recovery mode here at the lighthouse after a big Veterans Day event on Saturday. That means that we all worked an extra day here to do the event. I missed my Saturday off but it was excellent. The food was good. The Coast Guard helicopter fly-over was great but not long enough. It was terrific of them to burn all that fuel to come down to our event, but, like, I wanted an hour-long air show. No such luck. The best part is sitting around and hearing war stories from the folks who have really been there. Two days before, we had a guy here with his Willy’s Jeep, vintage 1942. It saw duty in WWII Europe; original seats that were used by guys fighting a war half way around the world 60 years ago. I sat in the seat. It even had the ax and shovel on the drivers side and the skinny tires and everything. I got to hold a Thompson sub-machine gun. Really heavy weapon, but it was just like the ones the sergeant’s carry in all those old WWII movies, and I always wanted to be a sergeant cause the gun was so cool.

I climbed the tower after we finished clean up and most everyone was gone except for the ghost tours on the front lawn. It is the most peaceful up there at night. I always listen to the hum of the motor in the rotation room and watch the wheels track under the lens. It is the best way to know if anything is wrong with the light. There were Coast Guard guys stationed here in WWII and they were up on the tower round the clock standing lookout for Nazi U-boats off the coast. Not sure what they did at night since you can’t see much of anything offshore without a moon or a light on a vessel. There was no moon that night, but I stood at the rail for a while anyway before going down.

Kind-a like sitting in the seat.

November 10, 2006

Introducing a Lightkeeper

Posted by: Rick Cain in From the Lens Room

It occurs to me that I should introduce myself prior to doing any blogging. I am the operations director here at the lighthouse. I am 49 years old, have a wife and two (almost-out-of- the-house) teen-age kids. I have been doing this basic job under different titles for the past five or so years. The museum just keeps adding to the list of things that I have to do so that I don’t get bored. The interesting part is that we are also an active aid to navigation for the U.S. Coast Guard. That means that our big light is not just on for show. It actually functions as a working lighthouse…cool! So that is the other part of my job; making sure the light stays on at night. That makes me a lighthouse keeper as well as a museum director… mondo cool!

I grew up in tourism in Branson, Missouri, lived a short time in California working for Universal Studios, and then moved back to the Midwest and finished College (B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in psychology). I spent the next 20 years working in medicine (my wife and I are both Registered Nurses). When I came here (moved from Wisconsin) I wanted to take a break from medicine and so looked for a summer job giving tours (like I did in Branson and L.A.). I figured I would get a real job at the end of the summer. I was hired by the lighthouse and never left.

Being a museum director is not a walk in the park. It is challenging and there is always work to do. I have grown personally since coming here and they have taught me a lot. The team I work with are talented professionals and we all have this job of teaching and preserving history which is rewarding, especially working with kids. But the big payoff of this job? When I get stressed at my desk, I can go climb up to the deck of the tower, smell the salt air, and have a 25-mile view of the ocean. Not too many jobs where you can do that; keeps me in perspective…very therapeutic… I think I’ll stay.