Lighthouse repainting has its dangers

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I FEEL the time is right for a little caution to be added to the enthusiasm displayed by those keen to go ahead with a scheme to paint Beachy Head Lighthouse before fundraising becomes too far advanced.

These are some of the problems which will have to be faced.

Access - the only practical way of reaching the lighthouse is by sea, especially when conveying materials. This will require the hire of a boat with an experienced and knowledgeable skipper, for the inshore waters around Beachy Head are no place for enthusiastic amateurs.

The lighthouse – it is true it can be accessed from the shore early morning and evening during spring tides, which occur twice monthly at the periods of new and full moon, but this entails quite a walk, stumbling over rocks and can, for all practical purposes, be discounted.

This brings us back to seaborne transport, where there is normally sufficient depth of water to lay alongside the lighthouse, in a boat drawing no more than three feet of water, for a period of two- to two-and-a-quarter hours either side of high water and, of course, in reasonably calm conditions.

Method – I read in the paper that scaffolding firms have been approached regarding this project. Never, in my experience, have I seen this used when painting was in progress on the lighthouse.

It was done by men using bosun’s chairs which were suspended from the verandah above and which were pulled in to the face of the tower by the operative using a rope attached to another rope which was girdling the tower. A skilled job and not one for the faint hearted. I’ve no doubt scaffolding could be used but the cost of transporting and erecting it would be astronomical.

Management – I assume a society would be formed with the usual officers being appointed to whom liability would be addressed for the safe and efficient management of the project. This raises the question of insurance cover for which, bearing in mind the hazardous nature of the undertaking, the premiums would, in all probability, be enormous. A safety boat would also need to be in position, manned by experienced personnel at all times that work was in progress, at of course further and not inconsiderable cost.

I have no wish to put a dampener on this scheme but I feel the wave of enthusiasm this proposal has generated does need to be tempered by an awareness of the problems it will come up against, some of which I have attempted to set out in this letter.

Above all, professional seamen with local knowledge need to be engaged for all waterborne aspects of this undertaking.

I leave aside the possibility of being cut-off in the tower by bad weather, which is always there, but remote if the advice of the professionals, who live by the weather, is heeded. Provision for this eventuality should, though, always be taken.

B E Allchorn

Bowood Avenue