Volunteer Hosting at Cape Blanco Lighthouse, OR

Paul poses on the staircase leading to the tower

So we’ve been happily hosting at Cape Blanco lighthouse for the past week or so. The first few days were the toughest, as they always are, re-programming our brains with all the new lighthouse stories and sorting out the routine, but by the end of the week we were smoothly rocking and rolling. In our short few days we’ve already had a slew of folks and experiences. I’ve managed to give my presentation in French (it was quite the effort), gotten laughs out of a group of teenagers (an even more impressive effort, if I say so myself) and managed to stay pretty much on-track with the dates and details. Not too shabby…

A late afternoon shot

This is a very different lighthouse from our last job at Coquille River. Amongst other things you don’t run a giftstore here (they have a full-time employee for that) and the lighthouse is larger so two couples are on duty each shift with a more formal tour-flow. Also it’s still an active navigational aid so you have a real-life lens and light. The bigger lighthouse makes for bigger (and sometimes more imaginative) stories plus the location is great, the surroundings are wild and fabulous and yes, in case you are wondering…it…is….awesome!

The real-life and so very gorgeous Fresnel lens and 1000-watt bulb

Before I get into the nitty-gritty I’ll give you just a bit of background on this gorgeous building. Cape Blanco lighthouse was first lit Dec 20th, 1870. It is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the OR coast as well as being its most westerly lighthouse and the one with the highest focal point (perched dramatically above the surrounding cliffs it beams at 245 feet above sea level). The fact that it’s still operational is extremely cool and means it’s one of the spots you can see a real-life glorious Fresnel lens in action (this, in itself, always triggers a bunch of “wows” from those who see it!). Also despite it’s remote and lonely location it boasts one of the west-coasts’ longest-service keepers (James Langlois and his family who braved this crazy weather for 42 years) as well as the first OR female lighthouse keeper (Mabel Bretherton).

A moody day seeps through the downstairs window at the lighthouse.

These are all fun facts, but what makes this place special is it’s living soul. The wild weather, the crazy winds, the changing light. From dense fog that wraps a lonely blanket and covers you in thick, introverted thoughts to brilliant sunshine that opens up miles of breathtaking cliffs and sets your spirit free on the never-ending view. Inside the lighthouse your world switches and you imagine the long days, never-ending service and continual toil of those who lived here. You can so easily get lost here both in the place and the stories, and as a lighthouse host I get to feel those moods and touch a small piece of that history….oh yeah…it’s very, very cool.

So, how does it all work? Here’s a typical break-down of what we do:

Paul poses by the fabulous Fresnel lens in the tower

1/ Work Hours – The lighthouse duties here are split into 2 daily shifts of ~3 1/2 hours each. Two couple are on duty each shift (one couple works at the main greeting center and one couple works at the lighthouse) and you rotate duties across the week. In total we work 3-4 days (one AM shift, one full-day shift, one PM shift and the circle starts again) and have 3 days off each week. A light and easy gig!

2/ Front Hosts (Greeter & Story Teller) –Whenever you work an AM shift your job is to be the front 2 people at the greeting center when folks first come in. You’ll greet people, tell them about tours and organize groups for the lighthouse. You also tell the first part of the tour story, focusing on the life of James Langlois and his family and what they did day-to-day outside the lighthouse. After your job is done you send people to the lighthouse for the next 2 parts of their tour.

Yours truly poses by a downstairs oil container…with PROPS!!!

3/ Lighthouse Hosts (Work Room & Lamp Room)  – The second couple on duty is always in the lighthouse and this is also the next part of the tour. One person stays in the downstairs work-room/oil-room and introduces folks to the tasks done there. Bonus of this job is the downstairs area has tons of props which you can handle and display (total score for an old theatre-captain like me). The other person greets people in the tower and completes their tour by taking them into the still-active lantern room (the ooooh and aaaah spot, as I call it).

4/ Odds And Ends – There are few odds and ends each day such as measuring wind-speed, keeping track of number of visitors, opening up the lighthouse and closing it down.

