PHIPPSBURG — I went out to Seguin Island Lighthouse for the first time several years ago and knew I had to go back. On a brief day trip from Popham Beach, this small outcropping of an island topped by a picturesque lighthouse and red brick keeper’s quarters enchanted me.

We scrambled along a trail dotted with blackberry brambles placed with just enough frequency to fuel some of the shorter-legged in our party along the steep grade. Our reward was to take in the 360-degree views from the top of the light.

Seguin is Maine’s tallest light, standing nine feet, and its sparkling First Order Fresnel lens can be seen for more than 20 nautical miles. It is also the state’s second oldest light station, commissioned by George Washington in 1795.

We followed our tour of the light with a visit to the museum to see some of the old instruments and photographs of past keepers. Just before having to scramble down the hill to catch the boat back to Popham, I came across “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” in the gift shop, and left with a copy. I have never read a story so personal to its author and so evocative of a place and experience.

Connie Scovill Small kept the light at Seguin with her husband, Elson, from 1926 to 1930. But, this was not her first lighthouse. Her father was the keeper and one of the original crew of the Quoddy Head Life Saving Station in Lubec. Then, shortly after she married Elson, he became keeper at Lubec Channel Lighthouse. From there, they moved to Avery Rock Lighthouse in Machias Bay, and then Seguin.

Seguin wasn’t Connie’s last lighthouse either. After Seguin, Elson was stationed at the St. Croix River Lighthouse near Calais, and then at Portsmouth Light in New Hampshire. This is all a bit comical for a woman who was afraid of heights. Elson apparently told her, “Just look up and never look down,” which became a motto of sorts for her.

It wasn’t until age 85 that she finally wrote “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife,” describing her many years at many lights. She went on to become active in the effort to preserve lighthouses along the coast, giving hundreds of lectures about her experiences. At a ceremony in Northport, Maine for the Maine Lights Program, President George Bush recognized her as the “First Lady of Light.”
A testament to her spunk, Connie lived to be 103 years old, passing away in 2005.

In addition to the book, I left the island with a brochure for Friends of Seguin Island Light Station, a group dedicated to the preservation of the lighthouse and its history. I learned that for a mere $30 a year, I could become a “friend” and that friends could rent the Lighthouse Guest Quarters for the night.

The quarters include two bedrooms and a bathroom above the museum. It only took two years to line up a date to make that happen. My husband and I considered making the trip in our boat, but Seguin is a pretty exposed island subject to the whims of both the Kennebec River and the open ocean that can collide in virulent ways. So, we lined up a trip on a water taxi from Popham instead.

Months after making our plans, the weekend finally arrived. But, so did quite a storm. Ethan DeBery, captain of the Seguin Island Ferry, called us that week with a strong warning that we might want to change plans. But, this was our only free weekend, so we decided to go for it.

On board The Guppy, we headed out under glorious sunshine. By that night, our girls were doing cartwheels on the lawn beneath the light and we were grilling fish while watching the sunset amidst a sky of swirls and streaks of neon pink.

As the sky faded into darkness and the light came aglow, we climbed the spiral steps up to the light with mugs of hot chocolate and a copy of yet another lighthouse story, “Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie.”

In this story, set on Matinicus Rock in 1856, a young girl, Abbie Burgess, is left by her father to keep the lamps burning while he is away getting supplies. A storm keeps him from returning for nearly a month. Yet, every night she climbs up several times to check the lights, often scraping ice from the windows so that the lights can be seen at sea.

After tucking our girls into bed, we watched the full moon rise, brightening the sky opposite the equally luminous light. We had planned on staying two nights, but the storm threatened to turn two nights into five, as the next time the water taxi could get back out to us after the storm wouldn’t be until mid-week. So, we sadly, packed up the next morning.

I made the most of the remaining hours by finally getting to explore the trails – taking them to both ends of the island and ending with a chilly plunge in the cove below the light. I came back to find the rest of my crew launching wooden planes off the light tower, gifts from the outgoing lighthouse keepers who were clearing out trinkets from the summer.

The stories that lighthouses have inspired are many and these two are just a couple of those that allow us a window into this unique way of life. To experience a day on Seguin is an opportunity to write your own story about the beautiful rocky island you may have wondered about while gazing out from Popham Beach.

Now, we approach the opening of a new season on Seguin. Ninety-one years after Connie Scovill Small arrived with Elson, Brian and Tara Flanagan will assume the duties of lighthouse keepers for the 2017 season. They have been traveling along the East Coast aboard their sailboat and will take a pause with their two dogs, Phinneus and Pickles, to take care of the light and welcome visitors this summer. The light and museum will be open to the public beginning May 27.

For more information about the island and to plan a trip, call 443-4808 or visit www.seguinisland.org. There are several options for getting to Seguin. The folks at FOSILS can direct you as to the best choice depending on your schedule, group size, and the time of year.