My name is Spence and I am a lighthouse keeper. I live on an island 365 days a year and watch the light and the waves. It is a very unique profession and automation has taken this job away from many in the past all over the world.

Canada still has staffed lightstations, both on the west coast and the east coast and I am lucky enough to find myself as one of the few who still do this job. Maybe you have some questions for me?

My proof: Reddit Proof

I want to thank everyone for participating, it was pretty awesome. I am going to take care of things but feel free to leave further questions at any time and I will answer them when I can.

Thank you Reddit/r/IAmA.

Comments: 280 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

Amelanchie111 karma

That's interesting. Can you please describe a typical day?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper181 karma

certain stations are set up different depending on the principal keeper. They are essentially your all powerful god on a station.

Currently, I wake at 3am, go outside and monitor the weather, check to make sure the light is still on and then report the weather over the radio telephone.
I do this again at 6am and at 9am. Also at 6 I have to check and record temperatures for Environment Canada.

10 to 3 is work time where we do different tasks on the island. Painting, lawn mowing, general up keep and what not.

After 3 is my own free time where I can do what I wish and I usually go to bed by 7 or so.

This would be 7 days a week. No weekends. I do forgo the 10 to 3 work bit on the weekends tho.

The other keeper would be responsible for more reports at 12, 3, 6 and 9 at night.

Amelanchie83 karma

Wow, you have the sleep shedule of a parent from a 6 month old. What effect has this on your sanity?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper148 karma

It does not bother me much as I still get 8 hours a day, it would be similar if I was doing a night shift or something along those lines. Since it is 7 days a week you get used to the routine and so it just becomes habit. You modify your daily routines around this and everything goes smooth. Since you are not compelled to follow the masses around you in their waking habits, it actually becomes very easy.

PeskyWarrior10 karma

Do you use prior meteorology knowledge to give/record the weather reports? Or did you learn on the job?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper30 karma

I learned most on the job. I had very minimal knowledge of cloud forms from high school but you get a lot more in depth training while on site. Wind, sea wave forms and swells are all things you really need to see first hand to get a true understanding of them.

JHMRS3 karma

There's no day off at all in a month? Do you get OT?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper20 karma

no overtime but you are paid for all 7 days a week. This is all agreed to and part of the employee contract before you ever set foot into a position.

You do also get extra holidays tacked on due to having to work holidays.

But seriously, does it feel like work even? Not to me and I will gladly do this without the inclination of 'demanding' OT pay. Hell, I live in a 3 bedroom house completely rent free. Pretty hard to complain at that.

JHMRS8 karma

Thanks for the response. It does sound like a job with very particular requirements, but I can see how someone that's inclined for it would love it.

Kind of how athletes have no weekends and OT, but nonetheless love their job.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper7 karma

Exactly correct.

Honestly, I wake up every day and I tell myself, I can't even believe I am being PAID to be here. Be it a lot or a little, someone wants to give me money to live on an amazing island and live this crazy lifestyle. It is hard to believe.

Sportiva78 karma

How realistic is the A24 movie Lighthouse?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper169 karma

That movie is 100% realistic, if it was 100 years ago. Living as a keeper today is really very little like that. No need to shovel coal but there are engines that need to be tended to. They run on diesel now so no shoveling but occasionally you have to move large barrels around.

The nice thing about most modern places is you don't share a dwelling. Each keeper has their own place to live so you have a lot more privacy then what it was like when there was only one keeper dwelling.

I will say, I absolutely love this movie and while there is no way for me to get out and see it in theaters, I will be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out.

Sportiva32 karma

Haha very interesting! Having your own space must help a lot. Also sounds less rough and probably safer, but maybe a little more reporting. Would you say this is a job you'd recommend to those without the need to be in a particular spot?

Have you had much tension with any of your mates?

I love the A24 production company they make a lot of great films.

Do you have a link to your trailer?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper65 karma

This is an amazing job for people who want to see something different and unique and amazing. When you start the work you are set up as relief work first so you are sent where you are needed. There are 27 stations in BC so you can end up at any of them and if you are doing short term stays then you can see a lot of amazing things. I know one person who has been relief for 8 years and has been to 23 of the 27 stations which is amazing. If you are not attached to one spot and like to live for something unique then this is perfect.

Once you do relief for a while you can be set up somewhere in a permanent spot. Then you just stay at the one spot indefinitely. Can be many years before things change. Eventually you can go from assistant to principal keeper which is a bump in pay and you may get a better choice at stations.

I have never had any problems with anyone but I tend to be pretty easy going and a good judge of what others want. If they want to be left alone then no problem. If they need to have dinner with me once a week to keep sane then no problem. is my trailer. Just a bit of fun and done with my cell phone. Thanks for asking.

Manokea13 karma

This trailer is great

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper14 karma

Ah, thank you for your kind words. Appreciated.

Sportiva12 karma

Hhhaha good job on the trailer. And thank you for all the thoughtful responses!!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper18 karma

Thank you, it has been fun doing this actually. I don't think there is a lot of information out there to be honest and most people think lighhouses are all just automated with no one there any longer. That has happened to a lot of places, the US, the UK and most of Europe, which is a shame as there is a lot more to being a keeper than just turning on the light.

Okkido7 karma

Really great trailer!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper6 karma

Thank you for saying. It was fun to put together.

fragilelyon3 karma

I got a kick out of your trailer, but just so you know-- it's spelled "production." Best of luck!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper4 karma

HA!! you are right, I completely got it wrong.

Do I live with the shame or do I take it down and redo it? hmmmm.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper19 karma

If you get a chance, you can check out my Lighthouse Keeper trailer on youtube. I did my own tribute to the a24 trailers. I am a pretty big fan of this move to be honest.

