Thursday, April 28, 2016

Beavertail Lighthouse--My Inspiration

In 1948, when I was two-and-a-half years old, my family sailed up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my uncle Byron Personeus' gospel mission boat, the Fairtide II, to begin missions work. Throughout my childhood, I lived on the water in towns such as Juneau, Pelican, and Seward.

Maybe that's why I've always felt a special connection with the restless waves of the sea. In seventh grade, I choose to memorize John Masefield's poem, "Sea Fever," for an assignment in school. I can still recite most of it.

A few months after our wedding in Valdez, Alaska, also on the water, in June of 1967, my husband, Bob, went on active duty in the Army. On our second anniversary, he left for a year-long tour in the Vietnam War.

Then, we were sent to Rhode Island, where he commanded a small Army detachment that provided high-level security for 250 civilian personnel at the facility where the strategic world map was made.

Aerial of Beavertail Courtesy
That's when we discovered Beavertail Lighthouse at the southern end of Conanicut Island in the mouth of Narragansett Bay, a body of water which nearly cuts the state in half. Whenever we could get away, we headed south to Beavertail.

After our son was born, we'd bundle him up in his stroller and walk around the point on the one-lane gravel road. If the wind was too strong or it was raining--the best times to watch the surf crash against the the rocks, we'd sit in the car.

After two years, we were transferred from Rhode Island to Arizona. Then, Bob resigned his commission to study for the ministry in Springfield, Missouri. But always we longed for the sea.

In 1977, we returned to the East Coast to start a church in Upstate New York. Whenever we could get away, we drove to Rhode Island to visit Beavertail. For the past 25 years, that is where we've spent every wedding anniversary.

When we first get out of the car, the scent of salt water and blooming wild roses mingle in the wind. We climb down to our favorite spot where we love to sit on the rocks just above the water.

The ever-changing sea always fascinates me. Silently, I recite "Sea Fever." The breakers churn in endless succession against the rocks. Strangely, the restless sea and the mesmerizing rhythm of the surging waves soothe my spirit.

Waves at Beavertail Courtesy
The crashing surf foams and hisses as the waves charge against the rocks, explode into spray, and tumble into tidal pools, fracturing their tranquility. White threads of foam lace the ebbing waves like delicate embroidery on tapestries of blue and teal and gray.

Seagulls scream overhead. One suddenly swoops down to pluck a tiny, wriggling crab from a nearby tidal pool in the rocks and carries it to a higher boulder. There, it pecks vigorously at it to break its shell. Another gull lands nearby, stretches its neck, beak open, and squawks its request for a share in the meager meal.

The Author at Beavertail
The breeze flings spray from a crashing wave, wetting my face. The sun hides behind a puffy cloud, and I feel a chill. Just when I decide to put on my jacket, sunbeams spill out and warmth envelopes me again.

Beavertail is where the idea for my Alaskan Waters series was born. The nearby town of Jamestown is the opening setting for the first scenes in Till the Storm Passes By, and Beavertail plays a key role. The colors of the sea became Evie's favorites, the sea a recurring theme.

With time for ideas to free fall, the plot settled into place along with the sequence for the series of novels.

Once again, as our anniversary nears, my thoughts turn to Beavertail. "I must go down to the sea again; to the lonely sea and the sky...."

 About Beavertail

The lighthouse received its name from the beaver-like shape of the island, with its tail at the southern end. Beavertail was the third lighthouse (after Boston Harbor and Nantucket) to be built in the American Colonies. The southern point of Conanicut Island is open to the onslaught of the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. Winter storms and hurricanes make it extremely treacherous to ships trying to make harbor in Newport or Providence and was notorious for shipwrecks.

The lighthouse itself, rebuilt in 1863, a square granite tower, is not the most picturesque of lighthouses. Today, Beavertail is a state park with a paved road. Its popularity lies in the fact that it is easily accessible with numerous parking areas from which one can view the waves even when its too stormy to leave one's car.

Till the Storm Passes By, Book One in my Alaskan Waters series of historical novels, can be purchased in trade paperback or e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or go to my website,, for other options. A Star to Steer By, Book Two, is also available, and I'm currently working on Book Three, Beside Still Waters.


  1. I loved your post, AnnaLee! Now I know why you love this spot. I would too! Blessings as you write book three.

    1. Thank you, Deb! You and I share a love of the sea.