On Saturday, July 29, 50 guests were transported to the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse for an event to raise funds for the non-profit organization, Cuckolds Fog Signal & Light Station.
Guests, who paid $50 each, were shuttled from the Boothbay Harbor Country Club to the Southport town landing, then transported to the Cuckholds by two boats – Hinckleys belonging to Boothbay Harbor Country Club and Oceanside Golf Resort owner Paul Coulombe.
Once on the island, event-goers were greeted by Executive Directors/Resident Innkeepers of the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse, Mark and Heather Zinkiewicz, and Boothbay Harbor Country Club Public & Member Relations Director Michelle Amero, and given free rein to walk around the island and tour the lighthouse and inn.
Cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks were served on a terrace outside the inn by Oceanside bartender Kim Foye throughout the two-plus hour event, while Sous Chef Eric Jones and Executive Sous Chef Nathaniel Adam served hors d’oeuvres: Butter poached lobster with a corn and white truffle emulsion, sea salt coral tuile and chive; a radish tartar; a pork belly B.L.T.; and a bite of lobster salad on a brioche crouton. Pastry chef Alex Tallen was inside assembling her pastries: French financiers topped with lemon cream and raspberries, and blueberry Bavarian cream puffs.
Between sips and bites, the guests toured the lighthouse and checked out the two beautifully appointed suites at the inn. The innkeepers gave a short talk about the restoration efforts, and a brief history of how the island came to be under the nonprofit’s ownership. “We are still a working lighthouse and fog signal, and are owned and operated by the nonprofit, Cuckolds Fog Signal & Light Station,” Heather said. “The lighthouse and fog station … still serve to guide mariners into the safety of the harbor.”
The restoration efforts began when the Coast Guard could no longer afford the upkeep of the lightkeepers’ home, and it was demolished. A group formed and began raising money to reconstruct it, and in 2014 the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse opened and started welcoming overnight guests. In a federal mandate, the National Lighthouse Preservation Act requires that to transfer ownership from the Coast Guard to a nonprofit, it has to be self-sustaining. All of the lodging fees from the rooms go toward the preservation.
The Coast Guard had planned to demolish the lighthouse as well, and install a single pole with a light at the top, Amero said. “That’s what the future of this beautiful structure would have been.”
Coulombe planned and organized the event. He provided the food, drinks, transportation and the 12 employees who were on the island for the event.
He explained what the ongoing preservation means to him. “The Cuckolds is a historic landmark. It marks the entrance to Boothbay Harbor, and I thought it would be too bad to lose this historic site. The only way we were able to preserve the lighthouse and the boathouse, and the house itself, was to do it privately through a nonprofit. I thought it was a worthwhile endeavor. That’s why I donated money, along with hundreds of other people.
“It’s a beautiful, outstanding lighthouse. The food is awesome, the rooms are perfect, and Mark and Heather are really wonderful people. You get five star amenities and five star food when you stay here.”
Coulombe said there’s a council and an eight-member board that makes decisions on and approves all expenses. “We continue to try to raise money to fund this project. The buildings are exposed to some pretty extreme weather, especially during the winter and hurricane season, and they take a real beating.” He said costs for maintenance and repairs run about $200,000 annually.
Mark and Heather were married on the island in June 2016. Heather said it was the first recorded wedding there. They stay on the island from mid-May to early October, and do everything themselves at the inn – the booking, the cleaning, the cooking, and most necessary maintenance. This is their third season as innkeepers.
The suites are generally booked the whole season. Last year, the rooms were 100 percent sold out with a waiting list of 25. “And this year we have about five dates left in September, and that’s it,” Heather said.
All proceeds from the event will go toward the Cuckolds Lighthouse and the ongoing preservation effort. The nonprofit continues to seek donations.