DeadlyDancingDuck77 karma

Are you alone on the island? Do you get horrendously bored?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper143 karma

25 of the 27 stations in BC are mandated to have 2 people on the station at all times. This is in case there is an emergency or something happens. The other 2 stations have full road access and so they are not required to have the 2 keepers because in an emergency someone can get to the station in a pinch.

I don't get bored myself. It is actually more like there still is not enough time in a day to do all the things I want to do. Lucky for me the station I am currently at has full internet but not all of them are so lucky and your connectivity is limited. Some don't have cell service or anything, your only form of communication is the radio telephone.

nikreasoner50 karma

“You like me lobster, though? I seen it! You do! You like me lobster!”

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper33 karma

haha! have it your way. I like your cooking.

encogneeto40 karma

Why hasn't GPS replaced lighthouses in general, and why hasn't automation replaced your job specifically?

How much maintenance is required for the light?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper85 karma

Part of the reason that lighthouses are still a thing is people have a hard time changing. Ship captains still rely a lot on actual light to guide them into ports. While GPS is very useful, we have a buoy about 20 meters offshore to the north west and it has never been hit due to GPS but there is still something to be said about old school charts and lights.

Weather reporting is really what we do a lot of now. We do occassionaly get calls from airports, planes and helicoperts who want a 100% up to date account of what the weather is actually like. They will call on the radio to be sure of exactly what they are getting into especially when the weather starts getting bad.

The light itself has been changed once in 10 years on this station. Everything is solar powered and it comes on and turns off on its own. You have to paint the tower itself more often then you have to do anything with the actual light any more.

DoctorDeath33 karma

I think it's very important to keep these older ways of navigation alive and working. If something were to happen and things like GPS wasn't available, and nobody was manning lighthouses, reporting weather or able to navigate by sight and charts... Then everything would come to a crashing hault.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper30 karma

There is a lot of this I will agree to, and not just to keep my job.

There are still a lot of mariners who use older forms of navigation and while you may not see it on ferries, or very large cargo ships, there are still many fishing trawlers, pleasure boaters and a plethora of smaller type vessels that still rely on light to be sure where they are.

While a keeper's job description has changed considerably in the last 100 years, having someone there for safety and emergency purposes still feels like the right thing to do.

shortypie13 karma

As a sailor, lit navigational aids are crucial during the night, and lighthouses are useful even during the day without the light on.

Why, in the age of GPS?

Lighting could always strike (literally) rendering your electronics useless.

Even if it doesn’t and you have AIS, GPS, etc., it’s still a great practice to confirm your position with visual sightings - 3 points for an actual fix.

You can also easily tell distance away from shore when the lighthouse light starts dipping the horizon (you barely start to see it), and that’s great for making sure you don’t run into shallower waters and again, confirm the depth your GPS says.

Even if I’ve had GPS, I always — ALWAYS — confirm my position using colors, numbers, lights and sounds (some buoys have light and sound patterns so you can tell them apart, on top of being colored and numbered).

Many times I’ve pulled into a harbor at night without anything more than Navionics on my phone and while that’s useful for planning my approach and knowing what to look out for, I always rely on the actual navigational aids and geographic attributes heading in to make my approach, and glance at Navionics to confirm.

Heck, even during the day when making approaches we use charts to plan our approach (electronic or paper), then visually confirm along the way, taking fixes as needed. Kind of a bitch when a buoy has been ripped out by a hurricane and it’s the 1st marker to a channel that’s 2/3ft deep on either side just outside the channel!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper7 karma

Thank you for this amazing contribution. I love to hear from the other side of things how it is all working out and working according to the way it is supposed to. It is comments like this that make me pleased we are still here and doing what we need to do to keep others headed in the right direction.

Amelanchie37 karma

Since noone supervises what you do the whole day, how often do you skip a task?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper87 karma

Tasks are done as they are needed. If your house runs out of fuel, you will have no heat and that is not something you want to happen in the colder months, so you are sure to check the level of the fuel each week.

Many of the tasks that are needed to be done are kept in a log book, similar to what you see in the movies. There are log books for weather, log books for tasks and log books for paperwork. This paperwork needs to all be submitted monthly to the Canadian Coast Guard hub that you are working with.

Any way you look at it, it is government work so there is a ton of paperwork that goes with the job. The nice thing is that if I don't feel like painting the lighthouse today because it is cold out, I can do it tomorrow. You need a fairly good sense of responsibility to keep things going.

PM_me-your-SHOWER30 karma

Have you ever had a pizza delivered to you while you were at work?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper72 karma

Pizza delivery would cost me $150 for the delivery fee. I have not needed a pizza that bad yet.

The location I am at is not too far off shore so we do get visitors once in a while. I have had people promise they would be back with pizza but no one has done it yet.

all_humans_are_dumb48 karma

Damn man, I'm gonna get you a pizza. I promise.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper44 karma

Thank you sir. I shall await patiently.


I want to be a part of the post where op above actually delivers....the pizza to your light house

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper12 karma

And I will film every second of it and put it up on YouTube!

PM_me-your-SHOWER15 karma

Ah thanks for answering! I hope someone does bring you a pizza soon

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper27 karma

No problem. you are more than welcome to bring me one if you are in the area. Or a burger. I kinda miss good greasy burgers....

PM_me-your-SHOWER10 karma

I'm somewhat near Canada if I ever end up in Canada I'll be sure to bring you any type of food you want

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper21 karma

And I will thank you sir. And give you a guided tour of the entire station, all 7 buildings.

interstellaris28 karma

How often do you leave it? You said you live there for 365 days a year, but what is with family, friends etc? Do you see them?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper58 karma

Ok, so here is where things can get interesting.