That’s really it! The job here is pretty much all about the story-telling and everyone gets to rotate through all 4 jobs during the week. All this with the bonus that you get a working lighthouse, lots of cool props, a great RV site and 3 days off. So far we’re totally enjoying it and expect our month here to zoom easily by. If you’re in the area, drop by for a story or two…and I’ll promise you that most of them will be true too :)

Detail view of the old brickwork

Another view of the fresnel lens

Detail view of one of downstairs 100-gallon oil barrels
Reproductions of oil carriers…more props!!!

View inside the downstairs workroom
Isn’t she lovely?
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      You know telling a story always gets better with practice…I think everyone can do it once they get over the initial few tries. The tours here are small so it’s an intimate and comfortable setting.

  1. Lee and Shelia says

    All I can say is Nina you and Paul “Rock” thanks for letting us live through you both… Yes we are back in the 100’s here in the Central Valley

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh…hot, hot, hot..Not to make you jealous or anything, but our temp this AM is a clean 60. We “might” hit a high of around 75 today.

    • libertatemamo says

      Totally agree. They really are quite mesmerizing. It’s funny because once the tour gets up to the lens room, you kinda “lose” them as they get absorbed by the lens….it draws you in!

  2. says

    WOW…I am impressed…French!
    We really enjoyed our visit to Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The volunteer we had was great! He was so informative with a great sense of humor. I am sure you two are just as good. Enjoy your stay.

    • libertatemamo says

      It took a bit of doing I must admit, and I had to struggle for a few of the words haha…all the volunteers here are great, so I don’t think you can go wrong with a tour from any of them.

    • libertatemamo says

      Grant & Kathy are still here, believe it or not! We’re co-hosting with them all this month. Great couple and they definitely know the lighthouse inside and out.

  3. says

    Completely awesome that you could do the presentation in French. You Danes are such a talented lot.
    I can’t fathom from whence these French speaking folks might have come? All the way from France, or was it a uni-lingual lot from Quebec?
    It’s always fun to switch to another tongue, whether effortlessly or not.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, they were from Quebec. They did speak some English, but were struggling to understand so I switched to French. I had a French boyfriend for many years BP (Before Paul)…a deep and dark time of course compared to the renaissance of discovering hubby (he does read the blog, after all hehehe)

  4. says

    Cape Blanco is such a beautiful lighthouse and it was certainly fun to see a real live operational beacon. We really enjoyed the tour we had but would have loved to have you both as our tour guides. Enjoy the remainder of your time there.

    • libertatemamo says

      It is gorgeous, and would have been fun to tour you here. I’m glad we got to take you into Coquille.

  5. says

    Oh my, I’m eating my little heart out at that simply terrible job you have to do in such a crappy place.

    Awesome is often an overused word I think but not in this case.

  6. says

    We were fortunate enough to “track you down” in Cape Blanco this past Sunday morning. We stayed at the KOA down the street before staying at Bullard Beach State Park. We did a bunch of exploring in the area and just loved it. Internet access hasn’t been the best, but we’re in Portland today and we finally have some “almost regular” Internet access. I want to say again that I really appreciate your writing and photography. Here is a link to your campsite done in a “photoart” style. http://bit.ly/O5ZmLa

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh, you guys should have knocked on the door and come in for a chat! I think we saw you that day (at least we saw someone take a pic of the rig), so we must just have missed chatting to you. AWESOME treatment on the photo. Really love the cool colors!

  7. says

    I stumbled in here from all the mentions that LuAnn has given you. I’ll have to watch for your next tour of duty in Bandon or Blanco. I live in Coquille and often go to Bullards or Coquille Point. My blog features photos of both places for the most part. Come take a look if you ever get to missing our Oregon beaches.

    Like most locals, I’ve managed to miss the tour at both lighthouses. Seems I usually manage to drive by Blanco in the off season and always seem to head straight for the beach when at the Coquille River jetty.

    I’m enjoying your tales of adventures on the road and living the RV lifestyle.

    • libertatemamo says

      How FUN to “meet” you! We’ll be back in Bandon July/Aug of next year so you’re definitely gonna have to come by for a tour. I’ll definitely be checking out your blog for local shots of the area. Really do love this spot!


  1. […] Ahhhhh I digress, but the stories are just so interesting. Our lives as lighthouse hosts are, in reality, so much more boring but I know many of you are anxious to hear more about the job. This is actually our second year hosting at Cape Blanco, so for those of you new to the blog you can check out our experience & duties from last year in this post: Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse […]

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