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If you’ve always dreamed of living on a semi-remote island or wanted to add lighthouse caretaker to your resume, this might be your chance.
The lighthouse needs a couple of volunteers next summer to live on the island from about mid-May to mid-September and keep the place beautiful and functional.
For the last five years, the position has been filled by Tara and Brian Flanagan, who say they stumbled into the job originally.
They are only leaving to embark on another adventure, sailing to Maine and Nova Scotia, Tara Flanagan told Boston.com on Tuesday.
“We want to continue on with some of our adventures, but it’s still hard to think that we’re not going to be here next summer,” Flanagan said.
The light station caretaker is responsible for mowing, trail upkeep, and property maintenance, as well as hospitality duties including greeting day-time visitors and managing overnight visitors and campers, Flanagan wrote on Facebook. Handyman skills and familiarity with ocean boating are also required.
“We’ve set it up so we think the people that will take over for us really will be caretakers — they’ll have to cut the grass and trim the trails and greet the guests, but they won’t be pouring cement and rebuilding buildings and things like that,” Flanagan said.
The caretakers get lodging in the Keeper’s House and have exclusive use of a powerboat for trips to the mainland, Flanagan wrote on Facebook.
Each week brings with it a whole host of tasks, she told Boston.com.
“First we have to make [sure] the place [stays] looking beautiful for the visitors because they don’t want to know that it rained five days before they arrived — they want to see a pretty lawn and the garden that’s been weeded and the trails to be manageable,” Flanagan said.
It takes the Flanagans two full days to mow, weed whack, and otherwise manage the property to keep it looking its best. (The United States Coast Guard deals with the actual light and foghorn, Flanagan said.)
Then, in the middle of the week, the couple gets some help for a day.
“Wednesday is volunteer day,” Flanagan said. “So we have a boatload of day volunteers come out. We have a really amazing core group of volunteers, and then there are some newbies that try it out. And that’s when we get together as a group and work on projects.”
Volunteers this season alone have tackled projects like putting up new siding on the sunporch, painting trim in the bedroom, and replacing ceilings in the Keeper’s House.
Thursday is all about preparing for the weekend visitors by getting the Assistant Keeper’s House ready.
“People can pay to come and spend the weekend, and they arrive Friday afternoon,” Flanagan said. “So we clean the house. It’s really minor, this is the least part of our job is cleaning the house.”
They also ready the campground for guests. When the Flanagans first took the position, there was no campground by the lighthouse. Now, it is a highly rated campground.
Flanagan said part of the caretaker position is focused on hospitality.
“We contribute what the guests want from us — if they want to be left alone, we leave them alone, if they want to interact with us and ask 1,000 questions, we’ll answer 1,000 questions,” she said.
Sundays see a day tour out from Salem, during which Flanagan gets to share her interest in the history of the island with visitors.
“That’s the chance for me to give my history tour of Bakers Island and some of the important highlights and history,” she said. “Again, we answer a whole lot of questions of what it’s like to live out here as a caretaker, what it’s like to live off grid.”
Getting to meet people is one of Flanagan’s favorite parts of the job, she said.
“One of the best things that Brian and I take away from our lifestyle is put down the cell phone, put down social media, and actually have conversations,” she said. “When you start talking to people, you find out that there really is a seventh degree of separation between you and the person you’re speaking with.”
In one particular story, Flanagan said she was talking with a visitor who happened to have sailed on the boat that the Flanagans now own when it was a Sea Scouts boat in Connecticut.
“[The best part is] getting the chance to meet everyone and hearing some of their stories and being able to share our love for this island,” Flanagan said. “There’s never a dull day here when we’re giving tours or talking to people. Usually people leave here really just happy and in this world; we are thrilled that we give that opportunity to people.”
Though the job is a lot of fun, Flanagan said it is not always easy going. When problems come up, they have to get creative on how to fix them because they can’t go running to the mainland for every issue.
“The future caretaker is going to be … fixing things that break — we call it mad MacGyver skills because we can’t just go into the Home Depot,” she said. “It requires a half hour boat ride into town, trying to get things that we need and then come back and you find out pieces you purchased three hours ago are the wrong ones. My husband is very engineer- oriented, so he really can fix almost anything with duct tape, string, and a paperclip.”
Flanagan said they have been working on videos of how to troubleshoot all the different systems to help the future caretakers.
The 10-acre area the light station occupies has changed a lot while under the Flanagans’ watchful eyes. Some of the larger scale changes the couple has overseen include the installation of a solar power system that completely powers both buildings, the creation of a campground on the island, and the addition of a washing machine — the result of a generous donation last season.
“When we came out here it was a little rough around the edges — very little power, there was no freezer,” Flanagan said. “We only had a couple of LED lights, and we used to joke that our sailboat was better equipped than the caretaking position here. But we fell in love.”
The island is completely off-grid, with no facilities that come from the mainland, she said. The buildings run on the solar power system, water comes from a well, and cooking and heating is done with propane gas that is brought over from the mainland.
They do, however, have excellent Wi-Fi and cell service, Flanagan said, which makes it possible for someone to work remotely while being the caretaker — if they have some flexibility.
“You’ve got to be available to do your daytime jobs out here,” Flanagan said. “My job is very flexible — I could do it early morning, late at night, in my spare time.”
Though only a few people can be the caretakers of the light station, that is not the only way to experience the Baker Island Light Station, Flanagan said. People can come for day visits, camp, or stay overnight in the Assistant Keeper’s House.
“There’s always options to volunteer out here,” she said. “If people aren’t chosen as a caretaker, they can always come out on Wednesdays and start seeing how it is and maybe be considered for the 2024 position.”
The Flanagans originally became the caretakers for Baker Island Light Station in 2018 after a season at Maine’s Seguin Island in 2017. They were supposed to only be temporary caretakers while Essex National Heritage, the organization that handles the light station, found someone else. But they stuck around, postponing their plans to sail to Maine and Nova Scotia.
While it’s not always sunny and warm on the island and weather conditions have caused the cancellation of numerous plans over the years, Flanagan she said she still loved the job and is sad to leave it.
“It is work. But for us, it’s a labor of love,” she said. “A lot of people dream of coming out here and reading a book … overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the foghorn, you can do that. You’ve just got to get all your other chores done too.”
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