There are 21 lighthouses in RI…19 of them are “on the mainland” and 2 are on Block Island. While my intent is to paddle to all of them, Block Island will probably not happen this paddleboarding season. So far I have made it to 14. To learn more about the RI Lighthouse Paddleboard Mission, check out the first post in this series.
This installment of the stand up paddleboarding RI Lighthouse mission report visits the 5 lighthouses in the east passage south of the Newport Bridge- Rose Island, Newport Harbor, Ida Lewis, Beavertail, and Castle Hill.
The intent was to do one long paddle (approximately 12 miles) to cross all of these lights off the list at once, but the conditions had other plans for us, and in the end it took three outings to get to them all. The first day out was the day of the Supermoon, Blood Moon, eclipse. Since the tides are a result of the moon’s pull on the earth, when there are moon “events” the high tides are higher and the low tides are lower. We see this every time there is a full or new moon, but even more so when there is a “special” moon event. So this Trifecta of moon stuff made for some extreme conditions in the bay.
The plan was to launch from Fort Wetherill (our “Happy Cove”), head up to Rose Island, over to Newport Harbor Light, through the harbor to Lime Rock Light, down the Newport coast a bit to Castle Hill, across the passage to Beavertail, and back to where we started it all. It was an ambitious goal because the conditions are always rough out there, but distance wise, 12 miles is totally doable, so we figured we’d go for it.
The water was standing up in weird little peaks and troughs. Add to this paddling into a crazy moon current, and we were fought to go more than 2 mph. Thankfully, Rose Island is just under 2 miles from Ft. Wetherill. We decided once we started that Beavertail was going to be out for the day, and it didn’t take us long to cross Castle Hill off of the list too.
Rose Island Light
After a couple of proclamations on my part that “This isn’t a good idea” and “I don’t think we are going to make it,” and Mark’s reassurances that “We are going to the lighthouse”, we made it. Rose Island is one of the only lighthouses in New England that is available for overnight stays. Guests bring their own food and perform chores. They have to clean up after themselves, and change the linens before the 10:00 am museum opening. From the south the Newport (Claiborne Pell) Bridge makes a great backdrop. When the bridge was built in 1970, the lighthouse was rendered obsolete. Years later the lighthouse was restored and in 1989 it was relit as a private aid to navigation.
Newport Harbor Light
Newport Harbor Light is located on Goat Island. The original lighthouse built there was transported to Prudence Island several years after it’s construction. Several years following its move, a new breakwater was built on Goat Island, and a new lighthouse was erected.
Lime Rock Light was dubbed Ida Lewis Light after its most famous, and fearless, keeper. She was credited with saving the lives of 18 people, though the actual number might have been as high as 35. In 1924 the state legislature changed the name of Lime Rock to Ida Lewis Rock. A few years later, the buildings at Lime Rock were sold and became the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. The light is kept illuminated in the summer as a tribute to her.
Ida Lewis Light
Conditions were just too rough to continue to the other two lighthouses. So we called it a day and battled back to our Fort.
On Columbus Day we ventured back to set out for the elusive two. It was a windy day with a good swell, and a LOT of boat traffic. We decided to head to Beavertail first and Castle Hill on the way back. Beavertail was a LONG 2.7 or so miles away. We ran into a little bit of everything on that trek, and we both ended up paddling from our knees for a bit. It is always an adventure heading to Beavertail which is located at the southern tip of Conanicut Island and divides the east and west passages of Narragansett Bay. This makes for a strong current and unruly waters.
A tower was erected at Beavertail in the early 1700’s . The tower burned down twice. Once was when the British evacuated Newport during the Revolutionary War, set fire to the tower, and took the lighting equipment. The equipment was soon recovered and repairs were promptly made.
In the 1980’s 170 acres surrounding the lighthouse were developed as Beavertail State Park. There is now a museum in the assistant keeper’s house. It is the third oldest light station in the nation. Located on a rocky point, it is also one of the most picturesque spots in the state.
Given the extreme conditions and abundance of boat traffic, we decided to go to Castle Hill another day.
Castle Hill Light
The quest for Castle Hill only had to wait a day. I returned there the next morning. Faced with angry seas, three foot swells, too many boats, and a fair amount of wind, the 1.3 mile paddle was one of the tougher ones I have embarked on. Most of way across I was on my knees. The journey was back was slightly more forgiving. This is my favorite looking lighthouse so far and was a bit of a holy grail to get to.
The Lighthouse Board wanted to establish a fog signal on the land that was owned by a private citizen. He refused to sell initially, but eventually gave a suitable portion of property to the government. His cottage was also ultimately sold and transformed into what is now known as the Castle Hill Inn and Resort.
This quest has been an amazing way to see RI, and has drawn me to places I might not otherwise have ventured. Can’t wait to see the final seven!