When you sign up for a keeper you start as relief. Relief is when a full time keeper needs to leave his station and so someone is sent to fill in for them while they are off site. Reasons for leaving are things like doctors issues, training sessions and vacation time. If you have no reason to take any of these reasons for leaving then you would indeed be there for 365.

As for family and friends, some stations you can have visitor access. This location is still pretty close to land so if you really wanted you could take a boat out to the station. So I can't leave but others can come provided it is not a disruption to the site.

When you take vacation time you can do as you please, go and visit anyone you want or go anywhere you desire. The difference is you can't just leave on a whim. Any time a keeper needs to leave for any reason it must be cleared first and someone needs to be sent out to replace them while they are off site.

Cold_Brew_Enthusiast24 karma

Is it possible to be married and do this job, then? How do you get groceries?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper64 karma

To get groceries you need to do it all online. You find a place that will deliver to your head office and then once a month you place an order with whomever (currently for me it is save on foods) and then have it delivered by a certain date.

Once all the keepers of a particular area (there are 4 stations on my area) have their orders in, everything gets packed onto a helicopter and then taken out to each station.

it just means you need to be able to plan your meals for about 5 to 6 weeks, in case there is a storm and the chopper can't make it out to you at the scheduled dates.

Cold_Brew_Enthusiast39 karma

Good gravy! That's complicated! I guess you can't ever think, "I'm really craving a steak tonight", and get to have that steak. You'd really have to plan ahead and just live with whatever you have on hand.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper59 karma

It does mean you do need to know your eating habbits. If you know that you will crave a steak about once a month then be sure you buy a good stead on every order you place. This way, when you crave it, it will be there for you.

Problem comes if you crave a steak twice in the same month and you only bought one!

Funny story, I tend to like peanut butter and jam on crackers and when I was stationed here I was only going to be here for 2 months so I did not bring a lot of PBandJ. After being here for a month I was then told I was going to be here for 6 months and not 2 and that changed everything but that call came about 3 days after I received my groceries. By week 2 of my second month I was almost out of PB and I have been nursing it for the last week to make sure it will last an additional week until I get more groceries. It would not have been an issue if I was leaving part way through a month but since I was extended, it changed everything.

Also, I have heard from every single keeper I have talked to, they have all run out of food on their first month of employment. They had to live off of just noodles, or just rice or something similar or have to beg for food from the principal keeper. I was lucky I knew most of this going into the job and was sure to bring enough for my first month, no question.

Cold_Brew_Enthusiast28 karma

Okay, WOW. Wow! So this then leads me to ask... what is the upside of doing this job for you? You can't have a wife or girlfriend there, you can't really eat what you want when you want without serious pre-planning... are you paid an astronomical salary such that you can live very comfortably after you leave this role? Or...?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper54 karma

There are many things I personally love about this lifestyle. I like the nature, I like the outdoors, I like the no people. It all works out for me.

Once I get to the point where I have a full time posting my wife says she will join me and we will stay there together. She calls it our permanent honeymoon. haha.

As for the food, I am pretty prepared and I am not too particular about what I eat. I actually eat the same thing every single morning so that is super easy to plan for and all I need is a pile of chicken breasts, some chilli, some stews, lots of KD and I am a pretty happy guy. I am not a huge snacker but have some nuts and crackers around if I feel like it.

Salary is not huge but consider you have next to nothing for expenses it can add up pretty quick. Depending on how you eat, makes a pretty big difference. I spend about $400 a month on food. Other than netflix, some hobby stuff, and a few books here and there, my expenses are next to nothing meaning it is super easy to save, put money into retirement and have glorious vacations once a year.

Here_ToHelp_28 karma

Does the lack of human interaction affect you? How do you deal with it?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper71 karma

The station I am at right now has full internet access and cell service so I get a ton of interaction, just not in person. I get all my phone calls like normal and use Facebook regularly and even have a youtube channel where I post Lighthouse stuff weekly. Even this AMA is a ton of human interaction that I can choose to have or to not have.

The amazing thing about being in a place like this is if I want to be away from everyone and everything, I just turn off my computer and phone. Done, no way for anyone to get me and no way anyone is going to knock on my door.

I have never been one for crowds so I don't miss things like going to the movies or doing sports events and really the only thing that I do kind of miss is going out for dinners. Altho, that has been a lot better for my beltline since I have started doing this.

cadff18 karma

What's the youtube channel?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper29 karma This is my channel.

Thanks for asking.

Here_ToHelp_15 karma

Does the lack of female "interaction" bother you at all?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper72 karma

I have the

Here_ToHelp_12 karma

Sounds like you're living the life, goodluck mate👍🏼

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper12 karma

Thank you sir.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper16 karma

As I have mentioned in other questions here, not all stations are like this. There are some stations with no connectivity so your interaction is only the other keeper and the helicopter once a month. These sites can be a little more difficult but if you are looking for that kind of lifestyle then no problem. It is not as if you are unaware going into it. When you apply they are pretty clear that you are put out somewhere and you will have to stay there with little to no contact for periods of time.

Also, the more isolated the station, the more you get paid so there is some incentive.

NuclearExchange23 karma

Have you seen the episode of Scooby-Doo where Shaggy answers an ad thinking it is for Light Housekeeping only to discover that it’s for Lighthouse Keeping?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper26 karma

OMG, no I have not. That sounds too funny. I am going to have to look that up.


burnttoast64120 karma

How much do you get paid?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper69 karma

Wages differ depending on what station you are on. Starting wage is around 30k a year but you can make up to double that if you are a principal and at a location that is pretty isolated.

It may not sound like much but when you are not paying rent, don't need a car and don't buy a $5 starbucks every day, it is actually pretty amazing money.

johnnyb_fishin13 karma

A few questions...sorry for lumping them all together as reddit won't let me post rapid fire. 1. What is the most notable emergency situation you've had to deal with?

