|Dog Bar Breakwater, MA|
Description: When a vessel passes the approximately one-half-mile-long Dog Bar Breakwater and enters Gloucester Harbor during a storm, the fury of the Atlantic subsides and the wind is cut by half. The inner harbor, “safe from all winds that blow” according to an old almanac, was not always protected by the breakwater and the Dog Bar Breakwater Light, and, ironically, the breakwater designed to protect mariners would itself endanger a few of them.
Even after Eastern Point Lighthouse was lit in 1832, ships continued to run aground on dangerous Dog Bar Reef, which extends shoreward from the point. Thus, the decision was made to build a breakwater over the ledge, which in addition to covering the reef provided sheltered waters in the harbor.
The 2,250-foot breakwater stretching out from Eastern Point Light was built by the Army Corps of Engineers between 1894 and 1905, as Congress doled out the requisite funds.
The substructure of the breakwater is a rubble mound covered with 231,756 tons of Cape Ann granite blocks, each one weighing 12-13 tons. The breakwater was constructed for $300,000 and is 7˝ feet above mean high water and ten feet wide.
Before the breakwater was even completed, almost forty confused vessels had already crashed into it. One such ship, the schooner Carrie L. Hix, struck the breakwater and went to pieces on January 1, 1900. Two years later, on December 5, 1902, the schooner Flo F. Mader from Lunenberg, Nova Scotia suffered the same fate. Although that vessel was a total loss, all aboard were rescued by a crew from Dolliver’s Neck Lifesaving Station and then housed by Keeper George F. Bailey at Eastern Point Light.
After the breakwater was completed, an iron tower lighthouse with a first-class Daboll trumpet as a fog signal and a fourth-order light was recommended to mark the outer extremity of the granite blocks. The estimated cost of the proposed structure was $42,795, but in 1906, a wooden tripod with a fixed white light, known as the Gloucester Breakwater Light or Dog Bar Light, was constructed instead.
Keepers at Eastern Point Light were given the additional responsibility of caring for the new light. During calm weather the promenade provides a beautiful stroll to enjoy bird watching or fishing for flounder, pollock, or mackerel. However, when the weather turned foul, keepers risked being swept out to sea or slipping into the ocean from the ice coated granite blocks.
The wooden structure on the breakwater later received a bell, and this was subsequently replaced by electronic horns that formed a chorus with “Mother Ann’s Cow,” as the whistling buoy to south is called.
Following automation of Eastern Point Light and Dog Bar Light in 1985, a sensor that activates the electronic fog signal was placed at the end of the breakwater. Today, Dog Bar Breakwater is part of a 53-acre nature preserve owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. From sunup to sundown in good weather it provides a marvelous location to view migrating waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds and monarch butterflies. Needless to say, when the weather turns foul and Mother Ann’s Cow cries out, the breakwater is closed to the public.
Located at the end of the breakwater at the entrance to Gloucester Harbor. The light is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The light is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.