Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Our first large snowfall of the winter and the last for 2012, has turned Swallow Tail into a white world punctuated with red and surrounded by blue. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year.

Swallow Tail looking toward the east.

Swallow Tail from Pettes Cove

Area near the stairs

Cloe-up of Swallow Tail lighthouse

John's bench covered in snow.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Illustrated story of water damage

The southern porch on the keepers house is one of my favourite rooms.  On sunny days the multiple windows act like a green house, warming up the room to very comfortable temperatures even without heat on.  However, it was also one of the most damaged rooms in the entire duplex.  Other than the water damage from the flashing leaking around the western chimney, no where was there as much water damage as in the southern porch.

Southern porch on keepers house - sun porch
Some of the problem was the windows.  The storm windows were missing, much of the window glazing was gone or in bad shape letting water in, and the single pane windows sweat and frost over.  The ceiling showed signs of water damage from the roof.  The roof itself had two layers, asphalt shingles and rolled roofing but still the water came in.  The walls were often wet after it rained and the dry wall was crumbling and mouldy.  The window trim was turning black in places from the constant water penetration.

The first attempt to stop the water coming in was to strip all the roofing material and reshingle it but water still came in.  The cedar shingles were peculiar under two windows that are over the southern porch, much too thick than they should be so it was decided to tear off the cedar shingles under the windows and see what was going on.  Once the step flashing was exposed, where it was attached to the walls of the house, great holes in it were visible, however, the flashing extending under the asphalt shingles looked good.  This was definitely one of the sources of water penetration and because the boards run diagonally, water from anywhere along the step flashing would be directed into the walls in the sun porch on both sides because the boarding changed directions in the middle of the house with both sides directing water back to the sun porch.
Corroded flashing under the cedar shingles. 
Keepers house during construction in 1958.  Note the diagonal sheathing boards.
Investigating where the water was getting in - not under the window but from above and travelling down the diagonal sheathing into the southern porch.
Looking at the water damage on the inside of the southern porch walls, coming from the main house (blackened wood).
The peculiar thick shingles were explained by a lack of knowledge of the person who tried to fix the leaks at one point, perhaps when the southern porch roof was reshingled and flashing replaced.  Instead of tapering the ends of each shingle as they worked up the wall, full thickness shingles were layered on top of each other causing the thickness to become unwieldy.  The shingles also did not extend up into the groove under the window sill allowing water to be blown up and under the shingles and thence down the walls.  The shingles between the two windows above the sun porch were bulging so the entire wall was stripped and the flashing replaced.
Incorrect layering of cedar shingles above the southern porch which covered corroded flashing.
Stripping off all of the cedar shingles and flashing above the roof on the southern porch to redo and stop the water penetration into the southern porch.
New step flashing.  The roof had been reshingled and the new shingles had to be removed so the flashing could be replaced.  The corroded flashing couldn't be seen because of the incorrect layering of the cedar shingles.

Flashing under the windows as an added precaution from wind driven rain.

Cedar shingle debris from stripping above the southern porch between two windows.

Completing the cedar shingling after repairs. Plywood covered windows until new storm windows could be installed to prevent an additional source of water penetration.

The original door was returned to the sun porch replacing a steel door that no longer opened or closed from swollen door frames.  The intent was admirable to try to stop the water damage by installing a steel door but without a storm door, water still came in on the floor and the three layers of floor boards were water soaked and rotting.  Although the bottom floor boards looked okay from the cold rooms in the basement, the wood was very punky and a large section had to be torn out.
Returning the original wooden door to the southern porch.  This had been replaced by a steel door but did not solve the problem of water coming in under the door because there was no storm door.

Reglazing windows after old door was returned.
Damage to floor inside the southern porch from years of water coming in under the door.

Removing the subfloor in the southern porch to replace the rot.  The upper layer was a new product in 1958, MDF or particle board.

Patch in the subfloor.  The southern porch sits over the cold rooms in the basement.

Carrying out the plywood for the southern porch floor.