  1. Do a lot of people apply for this job?

  2. (Most importantly) do you ever fish from your island?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper21 karma

1 - I have never had one yet, thank goodness but the principal I am currently working with has had two notable situations. Saved 9 people in an overturned boat once and then 2 others on an overturned boat that no one else could find. He was the only one who saw their flare and was able to send search and rescue to the right location.

2 - the application is super hard to find actually so it does not get a lot of applicants. Also the process is insane as it is a government job. My appliation took over 4 months and that is knowing someone who has been doing this for 10 years and is pretty well respected in the work. I plan on putting together more information about this in my youtube vlogs as I gather info but I want to have everything in place before I do. They only open up for applications once or twice a year so you kind of need to know about it to make it happen.

3 - I don't fish myself but the person I am filling in for is a pretty avid fisherman. He has boats and traps and rods and reals all over the place and the principal here gave me half a salmon the other day that was caught right off the island. On good days we are surrounded by boats fishing the area.

Sumuttaja5 karma

You asked about fishing 2minutes before me so i hope you don't mind me chipping in. So, if you do fish out there? what kind of gear and catch? do youdo passive fishing? Sounds like a dream job for a hermit fisherman like me!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper10 karma

I am sorry I am not more of a fisherman and could answer your questions with more depth.

We had some guys on the island last month who were working on the wind generators. When they got here they set up line off the dock and then went to their work. At lunch they sat and played with their lines and then went back to work. After work they sat and waited for the boat to come with their lines. They did not catch anything that day but I have heard that the fishing off the island here is quite good.

Joshh2k13 karma

That sounds like something for me! Good therapy perhaps.

Do you ever get lonely? What about relationships?

Do you ever travel on boat back to the country to see family/friends or do some activities or holidays?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper28 karma

I don't get lonely but I do like my solitude. I do a lot of reading and I don't feel the need to just talk and talk and talk so it is not a big deal for me. I can see where it would be difficult for some tho, there is a need for companionship that we as humans seem to need a lot of the time.

My relationship with my wife is great and we see each other when we can. She does have access to the island if she wants to pay for the boat ride out but she has a life of her own also that she enjoys so it works out.

I am originally from Vancouver and my wife is currently there as well. We are planning on going to visit the Philippines maybe in late 2020 once I can book some time off. Depends on how things work out for her and for myself. If I am given a permanent station between now and then I may end up waiting until 2021 before I take any leave.

Joshh2k4 karma

Damn i'm happy you can find your place! I'm not sure if i could manage that with a relationship, there's certain youknow ''needs'' people might have. Although on my own, i feel like i'd totally do this!!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper13 karma

I completely understand and I can assure you, if I was younger it would be a lot harder. I am pretty good for about 3 to 4 months and then things tend to get a little more 'pressing' but at least we can talk on the phone and video chat when necessary.

I am pretty sure you know what I mean.

Dead_Toad13 karma

How often do you get supplies? Do you pay for the food and supplies or does your work? How many days of supplies do you keep on site? Are you prepared to repel invaders when the zombie apocalypse forces people to seek secure shelter?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper21 karma

There is a helicopter scheduled once a month for personal supplies and groceries. Of course, this will only happen if the weather is decent. No need to put a station in a place where it is always nice so yeah, some places can get pretty bad weather.

We buy all our own groceries over the internet which is super convenient compared to what it used to be like. The groceries are all delivered to the head office of your station and then on a certain day of the month everything is loaded onto a helicopter and brought out to you. Normally the chopper will do 4 or 5 stations in a day so it is not to waste the day for the chopper.

If you are doing relief work and are only going to be somewhere for a month or two then you try and buy your groceries on this premise so you don't bring too much with you. You are limited by weight when you take a chopper out to a station so you can't just bring 500 pounds of food with you. If you are living in a station permanent then you try and do your shopping as you normally would for a month at a time. If you think you are going to run out of flour in 2 weeks then you try and be sure you bought another in the last tender instead of waiting until the next one to arrive.

Back before the internet was really interesting. You would need to make a list of your groceries and when the chopper came to drop off your groceries you would give them the list and then head office would send out someone to shop for you and then it would be delivered on the next tender. This means you always needed to be an additional month ready for your food. A lot of thought needed to go into what you were doing when you did your shopping.

As for the apocalypse, it was one of the first things I asked when I got to this station. We have no guns other than flare guns so it would be hard to repel people if it came down to that. As for welcoming them, it would depend on how well you keep your pantry stocked. Shopping for 1 is pretty easy when it comes down to it but you don't always keep food around to feed a dozen or 20. Best for you to find a different island to head for.

PUFFINfuccinROCK12 karma

This is an awesome read, subscribing to your channel now! Are there any female keepers?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper12 karma

Yes there are some female keepers. Some are wives of other keepers but there are a few who have chosen this as their preferred lifestyle.

There are not many who do this job. Consider 50 stations both East and west coast at 2 people per station and then relief work puts the number of people doing this at well under 200 for all of Canada. A little difficult to find a lot of diversity in the workplace.

Thank your for your praise.

-Sweet_Tooth-12 karma

What drew you to this kind of lifestyle? Any expectations vs. reality moments?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper22 karma

Always been an outdoor kind of guy. Went through scouts when young, was a leader for years as well. Always wanted to live in a cabin away from nowhere. My grandparents also lived on an island in Lake of the Woods so I was always drawn to this type of secluded lifestyle.

Actually being a keeper is 2000 times more amazing than I could have anticipated. I was blown away the first time I set foot onto this island and I can only hope I get a chance to see many more of the stations out there.

-Sweet_Tooth-9 karma

That's amazing! It sounds like you've really found your niche, and I'm a bit envious!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper8 karma

For me it is the most amazing job ever. To be paid to spend time in such a setting is definitely a dream come true for many.

