Our March speaker was Michael Vickery, a Board member of Richard Neal’s Frying Pan Tower.
Frying Pan is a shoal area that reaches thirty miles south of Bald Head. In 1854 the U.S. government installed a light ship to warn shipping using the Gulf Stream of the shallows. By 1964 the last light ship was decommissioned and a permanent light tower built to replace it. This included work space and bedrooms to house coast guard personnel.
By 2004 GPS had made the light tower obsolete and in 2009 the Coast Guard put it up for auction. The first bids began at $10,000 and Richard Neal bid $11,137.15, his total assets.
Then the government stepped in and declared every lighthouse to be worth at least $85,000. Mr. Neal borrowed from a friend and there were no other bidders. Since that time he and friends have spent every possible moment scraping away years of accumulated rust and restoring bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and work spaces . It currently can sleep eight and they hope to increase this to 14.
The living platform is 65 feet above the water and the only access is by helicopter or boat with a breaches buoy needed to transport visitors and cargo up to the platform. Primary activities for visitors are fishing and scuba diving with a pool table and sundeck outdoors for rougher days. Weekend rentals are available with food being served,mostly fish, plus whatever is brought from the mainland.
Wilmington StarNews review: Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower – a new breed of bed and breakfast