The water damage was worse on the western side of the sun porch than the eastern side which is easily explained by the protection of the hill on the eastern side from driving south east rain storms but the entire porch had signs of water damage.

In the end, some of the dry wall and insulation was removed, the floor was stripped down to the subfloor and even some of that had to be replaced.  The roof was reshingled and the cedar shingles replaced.  The windows have been reglazed and storm windows installed  A storm door and weather stripping were installed.    The floor still needs to be tiled and the walls and ceiling painted and the trim and doors varnished.  Interestingly we found that the sun porch was poorly insulated with some sections completely missed, perhaps during one of the attempts to repair the water damage.
Cleaning out the drywall and insulation under the windows to make repairs.

Replacing insulation under windows.  Some of the windows were removed to complete the reglazing.  The paint was removed from the trim because it was originally varnished.

Drywall and vapour barrier has been returned, as are windows after reglazing. Layers of peeling paint on the walls also had to be scraped off, revealing the original paint colour.

Friday, December 28, 2012

August Swallow Tail Concert

We were fortunate to have three musicians (Nora Suggs, Rebecca Brown and Mary Ogletree ) from the Satori Chamber Music ensemble ( in Pennsylvania, perform August 11 at Covert Hall. These musicians play violin, flute, mandolin, tin whistle and shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, in a wide range of musical genre, from Irish jigs to Baroque to Japanese traditional folk music.

Satori Trio: Nora Suggs, Rebecca Brown, Mary Ogletree
The very talented young man, Alexandre Banks, also participated, playing fiddle and step dancing.
Alexandre Banks playing his fiddle
Paul Lauzon ( made a surprise addition, a prelude to his solo concert the next night. He has written a number of songs about Grand Manan and its residents and entertained the audience with a couple of these. He is an Associate Professor of Music Therapy at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

Paul Lauzon playing guitar and singing one of his Grand Manan ballads
It was an enjoyable evening and raised some additional funds to help us with the restoration of the Swallow Tail property.

We are always interested in highlighting musicians in these August concerts and we are indebted to their kindness for performing without pay.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Logo in the Grass

There are many footpaths that meander around the Swallow Tail peninsula, particularly from the light house and beyond as people explore the various vantages and seacapes. There are no particular routes other than those dictated by the topography.

One pattern caught our attention near the lighthouse and immediately reminded us of a very familiar pattern,  a logo most people with a computer will be familiar.

See what you think:

Add the colours:

And Viola! The Microsoft Windows logo.

International Lighthouse and Light Ship Weekend

Sterling Carpenter, Art McKay and Rick MacMillan stayed at the keepers house August 17-19 to again participate in the annual International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend ( . They set up their radios and tried to contact as many other amateur radio operators also set up at lighthouses around the world. Swallow Tail has its own call numbers: VE9SJH

Sterling Carpenter and Rick MacMillan setting up the antennae at Swallow Tail

Running the wires for the short wave radio antennae
Rick MacMillan testing his short wave radio
They have been with the Swallow Tail project for several years now and appreciate the improvements every year. They are avid campers and have put up with the living conditions in the keepers house in the past but they were pleasantly surprised by an operational kitchen and bathrooms, no plywood on the windows, more furniture, and the new picnic tables and benches.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Changing, Always Captivating Views of Swallow Tail

Thousands of photographs of Swallow Tail are taken each year.  It seems to be ever changing and can be viewed from endless angles. We still grab our camera when yet another amazing shot occurs.

This is a selection of photographs taken between May and October, 2012.

Controlled burn of brush
"Grand Manan Adventure" ferry rounding the Swallow Tail peninsula
Gulls waiting for spent lobster bait
Net Point buoy
Whales-n-Sails whale watch boat "Elsie Menota" rounding Swallow Tail
Top poles of a herring weir on a foggy day
Full moon rising
Rainbow in Pettes Cove

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Commemorative Bench

John MacKenzie was a vibrant young man from Grand Manan who lived life to the fullest. He died accidentally in 1989 cutting short a life that was full of promise. His 25th high school reunion was celebrated this year and the class got together to make a lasting tribute to John. They chose Swallow Tail as the location and had a log bench constructed with a plaque:


In loving memory of John MacKenzie 1969-1989

The Class of ‘87

We moved one of our lobster trap style benches to another location so this bench would have the best view of the Swallow Tail peninsula. Many visitors had the pleasure of using the bench this summer and in turn, contemplated who John MacKenzie was.