MeatloafWouldDoThat11 karma

What kind of bear is best?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper18 karma

no bears here but there are other stations are part of a larger land mass. They get bears, cougars and wolves all the time. There are stations you MUST have bear repellent on you at all times when you leave any of the buildings.

agentofmidgard8 karma

Do you ever use the Morse code to communicate with the ships?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper18 karma

no morse code, thank goodness. We do have radio, both a regular marine radio and special long distance radio telephones. We are required to be monitoring the radio at all times so you have one with you everywhere you go and you can get the coast guard stations no problem.

you are required to know the phonetic alphabet tho.

powerchoice7 karma

Are you familiar with the story of the 3 lighthouse keepers who mysteriously disappeared in 1900 from the Flannan Isles? If so, what do you think happened to them? I would just like to get the opinion of a lighthouse keeper.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper9 karma

I do know this story and have seen many iterations of it.

I have not done too much research into it to find out what is in fact truth and how much of it is exaggerated for the sake of story telling but if you look at much of what happened, it does sound like the keepers were swept away in bad weather. While that does not match what is in the logs, well I can tell you, logs are not always kept 100% correct. lol. Age can be a factor, alcohol, sickness, mental health, all of these things can alter your logs to a point where people may question what is in them.

I would say most likely it was bad weather, and crazy big waves. Even here in BC, more up north of course, there has been instances where the weather is so dangerous that you just don't go outside. Green has lost COWS off the island in bad weather. FULL SIZE COWS IN PENS. They use ropes to hold themselves in place when they need to go from building to building in bad weather.

Even Entrance, the island I am currently on, has had people go missing under mysterious circumstances. One keeper had his assistant go missing but he did not report it for 3 days begging the question, why did he wait so long for him to report it? Lighthouses have been plagued with issues and problems through their history. Theft, violence, madness and death were a very common part of lighthouse living for many years and the pay was always pretty bad as well.

canadasoccer7 karma

Hey friend! This is so cool.

1) I live near Nanaimo.. could I come visit? 2) Do you play any instruments?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper17 karma


1- yes indeed you can come to the island. There is even a guest book to sign when you do.

2- I don't play anything myself but it would be a great time to consider learning something. No one will hear your terrible playing. Hahaha

DasArchitect3 karma

Oh the sea lions will hear you!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper11 karma

True but with all the honking and noise they make, I don't think they will mind.

DasArchitect3 karma

Well you never know. Some animals actually like music and are drawn to it. Have you seen those videos with people playing and cows getting closer to listen?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

Ha that is great. A truly captivated audience. Thanks for sharing.

Advo-Kat7 karma

What kind of qualifications do you need?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper14 karma

Initial qualifications are pretty simple, must have your first aid and your radio operator's certificate. Without those two things they won't even consider.

Other than that, a high school education is needed and they will always prefer a Canadian citizen first and foremost when it comes to the selection process. I think this has to do with the fact it is a government job.

matkatatka6 karma

How does this work affect your marriage? And how long have you been a lighthouse keeper and how long do you plan on doing it?

Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper24 karma

My marriage is .....interesting.

my wife is a filipina and we have been together for about 7 years. When we met, I was working in Hong Kong and so right from the start we had a long distance type relationship. I would go to the Philippines every 3 months or so or she would come out to HK to visit so we are pretty used to spending time away from each other. This does not mean it is easy. lol. There are times it is pretty hard being so far away. My wife does have plans to come out to stay over the holidays in December. Tough as the boat to the island is $150 and then the boat back is also $150 so $300 just to get to the island and then travel to naniamo as well which can be expensive coming from Vancouver.

I have been a keeper for a very short time, only a few months but I have been involved in the keeping side of things for a while so at least i knew what to expect going into it. I plan on doing this for the remainder of my carrier so I will do this until retirement and then likely retire in the Philippines. Not the first keeper to be doing it this way by the way.

Simpdogg11 karma

Damn this AMA just made you the most famous person in Nanaimo ever. Which island are you on?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper14 karma

Entrance island. About 1 mile east of gabriola.

vicemagnet6 karma

Do you know this song ?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

I do know this song. It is great.

Who wouldn't want to marry a lighthouse keeper? They are pretty awesome.

NormalLurker6 karma

Hello! Thanks for this AMA, what do you think was your scariest moment as a lighthouse keeper?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper13 karma

Thankfully nothing scary yet.

One time the other keeper was working on something on a grinder. He did shout out some curses and I thought to myself it was time to try out my first aid but it was nothing serious. Does that count?

Lucky no big storms or anything yet but we are going into the winter seasons. Could be some excitement. There are some stations that are super dangerous and scary but this is not one of those. Have to go much further up north towards Alaska for the scary ones.

Into_0blivi0n5 karma

Hi i have read that most lighthouses have been automated in most places. So why keep humans still ? Does it have something to with locations ?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper6 karma

If you consider the state of a lot of lighthouses now, abandoned, falling down and in very rough shape, you will see why these locations need human interactions. Being on the salt water all the time is really hard on construction and you get a lot of wear and tear in a very short time. So while we are not needed to physically go and turn on the light each night, it is sill a good idea to have someone around to be sure it does not wear itself out. Having to send someone out to a station that went dark after the fact can be a pretty big and complicated endeavor.

The other huge necessity is just for safety reasons. Lighthouses are placed in locations that are pretty dangerous for mariners. Accidents still happen and while you don't get a lot of huge ships running aground, there are still many smaller commercial and pleasure boats who overturn and sink each year and their lives are just as important as 100 lives on a larger boat. Having someone in these remote locations means there is always someone on hand in case there is an emergency in a particular area. Even if there is an issue somewhere that is not right at the station, a lot of times search and rescue will use the station as a converging point when arriving to an area or if they need somewhere to go while an operation is in effect.

