Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Middle Bay Lighthouse Onsite Inspection Made 9/7/2007

Subj: Middle Bay Lighthouse Inspection report Sep 7 2007

You can see All of the Photos made of the lighthouse on this trip and decide about its current condition yourself, by visiting the following link:

Middle Bay Lighthouse Inspection Report Knight Shurden and Warren Lee made a trip out to Mobiles Middle Bay Lighthouse to close the open doors and since we were onsite we did a visual inspection of the lighthouse and photo documented the present condition of the Lighthouse on Sep 7 2007. This narrative documents that trip.It is just my opinion and is unofficial in ever aspect and has not been approved by the Alabama Lighthouse Associations or endorsed by them. While on the lighthouse the U.S. Coast Guard Aid to Navigation Team (ANTS) came by in the channel and challenged us as to what we were doing.We asked them to please close the doors to the lighthouse when they find them open. We have never had to do more than tell them that we are with the ALA on these trips. However It would be great if we had some kind of ID cards to present to them each time.We carried an extension ladder with us and used it to gain access to the lighthouse. The boarding is much safer now with the wooden platform on the North side.We approached and placed the extension ladder on the platform. Secured our bow line to the platform and easily climbed aboard the lighthouse.Winds were SE at 10 and there was no danger of our vessel swinging into the platform or lighthouse.Kudos to the US CG for the platform. For future visits a 16ft extension ladder would be more than long enough for this task. And perhaps 1/2 of a 16ft extension ladder would do.We took a 20ft ladder and it was much more than we needed. I can stand on the platform and reach the walkway with my hands.We arrived at Middle Bay Lighthouse at noon today and remained at the lighthouse for three hours. The general condition of the structure can only be classified as poor. There is much evidence of dry rot and wet rot throughout the structure. Several windows had holes rotted through the windowsills on the exterior of the building.The exterior hand railings are missing in several places and seem to be quite unsound in other places. The exterior walkway is in need of repairs as well. Boards are loose missing and damaged from the effects of the hurricanes.The entire building is in a general state of disrepair and needs immediate attention to these problems. There is rain entering the structure through the hurricane damaged doors and windows and most likely through the roof as well. Several slate roofing tile pieces were found along the perimeter walkway. We did not attempt to unlock the roof hatch and inspect the roof in detail.The aluminum stairs are OK and are inside the structure locked to the floor, the roof hatch remains locked and secure.All window glass is intact although not water tight and in need of resealing in places. and all the windows and doors are now shut. All doors and many windows show signs of not being weather tight and there are signs of water leaking into the lighthouse from the rain.The steel and iron under the lighthouse, are in dire need of a good rust treatment, and need painting or repair. Deterioration can be seen that is significant in some of the beams from heavy rusting. One of the walkway supporting beams is broken in half. One area of the interior floor is raised and may indicate supporting beam displacement in this location as well. We might consider installing additional collision avoidance lighting on the structure. We witnessed barge traffic outside of the ship channel passing the lighthouse to the East side while we were there.If this is common practice this would place the lighthouse right in the middle of barge traffic. The push was two barges long and laden with coal. They passed less than one hundred yards to the East to the lighthouse.One of the diagonal braces on the eastern most side of the lighthouse is broken and missing, several other braces show evidence of being damaged by the ropes that boats use when tying off to them. Piles could be installed in a circle around the lighthouse and stainless or galv cable could be ran through them to prevent this kind of damage from occurring. Boaters could secure their boats to the cables preventing damage to the lighthouse.This historic structure has been reported to be one of four of its kind left in the United States. A rare and endangered resource that is worthy of saving. Perhaps a keeper could be retained to live at the structure during the spring, summer and fall and serve as caretaker and repairman until such time as the lighthouse is in proper shape.We took 226 photographs documenting this trip, I can make any of these available on CD or via Email if needed.Summary of work that is apparently needed.Remove paint from exterior and repair rotten wood around all doors and windows, Caulk all exterior doors and windows, prime and paint.Repair walk ways, reattach loose areas, prime and paint top and bottom.Remove, replace what remains of the hand rail system. Paint the new railings 1 coat primer, two coats finish.Sweep interior of structure.Remove layers of paint from all interior surfaces, repair dry rot, wet rot areas through out. Prime and paintInstall new anodes on lighthouse.Install solar powered collision markers on structure. One per sideInspect roof, repair missing slates.Repair rotten wood on eaves caulk prime and paint.Repair davit supports that are bent by heating and straightening, then reattach them to the lighthouse. Caulk and seal the entry points.I would estimate that at least twenty cases of caulking are needed to recaulk this building properly perhaps more. (200+ tubes)The grinding off of a lot of the old paint is needed both inside and out due to the many layers of peeling paint.The thickness of the supporting piles needs to be documented and tracked so that they are not allowed to reach the point where we will lose the structure during a hurricane. Have we done this yet?This should give all of us some idea of the general condition of the structure at this time. We were not prepared to remain at the lighthouse long enough to create a full and complete list.The rotten wood on the outside around the windows and doors, rotten eaves, and exterior caulking and painting appear to be the most critical to the lighthouse's longevity. Followed by treating the rust on the supporting beams under the lighthouse and painting them.
Warren Lee