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About the Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project

  • Matthew B. Jenkins 1999
  • Matthew B. Jenkins 2001
  • Matthew B. Jenkins 2008
Welcome to the Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project - a personal website outgrowth of my wife's and my exploration of the Chesapeake Bay.

This site dates back to April 1999 when I stumbled on the last 10 - 15 minutes of a Maryland Public TV program on Chesapeake Bay lighthouses. It was created by a group that started at the mouth of the Bay and worked their way north via sailboat, hitting each of the lighthouses along the way. (I never did see the rest of the documentary.) At that time my wife and I had owned our Hunter 28 sloop Moondance for a couple years and were getting pretty heavily into cruising the Bay. We also own a Volkswagen Westfalia camper-van (the Blue Beast) in which we'd done a fair amount of traveling. I knew almost nothing about Chesapeake Bay lights (even that there were many). However, as the weeks passed this idea began to seem a neat connect-the-dots way of seeing and learning about the Bay and surrounding region. I did some research on the web (which was significantly smaller then), bought and read a few books and we began to incorporate lighthouses into our cruises and camping trips. From there it kind of snowballed . . .

I decided that if we were going to visit the lights I should take pictures. Then I thought "Why not create a website? It will be a good way to learn .html". Once I put the photos up, they each cried for some sort of historical summary. Then I decided some over-all context was needed. As I learned some .html tricks (frames, image roll-overs, includes, javascript, etc.) they got incorporated, though I've always tried to keep the site clean and simple.

We began trying to visit and photograph each lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay (34), then added the Lightship Chesapeake (35), then the lighthouses and lightships of the surrounding seaboard as well (43). This latter part was driven largely by our discovery of the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society's 40 + 3 Club. Finally, our circumnavigation of the Delmarva Peninsula led to the addition of the lights of the Delaware River and Bay (an indefensible scope creep combined with a fair amount of frustration because a camera shutter failure resulted in loss of all of the DE caisson photos I took our first trip down it, not to mention photos of the pod of dolphins off our bow as we sailed away from the Atlantic coast.) During this time I also started providing research for the U.S. Coast Guard's pages on a volunteer basis and wrote up their Maryland Light Stations page, which includes many lights no longer standing.

Over the years more and more personal stuff also found its way onto the site. After our circumnavigation of the Delmarva Penninsula, I wrote up a document of our experience which is also somewhat of a "how to". The cruising section expanded with more photos after cameras went digital. I'm a little sad that this happened after we sold Moondance and bought our current boat, Alisios, as I don't have as many pictures of her as I'd like. As with love, one always holds a special place in their heart for their first boat. Nevertheless, Alisios has allowed us to sail far outside the Bay. In 2005 we took her up to New York and back and in 2007 we took time off work, moved aboard for 7 months, and sailed her down the ICW to the Bahamas where we worked our way down the Exuma chain and as far as the Jumentos / Ragged Islands, before returning via Eleuthera and the Abacos. During those months the website became our primary mode of communication with our family and friends as I kept a journal of our travels, which I updated whenever we found a hotspot. I ended up converting that journal into an unpublished book, Significant Deviation a (largish) .pdf under the Cruising section. Over the years I've also thrown in some poetry and other Miscellaneous tid-bits.

The site has been written up in a number of magazines including SpinSheet, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, and Ira Black's NorEaster. I was also surprised to stumble on a reference to it once in the Kids section of the Sunday Washington Post. Over the years I've received a variety of emails from all ranges of people. It has been both gratifying and rewarding to hear about this project's influence on others. I've got to admit, my focus has always been the Chesapeake Bay and the lights were just a door into that world. They transport me to an era with different centers of commerce, regional dialects, gritty watermen, and steam-liner routes and resort communities that no longer exist. I just love the water and am lucky to have a wife / best friend that shares my passions. I hope this site helps you find your own appreciation for the region, its history, and evolution and I hope it continues to inspire people to take the time to make their own discoveries wherever those discoveries are and may take them.

Matthew Jenkins
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