The job is not just about the light, which is what a lot of people think because it has been so romanticized over the years but it is also really about safety overall.

eveningsand5 karma

I'm not certain I caught specifically where you were, but logistics to and from your location seem difficult at best ($150 delivery fee for pizza).

What does resupply look like, who executes that(civilian, military, or government agency?).

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper14 karma

Being a lighthouse keeper is a government job and all sites are under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Coast Guard, under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This means that any and all responsibility of resupply happens through the Canadian Coast Guard. Fuel for the island, supplies for upkeep and maintenance and even our grocery tender are all supplied by helicopter, hovercraft or CGG boat. Things like groceries are sent out once a month and then larger resupply needs to be set up for various times of the year.

I am currently on Entrance Island, a station outside of Naniamo in the Georgia Straight.

born_to_fart8 karma

My dad was fisherman on the west coast both on both sides of the island for 30ish years and he thanks you for his service. Ive heard many a stories as a kid about storms and him using the light house off Duke point as his guide in crap weather.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper9 karma

That is great, thanks for that. I am sure that many of the keepers like to hear stories like that. A lot of the current keepers are older and not as technologically set up as I may be so they don't see or hear stuff like that all that often but it is true that a lot of mariners still rely on the lights to keep their bearings in bad weather.

Simpdogg4 karma

Salary? I’m assuming I could find it somewhere because it’s government job. Just lazy. You probably couldn’t pay me enough to do what you do. It is a cool job though!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper6 karma

Salary is not a lot. Starts around 30k when you begin but can change depending on how isolated the station is. The further from civilization, the more they pay. The principal keeper makes more than the assistant but still is never much more than 60k. Not too bad considering you don't need to pay rent or a mortgage.

Ggungabyfish4 karma

Find any mermaids?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper9 karma

Only a ton of very very smelly sea lions I am afraid. Not as exciting.

Cat_Man_Dew3 karma

I'm late to this thread, but after reading all of the posts and replies I am very intrigued! Can you describe your living accommodations? Do you live in the lighthouse itself or a separate building?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper4 karma

This is actually a great question and dwellings has changed a lot over the last 100 years or so.

the place I am currently staying, the house was built in 1964 I believe and the principal house was built in 1935 or 37 or something. Imagine a 3 bedroom rancher style house in the '60s and you will essentially be inside my house. There has been a lot of updates of course, better siding, better windows, and many other upgrades but essentially, it is a house from the '60s.

There are 4 or 5 different floor plans for the stations across Canada so all the places are essentially built the same expect for the more dangerous stations or locations that just don't have any land around them. Triple Island is the best example where all the keepers are required to live in a single building that is also part of the lighthouse tower itself just because there is no room for any construction.

If you want a closer look at the inside of the buildings and the house I am currently living in then watch this video where I go on a tour of all the different buildings. My house is the last thing I walk through but it should give you a pretty good idea of the living conditions.

CBTBen3 karma

Have you read "Annihilation" by Jeff Vandermeer?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

I have not and have not even heard of it. What is it about? I am currently reading The Expanse series and am on the second book.

CBTBen2 karma

What is it about?

That's... difficult to describe. It's sort of eco-horror-scifi-surrealest fiction. It prominently features a lighthouse that's also not a lighthouse.

It's one of my favorite things I've read in the past decade, and was made into a Natalie Portman movie a few years ago.

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper3 karma

Sounds quite interesting. I shall add it to my own goodreads to read list.


I_Adora_Fedoras3 karma

How much weed have you smoked up there?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper15 karma

No weed for myself. I have never done it, I know, odd being from Vancouver and all.

I can imagine it would be great for someone who was a smoker but the biggest issue is you kind of need to be on alert 24 hours a day. An emergency can happen on the water at any time and you need to be ready to respond to the call when it happens. Would be pretty bad if you were trying to pull someone out of the water while you were stoned. Your casualness and the drowning victim's excitement may clash a little.

Sportiva7 karma

Was not aware you would be sent out to rescue someone. Obviously if they hit your landmass that's one thing, but do you count as emergency services? Does this require a similar process to becoming a coast guard?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

Most of the stations had a boat and there are many instances of keepers going out to try and help others in boats. The biggest issue is the CGG has certain rules for people in boats and a lot of those rules can't be enforced in an emergency situation so there is some grey area as to what we are supposed to be doing in emergency situations. Every keeper is trained in first aid and is required to keep their training up to date and so are sent out for proper training at least every three years.

There are certain requirements to becoming a keeper and as it is a division of the CGG you go through a lot of the same process. You must have your fist aid along with your radio license and you have to pass some physical areas as well to be sure you are suited for the conditions.

chrisl1822 karma

Do you have any songs about the sky and the sea?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper5 karma

no songs, sorry. I have several different lighthouse movies tho...

Jimjumx2 karma

How much do you make?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper4 karma

Wages differ depending on what station you are on. Starting wage is around 30k a year but you can make up to double that if you are a principal and at a location that is pretty isolated.

It may not sound like much but when you are not paying rent, don't need a car and don't buy a $5 starbucks every day, it is actually pretty amazing money.

Mysteryios2 karma

How much do you get paid?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper5 karma

The rate of pay will change depending on the isolation of the site. The more isolated and further you are from a port or town, the higher the pay rate. Starting wage is around 30k a year but you can double that as a principal keeper in a more isolated spot.

samng0862 karma

Have you ever work at the lighthouse when storm is happening?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper3 karma

The worst I have seen so far is on my YouTube channel. Had high winds up to almost 40 knots which is pretty impressive.

