A mile and a half off the coast of Massachusetts and twenty miles southeast of Boston Harbor, Minots Ledge Lighthouse protects the shipping lanes for miles around. The lighthouse rests upon the rocky reef known as Cohasset Rocks. This lethal ledge caused the death of many sailors and the wreckage of countless ships over the years. Between 1833-1841 over a hundred square-rigged ships and over three hundred schooners were lost with insurance claims of over $150,000,000. In addition, most of the three thousand sailors who were shipwrecked perished at that ship-killing shoal. No one has ever tried to estimate the cost in lost lives or vessels that were smaller than the schooners.Because of the enormous losses, something had to be done to protect the shipping lanes. In 1851, a light ship was put on station, but a small storm took it out of commission. The sunken light ship was replaced with a lighthouse in 1860. Since then, many times Minots Ledge Lighthouse has been repaired and updated.
Several years ago, the Coast Guard planned to install a new, state-of-the-art computer to automate the lighthouse's operations. They announced that they would discontinue the traditional 1-4-3 signal with a standardized computerized beacon. A great outcry went up from the local residents like a hurricane roaring up the coast. No one was going to change their lighthouse with any standardized signal. The old one was good enough for those in that part of the country. What was so special about Minots Ledge's signal?
The 1-4-3 signal was a Morse Code like signal that stood for this simple sentence, "I love you." Sailors and residents of this part of the Atlantic coastline were not going to have the Coast Guard replace this loving and warm message with generic flashes of light. Just knowing that their lighthouse was signaling to them, "I love you," was important to those who live along and sailed off that stretch of the New England coast. They were so troubled about the change that they were able to pressure the federal government to drop the planned updating of their lighthouse. If you are sailing off the coast of Boston Harbor, by day or night, in good or bad weather, you will receive that caring message from the lighthouse at Minots Ledge: "I love you."
This story also sheds light into our lives. I think that people got upset by the proposed change because so many of us feel so lost and alone in our fast-paced and fractured world. Perhaps that one statement, "I love you," was the only affirmation of concern that some people regularly receive. Maybe their wives or husbands were too busy or the kids were too much into their own thing to flash that loving statement to them.
We all sail perilous seas in life and often get lost and are unable to get our bearings. As a result, we become shipwrecked upon unforgiving obstacles just below the surface and out of sight. We need to get outraged about there not being enough lighthouses out there sending similar messages of love to those that are lost and alone. Some friends and family members may be floundering out there wanting only to receive from the stormy sea of life this signal of hope. Even if we are now safe in a harbor of love and security, there are others out there who still have to navigate treacherous courses through their turbulent seas of despair.
We need to be out there for others who are in danger with our signal: 143. Each of us knows that feeling of hopelessness in their seas of desperation. We all have experienced the desperate desire to have someone care for us as we are tossed by the ravages of the storms of our personal lives. Having been there and knowing firsthand what it is like, we need to become beacons upon the troubled waters of life. No one should go down to the sea without knowing that there are those out there who are concerned about them.
We can become human lighthouses to one another. We can supply light in darkness, hope amid despair, and direction when lost. We also need to be reassured by the message of warmth and care that is sent by the Minots Ledge Lighthouse to all sailing in their sea of life, "I love you."
Happy Valentine's Day and 143.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph.