Have you ever dreamed of navigating the sea, exploring shoals and inlets, drinking nothing but rum and having a cool peg leg? If you were once a child, then you very possibly did. People will always be entranced by life at sea — the romantic adventure, the danger, the unknown. Unfortunately, in today's modern world, unless you're Somalian, the life of a briny seaman generally isn't as realistic a life path as it was back in the 1600s.
Until now, that is. Sort of.
The federal government recently announced that it's selling and giving away 71 lighthouses that the Coast Guard considers no longer critical to maritime safety. With the rise of GPS and other modern navigational systems, lighthouses just aren't as important as they used to be.
This is the point at which my little-boy imagination runs wild.
You see, I grew up summers and still spend time in Deltaville, which is a small village about an hour and a half east of Richmond at the confluence of the Piankatank and Rappahannock rivers. The very tip of Deltaville, where the rivers converge, is called Stingray Point, so named because it's where Capt. John Smith was stung by a ray while exploring the Chesapeake Bay. Some accounts have Pocahontas herself helping to nurse him afterward. Some accounts also say that in return, her tribe received alcohol, guns, smallpox blankets and casinos from Smith's Jamestown settlement. But that whole period is all very muddled — especially if you're relying on Disney alone.
So Stingray Point had a small, rickety lighthouse a mile or so out where I'd take my little Boston Whaler. I loved imagining that I lived in that lighthouse — though the Stingray Point lighthouse stopped being inhabited around 1965 — and ruled over my own little maritime country. The real-life story of "Sealand," where an Englishmen took over an old World War II sea fort and proclaimed it to be the world's smallest sovereign state, always fascinated me.
A house out on the water is neat, period. You don't have to be a 12-year-old boy to understand that.
The feds' recent lighthouse purge isn't a new phenomenon. The government has dumped more than 100 in the last 14 years, many of which have gone to preservation societies, with others becoming museums, homes and even bed and breakfasts.
Plenty of people hold a fascination with this stuff, or they just want to be a creepy dude living in a lighthouse, and in some cases, if they're like me — both.
What would I do with an awesome lighthouse?
Of course I'd live in it, but unless I had a pet dragon, it probably would get fairly lonely. I'd need some minions, I mean, subjects, wait, no, friends to move out there with me.
You see, it's important to understand that not all lighthouses are land-based. Many are out in the middle of bodies of water. I think I'd prefer one that's a bit remote. Makes it a lot easier to fend off attackers.
Wait, why would someone attack you, Jack?
Look, I'm not saying that they necessarily would, it's just that totalitarian countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Myanmar — it'll always be Burma to me — the former Soviet Union and the new island-lighthouse regime known as Jackland, tend to ruffle feathers sometimes.
I won't lie, life isn't easy on Jackland. Aside from having to observe 365 days of worship to the supreme leader and maker of all things, me, subjects must scrape barnacles from the pillars of the nation and perform various sacrifices and rituals, such as sleeping with me and preparing delicious seafood dinners.
And for a short time only, the bargain-basement price of $300,000 will get you a permanent residency on Jackland. Seeing as how your payment will help me purchase my lighthouse island and keep my scepter nice and diamond-encrusted, you get to be an honorary prince or princess. The next in line should one of my assassins finally breach the seawall and end my reign of terror.
Sounds good, right?
Strangely enough, this is actually my second time trying to buy government island property.
My idea to purchase Belle Isle, populate it with beast people and then install Gene Cox as Richmond's resident Dr. Moreau fell on deaf ears at the latest Richmond City Council meeting. Charles Samuels even slightly frowned, although activist, former Richmond sheriff candidate and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Chris Dorsey didn't seem uninterested.
They just have no foresight down at City Hall, none of that Lewis and Clark fortitude that made this country great.
Connect with Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauterback also is co-host of "Mornings with Melissa and Jack" on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.