#WritePhoto: To the Lighthouse

I'm participating in the #WritePhoto challenge, a weekly bloghop challenge where KL Caley posts a photo on Thursday and you have until Tuesday to write and post a story. I got started on this one and can't seem to let go! Visit the challenge page to join in or to see what others  do with the prompt. 

#WRITEPHOTO – Lighthouse
Photo by KL Caley

This photo took me away from the serial I've been sporadically adding to for the past several months. I think the story I ended up with might equally well be titled, "Perspective."


The Lighthouse

“It’s a bit of a hike out here, isn’t it?” Anna offered a sort of cheerful apology.


Sylvia wasn’t happy, but she made an effort to be forgiving. “I don’t suppose you could tell from the photos on the web site. And it does sound romantic to stay in a real, working lighthouse.”


“Even if it is automated.”


“Well, that’s just as well. Would you want to have to climb up there and light the thing?” Sylvia considered the single low building next to the tower. “Are we in the light itself, or in that bleak-looking shed?”


Anna double-checked the reservation—printed, since she’d been warned there was no cell service. “The tower.”


“Good. That other place looks like the county jail back home.” Sylvia sighed and shifted her bag to her other hand and looked toward the edge of the pier. “I just hope you know what you’re doing. I’m not walking back down this if the waves are breaking over it.”


Anna shuddered. “Nor I.” She was towing a cooler with the hand not carrying her bag. “We’re all set for about 3 days, so we can wait if we have to.”


Their key opened the door at the base of the tower, and they stepped inside.


“Oh, my.” It was Anna, not Sylvia, who was dismayed now. “It’s kind of… bleak.”


“What did I tell you?” Her partner looked around. “Well, there’s a kitchenette and a bed, and two chairs that don’t look horribly uncomfortable.”


“And we can go up to the walkway around the light to admire the views.” She looked at the steep spiral stairs and shrugged. “Might be worth the climb.”




The lighthouse did have some charm, but it wasn’t comfortable, and on account of that it wasn’t a romantic retreat. They bickered a bit, with Anna always on the defensive because it had been her idea.


They eventually managed to light the oil stove. It didn’t make the place warm, but did cut the damp cold a bit.


Both of them admitted the view from the walkway by the light was about worth it. From up there they could look out to the emptiness of the North Sea, or back to the hills and the rocky coast and the tiny harbor the light protected. The flash of the light at night took some getting used to, but didn’t keep them awake.


The second afternoon the weather moved in. When the village disappeared, the foghorn came on.


There had been a line about that in the rental agreement. Something about it being a working light with the light always on and a horn in inclement weather. Anna hadn’t paid much attention.


At the first harsh hoot overhead they just about jumped out of their skins. Anna snuck a cautious look at Sylvia.


“It won’t do that all night, will it?”


Anna didn’t know.


The horn sounded again. It wasn’t the sort of noise one got used to.


By the end of a half an hour, as the dim light of the stormy afternoon was fading, Anna surrendered. “Maybe we should go find a place in the village?”


Sylvia moved to the window and peered out. A wave crashed against the sea wall and water poured over it. “Too late.”


All night they cursed the foghorn. In the morning the storm had passed. Visibility improved and the horn at last stopped—in time for them to leave the gawdawful spot that had ruined a promising relationship. They walked back along the long breakwater without speaking, silently loathing the lighthouse and its foghorn.




“Visibility’s dropping.”


Kit’s words sent a chill through Alex. They’d lost power an hour before. Not only were they sail only, but they’d lost their navigation. If they couldn’t see the lights along the coast, their chances of making harbor were slim to none. Staying out here in the rising wind and waves wasn’t appealing either. This little boat was never meant to be in a storm on the North Sea.


They fought the wind and the waves and the darkness for hours. Every minute Alex and Kit expected the boat to crash into the rocks; the wind was determined to drive them ashore. Exhaustion seeped into them until arms and legs were wet noodles and still they kept at it.


Alex was up front, tightening a loose rope.


The sound cut through the storm noise.


It was hard to hear over the wind. Did people ashore know how loud the wind was? Here they were with no motors or anything, that silent sailboat skimming over the water that people were always romanticizing about. They were deafened by the noise of the storm, but maybe there was something?


Yes! “Kit! I hear a foghorn!” Kit couldn’t hear a full bellow. Alex followed the safety line back to the cockpit. Soaked to the skin, the cold seeped into the bones and the shaking made it hard to move safely.


Kit had heard it, too. They huddled over the chart, Kit clinging to the tiller while Alex clung to the laminated chart and the flashlight, so they could find the right lighthouse.


“There. That one. And if we’re shot full of luck, we might make it.”


“It’s getting closer.”


“Keep steering for it. Poseidon grant we’ll see the light before we crash into the seawall.” The light stood at the end of a long breakwater.


Kit looked at Alex in the dim light that didn’t illuminate thoughts or feelings. “Can you go back to the bows? Look for the light, and keep listening. Keep that lighthouse ahead of us and to the right. Or, if you’re too tired, I could.”


“You’re better at the helm. I’ll go. Watch for hand signals; you’ll never hear me shout in all this.”


When, at last, the beam of light shone through the storm, just where it should be, Alex would have cried, if exhaustion hadn’t made it too much work.


When the little boat slid behind the breakwater and the waves calmed, each of them drew the first unstrained breath in hours. Alex stayed put until a buoy showed on the starboard bow. They hooked it and tied off, not caring whose it was. The waves still tossed them around, but they were safe.


Alex more or less fell into the cockpit, and they staggered below and fell into the bunks.


The foghorn sounded.


“That’s the most wonderful sound I ever heard.”


“Agreed. It’s got to be the most beautiful lighthouse on this whole coast.”


They slept.




Anna turned as Sylvia drove them up the road away from the village, and looked back.


“Ugly place, really.”


“Ugly noise that horn made, for sure.”


“That’s a pretty sailboat in the harbor, though. Lucky them—I’ll bet they weren’t kept awake all night by the blasted horn.


No one stirred on the boat as the car crested the hill and the harbor passed out of sight.




©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.
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