Back “On The Job” -> Lighthouse Hosting At Coquille River Lighthouse, OR

This will be our hosting spot for July!
Yup, that’s our cute little lighthouse

As hard as it is to believe we’ve been “working” for 10 days already. Kinda amazing how time flies by when you’re having fun. And yeah…I did say “fun”. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you already know that we volunteer as lighthouse hosts for the love of the job and *not*  for the money. In fact, I would care to venture that very few people do. We work 3-hour shifts 5 days a week (a total of around 17.5 hours/week with the “extras” of opening & closing) and in return we get a free full hookup site at the state park just a few miles away. If you really wanted to price that out in terms of $$ you’d be looking at way less than minimum wage.

So, why in the world do it??

Yours truly hanging in the main room
Yours truly mans the ICR & the downstairs fog room
Some of our booty for sale
Some of the goodies for sale

Well, quite simply because it’s a blast!! I LOVE lighthouse history and through the telling & sharing of lighthouse stories we get a bunch of cool interactions in return. I’ve met folks who’ve lived for generations in the area and can recount history no-one else knows, lighthouse keepers (real ones!) from Alaska who’ve spent years on “remote” assignment, coast guard folks who remember the day light boats still stood guard on the Columbia River, and lighthouse nuts from as far away as Siberia (I’m not kidding). AND we get to spend several months parked for free at a gorgeous state park, right on the ocean next to a fabulous beach town. It’s pretty darn awesome!

She's a pretty gal, this one!
She’s a pretty gal, this one!

Now granted, as with every job, it’s not all roses and rainbow-farting unicorns (yeah, I totally stole that one from Cherie at Technomadia). Telling the same story over and over can get somewhat monotonous (although we both keep a rotation of quite a few different ones to keep things interesting) and then of course….there’s the notorious ICR.

It's the ICR...again!
It’s the ICR…yet again!

Now, not every lighthouse has an ICR. In fact, I believe Coquille River Lighthouse may be unique in this aspect. If you’ve never have the pleasure of meeting said instrument, let me just assure you that no matter what kind of accounting wizard you may think you are, the ICR will eventually get the better of you. It’s inevitable…along the lines of death & taxes if you see what I mean.

I’ve dubbed it the Idiotic Cash Register and since Paul stays mostly in the tower, it’s moi that has the main pleasure of operating it. On the surface it’s a simple battery-operated register. Underneath it’s a cash-gobbling demon with the most counterintuitive programming ever invented to man…and just to keep you on your toes it will habitually spit out incoherent error messages, incorrect numbers and ear-bursting wails. I had my first run-in with the ICR the first day on the job last year and it left indelible marks on my psyche . This year we came back to our volunteer positions with the news that things might have changed…

“We’ve streamlined our process” announced Carl, the friendly new park volunteer coordinator

All 8 lighthouse hosts looked at each other and simultaneously blurted out “You’ve gotten rid of the cash register???”
Well allright we didn’t actually all say it out loud, but I know for certain the thought spontaneously entered every one of our shocked noodles at the very same instant. I mean, how couldn’t it?

“We’ve gotten rid of the old register” continued Carl, somehow echoing our exact question.

We all stood gob-smacked, ready to erupt into a joyous ruckus.

“And…we’ve replaced it with this one” he followed.

We all peered over the counter in excited anticipation. In greeting, a shiny new ICR looked back at us.

“It’s the same bloody cash register?!”
I think that might have been me, never being much of a verbal diplomat in such circumstances.

“Errm, yes” faltered Carl, obviously not getting the positive response he expected, “but it’s brand new!”

Sporting lighthouse BLING thanks to Kathy at Birding RVers
Sporting some cool lighthouse BLING thanks to Kathy at BirdingRVers

So, there you go. From one ICR to another exactly identical one, the only difference being this one inputs exactly the opposite way to the other one…just enough to thoroughly confuse the already confused. I think I might have burst out laughing at this point although I can’t quite recall. The hilarity of it all quite overwhelmed me. Despite my ribbing, I can’t fault the park system too much. Budget restraints and the requirement that they have a battery-operated register in the shop somewhat limits their options, but it’s a funny story nonetheless. Plus, the ICR does keep the job interesting. I believe our co-hosts managed a $3,000 sale the other day and Paul accidently input some secret codes that sent the ICR into a non-stop wail. No day is ever the same at the lighthouse.

Paul poses at the lighthouse door
Paul poses at the lighthouse door

Even with the ICR we’re loving our jobs. I’m constantly amazed at the variety of people we meet, we have a lovely and ever-changing view from our “office” window and every single day I learn something new. We’re docents for a wonderful piece of history and have the honor of passing that along to others. In many ways I feel like the story-tellers of a tribe, retelling tales that will be handed down through generations (I just love it when a kid runs back to their parents with “did you hear what the lady just told me?” and then rattles it off again. Isn’t that how history is really preserved?). We’ve done this job for two years now and I can totally see us coming back to do it again.

NOTE/ We originally got this job by applying to Oregon State Park Volunteer Program. There are many, many volunteer positions open for both couples and singles, and in Oregon you can choose to take jobs for just a month at a time. It’s an excellent program! For those interested here are some related posts:

Another pretty shot
Another pretty shot
Paul on the lighthouse stairs
Paul on the lighthouse stairs
My "office" view
My “office” view
Detail of the lighthouse tower
Detail of the lighthouse tower
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    I hope Polly gets to come to work. We were lucky enough to have a work camping job where dogs were always welcome…in fact, I think her hours even counted. Looks like a great gig!