John's parents, Jack and Verna, live on Grand Manan and his brother, Chris, lives in Saint John.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Returning the Storm Windows to the Keepers House

Keepers house as it looked in the spring of 2008 with boarded windows and peeling paint.
We were very pleased to have 21 custom-built wooden storm windows constructed and installed in the keepers house this September. We had salvaged a few storms that had not been discarded in the past but were still short most of the storms.

One of the original storm windows for the keepers house that was stored in the boathouse.
On the upper storey, the storm windows had been replaced with aluminum storms in the 1970s but these storm windows had been removed after the light station was destaffed and the house was operated as a Bed and Breakfast. This caused all sorts of water damage in the house over the years because of the extreme weather on the Swallow Tail peninsula which is unforgiving, and without storm windows, the original wooden windows could not be kept waterproof. Re-glazing these windows certainly helped but the storm windows were really necessary. Taking down the plywood for the last time, knowing that this would not compromise the interior of the house was a real pleasure.

New wooden storm windows being painted.
Wooden windows are not easy to purchase anymore with most people preferring vinyl. However, vinyl window inserts are not part of the history of the buildings and in keeping with the age of the structure, we had the storm windows constructed by Schell Lumber in Ontario. They still have all the equipment to make wooden windows and do a great job. The fellow who makes the windows is 83 and can turn them out very quickly.  Tom Murison, who is a restoration architect in Ontario, delivered the windows and craftfully installed them.
Tom Murison fitting new wooden storm windows with Michael Anderson looking on.
Each window had to be painted before installation. Although all the windows are of similar dimensions, slight variations occur and each window had to be fitted. Hinges were attached at the top so they could be pushed open to allow air flow in the summer but still protect the inner windows. We sealed them for the winter just to be on the safe side. 

Tom Murison installing hinges on new wooden storm windows.
The last windows that need to be addressed are the two sliding patio doors installed when the house operated as a Bed and Breakfast and gave access to the deck. We hope to install French doors that look like the original windows but still allow that access.

Keepers house as it looked in 1986, just after the lightstation was destaffed.

Rescued Bench and Fog Bell Clapper

We were very disappointed when one of the wooden lobster trap style benches went missing this spring. It was situated to the east of the lighthouse and was a favourite for many people. We had looked from above and from the water but couldn’t find it.

Wooden lobster trap style bench.  Each one has a unique, spectacular view.
This August, a family from Holland were exploring below the lighthouse on the rocks and found the bench lodged in a crevice. We were able to recover the bench and on the climb back up, the clapper mechanism for the fog bell was also discovered in the rocks. It is a bit bent but should be fixable. This was the last clapper mechanism for the bell and stood to the side of the bell and hit the bell on the outside. A chip developed in the bell because of it.

Fog bell and external clapper mechanism.  Photograph taken by Mary Catherine Edwards in the mid-1960s.
Divots in the rim of the fog bell caused by external clapper.
Earlier clapper that hung inside the fog bell.  Photograph provided by Jodie Graham.
An earlier clapper that hung under the bell was also recovered in 2009 when the soil was removed from around the lighthouse as part of the soil mediation project to remove lead and bismuth, components of paint prior to 1970. The clapper had been left on the ground and gradually disappeared as the grass grew over it.

Ken Ingersoll putting the final touches on the wooden lobster trap style bench where it was located near the lighthouse.
The bench survived with only minor damage to some of the boards. It is now sitting on the keepers house deck. Another bench was built to replace this one when we didn’t realize the bench was just in hiding!

People using the replacement bench near the lighthouse, which is bolted to the rocks.
Rescued wooden lobster trap style bench now located on the keepers house deck.