NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Race Rock Light is seen by many mariners, but cannot be seen from land.
For the first time, organized tours will allow the public to climb on board and go inside the two and a half story Gothic Revival style granite lighthouse. The 67-foot high tower has an octagonal cast iron lantern and gallery surrounded by a wrought iron railing with six brick-lined rooms in the basement and dwelling.
The lighthouse which was first lit in 1878 sits 6 miles off the New London coastline. On our trip out to it Thursday News8 spotted a submarine and several boats, including some anchored right next to the lighthouse.
“These are fishermen and the fish love the turbulent waters but landing is another thing altogether,” said Susan Tamulevich, Executive Director of the New London Maritime Society.
Building the lighthouse was also another thing altogether. The New London Maritime Society which took ownership of the lighthouse in 2013 says building Race Rock Light was a feat of engineering bravery directed over seven years by New London’s own Captain T. A Scott.
“They couldn’t get the foundation to stay in place the water was so chaotic,” said Tamulevich.
For 139 years, Race Rock’s light and fog horn have guided mariners through the roiling currents at the Race which is where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island Sound.
The Maritime Society says this is the first time the public has been invited to tour the inside of the formidable and all-but inaccessible lighthouse.
Because the lighthouse is situated in the turbulent waters of the Race, trips are timed to run at slack tide and also are weather-dependent.
“There are a lot of rocks underneath the water that you don’t see,” explained Tamulevich who says boat captains need to be experienced in this area.
Landing at Race Rock demands some physical dexterity. Visitors have to balance on the edge of a boat and climb directly up a ladder to reach the platform.
“You don’t have to be a ninja, but you do have to be somewhat able,” said Tamulevich.
The two trips this coming weekend, with a maximum of six passengers each, have been sold out. Lighthouse experts Pam Setchell and Nick Korstad are the hosts for the tours.
News8 was able to get its own tour Thursday.
“Underneath the plaster and the wall board that was in place here they found two of these chimneys for coal burning fires.” said Tamulevich who walked us through each room of the lighthouse.
Up a spiral staircase are the U.S. Coast Guard’s solar powered light and fog horn and a view which may be worth the effort to get out there.
Guests this weekend will have about one hour to explore Race Rock. Donation is $125, or $100 for New London Maritime Society members.
Sign up for the trips was online 24/7 at brownpapertickets.com. Everyone must sign a waiver of liability before boarding.
This weekend’s trips are a test run for what the New London Maritime Society hopes will be regular tours of Race Rock Light next summer. It is hoping to bring people out to the lighthouse at least twice a month.