Thursday, July 30, 2009

She Finally Got There

She being me. There being Thacher Island.

Six a.m. is not a good time for me! Off went the alarm clock and I knew I could not ignore it. I had a bit of readying to do before heading down to T-Wharf to catch my 8 a.m. Thacher Island launch. Things like grabbing those tools, that might be useful, that I thought of at 2 a.m.! Oh, and a shower, breakfast, and pack a lunch, and the bug spray...just in case. I was ready to board at 7:45, once the reservationist remembered my name (on her list and we had talked 3 times the day before...I think I see a trend). The launch got fueled up and loaded up. 15 workers and crew trying to sit amidst weed wackers, tool kits, building siding, some screening and dowels, a few sweet corn plants, extra gasoline, a dog (yes) named Lucy, and a stack of life jackets! It was sunny, humid, and promising to be a scorcher. My kind of day.

Then we rounded Gap Head and the skies were hazy and grey. There was a chop on the water and fog in the distance. I put on my sweatshirt. The spray from the ocean, as we headed out the nearly mile offshore, was chilly. So much for tanning if I finished my work early.

We were met at the boat ramp (actually hauled up it to secure the boat) by the Keepers and the Intern Keepers. Keeper Sylvia, who had wrangled the spot for me on the boat and plays the organ the most, invited me to join everyone for coffee and donuts at the guest house. While she and the others unloaded the rest of the gear, I hauled mine to the Principal Keeper's House. (the white building) I was anxious to see what was wrong (and right) with the organ. By the time the entourage of workers reached the house, I had opened the organ and fixed the stuck key. Nothing more than a bit of debris giving it a grab while depressed! I had also found that, indeed, the knee swell linkage was broken. The end of the seesaw of the linkage had snapped off. This piece of the linkage is much too thin and delicate a piece of wood to endure the forces against it. Especially now that it is well over a hundred years old!

Coffee time gave me thinking time and afterward Sylvia and I headed for the organ to remove and fix the linkage. This required unscrewing the entire 'guts' to the organ and sliding them back in the case about an inch and a bit more in order to remove the one pivot screw holding the wooden linkage arm. That done, I set about the gluing and reinforcing job while Sylvia worked on fixing a lamp near the organ. I also traced a pattern of the wooden part and took a couple photos. I'll be making the part out of steel or brass in case the repair fails in the future. I can almost guarantee that it will due to the wood being so thin. We put the organ back together, examining it well to see what the winter cold had done. The island is unmanned from October through June and the buildings are unheated.

All in all, the condition was not too bad. Seems mostly altered by the excessive humidity rather than the extreme cold. The repaired soundboard has expanded at the former cracks and is bulging a bit. I am glad that beyond the epoxy repairs, I had made 'band-aids' from pneumatic cloth to cover the exterior of the cracks. The cloth is now trapped down in the cracks as the humid wood forced the splits even further closed. The edge of the soundboard, at the bulge, is still sealed and a permanent repair will be made in September when, hopefully, I can get out there again! A small strip of wood on the back side of the music rack has swelled, warped and partially come unglued and needs to be reglued and clamped come September. And again on that upcoming trip, the back of the organ needs to either be run through the tablesaw or be hand-planed at the top edge. It swelled so much we had to use a mallet on the inside to bang it open for removal and now it won't fit back in no matter how hard we try to wedge and bang it in to place. At least that's not necessary for the organ to function.

Around noon time we all gathered at the boat house to relax over lunch. At 1 p.m. the worker volunteers what back to sawing, painting, mowing, repairing, and I boarded the boat with a load of tourists for the trip back to T-Wharf. While on the island the skies had cleared. The trip back was nice and toasty! Now I have started writing an article for the Reed Organ Society Quarterly about Thacher Island's Smith-American reed organ.Old photograph of Thacher taken at about the same time as the Smith-American organ was built. (And for those of you picky sorts, the photo is labeled wrong in my computer. It is vintage 1890 not 1690 as some of you may have noticed.)


Kippers Dickie said...

Do you know? I feel just a little bit sorry for that lovely organ.. just sitting there on his/her own, in the damp, and in the cold for all that time.
You are lucky to still have light-house keepers. Over here they have ALL been replaced by computers. I think we lost our last manned light-house a couple of years ago.

deb said...

Ummm, got a call yesterday morning. Seems she noticed a couple more sticking keys. Shall have to make another trip. Also I've made a replacement linkage. What a shame to have to go again! (grin)
I believe that both lights are automated. The Coast Guard gave them up and the town took over as a tourist attraction. The North Tower is owned by the Fish and Wildlife somethingorother but the Thacher Island Association maintains it. Town owns the South Tower. We also were just granted ownership of the Straitsmouth Light nearer the mouth of Rockport harbor.

Kippers Dickie said...

I can see another trip on google earth is called for to 'sus' these lighthouses out.

deb said...

Yup, and don't forget to check out the link to the Thacher Island website in my sidebar.