The Digby Pier light is back in Digby.
It took a few scallops, some cranes, some head scratching and a few deep breaths—but the light is back.
A troop of 30 Digby residents led by Mayor Ben Cleveland took the 8 a.m. ferry to Saint John on Friday, Oct. 19 to oversee the lifting and shipping of their lighthouse.
The 86-year-old structure originally sat on the end of the pier in Digby welcoming ferry passengers and fishermen alike until 1970. The Coast Guard stopped operating the light in the mid-60s and moved it to the Saint John Coast Guard base in 1970 for storage.
Digby mayor Ben Cleveland says he always knew our light was over there.
“I came over for hockey games or for sailing trips and we always knew of it as Digby’s light,” he explained to a scrum of reporters in Saint John.
Three years ago he first brought it up to then mayor of Saint John Ivan Court. After a few trips back and forth across the Bay and many phone calls, Saint John agreed to let Digby have it back.
Saint John has plans for that part of the waterfront anyway and was going to have to move the lighthouse anyway.
Saint John agreed to send the lighthouse back on the condition that Digby send 200 pounds of scallops and assume the costs of moving and shipping the lighthouse.
Digby sent 230 pounds of scallops worth about $2,500.
When the Digby crew arrived in Saint John a pink double-decker waited to bring them downtown.
At the Market Square another surprise awaited them. Hundreds of Saint Johners were lined up for three scallops each, a hotdog and a bottle of pop.
After a brief ceremony, the Digby crew rolled up their sleeves and set to work.
Councillor Brian Manzer led the work crew made up of town CAO Tom Ossinger and retired RCMP staff Sergeant Phil Barrett.
Their first job was to remove the glass lens from the tower, then the skirting and then the roof and window structure.
Seaside Transportation and MacDonald Cranes of Saint John lifted the roof off and then hoisted the 5-ton structure into position on a flat bed trailer. While the frame and floor of the lighthouse were overbuilt and intact, the upper portions of the lighthouse were quite soft.
Manzer built a crib to support the lighthouse and the Digby crew held their breath as the cranes laid the 22-foot high structure down on its side on a lowboy flatbed trailer.
After the first attempt, measurements showed the top of the lighthouse was 15’ 7” off the ground but the opening into the ferry is only 15’ 5”.
A quick readjustment gave them a couple inches and the lighthouse was driven the short ride to the ferry.
“Bay Ferries didn’t have ‘lighthouse’ on their schedule of prices so they didn’t know what to charge me,” said Cleveland, as a way of saying Bay Ferries gave the lighthouse free passage.
Although the lighthouse went down into the ferry with no problem, it did have trouble advancing through the hold.
The ferry left about an hour late.
The lighthouse spent its first night in Digby in the ferry terminal parking lot. Saturday morning, Oct. 20, work crews moved it to the town public works compound on Sydney street.
Tidal Boat Works and Robert Robicheau’s Treeline Project helped with the lift here.
Cleveland has cleaned up the lens and will be storing that at the Admiral Digby Museum.
He says the lighthouse will be renovated this winter and prepared for its new home.
Construction should begin on a new breakwater north of the Digby wharf this January. Cleveland says contractors have a year to build the breakwater but they plan to be done by June.
“This lighthouse will be sitting on the exact footprint where it was 40 years ago,” said the mayor. “Where it will be a tourist icon.”
The mayor is planning a ‘Let’s get lit’ party for June.