Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Historic Hillsboro Lighthouse

Where is the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse?

Florida! Yep, this lighthouse is one of many that grace the Atlantic side of the Florida coast. It sits near the north end of South Florida between the cities of Hillsboro Beach and Pompano Beach. At its feet lies the Hillsboro Inlet (Hillsboro Inlet - Hillsboro Lighthouse - coincidence you think?) a major connection waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the inter-coastal waterway.

Boats of all shapes, sizes, and types ply these waters - going out to play on the Atlantic or returning after hours of fun to relax within the calmer waters of the inter-coastal canal. Everything from small run-abouts to luxury yachts

Fishermen and tourists also come to the inlet to relax and take in the pretty scene with the Lighthouse on the north shore at the seaward entrance to the inlet. They go to the same park I did on the Pompano side of the inlet near the A1A bridge. It was from there that I took the photos with this article.

Besides providing a reference point, especially at night of course, for the inlet into the quieter waters of the inter-coastal waterway, the lighthouse also marks the northern limit of the Florida reef. This reef, an underwater coral formation, extends south along the coast of Florida.

History of the Hillsboro Lighthouse

This lighthouse was commissioned back in the early 1900’s to provide safe passage for ships and boats navigating the waters off the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Back in 1901 Congress was talked into authorizing the construction of a lighthouse in the area since there was nothing else to mark the place. The area between Jupiter and Miami was one long dark stretch of coast.

A lot of ships hugged the coast in those days to avoid the Gulf Stream which would have pushed them north. If they got too close to shore they could run into the Florida reef or end up in shallow waters and on sandbars. Finally, sometime around 1906 the lighthouse was put into place. Most of it was built in Detroit (that would be in Michigan, USA) and shipped to the site to be erected.

Access to the lighthouse has been blocked by development, as many a Florida treasured beach has been, so the only way to get to the lighthouse is by boat. To tour the lighthouse you need a special invitation from the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society. This society is very active in both preserving the lighthouse and soliciting funds for upkeep and improvements.

The lighthouse and grounds are owned and administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. The cottages which were originally used by the lighthouse keepers are now used as rest and recreation havens for current and retired Coast Guard members and their families.

A Few Facts about the Hillsboro Lighthouse

The lighthouse is 172 feet tall.

It takes 145 steps to reach the top where the light is.

It shoots a flash of light out to sea every 20 seconds.

It has the distinction of having the most powerful beam in the world, shining about 28 miles out to sea.

It is painted in black and white.

It is one of three surviving towers of this design.

In 2003 a U.S. postage stamp was issued using the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse.

More Info

For more information visit these links:

Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society - dedicated to keeping this lighthouse going.

Wikipedia - an information powerhouse?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Seashell Craft Decorative Plaque

Red crab and fish complement the seashells

Do you have a stash of seashells laying around? Why don't you try a seashell craft that uses the seashells, some sand, and perhaps some accessories to make a decorative plaque for your walls. You can match them with some beach themed photos and make a nice grouping on a wall or two. (I have heard bathrooms have appropriately sized walls.)

In this article I am presenting nine plaques I crafted and gave away as gifts (I may have even sold one here and there) to give you an idea as to what is possible. These particular group of plaques are designed on wood frames meant to hold 5 x 7" photos. They hang by the twine that has been threaded through a couple of holes at the top.

The one above and the following two have the original length twine which let the plaques hang 5 to 6 inches below the nail. I took the twine off and rethreaded it so it hung from the back of the frame instead of the front. I believe I bought these at Michael's craft store. You can also try your local craft store or craft stores on the internet.

Little red crab hangs out the seashells

I usually get my seashells from beachcombing expeditions to the local beaches. So I collect a lot of different types of seashells, most of which I have no idea what they are called. They also have imperfections from being tossed around in the ocean waters after the animal that called them home ceased to be.

The above photo also shows a bit of sea fan (long, dark thing) which I also picked up on the beach. The accessories, meaning the fish, crabs, or pearls, I bought from a candle supply store. They are usually used to decorate gel candles. If you want to use some of these types of accessories do a search and see what you can find.

Black fish swims by while red crab hides under shell

To hold everything together I used Elmer's standard white glue (you can use any glue which does not wash off). Once this glue sets and hardens it's there for good. It also allows for repositioning items if you are not happy with the original placement.

I usually place all the seashells where I want them first and glue them in place after the dry run. Once the glue sets, I'll paint the wood that is showing with glue and sprinkle sand over the wet glue. Then it's wait for the glue to dry up. Just let the plaque lay there for a few hours.

This plaque uses faux pearls

After everything dries up, pour off the excess sand by tilting the frame to one side. If you used paper under the wall craft you can easily pour the excess sand back into your container.

Now give it a coat of polyurethane, high gloss, gloss, or semi-gloss. Using a spray can would be the easiest. This coating will bring out colors in the seashells and sand (also coral, sea fan, or other non-glassy items). It will also protect your seashell craft from the elements.

Red crab under coral

If you want to add pearls, fish, crabs or other glassy decorative touches to your craft do it now that you're done with the polyurethane coat. Otherwise they may lose their luster. Try it - you'll see what I mean.

red crab stares at marble

another red crab and marble

red crab heading toward marble

crab peeks out at pearl

So there they are. A few examples of what you can do with a bit of sand and some seashells to make yourself a decorative wall plaque.