I have been told the winter can be exciting but nothing like up north like green island or triple island. You can do a Google search for those and see where they are. I have heard on green they have ropes between all the buildings that you have to attach yourself to so you don't get blown away. I would love to experience a storm there. I have also heard that on triple during one storm they had huge driftwood tree trunks go through the third story windows of the dwelling. That would have been exciting to be a part of.

Ambiguous233334553452 karma

Why'd ya spill your beans?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma


itsnotbacon2 karma

Do you blast this song daily?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

I do not. If I had to listen to only one song and hear it every single day it may end up driving me mad. I am not sure I want to take that risk.

heliotropic8152 karma

How do you feel about this song ?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper1 karma

I absolutely love this video. It is brilliant.

peezozi2 karma

How many times do you walk to the top of the lighthouse each month?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

I will go up every few days. The view is pretty impressive, even for such a short tower and when the wind gets up there in speed it is awesome to hear and see what it does to the island. You can see that in my high winds video on my YouTube.

There is little need as you can see the rotation of the lens from below and you can also see the light when it is on from anywhere on the island. On a clear day I can look out the window from my living room chair and see the top of the tower no problem and you can see the lens turning. So ensuring everything is working is pretty easy to do. No need for oiling geers or checking mercury baths any longer.

Some stations have all their weather equipment at the top of the tower so it is needed to go up two or three times a day. My tower is short, only 37 steps and a short 8 rung ladder to the top. Some stations have over 120 steps to the top and have weather equipment up there. Hope you like stairs if you go to that one....

vinghtdix2 karma

how diferent would th world be without lighthouses?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper3 karma

Lighthouses were essential in the Americas in all early development of the continent. With the technology of the time, there was no way of avoiding all those hidden rocks of the sea.

If we were out there discovering these types of areas with today's tech, it would be less needed, no question but lighthouses are a huge part of our history which is why many of the locations in Canada are designated heritage sites and so you can't actually knock them down and the government is required to keep them in decent condition.

smegmary2 karma

Do you ever get inebriated and enjoy the view from inside the cabin of the lighthouse?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper3 karma

I personally don't drink, and as I pointed out in the smoking weed question, it really is not a good idea to be too wasted in any form. You are essentially required to be aware of emergency channels 24 hours a day and be ready in case of an emergency.

Keeping has changed a lot from what you see in the movies. Keepers kept a lot of drink around because it was easy to carry, helped make the time go by faster, and the drinking water was usually horrifying. These conditions are no where near what things are now. We have several huge cisterns on the island and complete water purification systems so drinking water is plentiful and easy to get.

Drinking wine with dinner or having a beer in the evening is not out of the question but the job definitely does require the ability to moderate yourself and be aware of your mental awareness.

N0VABomb2 karma

Can you have a pet? Like a cat or a dog or is that not allowed?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper6 karma

Yes, pets are allowed if you are a full time keeper. There is one of the other keepers who posts her cats on Instagram all the time. Her account is called kittiesofthelights and if you like lighthouses and you like cats, it is a pretty good combination.

Getting your pet to you location is where there can be issues. If you had say a mastif or a great dane, then you would need to understand that the dog MUST be kenneled at all times while on the helicopter. Up to you how you want to get it done but that is the rules. So any pet must be 100% contained when being taken out to your location.

adeiner2 karma

Thank you for doing this, I just saw the Lighthouse. A few questions, if you can!

Do you get a certain amount of guaranteed vacation time, and if so, how much?

Is this something people tend to do as a career or just at a certain age? I could see younger people or older people doing it but do people do it for like 40 years?


BC-Lighthouse-Keeper5 karma

In the movie The Lighthouse, the two keepers are at what is called a rotational station. There is one 1 of those in BC and I believe all of the ones on the east coast are set up this way. What that means is that you do 28 days on, 28 days off and then you continue this cycle. You are paid for both cycles but your days off cycle can be less than your on, like 60% of your wages or something. This was standard practice for lighthouses to help keep everyone sane and to provide respite in crazy dangerous situations. What you do in your off days is up to you as long as there is no conflict of interest and it does not affect your ability to be back in time for your next 28 days on.

The locations I am working in currently are not set up like that and keepers are there for the entire time and are working 7 days a week without weekends and without holidays. Keepers are given 2 weeks of vacation, as with any job, and then since you can't take your standard holiday days, they add an additional 6 days to your 2 weeks, giving you almost 3 weeks a year in vacation time. Of course the longer you are a keeper, the longer vacation time you get and some keepers can get over 2 months of vacation time a year.

Any and all vacations do need to be cleared with head office as when you are away from the station, you will need a relief keeper sent out to cover your absense so you can't just go on a whim. Office likes you to book vacations 6 months to a year ahead of time because, well you know, the government. It takes weeks just to fill out some paperwork.

AncientLineage2 karma

How do lighthouses work properly when you factor in the curvature of the earth? It should curve at 8 inches per square mile so how does light spread across this downward curvature for a few miles?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper4 karma

Good question. Much of the factors of the light are considered when you need to know exactly what is going on. Many stations are set up as a chain so that you can easily place where you are by the color of the flash and the frequency of the flash.

This station is set up with the light 19 meters from the surface of the water and the light can be seen for up to 19 miles away. We are in a straight so you can see land mass on both sides pretty easily. To the north there is a station that I can actually see with my naked eye and there is also a station to the south that I can also see with the naked eye. Both of these are set up in a similar fashion and they can also see a station to the north and a station to the south. This way a ship can follow the chain of stations and since they are all very well documented on all mariner charts, you can use the lights to figure out where you are in the straight.

In other situations, such as Estavan Point on the west side of Vancouver Island, the station needs to be a lot taller because the light needs to be seen such a greater distance. This light is the first point of light for anyone doing a pacific crossing so it is very important for it to be seen great distances. A ship can't just turn when they feel like it, they need a heck of a lot of prep time for a turn so as soon as the light becomes visible, a ship will know it is time to turn north or turn south depending on where they are headed.

