We interviewed Matt Rosenberg, Keeper of the Nubble Lighthouse, one of the most famous and picturesque lighthouses in the world.
LW: The Nubble Lighthouse, set on a rocky island off the coast of Maine, is often regarded as one of Americas most picturesque scenes. What is it like to be the keeper of such a famous lighthouse?
MR: It's great to be able to take care of the Nubble Lighthouse. It's an honor to participate in a tradition that extends back to 1879. There are so many people who love the Nubble Lighthouse, and have made it a family tradition. The enthusiasm of the people who visit us makes it an exciting place to work. A lot of people romanticize my job, but I love it for what it is on a daily basis.
LW: What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities for a Lighthouse Keeper?
MR: I take care of the lighthouse and the park where people view the lighthouse from. Both jobs are equally important. I get there early and make sure that the park is ready for the public to visit for the day. Once that is done, I go to the lighthouse, where the tasks are never ending. The constant job is mowing the lawn. I use a push mower, because the yard is so steep. It takes at least six hours to mow and often more time than that. I also work on other maintenance projects on the buildings, often doing light repairs and some painting on the five buildings, fences, and walkways. It's something different every day.
LW: We imagine that the state of Maine didn't exactly post a need for the position on Craigslist. How did you become Keeper of the Nubble?
MR: People always find it hard to believe, but it was in the newspaper! They also published it to the York School department email system. I'm a teacher at York High School and my wife is too. She encouraged me to apply. The job drew more than 60 applicants. I couldn't believe I got it. The lighthouse is owned by the Town of York and is managed by York Parks and Recreation.
LW: How do you spend your days off?
MR: Living in Vacationland means that there is no lack for things to do. I love going to the beach with my kids and fishing for striped bass. I used to be a whitewater raft guide, so I make sure to get a good camping/rafting trip in each year with friends and family.
LW: Speaking of Vacationland and "The Way Life Should Be." What is it like to live in Maine?
MR: When I was growing up, my father was in the Coast Guard and we lived in some beautiful places, but Maine is where our family came from and it was always home. I love how there are so many recreational opportunities in the state. Every season presents a new opportunity for fun. The people here are so generous and sincere. These are all small towns along the coast, and you don't have to look very far past the arcades and gift shops to see the real character of these places.
LW: Did you grow up on the water? When did you form a connection with the sea?
MR: My father was in the Coast Guard for 23 years, so we always lived near the water. Many of the fondest memories I have on the water are of the times we had on our old Chris Craft cabin cruiser on the Saint Lawrence River in New York. We were always living near and playing on the water. I love fishing recreationally and working on the water. It gets to the point where you know what the tide is without looking, even if you are not near the ocean. I love the mountains, but I don't think I could live away from the coast without feeling like I'm missing a part of me.
LW: Most people dream of summers in the northeast and the classic scenes of americana that come with it, but few celebrate northeast winters. How do you spend winters in Maine?
MR: New England winter is a special, rugged kind of beast. I love it though. Snow is the greatest toy, and when it snows my family packs up the truck and goes skiing. Summer is so busy, and I work at both school and the lighthouse in spring and fall, so I always tell people that winter is my summer. Winter is for play. I don't understand why anyone would live here if they just hunkered down and waited for winter to end.
LW: When we think of summer in Maine, there's no doubt the lobster roll is top of mind. Who has the best lobster roll in town? Do you take your lobster roll with drawn butter or light mayo?
MR: There are a lot of great places to get a lobster roll in York, but the hands-down winner is the Fisherman's Dock. Their jumbo lobster roll is delicious and a great value. It also doesn't hurt that the guys who own it are great community members, and they hire the nicest kids in town. The atmosphere is homey and everything on the menu is delicious.
LW: What is your favorite maritime tradition?
MR: I don't know if it's a tradition, but I love the camaraderie of the people on the water. Whether you're working or playing, you participate in a community when you're on a boat. People wave to each other and never hesitate to help out a stranger. If the rest of life was like that things would be a lot nicer all the time for everyone.
LW: What is your most memorable seaworthy adventure?
MR: I've had a lot of memorable experiences on the water. Getting lost in fog on the ocean has such a surreal feeling. It has a sensory deprivation element that makes you feel introspective. I remember one day I was out jigging mackerel with my fishing buddy Dan on his boat. He is a minimalist on the water and doesn't have any electronics on his carolina skiff. We went out of York Harbor and the fog came in thick while we were fishing. When we started heading back we couldn't see more than twenty feet, but there wasn't a feeling of panic. Instead it was so peaceful and everything we could see and hear in our little world in the fog seemed so magnified. We navigated back by compass and missed the harbor by a couple of miles, but got back safe and sound.
LW: What is the best advice you've ever received?
MR: Some of the best advice I ever received was from my wife, Amy. She's so supportive and upbeat. When I saw the lighthouse job advertised, I didn't think there was any point in applying. I knew there would be a lot of people applying for it and I thought they would probably be looking for someone younger. She told me, "I think you could get this job. You should just apply and find out." At every step of that process I was certain that I wouldn't get the job, but she was right. Without her, I wouldn't have even tried.
LW: What are some of your other favorite seaports?
MR: I have a few favorite seaports. I have been going up to Harpswell often over the last two years, because I volunteer with Marine Mammals of Maine, and they have opened up a seal triage center there. When I drive around Harpswell, I'm blown away by the beautiful water views with the cottages and little villages scattered about. It's wonderful to see a waterfront community like that where there are still so many yards full of fishing boats and lobster traps. I also love Bar Harbor. I know it's touristy, but it is touristy in all the right ways. I love playing the tourist as well. My wife and I went there for our honeymoon almost 20 years ago, and we try to get back every couple of years. Mount Desert Island really has it all.
LW: Thanks, Matt. It was an honor to interview you and share your everyday experiences around Maine and the Nubble Lighthouse!