SEGUIN ISLAND — Seguin Island’s lighthouse will open for tours this summer because the nonprofit that maintains the 64-acre island raised enough money to buy a generator to restore power there.

The Friends of Seguin Island Light Station have raised enough money for a generator to power the lighthouse. Photo courtesy Friends of Seguin Island Light Station

A helicopter will carry the $5,500 generator from the mainland to the island, as soon as next week, said Cyndy Carney, executive director of Friends of Seguin.

Last month, the Coast Guard cut power to Seguin after the 2.5-mile underwater cable that supplied electricity to the island since the 1950s was damaged.

The light was decommissioned in 1985 and runs automatically. No Coast Guard personnel are stationed on the island, which is owned by Friends of Seguin Island Light Station.

The Coast Guard plans to install solar panels to run the lighthouse beacon at night but didn’t have plans to restore power to the buildings on the island. The Friends organization has been trying to come up with a solution that would allow its volunteers to stay on the island, run tours, maintain trails and run the keeper’s house, museum and gift shop.

The group hopes to install solar panels for the buildings next year, with a cost estimate of $30,000 to $40,000, and use a diesel generator as backup.

Normally, tours would start May 18. Carney said that should only be delayed a few weeks.

The Seguin Island Ferry will be making trips to the island from Fort Popham in Phippsburg as usual. Owner Ethan Debery said he plans to start offering ferry rides by Memorial Day. He estimated he brings about 1,000 visitors to the island every summer.

“People visiting this area don’t know what to expect. (They) come out and it blows everyone away,” Debery said. “There’s also local people that have lived here forever but never been out here … and it gives them an excuse to be a tourist.”

“I knew of Seguin and I said, ‘That’s my baby,’ and I never looked back,” the 75-year-old retired Department of Environmental Protection employee said during a visit to the island Thursday. “You come out here and no traffic, no demanding schedules and it’s just the beauty of it all. It’s time standing still and you just get yourself so thoroughly involved with the beauty of it, that it allows you to charge your personal batteries.”

The lighthouse is the second oldest in Maine, commissioned by George Washington in 1795. The current tower is the third that has stood on the island. Built in 1857, it features a First Order Fresnel Lens crafted by Henry Lapaute of Paris, the only one in Maine.

The lens, first devised by Augustin Fresne (1788-1827), is a beehive shape of concentric annular sections that cast parallel beams of light. Comprised of 282 individual prisms, the lens can cast a beam of light that can be seen more than 20 miles away. The original lamp burned about 2 gallons of oil per hour but was converted to electricity in the mid-1950s.

For lighthouse aficionados, that lens is a big deal, Carney said, and helps draw visitors to the island. As many as 3,000 people visit Seguin annually.

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