    • libertatemamo says

      No, no dogs allowed in the lighthouse unfortunately. Since our shifts are only 3 hours/day it’s not too long to leave pooch, and she probably wouldn’t enjoy the crowds anyway (she’s a shy girl). NICE that you had a job you can bring yours though!
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, I think they’re pretty sweet volunteering jobs, especially if you love lighthouse history.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      How funny…I was just thinking of you and wondering how you were doing!! Would love to see you again, so definitely do look us up when you get back.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      It’s a very easy job. Mostly it’s just telling stories and relating history. At this particular lighthouse we have to run a small gift-shop too, but Cape Blanco (where we’re going in Sept) is just tours and stories.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      I agree…it’s a pretty nifty office view. Sometimes the fog rolls in and obscures everything which is pretty cool too.
      Nina

  2. says

    Nina, I love your name for the “new improved ” cash register!! LOL
    As a light house host who fought with the old one for 2 years, I wanted to chuck that thing into the ocean off the rocky jetty!! :)
    Earrings look great on you!
    Great post and pics!!
    Kathy

    • libertatemamo says

      Our co-hosts last year kept threatening to do the same thing LOL.
      Thanks again for the “bling”! It’s gotten a lot of positive comments at the lighthouse.
      Nina

  3. Charlotte says

    What a beautiful lighthouse and great place to spend your days sharing stories about the lighthouse. My hubbie and I have volunteering at a lighthouse in Oregon on our ever growing bucket list. I met some full-timers that worked the Oregon lighthouses for 10 straight seasons and loved it. What a way to spend your days…giving back to the lighthouse!

    • libertatemamo says

      Most of the lighthouse hosts are what I’d call “long-timers”. Once they start doing the job they’ll often keep coming back for years on end. I think it attracts a certain type of person and it’s a pretty sweet deal so no-one wants to leave! We sure love it!
      Nina

  4. says

    Love your story, always your beautiful photos and “The Bling”. Way cool guys! I don’t have to tell you to Enjoy! – it sure looks like you both are having a blast.

    • libertatemamo says

      Kathy makes a bunch of neat “bling” that she sells on their blog (on a related page). It’s pretty fun to have the lighthouse earrings.
      Nina

  5. says

    You are sometimes hilarious :) I love it when you “go off”.” We all so “get” the irony of non intuitive technology that is more complicated than just jotting things down in a notebook. It’s like, “It’s there, so we have to use it.”
    No…we don’t :)
    Nice post and good for you guys. Some day we will follow in your footsteps.
    Box Canyon Mark

  6. Sunny Phillips says

    Nina – Shelia Cameron de Laneuville introduced me to your blog last winter and I have enjoyed your humor and information. I am a full timer traveling alone after retirement. In addition to traveling, volunteering for the U S Fish and Wildlife Service is my vocation and I am in Bandon! I would very much like to meet you and Paul while you are here and tour the lighthouse!

    • libertatemamo says

      While you’re on the coast this summer I’d recommend asking/talking to the park hosts and getting job details & contact info from them. If there’s a particular place/park you like you can even try and meet-up with the park volunteer coordinator on-site. This will give you the “inside track” to a job for next year. Hope you find something you like!
      Nina

  7. Allen says

    Hello Nina, we are on our first longer than a weekend trip in our new to us motorhome. First stop was a campground on the Maine Coast. No toad so we are sightseeing between stops. We were at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse where I had a very interesting guided tour of the museum from an elderly gentleman who had been a lobsterman most of his 89 years. When I thanked him for the tour my host said “Oh I don’t work here I just hang out to talk to people. You meet the nicest people on the road!

    • libertatemamo says

      A great little story! love it! We hope to get to the NE at some point to see all the lighthouses up there. Would also love to do the MI lighthouses.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      It kind of depends. You have a lot of “regulars”…folks who come back every year, and they generally sign up a year ahead. But there’s usually a spot that opens for unexpected reasons (I.e. one of the regular hosts couldn’t make it…maybe for health reason, mechanical issues etc). That’s how we got the job last year. We lucked out on a cancellation and got right in. This year a couple of spots opened up at Cape Blanco for the same reasons. So I recommend applying. You just never know.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      He is indeed. I let him on the ICR ONE day and I think that was the end of that. Funny story…I met an old lighthouse host this week and he told me his wife wouldn’t host anymore because of anxiety from the ICR not matching receipts at the end of the day. LOL!!! It’s always an adventure here at Coquille.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh you’d love it. There were over 70 lighthouses built on the west coast back in the day. Not all remain, but the ones that do all have a story to tell.
      Nina

  8. Anne hamm says

    I think the lighthouses sound delightful. I would like to do some summer volunteering in a cooler climate so would be perfect but (there always is one!) I travel alone and seems many place require two. I cannot physically do the maintenance type jobs where constantly on my feet but interpretative is perfect. I love public speaking and was a training director among everything in a past life. Anyway have you ever come across a way to do a lighthouse type job or other similar as a single woman? appreciate any thoughts. I travel in a roadtrek hopefully full time soon so will probably spend a summer in washington or oregon coast area. hope to meet you out there. Gotta sell house first then off I go.

    I just recently happened onto your writings and love it. Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says

      There ARE actually lighthouses that take single volunteers. They generally prefer couples, but many will make allowances for singles too. For example I know for a fact that Cape Blanco, OR takes singles, plus the ranger at North Head, WA told me he accepts them on occasion too. Plus there are many other interpretive type jobs which will take singles at forts, museums, historic houses and other spots. Last year we hosted with a single lady who was running the evening program at Bullards Beach State Park. So, don’t give up your goals. Ask around and be clear that you’re looking for an interpretive position. If you’re persistent you’ll be able to find a good fit, I’m certain of it!

      Nina

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