TruthBeT0ld2 karma

Are you an alcoholic?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper6 karma

I am not, I don't drink at all except for coffee.

I am pretty sure the Coast Guard would be unlikely to hire someone with a history of alcohol or any substance abuse as you are in a potion where lives can be at stake. You need to be ready pretty much 24 hours a day to assist in an emergency situation and we all know emergencies don't happen when you are completely ready for them, they happen in bad weather, middle of the night, and in conditions that are less than stellar. You don't want someone who is drunk to try and help frightened boaters out of the water.

jrymers332 karma

I'm not sure if you've been asked this already, but how long have you been doing this and how did you get started? Like you seen an add in the paper or knew a guy who knew a guy?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

I am still a new keeper, as a matter of fact, I am still in my first posting so I have not had the opportunity to see a lot of the other stations first hand yet. I have been involved with Keeping for many years tho and know a few people who have been doing it for many years so I went through them to get involved in the hiring process.

Hiring is not done too often and is done through the jobs Canada site so you kind of need to know where to go and how to go about it if you want to become a keeper. I plan on keeping an eye on this and when the next posting goes up I will be fulling documenting it on my YouTube so that people have a chance to apply if they so desire.

rydan2 karma

Have you watched The Lighthouse? How realistic is it?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper4 karma

The lighthouse is an amazing movie and it is 100% realistic if you were considering keeping 100 years ago. Everything they did and much of what happened has been documented at various lighthouses on the west coast in the last 100 years. People going crazy, suicide, deaths, it did happen and is a big part of lighthouse history.

Keepers were kept in terrible conditions and it was rough work and with dangerous materials. The huge lenses that were used were kept on a bed of mercury so eliminate the friction of them turning all the time and it is considered that working with this very dangerous metal could have driven many keepers to madness.

Most of the keeper stations were set up as 28 days on and 28 days off so when you went to your spot you only bring a months worth of provisions with you, maybe 5 weeks in case there was a storm and the relief boat could not get out to where you were stationed. Lighthouses are not placed in sunny calm places that have amazing weather conditions so lots of the time, extended stays happened and when you ran out of drink, things can get ugly.

herbtarleksblazer2 karma

What is the creepiest thing that has happened to you?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper5 karma

Well as relief, you are actually living in someone else's house for a period of time. There is a very creepy tendency to go through all the drawers and cubbards and closets and see what you can find. I have been pretty good so far and kept that all in check tho.

Theandric2 karma


BC-Lighthouse-Keeper7 karma


Gouche1 karma

Are you off the coast of Vancouver Island? I live there and have probably sailed by you!

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper3 karma

Currently I am stationed right outside of Nanaimo so if you have ever taken the ferry from West Van or from Tssawwassen to Nanaimo then you have indeed gone right by me.

I had a friend go by on the ferry the other night. He waved at me with the light from his phone and I could see him on deck with my binoculars. He could see my residence but was not able to pick me out on my porch with his naked eye. Maybe during the day if it was clear.

Seeaaaa1 karma

Weird question, but how is your dating life?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper7 karma

Well, I am actually married so no dating for me.

A full time keeper who lives at a station has the ability to have their family with them. This does mean their family can't just come and go when they please unless they have other access than the provided coast guard access but there are many keepers who live on a station with their wife or husband. Some partners are also keepers so one person is the principal and the other is the assistant so you are getting two incomes for one station.

SendMeYourPetPic1 karma

What's the weirdest thing you have seen?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper10 karma

Nothing too weird yet which may be a blessing or it could be a little disappointing.

new for me was the sea lions. There are hundreds of them here and they just all laze around the place and smell everything up. They are huge and make a ton of noise. Not something you see every day I am sure.

PraxTheNerd1 karma

Do you get any holidays?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper1 karma

Holidays are set up like any government type of job. You get 2 weeks once you reach full time but get an additional 6 days for all the holidays you are required to work during the rest of the time. The longer you stay with the job, the more holiday time you can get. Some keepers get over 2 months of paid holidays. That is pretty awesome.

Holidays must be cleared with head office first and can be changed last minute at times so if you are planning on going somewhere then you need to be sure everything is in place and cleared before you make arrangements.

Dontbecruelbro1 karma

Who is your favorite fictional lighthouse keeper?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper5 karma

Well, I will be honest, I have not read a lot of Lighthouse fiction and have only seen a few lighthouse centered movies but if I had to choose one, I would choose Thomas from the latest The Lighthouse movie. Partly because Defoe did such an amazing job on bringing such a strange character to life. I have seen other Lighthouse movies and I honestly believe that Dafoe's character was a real to life as you can get after reading a lot of lighthouse history. Maybe not so much his decent into madness but much of his persona I can even see of lightkeepers today, protectiveness of the light, being overbearing and requiring everything done their way. Of course it is not always like this but the realism of this movie was a little unnerving.

Don't misinterpret that many lightkeepers are total assholes and make life a tormented hell for their assistants. It is not really like that at all but I have seen and heard stories where some long time keepers have .....quirks......about how they do and run things.

StOchastiC_1 karma

How much do you get paid? Do you get any vacations?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper1 karma

Pay will vary depending on the station you are on and how isolated it is. The further from civilization, the more you get paid. Starting is about 30k but you can double that as a principal and at a good location. Does not sound like much but when you are not paying rent and have very little expenses, it ends up being pretty good.

Vacations are set up as standard as any government job. 2 weeks a year plus an additional 6 days for the holidays you are required to work. This grows as you stay with the job over the years.

BurgerPleaseYT1 karma

What's your favorite burger joint?

BC-Lighthouse-Keeper2 karma

Brown Social House does an amazing Avocado burger that I just adore.