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  • Heather Prosa

Not on Our Watch!

”Not on our watch!” proclaims The Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society, a Bahamian non- profit established in 2014 to save Hope Town’s Elbow Reef Light from automation. But the Society now faces an increasingly uphill battle due to Hurricane Dorian’s onslaught in 2019.

Elbow Cay, Abaco’s circa 1863 Elbow Reef Lightstation which appears on the $10 bill, is the last of 11 British Imperial Lightstations of The Bahamas to remain completely intact and the last of its kind in the world.

Still without electrical power, a near 14 months post-Dorian and suffering through delays of supplies, materials and labour due to Covid-19, a team of five women who comprise the Society’s management continue to press on with relentless optimism. "We will NEVER tell our children a sad tale about how we let the last of The Bahamas Imperial Lighthouses fall into total disrepair. We work to save Elbow Reef and have committed to continue to restore it for all Bahamians to cherish.” states the Society who is having to fundraise for repairs now estimated upwards of $800,000.

Overseeing the restoration, Mrs. Kent LeBoutillier explains "We lost all of the roofs on seven outbuildings and our gift shop was nearly destroyed. Losing the dock in the storm made any repair work much more difficult. If it were not for the Rotary Disaster Commit- tee’s $37,000 worth of roofing donations, our principal lighthouse keeper would still not have a roof over his home.”

Entrusted by the Port Department, The Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society (formerly the Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society) is the lightstation’s infrastructural custodian, tasked with the oversight and ongoing preservation and restoration of the Lighthouse and Lightstation itself. As a credit to the ERLS’s efforts, this national monument has stayed true to its historical past as a fully-working, non-automated aid to navigation. It is the only remaining lightstation in The Bahamas to have been continuously manned and operated since its construction.

Members of the ERLS Team fabricated a large banner to commemorate the 1 year anniversary of Dorian on September 1st, 2020.

Had it not been for the pre-Dorian work of the Society during which metalwork was rein- forced and weatherglass was replaced (2017), the lighthouse would have certainly lost its priceless Fresnel lens and turning machinery at great loss to all Bahamians.

The true story of dedication, devastation and devotion of Keeper Jeffery Forbes, Jr. and members of the ERLS Team can be seen in new full length documentary, the "Kerosene Keeper" by Bahamian filmmaker Tyler Roberts, available on YouTube, click on:

The new dock has been completed at the Elbow Reef Lightstation. Hope Town United, donated $38,000 towards its construction along with $10,000 from the Ministry of Tourism and $5,000 from The Hon. James Albury, Minister of Parliament representing Abaco. Other private donors responsible for the dock are Lighthouse Marina and J.G. Ray Jr. of Hope Town.

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